For us, ZenBooks have always been about balance, with a few sprinkles of premiumness.
Since its IFA 2018 launch, we’ve waited a long time to get our hands on the mighty ZenBook’s slender physique and sheer power. From its spec-sheet, you may even believe it’s tailored just for you. It’s got the looks, the power and the speed.
Thanks to Asus’ innovative outlook, it’s managed to trump its previous generation ZenBooks by squeezing narrower bezels on an ultra-compact body - each locked and loaded with newer tech to lick in 13in, 14in and 15in size factors.
Will this be able to crush and dethrone other premium Windows machines like Microsoft’s Surface, Dell’s XPS and Lenovo’s ThinkPad? Let’s bring this into the ring and battle it out, shall we?
Design and Build: Rock solid
When we first held the ZenBook 14, it felt like we’re holding Jack-Jack from The Incredibles. It felt super small, super cute and packed superpowers like the ErgoLift, LED number pad and tiny bezels. Not forgetting its beastly innards.
Asus kept its iconic spun-finish design on the lid to keep others from stealing its Zen. The edges feel neat and flat and it doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap, if treated roughly. They’ve worked hard on trimming the bezels on this year’s ZenBook to give you more screen action. Think of it as an almost bezel-less design with a screen-to-body percentile of 95%. Woof.
Not only that, the 14-incher looks as compact as a 13.3in MacBook Air if you happen to place it side by side. That’s because Asus squeezed a smaller chassis to actually make it fit into a lady’s purse without bulging out from the corners. Now that’s something, eh?
This might not be the the slimmest lappie out there, but it’s as light as carrying just a little more than a one litre bottle of water (1.19kgs). It’s easier to carry around in your backpack or fling it around in case someone wants to use it for a little bit. If you’re switching from an older machine, you will not only appreciate its slender body, but you’d also be doing your shoulders a big favour. Phew.
Here’s the party trick. Asus replaces the trackpad fingerprint scanner with a tappable icon that summons an LED number pad for extra coolness (more on that later). But hey, where did the fingerprint scanner jump off too? Is it underneath some random key? Asus replaced that with its fancy 3D IR face scanner and placed it right on top of the lid.
The ZenBook 14 is smaller than an A4 sheet of paper.
Screen and Sound: Entertain me
ZenBooks have always had a pretty display to stare at, and this current model doesn't disappoint either. Its pretty pixels lure eyeballs to make love to its beautiful 14in Full HD display (1920 x 1080) with colours popping bright as ever and contrast levels at its best, just how we like it at Stuff India. It can get quite bright (300nits) if you turn the brightness to max, but not as bright as the Dell XPS. If you’re more of a ‘sitting on a bench in the park kind of guy’, using it in sunny conditions won’t be a problem and text will be legible. Watch out for battery levels though.
Watching TV shows like Sex Education or Mirzapur on its wide and narrow screen with your partner is comfortable and immersive and you just don’t feel like taking your eyes off the screen.
We’re happy to report that the audio is loud and clear. With its Harman Kardon dual-speakers and ErgoLift coming into play, the ZenBook bangs out tunes with decent bass levels enough to make you get that body moving. At maximum volume, the music gets loud and sharp but misses out on body and depth if you happen to compare it to Apple’s MacBooks. Use AudioWizard to set your listening profiles to movie, gaming, recording, speech or music. You can also tune it manually in the Advanced section and play around with that bass and treble to set it to your liking.
Performance and Battery
Don’t underestimate the ZenBook. You may think it’s small and weak but you’re wrong. After putting in hours of work, the ZenBook finally achieves its Bruce Lee-like physique without compromising on those protein intakes for maximum muscle.
Beefed up with Intel’s 8th gen i7 core processor, an ultra fast PCIe 512GB SSD and Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, it’s built to please designers, not-so-serious gamers and hardcore multitaskers. You can go straight ahead without any stress if you fancy a few casual rounds of Fornite or CS:GO and get started with projects using Adobe's PhotoShop and InDesign too.
Forza Horizon 4 looked absolutely stunning, but it failed to run smoothly on average graphic settings. We had to dumb down the resolution and graphic settings to steer the car without audio or video lag.
We’d never game on battery mode, but if you really have to, one game can cost you about 20-25% of precious battery.
Speaking of battery, the ZenBook 14 claims to shell out 14hrs of battery. With our testing and usage of a week, we managed to churn out a mere 7-8hrs of battery on balanced mode with usual webwork, editing, playing music and lots of typing. It’s ideal for a whole day’s work.
Switch to battery mode once you’ve hit 30% so you save some juice for later in case you want to continue watching The Office once you’re in bed. Fast charge it in the morning and it’ll juice up within an hour so you’re back in action for the entire day and you don’t have to carry that bloody charging brick and wire everywhere you go. What a relief.
Keyboard and Trackpad: Oh my god this keyboard.
Asus managed to make enough space between each key for bigger fingers so you don’t go pressing more than two buttons at the same time whilst you chomp down listicles. Unlike the keyboard on the ZenBook S, the keys feel slightly heightened, hence adding onto more travel too. The typing experience is joyful and we don’t think we’d ever get tired of typing on this. Hence the long review.
No light? No problem. The backlit keyboard eases owls from straining their eyes whilst typing in a low lit room.
With this generation’s ZenBook, Asus brags its never-seen-before tech on the trackpad to wet excel-nerds. Long press the icon on the top right corner of the trackpad to summon an LED ‘NumberPad’. It’s basically a more ‘futuristic’ number pad for coming upcoming laptops.
Whilst it’s switched on, you can simultaneously use it as a regular trackpad and as a mini number pad.
This feature seemed very cool in the beginning, but eventually, we forgot about it and ended up using the front row numbers instead. It’s not made for everyone and not really efficient when it comes everyday usage. Sometimes numbers get mispressed and that messes up important data entries.
If you think about it, it’s the first laptop to flaunt this tech and that’s the only good thing it’s going to be known for. Don’t like the LED NumberPad? Switch to the 15in instead for a regular right-sided number pad.
Features: cherry on the top
Asus borrows the ErgoLift hinge design from previous ZenBooks to add to that ‘cool’ factor. It is specially designed to keep the laptop cool and calm, to boost audio performance and it helps raise the keyboard for comfier typing sessions.
The 3D IR camera scans your mug and signs you in before your little fingers even reach the keyboard to enter your pin or password. We’re happy to report it works well in low-lit conditions too and it gets better every time you unlock the PC. Well done, Windows Hello.
The ZenBook 14 comes with a plethora of ports to fit in all your external gadgets. There’s a USB Type-C 3.1, two USB 2.0s (Or type A), a full-sized HDMI port and microSD too. Asus, kind like ever, also throws in an Ethernet dongle for LAN users and a well made fabric case for safety in the box.
The ZenBook may not be as strong as Bruce Lee, but to please customers, all ZenBooks have been thrown, bent, frozen, heated, dropped, punished to endure everyday problems. No wonder they’re Military grade certified (MIL-STD-810G).
Asus ZenBook 14 Verdict
Like we said earlier, ZenBooks are all about balance. And this one’s got the power, speed and the simplicity to keep users at zen.
It managed to do everything we threw at it and we just kept falling in love everytime we used it. It’s an ideal machine to serve rich kids, frequent travellers and business men. The number pad may just be a hit or miss, but it’s sure an eye-catcher for window shoppers who are comparing other premium laptops in this segment.
For the price, this might be a little steep for the general mass, but for ones who are looking for a premium Windows laptop, this seems like an ideal choice amongst others like the Surface Laptop, Dell XPS and others.