Asus Zenbook 14 Review: An Excellent Alternative to the Surface Book

The Asus Zenbook 14 is not a gaming or a creator focussed laptop so we’ll be looking at it from a different perspective. With its thin and not so light form factor, a decent but basic mobile processor and a lack of dedicated graphics, the Zenbook 14 is not setting or breaking any records. What it is doing, however, is providing users with an alternative to all those pricey ultrabooks. So let’s take a look at how it is to use on a day to day basis doing casual work and if the price is right!

Specifications:

ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431DA (Utopia Blue)
CPU: AMD Ryzen™ 5 3500U Mobile Processor (4C/8T, 6MB cache, 3.7GHz Boost) with Radeon™ Vega 8 Integrated* Graphics
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Battery: 47Wh 2-cell lithium-polymer battery

Design

The Zenbook 14 is a well-built laptop and Asus did not skimp on the construction in any way. It is a sturdy device with a premium feel to it. At just 1.59cm at its thickest point, Asus has fitted a 14-inch screen in a 13-inch chassis. The keyboard is well laid out with sufficient space between the keys and I got used to typing on it pretty quick.

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One issue with the layout is that the power button is part of the Function key row at the far right, next to the Delete key (right above the Backspace key). Even though I didn’t accidentlly put the laptop to sleep while pressing either of the keys, it’s still something that I feel Asus could have done differently.

The speakers are on the side of the keyboard which means audio is directed towards you…always a plus. The trackpad is centrally located below the keyboard. Asus could have used a little more space and made the trackpad a little bigger but I digress, it’s still a decent tracking surface with Windows Precision drivers. And, a fingerprint reader is present on the trackpad as well. The body has a brushed metal design and sharp edges, a little too sharp I’d say.

One gripe about the Zenbook 14 I have here is that the lid opening mechanism is just bizarre. It’s almost impossible to open the laptop with one finger or even two hands for that matter. The hinge is too stiff and there isn’t a comfortable space to hold the lid from while opening it. So what you have to do is get a nail in between the body and the lid and then open the screen. Why Asus? Why?

I/O

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On the left side of the Zenbook 14, you’ll see the charging port, a full-size HDMI port, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port and a USB C 3.1 Gen 1 port. Sadly no Thunderbolt 3. On the right side, you get a USB 2.0 port, an audio jack, and an SD card reader. A decent assortment of ports for 2019 thin and light.

Display

The Zenbook 14 has a 14” full HD (1920 x 1080) display with slim-bezels which Asus refers to as “NanoEdge”. It has an 86% screen-to-body ratio, 100% sRGB color gamut and a 178° viewing angle. 1080p at 14 inches is sharp enough but what the Zenbook lacks is brightness. It is perfectly usable indoors but the maximum brightness is not enough for well-lit environments. We’ll talk about the display a bit more in the next section.

Usability

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So obviously you’re not gonna buy this laptop for gaming or heavy video editing/creative work. But, how is it for casual use? Well, the short and simple answer is – its good. The Zenbook 14 delivers a smooth day to day experience where your tasks involve browsing the web, Youtube, Netflix, listening to music etc. The 3500U works quite well in these scenarios. Opening multiple tabs on Chrome is no problem at all.

Watching movies is an enjoyable experience on the Zenbook 14, not because of the display but because of the excellent speakers. They are certified by Harman Kardon and listening to music on this laptop is much much better than a lot of high-end laptops. The audio is crystal clear albeit the bass could have been better. Asus has killed it when it comes to audio on the Zenbook 14.

During my casual use, I never felt that the laptop was running out of battery quickly so even though it has just a 47 Wh 2-cell lithium-polymer battery, it can put you through 8 to 9 hours of light to medium use. Though, Asus claims a 12-hour battery life with brightness at 70%.

When I first opened Chrome and went to YouTube, the browser would crash and this happened repeatedly until I turned off hardware acceleration in the Chrome settings. This was the case with the first two generations of Ryzen processors as well where users were experiencing crashes with Chrome when playing videos with hardware acceleration turned on, so there’s that.

Price

The Zenbook 14 costs Rs. 60,000! It might sound like a lot but it’s still better than a lot of Intel-based alternatives on the market. There are cheaper devices on the market like the Vivobook 15 (also using the Ryzen 5 3500U), but they lack the flexibility and form-factor of the Zenbook. It would have been nice to have a touch display or perhaps a price of 50K, but looking at the market, it’s not that bad.

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Vineet Washington
Gamer and tech enthusiast. Video games are like oxygen and technology is like water. Can't live without them.

4 Comments

  1. It would be awesome if you can test this laptop with a linux distro (like Ubuntu/Fedora/Arch) and see how well it runs and if there are any issues.

  2. “Sadly, no thunderbolt 3”.
    It’s an AMD platform. Thunderbolt is Intel’s proprietary standard. It was pretty expected that ryzen platforms works have no thunderbolt support.

  3. I thought Intel had open sourced the thunderbolt standard for vendor implementation so it’s really sad that in a 60k device it’s not there

  4. With all respect this is a review done without a proper research I did not know what your definition and standards for creator is.
    I’m passionate hobbyist designer the display are very accurate for full flexed heavy color accurate works such a waste you recommend user to watch useless content also 2 other “hiccup”

    -the lid-

    pretty funny that you’re the only one who having lid problem i have watched at least 3 youtube and other article they were impressed at this price range with good hinge that can be opened with 1 finger easily with no struggle maybe yours are very fresh from factory?

    -The processor side-

    my i3rd intel i3 can ran premiere pro and render video with lots of effect 20 minutes 720p at 36.3 minutes with no support of intel hw acceleration the ryzen 5 mobile perform 40% better at these job

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