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ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431 Review: Lightweight Champion

ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431 Review: Lightweight Champion 12

[review]

Rather than taking a look at another Intel Core-based machine, let’s move our focus onto a Ryzen-based laptop, shall we? This is the latest ASUS ZenBook 14, model number UM431 that packs a Ryzen AMD processor instead of an Intel Core series chipset. Packing a slim body with a sleek design, the ASUS ZenBook 14 certainly does catch the eye. But what about its performance?

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Specifications

Model Name ZenBook 14 UM431
ProcessorAMD Quad Core R5-3500U Processor, 2.1 GHz
(2M Cache, up to 3.7 GHz)
Display14.0′ FHD 1920×1080 16:9//Anti-Glare//Wide-view
Number PadNo
Total Memory8GB On Board
StoragePCIEG3x2 NVME 512GB M.2 SSD
Video Graphics AMD Radeon™ Vega 8 Graphics
On Board WirelessWi-Fi 5(802.11ac)+Bluetooth 4.2 (Dual band) 2*2
Card ReaderSD Card
USB Ports and interfaces1 x USB 3.1 gen 1 Type-C port, 1 x USB 3.1 Type A,
1 x HDMI, 1 x SD Card reader, 1 x Combo audio jack
AudioQuad Speaker with Harman Kardon Audio Technology
Weight (KG)1.39KG
Dimension (CM)32.4 x 21.2 x 1.59 cm (WxDxH)
AC Adapter45W AC Adapter: Output: 19V DC, 45W: Input: 100~240V AC; 50/60Hz universal
Battery47WHrs, 2S1P, 2-cell Li-ion
Keyboard typeIlluminated Chiclet Keyboard
Supplied Accessories ASUS Sleeve
PriceRM2,999

Design

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Taking the ASUS ZenBook 14 out of the box, you’ll immediately notice the Utopia Blue colourway, complete with the iconic Zen-inspired spun-metal finish. ASUS is claiming that it is 6% smaller than the previous ZenBook 14. It sure is small and light, but it somehow feels slightly heavier than previous ZenBook iterations.

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Also, if you take a look at the edges, you’ll see there are these shiny silver trim that really gives the laptop a more premium touch. One thing I appreciate about the laptop is that it can be opened with just one finger. With a single flick, the lid opens right up, and the ErgoLight hinge raises the back of the laptop up, elevating it for a more comfortable typing position.

ASUS is spot on for the number and types of ports on the ZenBook 14. On the left, you get the charging port, HDMI, one USB 3.0, and a USBType-C port. On to the other side, there’s another USB 3.0 port, with a 3.5mm audio/mic jack combo, and an SD card reader. These ports definitely fulfill my needs in a laptop for work, and should satisfy the regular consumers’ needs. They’re all properly placed, not a port out of place, and they function just as you’d expect.

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On the bottom of the laptop, there’s nothing much but four rubber pads and a couple of air vents to keep the laptop well ventilated when under heavy load.

Display

The ASUS ZenBook 14’s NanoEdge Display has a 14-inch FHD resolution panel. That’s a 14-inch panel with a 1920 x 1080 resolution in 16:9 ratio, giving it an 86% screen-to-body ratio. The side bezels have a thinness of 6.45mm, but the top and bottom have slightly thicker bezels to house the monitor components and the webcam.

With its 100% sRGB screen, the ZenBook 14 produces amazing colour, with just the right amount of brightness when I’m working in heavy sunlit conditions. Watching Netflix on this is just bliss. Videos look crisp and clear, with vivid colours. I’m also happy to report that there aren’t any light bleeding that occurs around the laptop’s display.

User Experience

The ASUS ZenBook 14 has a fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello recognition. And I must say, it is fast. One tap and I’m in. The built-in webcam performs well, but unfortunately, it doesn’t support Windows Hello.

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The most important thing when it comes to user experience on a laptop, is the keyboard. The ZenBook 14’s keyboard has a 1.4mm (coincidence?) key travel distance, and it feels well isolated. That being said, the entire keyboard’s layout feels slightly leaned towards the right side of the laptop, as if it’s not fully centralised. Because there isn’t a numpad, and the arrow keys are squished below the right Shift key, the Shift keys on the laptop ends up becoming extended longer than it should be. I found myself constantly tapping on “Caps Lock” when I wanted to tap on the “A” key.

I also found myself constantly tapping in between keys because of how the keyboard layout leans toward the right side. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, just needs some getting used to. The keyboard actually feels nice to type on as it feels firm and there isn’t any flex when you exert a little more force onto the keys.

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As for the trackpad, it feels smooth and suffers no stuttering or input lag. Another thing I like about the trackpad is that has really useful gesture actions. Three finger swipe left and right lets you easily switch between apps, while a three finger swipe up or down lets you open or minimise the currently active window.

As mentioned above, the ports on the ASUS ZenBook 14 are sufficient with each port well-placed. After using it for just about two days, I’ve already grown accustomed to where each port is. The SD card reader is uber important to me because my line of work requires me to transfer media in and out of my laptop a lot. So I really liked that ASUS managed to make some space for it.

Performance

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Just glancing over the ASUS ZenBook 14’s spec sheet, you’d know that this laptop can handle daily tasks without any hassle. Operations feel smooth and zippy, and the apps and software loads fast thanks to the 512GB SSD. It may not have Wi-Fi 6 installed, but web browsing is still fast with my browser of choice – Opera GX.

In a quick CrystalDiskMark test, the laptop’s NVME M.2 SSD is capable of read and write speeds of 1642MBps and 730MBps respectively.

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Now, the ASUS ZenBook 14 isn’t made for gaming. But if you have to play a game or two on it, you might not entirely be pleased. First, we try out Dota 2. Cranking the integrated Radeon Vega 8 graphics all the way up, a game of Dota 2 could only fetch you a mere 18fps. When you lower it down a notch, you get about 20 to 24 fps. Lower it down even more, then only things start becoming smooth with an average FPS of about 40. But if you don’t care about graphics and just want speed, then turn it down to the lowest settings, and you’ll get 60fps but the graphics won’t be visually satisfying at all.

I also tried it on my favourite game, which is “Transistor”. On this game, it could handle 1920 x 1080 resolution at its graphics settings, no problem. Images and animations are smooth with no lag at all.

Battery Life

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ASUS claims that the ZenBook 14 is capable of 12.7 hours of battery life with the 47Whs battery. I’ve tried to put it to its maximum:

  • Songs playing in the background at 100%
  • Screen brightness 100%
  • Keyboard brightness level 3 (Brightest)
  • Web browsers with 10 tabs opened
  • A game of Transistor running in the background
  • Adobe Premiere Pro rendering a short five minute video

Doing this, I was able to run the laptop for 3.5 hours before it died on me. But then I lowered down the usage to:

  • Songs playing in the background at 40%
  • Screen brightness 50%
  • Keyboard brightness level 0 (Turned off)
  • Web browsers with 10 tabs opened
  • Lots of typing

I was able to get through an entire day’s worth of work, churning about 11 hours out of the ZenBook 14. It might not be 12.7 hours, but it’s definitely close enough. As expected of a ZenBook laptop, that for me is great battery life.

Audio

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The sound on the ASUS ZenBook 14 gets really loud, thanks to its Harman Kardon-tuned quad speakers with a 2-channel Smart Amp. Because the speakers are upward firing, it doesn’t feel like the laptop is screaming at you, as opposed to a front-firing speaker.

That being said, the speakers’ loudness can cause the laptop keyboard to vibrate quite a bit. At volume level 30, you can already feel a slight vibration on the keyboard from the speakers. But, level 30 volume isn’t very audible for me. So, I crank it up higher to level 50, the vibration just gets stronger, but now I can hear better audio. At max level audio, the keyboard vibration extends to the palm rest area.

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Audio quality wise, you get crystal clear treble, but lack mids and lows. It isn’t heavy on the bass, but it sounds clean and defined.

Conclusion

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The ASUS ZenBook 14 offers great AMD Ryzen-based performance in a beautiful thin, light and iconic Zen-inspired body. With the right amount of ports and design cues, it’s a great productivity machine for anyone thinking of getting work done when they’re out and about. Priced at RM2,999, the ASUS ZenBook 14 comes with a 2-year global warranty and we’d recommend it to anyone looking for a new laptop, or any student getting ready to go back to school.

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Written By

Chief Content Developer at The AXO

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