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The world’s smallest 14-inch ultra-thin laptop is finally updated for 2020. The Asus ZenBook 14 has always been our favorite since we first reviewed the first model a few years back, and over the years it has grown into a formidable machine in the ultraportable category – in design, power and price.
The ASUS ZenBook 14 UX431FL-EH74 is the latest model in this family, and while being slightly heavier and thicker than the original model, it is now more powerful and nice looking.
There’s powerful quad-core processing, thanks to Intel’s 10th Gen Core i7-10510U processor, just for starters. It’s not the only thing this slick laptop has going for it. Asus claims all-day battery life and Harmon Kardon audio makes the deal sweeter, too. Also, the slim-bezeled ‘NanoEdge’ display and the compact proportions for a laptop in the 14-inch segment that certainly defines the ZenBook proposition.
Asus ZenBook 14 Design
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 UX431FL-EH74, 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. 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 UX431FL-EH74 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.
Asus UX431FL-EH74 Performance
The ASUS ZenBook 14 UX431FL-EH74 we’re reviewing is rocking an Intel Core i7-10510U, 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 20 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 10 seconds / 508 megabytes per seconds). That’s pretty fast and nearly hits the premium laptop of 507.1 MBps.
Graphics comes via NVIDIA GeForce MX250, which is a remarkable upgrade over the Intel UHD found on most laptops. While not meant for pro-gamers, this card still lets you play casual games and do some projects that require a fairly advanced graphics option. For instance, it lets you play Dirt 3 at 45 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 41 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, otherwise, it would have been with a punchier, higher resolution panel like the LG Gram (2020). All of which makes the ASUS ZenBook 14 UX431FL-EH74 a good choice worthy of your shortlist.
ASUS ZenBook 14 UX431FL-EH74
The Asus ZenBook 14 is pretty well priced for a 14-inch ultrabook and offers solid if predictable all-round performance backed by a 10th Gen processor, a killer design and almost all-day battery life.
- Incredible screen-to-body ratio
- Well engineered
- Good performance
- Display could be brighter