The ZenBook 14 series of laptops is Asus’ way of showing how much it can push the boundaries in the world of ultra-slim notebooks. Last year’s models debuted the ScreenPad technology that changed the way people use laptops. With a premium design and some of the latest technologies on board, the ZenBook 14 series drew eyeballs from geeks and fashionistas alike. This year, it got an upgrade. Also Read - CES 2021: Asus unveils new Zenbook Pro, Vivobook and TUF laptops
Asus has updated the ZenBook 14 lineup with the latest Intel 11th Gen power while keeping the rest of the package fairly unchanged. After all, don’t fix if it ain’t broken, right? It looks sleek and modern, and with the updated internals, it theoretically has all the performance one needs from a premium ultrabook. At Rs 99,990, it is quite an expensive Windows laptop but after spending two weeks with it, it comes across as an easy recommendation for those seeking a premium Windows experience. Also Read - CES 2021 Day 2 recap: Asus ROG, Samsung Exynos 2100, GM flying car and more
Asus pours all its best materials into the ZenBook 14 series every year and it’s no different this year. The ZenBook 14 UX435 is one of the sleekest Windows laptops I have seen this year carrying style like no other notebook. The design isn’t exactly new as the older model also wore the same clothes. Next to an HP Envy x360, it kind of pales out a little. However, Asus’ choice of reflective surfaces and the brushed aluminum finish on the lid helps to liven up its presence. Also Read - Best 5 laptops under Rs 30,000 to buy in India in Jan 2021
The ErgoLift hinge makes a return to the ZenBook 14 UX435 and it makes life easier while working on documents – thanks to its tilted keyboard deck angle. Additionally, the hinge also makes for easy ventilation even on soft surfaces such as a bed or sofa. The deck itself contains a nicely spaced-out QWERTY keyboard and a fairly large trackpad that doubles as a mini display.
The display has slim bezels all around but these are far from the insane levels of trim that Dell’s XPS laptops attain for their bezels. The webcam sits in the conventional position but the quality is as disappointing as has been the case for almost all Windows laptops this year. Despite the slim form factor, Asus hasn’t skipped on essential I/O ports, which include 2 x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C with display/full range (5V~20V) of charging, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x standard HDMI 2.0a, and 1 x MicroSD Reader. There’s Wi-Fi 6 as well as Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity.
Despite the aluminum allow construction body, the ZenBook 14 UX435 weighs only 1.19Kg, which is lightweight by all standards. Once the world opens up in a few months, you will feel the benefits of this lightweight design once your backpack sees the blue skies and sun.
The ZenBook 14 UX435 features a 14-inch display with a resolution of 1980 x 1080 pixel resolution, using an IPS LCD panel. Given the premium Asus asks, you get support for touchscreen input and 100 percent SRGB color gamut. In layman’s English, this translates to a fairly good viewing experience. The color rendering and brightness levels are good, both of which make for nice YouTube experiences as well as for editing photos. The glossy glass surface brings a lot of reflections in brightly lit surroundings but for touchscreen devices, that’s not an option.
This is where the real upgrade comes to the ZenBook 14 UX435 model. Asus is among the first few companies to come up with a series of Intel 11th Gen powered laptops and the UX435 is part of that. The sample that Asus sent me came with Core i7-1165G7 processors paired with 16GB of 4266MHz RAM and 1TB PCIe 3.0 NVME storage. My unit lacked the Nvidia MX450 GPU but got the latest Intel Iris XE graphics.
Given that this laptop is meant for regular notebook purposes, I used it mainly for my office work purposes and it worked like a charm. My work revolves around Google Chrome for writing documents and operating the CMS system for publishing them. Hence, I mostly work with 7-8 tabs in Google Chome at the moment. The laptop didn’t show signs of trouble even when I had 12-13 tabs opened simultaneously. I also did some photo editing on the latest version of Photoshop and it handled high-resolution files as well as renders without any noticeable lags or stutters. Seems the Iris XE graphics is a major improvement over the previous integration of onboard graphics solutions from Intel.
Asus says the dedicated NVIDIA MX450 GPU is meant for video editing purposes but I would suggest going for a more powerful laptop using at least a GTX 1060Ti or above. That said, for general or casual graphics-related necessities, I found the ZenBook 14 UX435 to be more than adequate.
If you take benchmark numbers seriously, here are some stats from popular benchmarking platforms. On CineBench R20 Multi-Core, it got a score of 2075 while the single-core scores were restricted to 550 at maximum. The Sky Diver test on 3D Mark threw up a score of 14015 while PCMark 10 gave it a score of 4700 on the whole.
The keyboard is fairly comfortable for typing long documents but it lacks the tactile feedback that some of Lenovo’s laptops in the same price range offer from the ThinkPad series. The trackpad is where Asus has differentiated this laptop from the competition. In normal mode, it works like a regular trackpad with decent sensitivity and full support for Windows 10 gestures.
However, turn on the ScreenPad mode and it opens up a lot of multitasking possibilities. You can use this small display to keep another app open while you work on something on the main display. You can use the vast array of Asus apps that help increase productivity. For example, you can use the ScreePad to draw stuff in supported apps, or keep a track of your phone’s notifications, or quickly call your favorite contacts from the shortcuts, or have quick toggles for popular apps like MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint. You can even have a dedicated virtual Numpad, if you need one. There are lots of possibilities with the ScreenPad.
However, I found the ScreenPad inconvenient while using the laptop without an external mouse. I ended up pressing more buttons to access the shortcuts every time I needed them. Moreover, it is essentially an add-on to the Windows 10 experience and hence, the experience feels jittery at times. You need to be highly invested in the Asus experience to make the most out of the ScreenPad feature. Sadly for me, I had it only for two weeks and I was unwilling to change my PC habits for what appears to be gimmicks at best, creating hindrance in my workflow.
That said, the ScreenPad is a nifty addition to the Windows 10 experience and most of you may find it more useable in the long run. I wish Asus adapts the larger ScreenPad technology it showcased in the ZenBook Duo and ROG Zephyrus Duo laptops – that’s where I found the ScreenPad more useful than here.
The audio output from the speakers was fine. They got loud but I wish Asus used better quality drivers that offered more depth into the audio. These speakers sound tinny at times and lack any sort of notable bass. For basic YouTube watching, these speakers are just enough but if you seek anything more, you will need your headphones and speakers.
The ZenBook 14 UX435 comes equipped with a 63WHr battery and Asus claims that you can expect up to 12 hours of battery life. In real-world scenarios, I was able to extract a maximum of 7.5-8 hours of battery life while staying connected to Wi-Fi. Do note that I kept the battery settings in the default settings and did not opt for the Battery Saver mode. Also, the display brightness was set to 50 percent for most of the time. That’s not a bad figure, given my 9-hour shift usually kept the laptop alive for eight hours with my usual workload. Even when you do need to charge the battery, you can get up to 60 percent battery in under an hour. The best part is that you can even charge the laptop with a USB-C charger, provided it supports 65W output. I used the OnePlus 65W fast charger to top up my unit frequently.
The Asus ZenBook 14 UX435 is one of the finest Windows ultrabooks you can buy at the moment, that too with the latest Intel 11th Gen processors. The new Intel processors are not only fast but power-efficient as well, which is evident with the good battery life. Despite the familiar design, it comes across as one of the most striking laptops in its category, especially with the ErgoLift hinge mechanism.
I was also impressed with the display as well as the potential of the ScreenPad feature, despite me finding its smaller size difficult to cope with. I wish Asus finds a way to use the bigger ScreenPad display from the ZenBook Duo series in this compact form factor in the days to come.
At Rs 99,990, the Core i7 variant of the ZenBook UX435 quite expensive for a Windows ultrabook. At this price, there are some great alternatives from HP, Dell, and Lenovo that use the older 10th Gen Intel processors. Moreover, for similar prices, you can get yourself the new Apple MacBook Air M1 that has impressed critics and consumers alike with its unmatched performance. Hence, you need to ask yourself whether you truly need that 11th Gen Intel performance from this Asus package.
If the answer to the above question is yes, then go ahead and get the Asus ZenBook 14 UX435. It is a nice lightweight Windows ultrabook with lots of surplus performance from the latest Intel chips. It is not the best you can get in the market but is certainly a unique Windows notebook with its ScreenPad feature and great portability.