ASUS ZenBook 14 (UM431) Review: A stylish AMD-powered ZenBook

In 2019, the Asus ZenBook 14 has had a busy life cycle. The prominent Taiwanese electronics maker released the 14-inch Thin and Light model (with Intel’s 8th Gen Core series CPUs) with the ZenBook 13 and ZenBook 15 in January of this year, only to update the ZenBook 14 and ZenBook 15 in September.

It was at this time that the two models gained Asus’ ScreenPad 2.0 innovation and the ZenBook Flip 13 was added.

However, the ZenBook 14 now comes in a new form that is powered by an AMD Ryzen 3000-series CPU rather than an Intel Core chip.

A Ryzen-powered ZenBook Flip 14 (UM462) Thin and Light Convertible joins the new ZenBook 14 in the Red Team. This new ZenBook 14 does not include Asus’ ScreenPad 2.0, but it does have a lower price tag of Rs 59,990. Is it still able to hold all of the essentials? Let us investigate.

Performance

The new ZenBook 14 is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U quad-core CPU with Radeon Vega 8 integrated graphics in its single configuration. The system RAM is a comfortable 8GB, and it can be expanded to a maximum of 16GB.

A 512GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive serves as storage. Unlike the Intel Core i5-powered ZenBook 13 from January of this year, this one does not include an Nvidia GeForce MX-series graphics card.

Our review machine performed well but not spectacularly in our regular CPU and GPU benchmark tests. The new ZenBook 14 scored 3578 points on PCMark 8’s Accelerated Creative test. This is somewhat higher than the Acer Swift 3’s score of 3371 points, but significantly lower than the Intel Core i5-powered ZenBook 13’s score of 4457 from January of this year.

Because the new ZenBook 14 lacks a separate graphics card, its GPU performance falls short of that of the Nvidia GeForce MX150-powered ZenBook 13.

Our review device scored 1801 and 10215 scores on 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Cloud Gate tests, respectively. You can read our reviews of the Asus ZenBook 13 and the Acer Swift 3 here and here, respectively.

The review unit performed better than predicted in our daily performance testing. I was able to multitask between many virtual desktops on numerous common apps such as Word, Excel, Chrome, OneNote, File Explorer, WhatsApp for PC, and so on.

When switching between active apps and virtual desktops, there was no stuttering or lag in the animation, which is usually a positive indication. Whether it was speedy note-taking, massive file uploads, concurrent programme instals, or heavy surfing sessions, the Ryzen-powered ZenBook 14 managed to handle it all with no obvious slowdown or hiccupping.

Battery

The internal battery of the Asus ZenBook 14 is a 47Wh dual-cell lithium-ion polymer. The review unit lasted 4 hours and 13 minutes on our normal battery benchmark test. It’s not a poor grade, but it might have been better. On the same test, the Acer Swift 3 from earlier this year scored a slightly better 4 hours, 37 minutes. The Intel-powered ZenBook 13 scored a significantly higher 5 hours and 20 minutes.

On our typical test runs, where the screen brightness is set to 70% and Wi-Fi + Bluetooth is enabled, the review unit’s battery went from full charge to 20% in around four hours.

During the testing, the review unit was tasked with Chrome surfing, app installation, and background music played on a YouTube window. After fifteen minutes of Netflix online movie watching, the laptop had lost around 7% of its power.

It took nearly two hours to charge from near empty to full. In essence, the new ZenBook 14 will provide up to five hours of unplugged performance. It’s not awful, but it’s also not wonderful.

Display, audio, and input/output (IO)

The Asus ZenBook 14 has a 14-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio and Full HD resolution. According to Asus, it has 100% sRGB colour coverage and a maximum viewing angle of 178 degrees. In my opinion, the colours on the laptop’s screen seem realistic, with no symptoms of oversaturation or light leakage.

The illumination on the screen is strong enough for most indoor settings, including conference rooms with high overhead lighting. If anything, the screen may have benefited from a more matte appearance for enhanced reading in direct light.

The new Asus ZenBook 14 shines in the audio aspect. The sound from the ZenBook 14’s two top-firing stereo speakers is powerful, clear, and balanced.

When you sit right in front of the laptop, you get plenty of stereo separation whether you’re listening to music or watching films. Furthermore, the loudness is sufficient to fill a peaceful medium-sized living room. In other words, you won’t have any issues while viewing a few of movie trailers with your pals. On these user-facing units, lows, mids, and highs are quite adequately indicated.

For a thin and light device, the Asus ZenBook 14 provides plenty of connections. A round pin power port, a full-size HDMI connector, a USB-A 3.1 port, and a USB-C 3.1 port can be found on the left side of its body.

A single USB-A 2.0 connector, a 3.5mm audio socket for headsets, and an SD Card slot are located on the right side. Furthermore, the ZenBook 14 includes a tiny square fingerprint scanner in the upper right corner of the touchpad. It unlocks the screen quickly when used in conjunction with Windows Hello.

Touchpad and Keyboard

The keyboard of the ZenBook 14 takes some getting used to because the keycaps are so close together, but once you learn to position your fingers closer together when typing, you should have a relatively comfortable experience.

The keys include three levels of illumination (in a pleasant, warm tone) and plenty of travel (1.4 millimetres). They also have the correct amount of resistance, so when you write quickly, you get ample of feedback.

If anything, and this is a common complaint I have with Asus keyboards, the power button should have been situated away from the Delete key, since one inadvertent stroke while typing might result in an unintentional sleep/hibernate session.

Also, I’m not sure why Asus enjoys rearranging the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys with each new model. All things considered, it’s a good keyboard configuration for the money.

As a precision unit, the touchpad provides smooth and linear pointer movement on the screen, as well as multi-finger touches and swipes.

Furthermore, without installing a third-party driver or tool, you may alter the touchpad’s settings directly in Windows Settings. The two click buttons beneath the smooth surface of the touchpad are also rather easy to push.

However, on our testing device, I found one particular issue that I thought was worth mentioning: I detected a fair amount of undesired play on the touchpad surface whenever I lightly laid my finger on it. This sensation quickly became grating. Despite the game, the touchpad is perfectly useable for normal chores.

Construct and Design

The new ZenBook 14 looks and feels just as nice, if not better, than the original ZenBook 13 that was released earlier this year.

This AMD-powered device is available in a new Utopia Blue colour that is both refreshing and eye-catching. The all-metal construction provides enough stiffness and grip in the user’s hands. It’s also rather light at 1.39 kg.

The only thing missing from the top cover is the new offset logo positioning, which Asus opted to include in the redesigned ZenBook models.

The general attractiveness of the review unit was what drew me in. The brushed metal surface looked brilliant against the light at practically every aspect when combined with the new colour. I found myself frequently enjoying the beautiful lines on the palmrest and top cover.

When you open the lid, you’ll see a 14-inch screen with relatively thin bezels all around and essentially no flex or bend on the lid or keyboard island. According to Asus, the laptop has an 86% screen-to-body ratio, making it 6% smaller than its predecessor.

The ErgoLift hinge, like with most ZenBooks, tilts the whole keyboard island 4.5 degrees in the user’s direction, making typing slightly easier when the laptop is on a tabletop surface. Overall, the new ZenBook 14, in its new colour, is a magnificent piece of equipment that is sure to attract many people’s attention.

Verdict

Given that the new AMD Ryzen-powered Asus ZenBook 14 is priced at Rs 59,990, while the revised ZenBook 14 with an Intel 8th Gen Core i5 CPU and ScreenPad 2.0 is priced at Rs 75,990, I expected some noticeable compromises in screen quality, maybe audio, and overall performance.

But, to my delight, that is not the case with the new Asus entry. Except for a few minor design flaws (such as tiny keys and a sloppy touchpad), the new Asus ZenBook 14 is flawless in every way.

The new Asus ZenBook 14 is designed for travellers who want their laptop to stand out in an airport. It’s also for someone who needs a dependable system on which to send lengthy emails, generate several spreadsheets, browse endlessly, edit a few photographs, and play a large number of movies and tunes.

It’s also for those looking for a less expensive AMD-powered ZenBook sans Asus’ ScreenPad 2.0. In other words, it’s a superb modern option to Intel-powered rivals like the new Lenovo IdeaPad S540 and Acer Swift 3.

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