Asus first launched its Zenbook line of Ultrabooks back in 2011, and after several updates, we’re going to be spending time with 2019’s Zenbook 14.
With a sleek premium look, impressive specs, and the innovative inclusion of a ScreenPad, let’s see if the ultraportable package is worth its similarly premium pricing of nearly P60,000.
Design and Ergonomics
Asus uses a brushed aluminum chassis for its Zenbook series, and the device feels solid and premium with hardly any flex. While keeping weight to a low 1.2 kgs, it doesn’t feel flimsy.
The top cover features a pattern of concentric circles, which has been part of the Zenbook design ethos, carried over faithfully from the very first Zenbook. The design is reminiscent of ripples in the water, which is representative of the Zen philosophy.
Personally, I absolutely loved this styling, from as far back as the very first Zenbook and to date, it’s stunning. While Apples’ illuminated logo on silver may be more popular, as a design it pales in comparison to the Zenbook styling.
The test unit was Royal Blue and it looked sophisticated. The 14-inch display is literally bezel-less, offering a superb body-to-screen ratio. The keypad is backlit, and though I was initially skeptical of the feel of the ScreenPad, it was large, smooth, and great to use.
In terms of connectivity, the right side features a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB port, and a card reader. On the left side is the power outlet, an HDMI port, and two USB ports, one of which is Type-C. The included charger is quite small; just a little bigger than a mobile phone charger.
Given its extremely low profile and slim form factor, it’s very convenient to carry around for meetings. Forget about clunky bags and developing shoulder pain over time. During my use, in its included black Asus carry case it has been often mistaken to be a notepad.
Specs and Performance
Being an Ultrabook, it’s fair to expect solid internals, unlike the low-powered Netbooks of the past. Asus’s Zenbook lineup has traditionally been pretty potent with the Intel Core i7 offerings for the top models.
The UX434F being tested here features an i5 processor, coupled with 8 GB of memory, and a 512 GB SSD. Higher spec configurations with i7 CPUs, 16 GB of memory, and a 1TB SSD are also available.
Battery life depends on the use-type, and associated CPU load. Keeping the ScreenPad on does drain the unit faster. You can expect 4-5 hours with the ScreenPad on, and 7-8 hours with it off, assuming general use.
While the Zenbook is not intended to be a gaming laptop, thanks to the inclusion of the Nvidia GPU, it can game pretty well. You do need to dial down the details in the latest triple-A titles though, to get good frame rates. Gaming aside, with several browser tabs open and multi-tasking quite a bit, it remained super snappy; making for seamless user experience.
Software and User Experience
The Zenbook 14 UX434F comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Windows 10 Professional, 64 bit. Being the full-fledged version of Windows 10, expect an up-to-date Windows experience.
ScreenPad functionality adds some nice benefits in certain apps. For example, the ScreenPad can double up as a calculator, allows for extra functions in Office Apps, can be used to launch apps, swap windows/apps between screens, has handwriting recognition, controls music playback in Spotify, and more. The multi-tasking opportunities are quite a few, and Asus is working to add customized ScreenPad functionality for more apps over time.
That said, on the flip side at best the ScreenPad is nice to have, and while innovative, it is far from a must-have. App support is limited, and it isn’t a game-changer in terms of the user experience benefits it brings. I often found myself using it as a traditional touchpad and going about my usual familiar Windows user experience.
Value and Competition
At P59,995, the Zenbook 14 is pricey, and if you go for the higher-spec i7 CPU, prices will further climb. Undoubtedly the Zenbook is positioned as a premium offering, with an Ultrabook form factor similar to the Dell XPS, HP Envy, and MS Surface Laptop 2. Worth noting that the Ultrabook segment, for the most part, is expensive.
Whether the Asus Zenbook 14 is for you, depends on your use case. If you don’t move around much, or plan to use it for media consumption, you’d probably be better off with a larger device, wherein the portability doesn’t matter. Similarly, if what you want is a gaming laptop, this isn’t the best choice.
But if you’re looking for a business-grade laptop, that’s fast and ultra-portable, then the Zenbook 14 is perfect. It’s easily one of the best Ultrabooks on the market, looks magnificent, and feels premium. While the ScreenPad isn’t a breakthrough or a reason to buy the Zenbook 14, it’s nice to have.
Verdict: A slick classy Ultrabook, with a second screen that doubles up as a touchpad.