"The Asus ZenBook 14 is an extremely portable laptop at a greatly reduced price."
Solid build quality
Useful keyboard and touchpad
Great battery life
No headphone jack
A touchscreen option is missing
Asus has an incredible number of ZenBook models, and not all of them stand out.
The last Asus ZenBook 14 we tested, the UX433 model, was one of them. It lacked some features that left it behind – like no Thunderbolt 3 ports that are unforgivable in a premium laptop – and it was average in several areas where the competition excels. This year Asus quietly launched the ZenBook 14 UX425 model, which adds some missing features and makes some noticeable improvements across the board – all while lowering the price.
I have a model with a 10th Generation Intel Ice Lake Core i5-1035G1 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, a 512 GB solid-state drive (SSD) and a 14-inch Full HD IPS display (1,920 x 1,080) tested with low power consumption only consumes one watt of power, half the usual two watts. What's pretty noticeable is that this configuration is only $ 800 – add $ 100 and you get a Core i7-1065G7 with Iris Plus Graphics. Has Asus made enough improvements to make the ZenBook 14 better than its competitors, especially considering how low it is?
Asus has been working hard for a number of years to make laptops that use small frames to fit into smaller cases. In this sense, the ZenBook 14 UX425 is smaller in almost all dimensions than its predecessor, the UX434, thanks to the 90% screen-to-body ratio. It's the same width but a little less deep and now only 0.54 inches thick compared to 0.67 inches. It also comes in at 2.58 pounds compared to 2.98 pounds.
The focus of the UX425 model is clearly on being thin and light, rather than incorporating some of the more powerful features of the UX434 like a discrete low-end GPU. Miniaturization puts the ZenBook 14 in good company; For example, it's not far from the LG Gram 14's 2.2 pounds – and this is a laptop that was explicitly designed to be as light as possible. The ZenBook 14 competition will likely include more popular 13-inch laptops like the Dell XPS 13. It's thinner than the XPS 13 (0.57 inches) and lighter (2.65 pounds). That's impressive for a 14-inch laptop.
Asus did not save on the processing quality either. The ZenBook 14 has an aluminum case that feels quite sturdy and has passed a number of military certification tests. I could pick a few nits, of course. The lid is a bit flexible and the keyboard has a touch of flex. Overall, the laptop feels solid despite its lightness.
The hinge is also perfect, easy to open with one hand and still hold the display in place. Kudos to Asus for developing a laptop that feels it deserves a premium price despite being close to the budget range.
Aesthetically, the ZenBook 14 looks very similar to a ZenBook. This is done on purpose – Asus is just as important to give their ZenBooks a uniform look as Lenovo is to the ThinkPad line. On the lid is Asus' iconic concentric swirl with the Asus logo on the right in the middle of the circles.
Otherwise, the laptop is simple but cleverly designed and looks quite elegant to me. Asus shows its design here too and the ZenBook 14 can hold its own in the looks department. My test device was pine gray, but a purple nebula is also available.
Connectivity would be great if it weren't for a blatant omission. On the left side of the laptop is a full-size HDMI 2.0 port with two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support. That's huge – previous ZenBooks skipped Thunderbolt 3 and it was a blatant faux pas compared to other premium laptops. At $ 800, it's even more impressive. On the right side you will find a USB-A 3.2 port and a microSD card reader (a shame that it is not a full version). Wireless connectivity is cutting edge with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
What is the omission? Asus had to free up some space given the laptop's thin bezel, and the company had the choice of removing the HDMI port or the 3.5mm audio jack. Apparently, the customers they interviewed preferred the HDMI port and the audio jack was omitted.
It comes with a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, but that was a big mistake in my opinion. If you have two Thunderbolt 3 connections, adding an external monitor – or using a dock for multiple monitors – is trivial. But do you use one of the ports to connect headphones or speakers? Sorry Asus, this doesn't make sense to me.
The Asus ZenBook 14 UX425 uses Ice Lake Intel 10th generation CPUs, and my test device was equipped with the Core i5-1035G1. This is a mid-range 15 watt processor that should offer solid productivity performance, but shouldn't be considered for demanding creative endeavors.
In my tests it performed relatively better on synthetic benchmarks than on real tests. In Geekbench 5, for example, the ZenBook 14 achieved 1,209 points in the single-core test and 4,321 points in the multi-core test. That's quick for the CPU, as it outperforms laptops like the Acer Spin 3 with 1,215 and 3,615 and the Acer Aspire 5 with 1,129 and 2,899.
The ZenBook 14 lags behind in certain content creation tasks.
However, in our handbrake test that converts a 420MB video to H.265, the ZenBook 14 took almost five and a half minutes to complete the test. The Acer Spin 3 was done in just over four minutes and the Acer Aspire 5 15 seconds faster. I was surprised that things went so bad on this test – the trailing edge and air vents provide little support when the lid is opened, which should improve airflow and allow for more sustained performance. Even so, the ZenBook 14 lags behind in certain content creation tasks.
That doesn't mean it isn't a good performer for its targeted productivity tasks. If you're not doing demanding creative tasks, the ZenBook 14 is fast enough.
However, don't expect real games. The laptop comes with entry-level Intel UHD graphics, which should be limited to older titles and esports titles with lower resolutions and graphical details. You should try the Core i7 model with its Iris Plus graphics to play light games.
So far, the design and performance have been top notch for a $ 800 laptop. Next up is the display, a component that companies sometimes forego in order to squeeze in under a certain price.
Asus didn't do anything like that with the ZenBook 14. This would be a very good display for a premium laptop and an excellent display for the mid-range price. This is the average (for premium laptops) in just one area: the color gamut is 94% of sRGB and 72% of AdobeRGB. These colors are wide enough for productivity and multimedia applications and only creative professionals would disappoint.
From there, however, the display is above the premium average. The brightness is relatively high at 352 nits and is well above our preferred threshold of 300 nits. The contrast is 1,060: 1, which is above our preferred 1,000: 1 ratio and well above the 800: 1 average you'll find on most premium productivity machines. Color accuracy is very good at 1.42 (1.0 or less is considered excellent), and Gamma is just about right at 2.2.
I enjoyed using the display while writing this review – text popped, colors were bright and not over-saturated, and there was plenty of brightness no matter where I worked (except in direct sunlight, of course). I would be happy with this display in a laptop that costs twice as much as the ZenBook 14.
This display is much better than the LG Gram 14 2-in-1, and while it can't compete with the Full HD display on the Dell XPS 13, it's not far away – and the ZenBook 14 is hundreds of dollars less expensive .
Keyboard and touchpad
One of my favorite keyboards adorns the Specter line from HP and some newer Envy models. It has large buttons with plenty of spacing, plenty of travel, and a light mechanism that still provides a click, precise feel. Why do I mention the HP keyboard? Because the one Asus built into the ZenBook 14 looks and feels remarkably similar. It even has the same row of Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End buttons on the right edge.
I'm not saying Asus copied HP on purpose, but whatever – it's an excellent keyboard that comes close to the HP version. I'd say I like it almost as much, although the Asus iteration is a little too light with its touch.
The touchpad is another standout feature of the ZenBook 14. It's considerably wider this time around and therefore quite large for the size of the case on a Windows 10 computer. More importantly, it has a smooth and comfortable glass surface for accurate tracking and clicking. Of course, it includes Windows Precision drivers that make multi-touch gestures and general swipes a dream.
Asus remains adamant when it comes to adding touch displays to its clamshell laptops.
Most notable, however, is the NumberPad 2.0 feature, which embeds an LED number pad on the touchpad that is useful for anyone who needs to enter numbers. You can turn the NumberPad on and off easily enough by touching and briefly pressing an icon in the top right corner of the touchpad. Change the brightness by touching and holding an icon in the upper left corner. Turning on the NumberPad doesn't interfere with using the touchpad as a touchpad, which is a good thing.
However, Asus remains adamant when it comes to adding touch displays to its clamshell laptops. There's no option with the ZenBook 14, and that's a favorite of mine. I hate using a laptop without a touch display. I'm also used to using my thumb to scroll through web pages and tapping buttons that appear without having to activate the touchpad. I could be in the minority here, however, so Asus may have simply decided that it wasn't worth the extra weight and thickness for a (theoretically) small number of users who want the feature.
Windows Hello support without a password is provided by an infrared camera and facial recognition. It works quickly and accurately, and while I prefer a fingerprint reader – which the ZenBook 14 doesn't have – it's a useful feature.
Asus increased the battery capacity of the ZenBook 14 UX425 in this generation from 50 to 67 watt hours. It's huge. As already mentioned, the display is also a 1-watt version with low power consumption, which, in our experience, usually leads to an excellent battery life. I was hoping that the ZenBook 14 would follow suit.
As it turns out, the ZenBook 14 did very well in our test suite, even if it doesn't quite match some of the other laptops with low-power displays. It took more than four hours in our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, which is a solid result, and which is most affected by the CPU and GPU and the least by the display. Compared to another powerful 14-inch performer, the LG Gram 14 2-in-1 with 72 watt hours of battery life, it only lost a minute. The Dell XPS 13 lasted about 20 minutes longer.
In terms of battery life, the ZenBook 14 is an all-day performer and a lot more.
However, the ZenBook 14 caught our eye in our next two tests. First, our web browsing test made it to 11 hours, a strong score that lagged the LG Gram 14 by 18 minutes and the XPS 13 by about 30 minutes. In our video test, in which a local Full HD Avengers trailer is looped, the ZenBook 14 managed just under 15 hours, compared to the LG Gram 14 with about 16.5 hours and the XPS 13 with about 12.5 hours.
It's hard to be disappointed with results like this, although I expected a better result given the low-power display. The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 with its low-power panel lasted a remarkable 21.8 hours in our video test. This is where the savings on the display make the biggest difference. Still, the ZenBook 14 is an all-day high performer and so much more. You can expect to have a full day of work with enough battery life to binge Netflix that evening.
At $ 1,200, the Asus ZenBook 14 UX425 would be a superior, thin, and light laptop that comes highly recommended. At $ 800, I'm more inclined to call it a bargain.
Regardless of the price, the Asus ZenBook 14 is a great laptop with a solid all-metal construction, a refined, thin and light design, a great keyboard and useful touchpad, and fantastic battery life. Throw in a $ 800 prize and we're talking about exceptional value.
Is there a better alternative?
The LG Gram 14 is an option if you want a 14-inch display that approaches the lightness of the ZenBook 14. You'll pay more, but get similar specs, and the Gram 14 won't be nearly as thin. Another 14-inch option to consider is the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7, an AMD Ryzen 4000-based laptop for $ 100 more that is faster and has even better battery life.
If you don't mind shrinking the screen size, the Dell XPS 13 is a more expensive alternative. The performance will be a little better, the display will be a little higher quality and the battery life will be a little better. But it will also cost more.
If you're looking to save some money, consider the Lenovo Flex 5 14, a 14-inch 2-in-1 with AMD's Ryzen 4000 CPU. It's faster and almost as well built as the ZenBook 14, but it won't even come close to reaching its battery life. It's also only worth $ 600 and offers quite a bit of intrinsic value.
How long it will take?
The ZenBook 14 UX425 is well built and configured with the latest technology. You will be productive for years. The one-year warranty is disappointing, as usual, but Asus offers one-year accident protection.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you're looking for a thin and light laptop for productivity and media consumption, you can't go wrong with the ZenBook 14. And you won't be spending much either.