Asus ZenBook 14 UM431 looks and feels quite similar to the ZenBook 13 launched earlier this year. But there is a big difference. This version does not have Intel inside, and is instead powered by AMD’s new Ryzen 5 chipset. This means the laptop, weighing around 1.39 kg, is one of the lightest Ryzen powered laptops currently available in India. Yes, the laptop does look appealing, but how does it perform in real life? Let’s find out.
While buying a laptop, most people try to find one that will last them at least three years. If you are looking for a slim and sturdy laptop, the ZenBook 14 is a good option to consider. In hand, the ZenBook 14 feels slim and sturdy. The display does not bend or flex in regular use. The base of the laptop is raised when open, which makes you think it has some flexing issues. But that is not the case.
As the name suggests, the ZenBook 14 sports a Full HD 14-inch IPS LCD display. It has a 100 per cent sRGB colour gamut and features 178-degrees of maximum viewing angles. In use, this means the colours do pop and the display is quite bright. So I was able to use the laptop in different conditions without putting any strain on my eyes. The colour output looked quite natural, with just a tiny bit of oversaturation here and there due to the screen being overly bright.
While using the device directly under the winter sun, I found that the matte coating could keep the glare out, which I feel is quite a good feature. However, due to the matte coating, I sometimes felt the display was a bit on the duller side in the same conditions.
When it comes to audio performance, the Asus ZenBook 14 could be a bit louder. The sound from the ZenBook 14 is a softer than my MacBook Air, though it is quite clear and balanced, thanks to the top-firing Harman Kardon speakers. The speakers, while playing music or watching videos, provide ample sound separation, making you understand every single word of that fast-paced rap song that you have been singing wrongly for a long time.
Coming from a MacBook, getting used to the ZenBook 14’s keyboard was a huge task for me and I am yet to master it. The ZenBook 14’s keyboard is too cramped for me. I also did not like the fact that the laptop had only three-stage keyboard backlighting, which did not offer the precision I needed at times. Another gripe is that the power button is integrated next to the delete button and over the backspace, which caused a lot of accidental turn-offs for me.
The key travel is quite decent and there is a good amount of resistance which gives the feedback needed while typing.
Asus has used a precision touchpad which offers a smooth experience. This is one of the smoothest touchpad’s I have gotten to see in a Windows machine. On the top right corner of the touchpad rests a small square fingerprint scanner. It works accurately and is able to open up the machine quite swiftly with Windows Hello integration.
The new Asus ZenBook 14 is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 3500U quad-core processor paired with the Radeon Vega 8 GPU. It comes with 8GB of RAM along with a 512GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive. If you want to get better performance, I recommend that you upgrade the RAM to 16GB by adding an addition 8GB RAM stick. However, for normal tasks, the laptop should work perfectly fine with 8GB of RAM.
During everyday usage, the device performed as I would have expected a Ryzen 5 3000 series laptop to perform. Multi-tasking was a breeze, even on multiple virtual desktops, which usually causes a few laptops to stutter a bit. Even when switching between multiple windows, tabs and virtual desktops, I did not get to see major stuttering or lag in the animation. I did get minor stutters when I was pushing the laptop with a lot of stuff going on and me not turning it off for a week straight.
Ryzen 5 3000 U series processors for laptops are not suited for extreme gaming, however, they do allow you to play games smoothly. To test out the gaming capabilities of the Asus ZenBook 14, I tried playing FIFA 19, CS:GO, PUBG, NFS World and more on the machine and I have to say it managed to play all the games in best graphics for some time, after which the CPU thermal throttled and the games started stuttering. In medium settings, I did see much improvement.
This performance loss according to me was due to the fact that the CPU started to thermal throttle due to the increase in the overall temperature of the laptop. While gaming, I found the laptop getting quite hot to the touch and it did take some time to cool off even if turned off.
Overall, the laptop is quite decent if you want to perform usual tasks. But don’t buy this one for gaming.
The ZenBook 14 is backed by a 47Wh dual-cell lithium-ion polymer battery, which the company claims provides the customers with up to 12 hours of battery life on a single charge. During my daily routine, the laptop was able to provide me with approximately six hours of battery life per charge.
While gaming, the laptop’s battery performance did go down, providing me with around two to three hours of gameplay on a single charge. I recommend that you stay plugged in while playing games on the ZenBook 14. I was able to charge the laptop fully from zero to 100, within two hours of it being plugged in.
At Rs 59,990, the Asus ZenBook 14 is a decent offering and is able to compete with a lot of slim and light offerings currently in the market including the MacBook Air and the Lenovo Ideapad S540. It is quite a good laptop and might have been able to take the all-rounder tag if it wasn’t for a few quirks. If you are in the market for a thin and light laptop, the Asus ZenBook 14 UM431 is quite a good option. However, if gaming is a requirement, I would recommend that you try and find another option, with better cooling capabilities and a more airy design.