Review: the new Asus ZenBook 14 ultrabook is an Excel-jockey's delight

By Nick Ross, December 11 2018
Review: the new Asus ZenBook 14 ultrabook is an Excel-jockey's delight

Asus’ latest ZenBook 14 UX433 aims to offer just about everything the discerning, high-flying executive could want in a laptop. It’s stylish, compact, fast and robust enough to withstand our accidental drop-test, while the 14 hour battery life covers a solid working day.

This 2019 revamp of Asus’ mid-size laptop, which hits the shelves this week at $1,999, will enjoy particularly sharp appeal to number-crunchers and spreadsheet jockeys.

The 14 inch display provides extra screen real estate over the average 13 inch ultraportable – handy for seeing more columns and rows at a single scroll-free glance – yet the laptop itself is almost the same physical size as a 13 inch machine, achieving has the same footprint as a sheet of A4 paper because the display stretches almost all the way to the edge of the panel.

There’s a mere 3mm bezel at the sides and 6mm at the top, that extra width being needed to accommodate the HD webcam which also allows use of Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial recognition sign-in.

In another nod to the spreadsheet set, the ZenBook 14’s trackpad doubles as a glowing numerical keypad, although this would be better if it included haptic feedback with each tap.

None of this means the Asus ZenBook 14 is an exclusively Excel-only affair. Anybody clumsy enough to drop the ZenBook from waist-height onto a solid wooden floor – something we accidentally did during our trial – will be happy to know that the ZenBook came through with no sign of damage. We shouldn’t be too surprised, considering Asus subjected this ultra-portable to military-grade torture tests.

Thankfully the slim (1.6cm) and light (1.1kg) ZenBook 14 doesn’t look like Army-issue kit, in fact it’s one of the most stylish Windows laptops on the market. Buyers can choose between conventional silver and a deep metallic blue, both with subtle rose gold elements such as the thin speaker grille covering Harman Kardon speakers.

These offer some of the best sound we’ve ever heard on an ultraportable, with punchy and high-pitched treble which doesn’t distort.

Audio matters are aided by a unique screen hinge which props up the rear of the laptop to give a three-degree incline which improves audio fidelity, laptop cooling and typing comfort on the ZenBook 14’s full-size ‘Scrabble tile’ keyboard.

Our only issue with the ZenBook’s multimedia system was that the inbuilt microphones were a bit weak on pickup, which meant that conference calls sounded slightly distant and robotic.

The screen is a very crisp Full HD panel which goes from super-bright bright to usefully-dim if you’re in a dark business class cabin. Our review until came with an optional anti-glare matte display which doesn’t offer the most eye-popping colours compared to the standard screen but has far less reflections whether you’re working indoors or out.

Driving all this is one of Intel’s latest 8th-gen Core i7 mobile processors. Clocked at 1.8GHz with a Turbo Boost mode pushing the redline to 4.6GHz, this powerplant rockets along. It’s flanked by 16GB of RAM and a speedy 512GB solid state drive so there are no performance bottlenecks to get in the way.

Connectivity is solid, with both USB-A and USB-C ports, a microSD card reader and full-size HDMI slot for those times when you need to to plug into a desktop monitor or give presentations on the meeting room’s flat-screen TV.

All in all, if your laptop is everything to you when travelling – and that covers most of us – the Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 should sit near the top of your list.

Nick Ross

Nick Ross is an award-winning Australian technology journalist.

31 Jul 2018

Total posts 24

Asus make some great laptops. I am very much looking forward to the new Swift 5 15.6". A nice big screen in a unit that is similar in size to other 14" units.

Your not getting confused between Asus and Acer, do you mean the Acer Swift 5

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