With a remarkably compact chassis and solid performance, the Asus ZenBook 14 has always been that one laptop I’ve reviewed that I could buy for myself. Now, it gets newer components, and surprisngly, the price hasn’t been adjusted upwards. We’re talking of Asus’s newest ZenBook 14 UX431FA-EH55 that now packs Intel’s 10th Gen CPU and puts a 14-inch display on a frame of a traditional 13-inch laptop, and its sexy utopia blue aluminum chassis is tested to military-grade durability.
Best of all, the ZenBook 14 can be had quite affordably, over most of its competitors. In fact, it’s among the few laptops in the sub-$1000 category to offer a Core i5-10210U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD as well as Harmon Kardon audio sweetness. If the notebook’s display wasn’t a little dim, the Asus UX431FA-EH55 would make for a serious run as the best overall laptop. Even with the few rough edges, it still makes for a great choice for college and professional alike.
If anything, the ZenBook 14, in effect is a laptop that feels like it’s a segment below in terms of size, but delivers a larger, more ergonomic 14-inch viewing experience. On the UX431FA-EH55 the design is all about the screen. Or rather the lack of pretty much around it. The side bezels are pretty slim (just 2.9mm), while the bottom bezels are 3.3mm and the top fairly thick at 6.1mm to accommodate the webcam and microphone.
The net result of slim bezels (Acer calls it NanoEdge) is a pretty staggering 86% screen-to-body ratio, and you might easily mistaken it for the Acer Chromebook 14. Most notable are those slim side bezels, as they make the ZenBook 14 to match the depth of 13-inch Ultrabooks with fairly thick top and bottom bezels, while giving slightly wider viewing angles.
What the ZenBook 14 UX431FA-EH55 is not, however, is a truly ultra-thin and ultralight laptop. Competing ultraportables like the Dell XPS 13 is noticeably slimmer if not lighter and the super slim Acer Swift 7, which is a 14-inch alternative in a whole different ballpark for thinness 0.39 inches to the ZenBook’s 0.6 inches.
On the ZenBook 14, the thin bezels make for an immersive viewing experience, but the laptop’s vivid 14-inch, 1080p display isn’t very bright. It reproduces 100 percent of the sRGB color gamut, making it more vivid than most display on midrange ultraportables. However, the displays on the Huawei MateBook X Pro (125 percent) and the LG Gram (129 percent) are even more glamorous.
On the flipside, outdoors visibility on this glossy, non-touch display is pretty poor due to its dim backlighting. You’ll notice a slight pink cast on the display’s white balance when you visit some websites, but images do exhibit accurate colors.
Inputs & Sound
You do get a single USB Type-C, HDMI-out, one USB 2.0 port, USB 3.1 port and a headphone/audio combo jack. Overall, the design is pretty pleasing, with a utopia blue chassis that’s free from flex and generally proportioned keyboard. The inclusion of Harmon Kardon audio is also welcome and the backlit keyboard is a nice touch. The trackpad is wide enough with a nice touch, but it would be more responsive.
The ZenBook 14 has a fingerprint placed on the upper-right corner of the touchpad, and the top-placed webcam suffices for secure Windows Hello login. While the laptop’s backlit keys are relatively shallow at 1.1 millimeters, the do provide nice tactile feedback. Additionally, the 64 grams of actuation force ensures that your fingers don’t become fatigued when you use the island-style keyboard to type your project.
The ASUS ZenBook 14 UX431FA-EH55 we’re reviewing is rocking an Intel Core i7-10210U, a 4-core, 8-thread. Mobile processor based on Intel’s Ice Lake architecture. And, so far, it’s fine. This little processor paired with 8GB of RAM is powerful enough to power you through pretty much any mundane task, but it will definitely struggle in super heavy workloads like video editing. But there’s one key feature to like about Ice Lake: power to multitask. With this chip, you can swiftly load up to 15 Google Chrome tabs and play four 1080p videos without lag.
Asus didn’t skimp on the ZenBook 14’s hard drive. The 512GB NVMe SSD duplicates data really fast (4.97GB of data in 14 seconds / 501 megabytes per seconds). That’s pretty fast and nearly hits the premium laptop of 507.1 MBps.
Graphics comes in way of integrated Intel UHD, which is only enough for the very basic of PC games. For instance, it lets you play Dirt 3 at 28 frames per second, which isn’t very exceptional but acceptable, considering the 30-fps playability threshold. Should you need something in the sub-$1000 range, the Lenovo Ideapad L340 is a good alternative with its dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card.
The ZenBook 14 lasts 8 hours 43 minutes on a single charge with continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. That’s quite respectable but we’re starting to see more ultrabooks like the Gram (10:48) and the MateBook X Pro (9:58), get almost 10 hours on a single charge. The premium laptop average remains at 8 hours 24 minutes, way below the ZenBook’s runtime.
This year’s Asus ZenBook 14 is pretty well priced for a 14-inch ultrabook and offers solid if predictable all-round performance. Once you’ve experienced the new ZenBook 14, it certainly makes other conventional portables look a bit past it, even those with slim bezels on three out of the four sides of the display.
For all its slim-bezel sweetness, the ZenBook’s screen is merely OK. It’s not a highlight feature here, otherwise, it would have been with a punchier, higher resolution panel like the LG Gram (2020). All of which makes the ASUS ZenBook 14 UX431FA-EH55 a good choice for students and professionals who need something portable, powerful and versatile for most productivity tasks.