Asus ZenBook 14 review: This sleek, lightweight laptop can do it all
The ZenBook 14 is sleek and lightweight, which makes it comfortable to use for a long duration. Its backlit keyboard is particularly suited for people who spend a lot of time typing and its display complements its overall built by being easy on the eyes.
Product: ZenBook 14
Key specifications: 14-inch FHD display, Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB storage, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6, 67 Wh battery, Windows 10
If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us it is the importance of having a good laptop at home.
Laptops have become as fundamental to our existence in recent times as smartphones. From office work to school and college classes to binge-watching Netflix, laptops have acquired a special significance in our daily lives of lately as has never been before. Don’t get me wrong here, laptops were important before the pandemic. But ever since our living rooms became our classrooms and office cubicles, they have acquired a special significance coz now there is no running away to the faster or better office personal computers for important work or school computers labs for assignments. This change has made our home PCs, and more specifically laptops, a quintessential tool.
Enter: Asus ZenBook 14.
Asus ZenBook 14 was launched alongside the ZenBook 13, VivoBook 14 and the VivoBook Ultra K14 laptops in India last month. It has the top of the line specs, which includes a 14-inch display, Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB storage and 67 Wh battery. If you look at the specifications, it checks all the right boxes in the list. But we all know that mere specs don’t make a great laptop. It’s the overall experience right from the display to the software that make or break a laptop.
So, the important question here is: Is ZenBook 14 any good? Is it spending almost a lakh?
Sleek and light-weight design
The Asus ZenBook 14 measures just 319 x 208 x 13.9mm. And it weighs just 1.13Kgs. It is made out of diamond-cut aluminium alloy and it has the Asus logo on the left side that is neatly arranged in the middle of concentric circles. It has an HDMI 2.0 port and two Thunderbolt 3.0 ports on the left side and a USB Type-A port and a microSD card reader on the left side. There is no 3.5mm jack (RIP jack!) but Asus ships a converter in the box, so you won’t miss not having it there.
Now, these numbers and details might not mean much to you. But here’s a thing, ZenBook 14 is extremely sleek. In practice, it is thinner than a book or a diary that you might be using. It’s also very compact. To give you some idea, it’s slightly bigger than one of the books in my library. It’s also lighter than the same book. This makes it extremely easy to use. You can carry it in your hands for hours without breaking a sweat. No matter where you are working, your bedroom, your office or on the road, ZenBook 14 is light as a feather and extremely comfortable to use and its non-shiny metallic build ensures that it remains smudge-free no matter where you are.
When you get to work, you find a 14-inch display (we will get into the details later), which is attached to an aesthetically-designed backlit keyboard that is an absolute pleasure to use. What I particularly love about this keyboard is the spread of the keys and the ergonomic design which wastes no space at all. There is a power button on the extreme right corner of the keyboard, which also pulls the laptop out of the sleep mode. One press and the laptop is ready to take your commands. Right under the power button are navigational keys such as Home, Page up and Page Down. Towards the left side of the power button are some extremely helpful set of keys that make operating the device extremely easy. There’s a key to launch the My Asus app and a dedicated key to take screenshots. For privacy lovers, there is a key that turns off (and turns on) the camera and a key that locks the laptop without any fuss. I found these features extremely helpful, especially since calls are part of my work and I’m paranoid about letting anyone in my room.
Another interesting, and might I add extremely helpful, feature of the ZenBook 14 is its trackpad. The Asus ZenBook 14 features Numpad 2.0, which is built inside the laptop’s trackpad. It hides in plain sight. One press on the top right corner of the trackpad and the Numpad appear, another tap and it disappears! You can use the trackpad while entering numbers or while using the calculator. There is another button on the top left corner of the trackpad that can be used for controlling the brightness of the Numpad. Asus has used a clever trick of making ZenBook 14 compact by letting users access the number pad only when they need. Of course, the keyboard has basic number keys for those who are too lazy to press a button.
Hiding the number pad in the trackpad is quite ingenious and interesting. But it’s not always as simple to use. Activating the Numpad can be tricky sometimes as the button to access it doesn’t work as intended always. It takes a bunch of tries to turn the Numpad on or off -- nothing a software update cannot fix!
Coming to the display, the Asus ZenBook 14 comes with a 14-inch LED IPS display with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and 300 nits of brightness. It has a screen-to-body of 90% and 2.5mm-thin bezels. In practice, the sleek side bezels make the over design look neat and balanced. It also lets the ZenBook 14 have…well…a bigger 14-inch display without requiring extra space. This, in turn, contributes in reducing the overall size of the laptop. Simply said, you get more screen space in less area, which is awfully better than the 13.3-inch MacBook that I’ve been using for a long time.
Talking about the bezels, while the ZenBook 14 has extremely thin bezels on the sides, the top bezel is marginally thicker than the side ones. The top bezel houses the HD camera, which can be used while making video calls, something we all have been spending a lot of time doing in the past couple of months. Asus hasn’t made any major changes to the quality of the camera, which means that you get the same old web camera with a 720p resolution. But what Asus has done is that it has upgraded the camera with an advanced infrared (IR) sensor. This IR sensor enhances the camera’s effectiveness in dimly lit environments. Simply said, even if there is a lighting issue in the space where you are using the webcam, the IR sensor compensates for the video by preventing the video from getting noisy.
The IR sensor also serves another purpose. It improves the quality of the laptop’s face unlock functionality. To give you some context, the ZenBook 14 comes with a face unlock feature that is powered by Windows Hello. The IR sensor ensures that you are able to unlock the laptop simply by staring into the camera no matter where you are. I found this mechanism extremely efficient and reliable during my stint with the ZenBook 14. Unlocking the laptop using face unlock feature is as simple as unlocking your iPhone. It is fast. It is reliable. It is easy to use. And the best part about it is that you no longer have to deal with pesky passwords, which for a person like me (one who has a hard time remembering passwords) is a boon.
As far as the overall viewing experience is concerned, ZenBook 14 is an absolute pleasure to look at. The display is well lit and extremely comfortable to view. The colours in videos are bright but not in a jarring way. There is a harmony between colour, contrast and clarity, which I feel is pivotal for any display that is being used for a prolonged period. What I found particularly interesting is that ZenBook 14’s display doesn’t strain your eyes even when used for long durations, which is unlike all other laptops I’ve used so far. If you are a person like me, who spends 10 to 11 hours of their day staring at your laptop’s screen (and working of course!) you would find using ZenBook 14 a delight.
Now, a pretty laptop is only half pretty if it doesn’t work well or in other words, perform. So far, we have established that ZenBook 14 has a great design and it offers a comfortable display. Now, I would like to add one more bit to that description – it performs just as well.
The ZenBook 14 is powered by Intel’s latest 10th Gen Core i7 Ice Lake processor, which is coupled with 16GB LPDDR4X RAM and 512GB of storage space. It is quick to respond and it can handle multiple tasks without showing any visible signs of fatigue.
Life these days can be summed up in five words: eat, work, relax, sleep and repeat. This means that for most of us including me when we are not sleeping, we are either working or watching a series or a movie on Netflix. This means that a significant time of our day involves using our laptops. This usually translates to doing the office work along, which for me involves a lot of writing along with some video editing, and streaming videos or making video calls simultaneously. ZenBook 14 handles my day-to-day routine well. It doesn’t slow down or falter or throw an angry tantrum no matter how long I make it work.
What I like about this laptop is that it remains quiet even when it is tired or when it needs a break. To put into perspective, laptops heat up after being used for a prolonged period of time without a break. Laptops have cooling fans mitigate this issue and prevent the laptop from overheating. These fans sometimes make a lot of noise. I mean a LOT of noise. But ZenBook 14 doesn’t. I have used the ZenBook 14 for 14 hours straight several times during the course of this review but it has never shown any signs of distress. Not once did it heat to a level when the cooling fans might need to kick in. Asus says that ZenBook 14 has a quiet fan mode setting that gives users the flexibility to set the fan to operate at a lower speed, allowing the noise to dip under 22db and I trust it. A laptop that doesn’t get stressed easily must surely know how to remain calm.
Lastly, the battery. The ZenBook 14 comes with a 67Whrs Lithium polymer battery, which Asus says can go from 0 to 60% in just 49 minutes. In practice, ZenBook 14’s battery lasts good 10 to 10.5 hours on a single charge. This means you can charge your laptop before beginning your day and then forget about charging for the rest of the day. No matter what you do – office work, stream music or watch TV series – ZenBook 14 will not ask you to juice it up anytime soon. And in case you are in the last leg of the battery and there is no electricity you can turn on the battery saver mode to make it last a little longer.
Should you buy it?
Now the million-dollar question: should you buy ZenBook 14 or not? Well, the answer, in this case, is a simple yes. The ZenBook 14 is sleek and lightweight, which makes it comfortable to use for a long duration. Its backlit keyboard is particularly suited for people who spend a lot of time typing and its display complements its overall built by being easy on the eyes. Add on top of it a strong performing core, quirky features such as Numpad 2.0, the camera on/off button and lock-screen button, and long battery life and you get the experience that you’re looking for in a laptop when you’re spending nearly a lakh. Sure, the Numpad 2.0, which is also the trackpad, has its hits and misses sometimes, but as I said before, it’s nothing that a software update can’t fix. All in all, ZenBook 14 is a keeper.