AMD-powered ZenBook with many styles
Asus ZenBook 14 only had a busy life cycle in 2019. The popular Taiwanese electronics maker introduced the 14-inch thinner and lighter model (including Intel’s 8th Gen Core CPUs) with the ZenBook 13 and ZenBook 15 in January this year, just to refresh the ZenBook 14 and ZenBook 15 in September. When the two models got the Asus Screenpad 2.0 innovation and saw the addition of the Zenbook Flip 13.
Now, however, the ZenBook 14 has come up with another new variant: one that is not powered by an Intel Core chip but an AMD Ryzen 3000-series chip. Joining the new ZenBook 14 in the Red team is a Ryzen-powered ZenBook Flip 14 (UM462) slim and light interchangeable. The new ZenBook 14 does not feature Asus’ ScreenPad 2.0, but comes with a much lower price tag of Rs 59,990. Does it still hold all the necessary things? Find out.
In this one and only variant available, the new ZenBook 14 is an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U quad-core processor powered by Radeon Vega 8 integrated graphics. The system RAM is a comfortable 8GB and can be upgraded up to a maximum of 16GB. Storage comes in the form of a 512GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive. Unlike the Intel Core i5-powered ZenBook 13 since January of this year, it does not receive the GeForce MX-Series graphics card from Nvidia.
In our standard CPU and GPU benchmark tests, our review unit scores were good but not great. In PCMark 8’s Accelerated Creative test, the new ZenBook 14 got 3578 points. This is slightly ahead of the Acer Swift 3’s score of 3371 points and many points behind the Intel Core i5-powered ZenBook 13’s score of 4457 since January this year. Since the new ZenBook 14 does not have a separate graphics card, its GPU performance is unmatched by the Nvidia GeForce MX150-powered ZenBook 13. At 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Cloud Gate, our review unit picked up 1801 and 10215 points, respectively. You can read our review of Asus ZenBook 13 and Acer Swift 3 here.
In our daily performance tests, the review unit behaved better than expected. I’ve been able to multitask across a number of common applications across multiple virtual desktops, including Word, Excel, Chrome, OneNote, File Explorer, WhatsApp for PC, and more. Switching between open applications and virtual desktops does not cause any stuttering or backlog in animation, and is always a good sign. Whether it’s quick note-taking, large file transfers, simultaneous app installs or intense browsing sessions, the Ryzen-powered ZenBook 14 seems to be handling everything without any noticeable signs of slowness or hiccups.
The Asus ZenBook 14 is powered by a 47Wh dual-cell lithium-ion polymer internal battery. In our standard battery benchmark test, the review unit lasted 4 hours, 13 minutes. It’s not a bad score but it could be higher. Since the beginning of this year, the Acer Swift 3 has been able to score slightly higher in 4 hours, 37 minutes in the same test. The Intel-powered ZenBook 13, on the other hand, got a much longer 5 hours, 20 minutes.
In our daily experiments, where the screen brightness is set at 70 percent and Wi-Fi + Bluetooth is turned on, the battery in the review unit is reduced to 20 percent from full charge in about four hours. During the test, the review unit was tasked with browsing Chrome, installing a few apps, and playing some background music in a YouTube window. After fifteen minutes of online video playback on Netflix, the laptop lost about 7 percent of its charge. It took about two hours to fully charge from near zero. In short, you can expect the new ZenBook 14 to five hours of unplugged performance. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either.
Display, audio and IoT
The Asus ZenBook 14 has a 16: 9 14-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD screen with full HD resolution. According to Asus, it offers 100 percent sRGB color coverage and a 178-degree maximum viewing angle. In my experience, the colors on a laptop screen look natural without any noticeable signs of oversaturation or mild bleeding. The screen’s backlight is bright enough for most indoor spots, including conference rooms with bright overhead lights. In some cases, the screen could work with a stronger matte finish for better readability under direct light.
Crispy, colorful display
Audio is a category where the new Asus ZenBook 14 is the best. The sound from the two top-firing stereo speakers on the ZenBook 14 is loud, clear and balanced. Whether you’re playing music or watching videos, there’s plenty of stereo disconnection when you’re sitting right in front of a laptop. What’s more, the volume is enough to fill a quiet medium-sized living room. In other words, you won’t have any problems watching one or two movie trailers with your friends. The lower, middle and upper are fairly well expressed in these user-oriented units.
Excellent audio with clear stereo separation
The Asus ZenBook 14 has enough connectivity for a slimmer and lighter model. On the left side of its body, we see a round pin power port, a full-size HDMI port, a USB-A 3.1 port and a USB-C 3.1 port. On the right, we see a single USB-A 2.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack for the headset, and an SD card slot. Also, the ZenBook 14 gets a small square fingerprint scanner on the top right of the touchpad. It works fast with Windows Hello for screen unlock.
Port on the left …
Port on the right …
Keyboard and touchpad
The ZenBook 14’s keyboard takes a while to get used to because the key-caps are fairly close but once you learn to keep your fingers close while typing, you should have the most comfortable experience. The keys have three-stage backlighting (in a nice, warm tone) and enough travel (1.4 millimeters). They also have the right amount of resistance, so lots of feedback when you type fast. If something happens — and it shakes me frequently with the Asus keyboard — the power button can be kept away from the delete key because an accidental press while typing can lead to an unintentional sleep / hibernate session. Also, I’m not sure why Asus likes to change the position of the Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys with each new model. All things considered, this is a fine keyboard setup for the price you pay.
The keys are a little small but very comfortable
The touchpad, being a perfect unit, offers smooth and linear pointer movement across the screen in addition to multi-finger taps and swipes. What’s more, you can change the touchpad’s settings directly in Windows settings without installing third-party drivers or utilities. The two click keys below the smooth surface of the touchpad are also fairly easy to press. While in our review unit, I noticed a specific problem that I thought was worth mentioning: I noticed a considerable amount of unwanted play on the surface of the touchpad whenever I rested my finger lightly on it. This feeling soon became a little annoying. Despite the game, the touchpad is still very much usable for everyday work.
There was an unwanted game on the review unit’s touchpad
Construction and design
The new ZenBook 14 looks and feels the same as the first ZenBook 13 launched earlier this year, if not better. This AMD-powered model comes in a new utopia blue color that is both refreshing and pleasing to the eye. The all-metal build provides adequate firmness and grip in the user’s hand. At 1.39 kg, it is fairly light. What you don’t see on the top cover is the new offset logo placement that Asus has decided to do on the refreshed ZenBook models. What I like most about the review unit is its overall application. Combined with the new color, the brushed metallic finish looked stunning against the light in almost every corner. I often compliment myself on the palmrest and the fine strokes on the top cover.
This ZenBook has no offset Asus logo
A 14-inch screen with a fairly thin bezel appears all around when the lid is opened, and there is almost no flex or bend on the lid and keyboard island. Asus says the laptop offers a screen-to-body ratio of 86 percent, which makes the body 6 percent smaller than its predecessor. As with most ZenBooks, the Ergolift hinge tilts the entire keyboard island 4.5 degrees from the user’s side, making it a bit easier to type when the laptop is on the tabletop surface. All things considered, the new ZenBook 14, in its new colors, is a stunning part of the machine that will catch the eye of many.
This ZenBook is definitely a visitor
The last row
Given that the new AMD Ryzen-powered Asus ZenBook 14 is entering the market at Rs. 59,990 while the refreshed ZenBook 14 with Intel 8th Gen Core i5 CPU and ScreenPad 2.0 is selling at Rs. Screen quality, possibly audio, and overall performance. But to my delightful surprise, not so with the new Asus entrant. The new Asus ZenBook 14 is perfect all around, except for a few design niggles here and there (for example, small keys and a loose touchpad).
The new Asus ZenBook 14 is for anyone hoping their laptop will catch the eye at an airport. It’s also for someone who wants a reliable machine that allows them to compose long emails, create countless spreadsheets, browse to their heart’s content, edit a few pictures, and play lots of movies and songs. This is for anyone who wants a cheap AMD-powered ZenBook without Asus’ ScreenPad 2.0. In other words, it’s an excellent modern alternative to its Intel-powered competitors such as the new Lenovo IdeaPad S540 and Acer Swift 3.