We flew out to Taipei to play around with Asus’ newest 'lifestyle' notebooks before they preview to the world at IFA, Berlin. We were taken to the Zen Marshal Garden, where Asus lined up all its ZenBooks all the way from 2011 to its current-gen models.
For us, ZenBooks have always been about balance. It’s got the looks, the power and the speed. This time, they’ve tried to trump previous ZenBooks in every way, and like always, managed to craft a laptop with unique innovation and beauty.
The new-generation ZenBooks come in 13in, 14in and 15in size factors. We had some time to play around with the 14incher, that may have been one of the slimmest machines out there, but it’s something we’ve never experienced before.
Design and features
When we first held the ZenBook 14, it did not only feel like a super-fit baby, but a good looking one too. It’s the first ZenBook to use a four-sided frameless NanoEdge display with super-narrow bezels, giving it a screen to body percentile of 95%. You could say it’s almost bezel-less.
Not only that, they’ve fit a 14in panel on a smaller chassis making it even compact than the previous-gen ZenBook. We couldn’t believe that we were fiddling around with a 14in laptop that looked as wide as an A4 size sheet. Fact: The ZenBook 13 is smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Now that’s something, eh?
The ZenBook 14 isn’t the slimmest out there, but is as slim as today's smartphone and weighs up to just 1.19kgs (a little lesser with an anti-glare display) making it ideal to fling around or carry in your backpack without your shoulders asking for rest.
Asus replaced the fingerprint scanner on the trackpad with a tappable icon. What does it do? Just tap the icon to summon an LED ‘NumberPad’. It’s basically an additional number pad on a trackpad, which can be used as a traditional trackpad simultaneously. Boost your productivity by calculating some quick math while you watch your stocks go up, or manage data entries on excel. It’s all about saving time you know.
So, where did the fingerprint scanner jump off too? Is it underneath some random key? Nope. Asus has been kind, and instead, they’ve replaced it with a 3D IR face scanner on top of the lid that’s able to quickly scan your mug to unlock via Windows Hello. We did not get a chance to test it in low-lit environments, but we’re sure it’ll do just fine.
2018 has a long way to go, but we're still dependable on using external peripherals to connect and transfer to other devices. The ZenBook 14 doesn’t shed off all its fat and keeps some space to fit in external gadget ports. There’s a USB Type-C 3.1, USB 2.0 (Or type A), a normal sized HDMI and microSD port for connectivity. Dongle life’s got to hold on for now.
The new-gen ZenBook borrows the ErgoLift hinge design from the ZenBook S to add to that ‘cool’ factor. It’s specially designed to keep the laptop from burning your lap or desk, to boost audio performance from underneath and to keep your palm comfortable while you type those long threaded emails.
Speaking of typing, the buttons on the keyboard feel a bit heighted and spacious than the previous model. We didn't chomp down listicles or reviews on it, but it felt easy to type on. No light? No problem. The backlit keyboard eases night owls to keep their fingers pacing without any trouble and keeps away from major eye-strain.
It may not be as strong as Bruce Lee, but all ZenBooks have been thrown, bent, frozen, heated, dropped and punished to test and ensure they’re strong as bones. No wonder they’re Military grade certified (MIL-STD-810G).
Screen and lid
As always, Asus keeps its iconic spun-finish design on the back to keep others from stealing its Zen. The edges feel neat and compact and don't feel flimsy or breakable if treated roughly.
It’s got a beautiful 14in display (1920 x 1080) with an anti-glare and standard screen options. That NanoEdge super-narrow bezel-less design makes this laptop a looker. It’s almost like there’s hardly any bezel wrapping around it.
Colours popped bright and crisp in proper daylight and for some weird reason, we could not take our eyes off the screen. But let’s not get there. However, don’t fancy a touchscreen, stylus or 360° bending abilities. It’s no 2-in-1. You can ogle on the ZenBook Flip if you’re into those kinds of machines.
Performance and Battery
The ZenBook might look like an ordinary laptop on a fitness diet. But not this one. It’s worked hard on its lean physique without compromising on those protein intakes for maximum muscle. It still looks thin.
It’s beefed up with Intel’s 8th-gen i7 processor (or i5) for snappy processing that claims to be about twice as fast as the previous gen, Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 to please average designers and not-so-serious gamers. It's decent enough to play a few rounds of CS:GO or pull an all-nighter making edits on Adobe's PhotoShop.
All thanks to its 14hr battery life you can run a full day's work without any stress. That also means, there's lesser weight to carry in your backpack while you’re running from meeting to meeting. Phew.
From what we’ve seen, the ZenBook seems like an ideal machine to keep students and office-goers at Zen. Like we said earlier, ZenBooks are all about balance. It’s got the power, vigour and the simplicity.
We’re curious to know how the NumberPad actually comes in use. Will it really be useful, or would you stick to those numbers on the front row of the keyboard? Let’s not pass any judgments on that right now.
Apart from that, Asus nailed it on the design front and we’re just hoping they get their pricing right. It’s certainly a healthy rival to compete with other laptops. We can't wait to review this one.