Most of the best laptops on the market are starting to feel very much the same as they nail down the features that customers want, but the Asus Zenbook 14 aims to standout with some unique and high-tech additions.
This latest version of the Zenbook (UX434) features a high-tech touchscreen instead of the trackpad, along with an ergonomically-designed tilted keyboard which makes for a more comfortable typing experience. Outside of these unique selling points, the Asus Zenbook 14 looks like a fairly standard mid-range laptop with the kind of specs and pricing we'd expect.
You're not going to get a gaming powerhouse for this kind of money, but with an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and an SSD under the hood, the Asus Zenbook 14 offers plenty of clout for its asking price of $1,199.
But how does it stack up against the competition? Are these additions really enough to help the Zenbook 14 stand out from the crowd in an ultra-competitive market?
Asus Zenbook 14 review: Design
There’s no denying that the Asus Zenbook 14 is an absolutely gorgeous bit of kit. There outer case is made from aluminum with a concentric circle pattern etched into the surface, which gives it a unique, premium aesthetic. Its light too, weighing in at just 2.78 lbs, so you won’t have any issues carting it around town if you’re working on the go.
The display is a 14-inch LED-backlit FHD touchscreen. Those are pretty standard specs, but the impressive thing about this screen is the tiny 2.9mm Nanoedge bezels that surround it (3.3mm on the bottom edge). It’s as close to an edgeless display as you’re likely to find in a laptop, and it looks fantastic. This helps to keep the size of the laptop down as a result. The Asus Zenbook 14 measures in at just 12.6" x 7.83" x 0.66", making it one of the smallest 14-inch screen laptops around.
The built-in stereo speakers are great too, giving good volume and clarity by laptop standards. The screen and audio combo means that the Asus Zenbook 14 is perfect for watching movies and TV on using streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus.
Asus is also keen to tout the Zenbook’s Ergolift hinge, which tilts the backlit keyboard up a bit when the laptop is open to give a more comfortable typing position. Given that most standalone keyboards are tilted in this fashion, it makes us wonder why more laptops don’t adopt this approach.
The keyboard feels nice in use – the keys have a good amount of travel and spring back, giving you a satisfying typing experience. Unfortunately, the trackpad underneath the keyboard is enormous, which means it’s quite easy to accidentally touch it with your hand while typing. Overtime we’re sure we would adjust to this, but it’s an annoyance worth noting.
Speaking of the trackpad, it’s enormous for a good reason – because it doubles up as a touchscreen of sorts called the Screenpad. This isn’t a complete second screen, but rather an extra area where some apps can be accessed and opened. The most important and useful of these is Spotify, which lets you play, pause and skip songs using the Screenpad without having to keep a Spotify window open on the main screen. Is it a gimmick? Absolutely, but it’s one that could prove useful.
Overall, we thought that the keyboard on the Asus Zenbook 14 felt great, but the chunky Screenpad gets in the way and forces the keyboard to make some sacrifices (looking at you tiny arrow keys).
Asus Zenbook 14 review: Performance
The Asus Zenbook 14 isn’t just a pretty face though. It’s got plenty of power under the hood too. The version we had rocked an Intel® Core™ i7-8565U processor, NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU and 16GB of RAM. That’s still plenty of power for a work or casual use laptop and it won’t have any trouble running Office programs or playing videos on Netflix. Just don’t expect it to manage anything other than light gaming on low specs.
On the storage front, you can choose between a 256GB, 512GB, or 1 TB SSD. SSD’s have all but replaced traditional hard drives, which is great because they’re significantly faster, so you won’t have to wait as long for programs to load or games to start-up. If you need something for high-end gaming, we’d recommend the Alienware m15, while the MacBook Pro offers excellent performance for video editing.
The Asus Zenbook 14 has a reasonable amount of ports too, with 1 x USB 3.1 Type C, 1 x USB 3.1 Type A, 1 x USB 2.0, a standard HDMI port and an audio jack. It also features a MicroSD card reader, so you can transfer files from your smartphones MicroSD card straight onto your laptop.
Asus Zenbook 14 review: Battery life
The Asus Zenbook 14 has a 50Wh 3-cell lithium-polymer battery that Asus claims offers up to 12.3 hours of battery life on a single charge. "Up to" is the operative phrase there though, and to get anywhere near those numbers you’re going to have to turn the fancy Screenpad off.
With the Screenpad running, we got roughly 5-6 hours of battery life. Turn it off and you’ll get much closer to that 12-hour claim, with around 10 hours for standard usage (watching YouTube, using Word, etc) being what we experienced.
Asus Zenbook 14 review: Price
Prices depend on the storage solution that you go for, but the Asus Zenbook 14 that we had, featuring a 512 GB SSD, costs $1,199. The 1 TB version is currently $1,399 on Amazon. That’s a hefty price upgrade for some extra storage, so we’d recommend the 512GB version unless you really need that storage space and don’t want to mess around with an external hard drive.
The Asus Zenbook 14 stacks up pretty well against the competition when it comes to value for money though. A similarly specced HP Spectre x360 costs around the same price, though in that case you’re trading away the fancy Screenpad for a bigger screen and 2-in-1 functionality.
Should I buy the Asus Zenbook 14?
The Asus Zenbook 14 is a great little laptop that does everything you’d expect, and it has a few unique features to set it apart from the competition. The Screenpad is a cool gimmick, but we don’t think it has enough practical uses to counter the significant drain it puts on the battery life.
The ergonomic tilting keyboard is a much more practical and welcome addition though, and the Nanoedge bezels mean the screen is gorgeous. All that combined with a competitive price mean the Asus Zenbook 14 is a great choice for a jack-of-all-trades laptop.