An ALMOST Perfect Ryzen Ultrabook – ASUS ZenBook 14 Review

by birtanpublished on October 4, 2020

So it's been a really long time since we've taken a look at a thin and light notebook the last one that i remember checking out was the dell xps 13. it had a fantastic display the build quality was amazing uh the battery life was also really nice the performance was also pretty good it was a all-around package for an ultrabook but it did come at a premium it started at 1800 which was not cheap it was an expensive laptop but what if i told you if there was an amd alternative an amd based notebook

That has almost the same build quality as the xps not quite there a bigger display better battery life and can run circles around the xps 13. oh and what if i told you you could buy two of these devices for almost the same price as an intel based notebook well folks i hereby present to you the asus zenbook 14. and there are some really good features about this ultrabook that might make it one of the best devices in that category but that being said i do have some

Frustrations with it as well so let's talk about the asus zenbook 14 right after this it's true what they say about the corsair a100 we've got water cooled hardware for cool temperatures a cool design that stands out with plenty of good io it's whisper quiet with an efficient fan and occupies as much space on my desk as my plant the corsair a100 up to 16 cores with 2080 ti it does not disappoint check it out below okay so let's start off by talking about the zenbook 14's lineup because in

Some instances you might have trouble finding the exact same spec or a spec that might fit your needs because if you look at the other system integrators like dell hp and lenovo they offer their notebooks directly on their website whereas asus solely relies on retail partners like newegg or best buy and in some cases those retailers do offer different configurations and specs so this zenbook is listed as the um425ia but watch out since there's also a ux425ja

Which has the same design it includes intel's ice lake cpus and it's generally a bit more expensive but trust me after watching this review you probably want to avoid that one with that out of the way let's see what makes this thing tick the version that i have has an eight core eight thread ryzen 7 4700u 16 gigabytes of dual channel lpddr4x memory operating at 37 32 megahertz a one terabyte nvme ssd and a 14 inch ips display with a peak brightness of 250 nits there's also a 400 nit screen option

That one uses one watt of power but we didn't get that one color options are here too with pine gray or lilac mist pricing is a little bit all over the place right now but technically you should be able to find it for 900 u.s or 900 euros or about 1100 canadian this is the highest inspect available but if that's too expensive for you there are other options going down to a ryzen 5 4 4500u 8 gigs of ram a 256 gig ssd and a 250 nit display for under 600

Us in terms of size like with all ultrabooks the zenbook 14 is literally focused on portability before anything else but it does have a full 14 inch display crammed into a body that's no bigger than most 13 inch laptops it's also super thin at just 0.6 inches and it weighs about 2.5 pounds but do note that if you get the standard model it'll weigh a bit more the wall adapter for the zenbook is pretty straightforward but the charging cable is only 78 inches or 198 centimeters long which

Is a lot shorter than notebooks with a power brick style setup luckily the zenbook can accept a charge from any 65 watt or higher usb charger and it can fast charge up to 60 in less than 50 minutes so that's pretty cool but one of the first things that really jumped out to me was the build quality honestly the days of less expensive notebooks feeling cheap are mostly gone and this notebook is proof of that i mean sure most of the chassis is plastic except for the lid which has a spun metal finish but everything else feels super

Sturdy the metal lid does attract a lot of fingerprints as you can see i don't know if the camera can do justice but yeah it's definitely really hard to keep clean also the bottom panel isn't exactly flush i've noticed a few spots here and there that doesn't go flush to the edge so i mean other than that this is a really well-built notebook for the price i really like the hinge mechanism asus has used here because it elevates the entire surface to a slight angle which makes typing a lot more natural and comfortable the display

Is actually stabilized by your work surface so there's very less wobble as you're working on the laptop also asus as implemented rubber pads at the bottom so it doesn't really slide off as you're again working on the laptop and speaking of the display it's matte so reflections won't be an issue and as i mentioned earlier i've got the 250 knit version i have to say asus nailed it in the color accuracy department with a 97 srgb along with respectable adobe rgb

And dc ip3 numbers in my tests it also output 285 nits so it's a bit brighter than asus claim spec like i said for a 900 ultrabook these are some really good numbers this is the webcam test and i'm pretty surprised by the video quality it's actually significantly better than the xps 13 that i checked out uh recently also the microphone sounds really good so you shouldn't have an issue with skype meetings or just casual business meetings you can easily take this thing for that so asus really good job the

Speakers are bottom facing it's pretty good but it's not as good as the xps 13. honestly for casual media consumption just watching youtube videos here and there this thing should get the job done just fine for io asus has done a pretty good job but as i make my way around you'll notice what could be a huge emission for some of you guys so on the left-hand side there's a full-size hdmi output and two usb 3.2 gen 2 type c connections either one of which can be used to charge a laptop

On the right hand side there is a usb 3.2 gen 1 type a port which is nice to have since some ultrabooks like the xps 13 have gone all in with type c there's also a micro sd card reader and were you able to find the missing connector the most crucial connector that we all love that's right there's no 3.5 millimeter headphone jack this is probably the first notebook that i've come across that does not have a 3.5 millimeter connector listen i get it some people have transitioned

To wireless headphones and according to asus and some other studies have conducted that's what they told us i mean people end up using wireless headphones with their notebooks but i am not a fan of this illumination because i constantly use headphones and i normally plug them in when i'm using a laptop so this to me is just it's bad now some models do include an optional usb c to 3.5 mm adapter that also has a built-in ess saber dac but that's just another dongle to lose

There is also a usb a to lan adapter as well and some versions do come with a travel case which is really nice now make sure that they're included in the package when you pick this up the keyboard has an edge to edge design there is no fingerprint reader it also is backlit but only in white and there are three brightness options lighting is well done on this notebook the keys themselves are pretty good there's a very short throw so that means it's gonna

Have little tactile feedback now it's definitely better than some of the other ultrabooks i've tested so for instance it's superior compared to the blade 15 or my even my blade stealth ultrabook the trackpad is really good asus has implemented a glass surface so finger navigation is absolutely smooth the primary left and right buttons are also integrated and they are nice and tactile uh honestly i was surprised by the trackpad especially on a notebook that

Cost almost 900 i also love the integration of this numpad if you press this button long enough it'll turn on and it really comes in handy when you're using it for quick calculations it almost feels like you're you have a full-size keyboard once you get used to it there's also brightness adjustment when you hold this key over here and you can still use the trackpad since the software does really well at predicting when you're trying to use the numpad as for upgradability well the first thing you

Need to know is that getting inside this notebook is a bit of a hassle so you need to remove the two rubber feet and then remove the screws underneath that there's not all that much going on over here since the lpddr4x is soldered onto the motherboard but it's pretty evident that asus didn't really have the space to put an audio jack anywhere since a ton of space is taken up by that massive 67 watt hour battery personally i would cut out the micro sd card slot but let me know what you think the one thing

That you can upgrade is the intel 660p ssd but i'm not sure if you would want to it's a decent size at a terabyte and it has pretty good read and write speeds the battery is something really impressive about this laptop usually we see 65 watt hour batteries on gaming notebooks but here it's attached to a thin and light notebook and it's super efficient and guess what that means yeah literally all day battery life while browsing the web or running basic productivity suites but then when the system is put under a

Constant load battery life drops to a pretty normal rate and that's probably due to the 8 core processor chewing its way through power you'll actually tend to see this on a lot of ryzen 4000 series notebooks they have awesome power gaining during less demanding scenarios but the raw number of cores means a bit less battery life when they're under higher load levels thermals are really well managed during load as well at least on the top most of the heat is sent out the back

And the only real hot spot is mostly pushed away from the normal typing zone but on the bottom there's a pretty worrying amount of heat directed right towards your lap so something to keep in mind usually we can overlook 40 to 45 degrees but 50 plus i mean i would not use this on your line during intensive workloads in terms of acoustic performance this notebook is pretty much dead silent under idle scenarios the fans are either completely turned off or they're running at super low rpms uh even during heavy load

Gaming scenarios the noise level is pretty respectable now before i get into performance i do want to talk about some of the issues that i had with this laptop the first thing has to do with the sleek wave functionality so when if i close the lid and open it back up it either opens up and then it just freezes you get this blue screen the mouse doesn't start working and you have to almost do a hard reset or in other cases it just wouldn't go to sleep in some cases

As soon as i open the lid the system just bsodes and then reboots so that was super frustrating also the other thing that i noticed is as i was testing the webcam and i went back to play back uh the footage i started experiencing this now we did update the drivers and the bios to the latest version but we still ended up experiencing these issues we did talk to other reviewers who had the same sample and they didn't seem to have any of these issues so i think it's just our

Sample if you end up receiving these issues or if you end up encountering these issues if you pick up this laptop just make sure you at least try to update the drivers through the asus my app but other than that yeah i just thought this was worth mentioning because honestly it was pretty frustrating using this laptop and just experiencing those things now that being said i think it's time to move into performance and clock speeds over time and just to recap the ryzen 74700u

In here is rated to run at a base clock of 2.1 gigahertz and a boost up to 4.1 gigahertz meanwhile it has a 15 watt tdp rating though it can be configured from 10 to 25 watts depending on the notebook design in this case the zenbook starts off really strong which would be beneficial for a shorter test but over the long run its clock speeds gradually reduce even in the highest performance mode after a few minutes they leveled out to about 2.15 gigahertz

While cpu temps were below 70 degrees by the end of the test the 47u was sucking down just 13 watts now i guess you're wondering why the cpu was running at its base clock even though temperatures were low well on finite lights it's all about managing surface temperatures cpu thermals are kept low so heat doesn't make its way into the chassis and then onto the keyboard area or your lap even the performance by the 4700u was excellent and it literally destroyed the intel iceland cpus in basic productivity

And editing tasks even in lightly threaded apps like excel the amd system performed really well but then we get to two applications where i expected amd to shine and it didn't the first is adobe premiere because ever since the 14.2 update hardware acceleration is supposed to be enabled for radeon gpus i've seen it do amazing things on the 4000 h series but that didn't happen here at all regardless of power plant settings

The vega graphics were only used between five to ten percent so the end result was a spanking for the zen book switching over to davinci resolve and it was a complete failure for amd uh while it rendered the entire project and it utilized 100 of the integrated graphics the final output was pretty corrupted the file was scripted as you can probably see uh it was yeah it was a complete fail i can't really point fingers at either adobe or davinci or blackmagic because

I think this has to do with amd's integrated encoder and decoder engine or it might be just drivers not being able to communicate properly with uh the nle so yeah i mean listen no one's gonna buy an inexpensive ultrabook for hardcore video editing but if you are someone who's just planning on casually doing some cuts here and there you can get away with adobe but then keep in mind those longer export times are certainly something to consider but yeah

I wouldn't really use this to create content now when you look at gaming performance the zenbook 14 keeps pretty far ahead of other more expensive ice like notebooks but i was also surprised by how close intel kept it that's likely because the 4700u doesn't have the fully enabled vega graphics like what's found on the 4800 u but either way i think we might have to revisit this with more games when tiger lake gets rolled out so to conclude

I am really impressed with what asus has been able to deliver with the zenbook 14. uh for the price i think they've nailed the build quality it's just surpassed my expectations the keyboard is really nice the trackpad is great uh the screen is also color accurate but i would recommend picking up the 400 version because that's a lot brighter so outdoor visibility would be a little bit better um also you know it performs really well the 4700u

Is is not a slow processor it actually gets through a lot it can get a lot done and the battery life is just phenomenal that's one of the amazing factors that just completely surprised us with this laptop that being said i am not a fan of the removal of the headphone jack the fact that they illuminated one of the crucial connectors i'm sure a lot of people would be disappointed with that as well also the issue with sleep wake

Functionality some of the issues that i had experienced with this notebook particularly with that and just some weird quirks here and there it's a red flag and it just made me not want to recommend this laptop but having confirmed with other reviewers they don't seem to have that issue so it could just be my sample so yeah we just have to wait and see in fact if you have picked one of these notebooks with a ryzen cpu what has been your experience like i'd love to know that in the comments on that note

Thank you so much for watching and i'll talk to you guys in the next one

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