Sunday, January 23, 2022

Asus Zenbook 14X OLED assessment: a cool but impractical laptop

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Zenbooks of this dimension are all normally a fairly comparable deal — should you’ve used one, you’ve used all of them. Two traits try and make the Zenbook 14X OLED, slated for launch in early 2022, distinctive. The first is its OLED show, which is likely one of the first 90Hz OLED panels to look in mass manufacturing. (Asus’s Vivobook Pro 14 OLED, which I reviewed earlier, is one other.) The second is that the touchpad can also be a display. Like, it’s actually a tiny touchscreen. You can put home windows down there and navigate them as you’d with some other touchscreen machine.

A little bit of a spoiler: each of those options are cool but not fairly as cool as they sound, particularly contemplating their affect on battery life. Ultimately, if the Zenbook is a package deal you’re serious about, you’re higher off going for the Vivobook Pro 14 OLED, which has the identical OLED display with an eight-core processor and a higher GPU for a couple hundred {dollars} cheaper. The Zenbook’s target market is actually of us who need one thing out of the atypical and are keen to pay for it.

To begin with the OLED display — it’s neat. It’s 16:10, it’s 2880 x 1800, and it’s a step up within the visible expertise from a customary 1920 x 1200 panel. Colors are vivid, and blacks, the trademark of OLED know-how, are very, very black. It makes textual content simply a bit extra placing, which is enjoyable for me as somebody who reads and writes all day. It virtually maxes out our colorimeter, overlaying 100% of the sRGB gamut, 99 p.c of Adobe RGB, and 100% of P3, and reaching 395 nits of brightness. Some glare is seen in a vibrant workplace setting, but nothing that interferes with work.

The 90Hz refresh fee is sort of good — scrolling is noticeably smoother — but, once more, I’m undecided it’s well worth the battery life affect. (More on that in a bit).

The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED on a wooden table angled to the left. The screen displays a multicolor background with the Asus Zenbook OLED logo. The touchpad displays the Screenpad homepage.

Pretty coloration scheme.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Second, the touchscreen touchpad. This is a comparable thought to Asus’s Zenbook Duo, Zephyrus Duo 15, and different varied dual-screen laptops that the corporate’s tried. The touchpad basically capabilities as a tiny exterior show — you may drag home windows backwards and forwards between it and the first panel.

When you don’t have a window open on the touchpad and also you’re not really utilizing it as a touchpad, it’s basically a secondary desktop with a grid of apps and shortcuts. The most helpful one, to me, is the Group button, which lets you “capture” no matter group of tabs and apps you’ve got open on the time and pull it again up later. You can pull up a quantity pad and a calculator (which you can too do on the Vivobook’s screenless touchpad, although it doesn’t look as cool). There are shortcuts to open Voice Recorder, Solitaire, and the like on the first display (and you’ll add your apps and webpages of selection). There’s a Handwriting app — scribble on it, and the phrases will seem as textual content wherever your cursor is (electronic mail, Slack message, no matter).

This know-how may be very cool, and Asus has achieved a good job making its interface enticing and simple to make use of. I’ll additionally admit that I nonetheless haven’t actually discovered a use case for it. For a whereas, I attempted sticking Slack or Twitter down there to look at from time to time whereas I labored. But neither was usable on such a tiny display. This touchpad is similar dimension as many smartphones, but apps and webpages that you simply use in your smartphone are designed to be navigated on a tiny display — apps on the Zenbook aren’t. Text was tiny, and clicking was clumsy (and I’ve small fingers).

The Handwriting app is definitely spectacular, and the machine interpreted my horrible handwriting completely. That stated, you must perceive that that is a text-recognition app, not a full note-taking app — you may’t draw footage or diagrams and anticipate the Zenbook to breed them. (And it couldn’t acknowledge Chinese and Korean characters I wrote, no less than not with my language set to English.) As a pure handwriting-recognition software, it’s enjoyable, but it does appear principally to be enjoyable — I’m undecided who really wants one thing like this for his or her job (and people that do can get effective Wacom tablets for below $100).

As I famous earlier, probably the most compelling element for me of the touchscreen touchpad is the grouping function, particularly for the reason that numpad and calculator capabilities can be found in loads of different Asus laptops. But I don’t suppose that’s value a a number of hundred greenback premium over the Vivobook.

It additionally appeared to confuse my exterior show a bit — home windows I introduced over had been typically too massive by default and wanted to be resized manually. I’m guessing the Zenbook is contemplating the touchpad as an extension of the first display (quite than a secondary display), and that’s in some way throwing off its sizing. Regardless, this isn’t a catastrophe, but it’s one thing I hope Asus can determine earlier than this ships.

The ports on the left side of the Zenbook 14X OLED.

Lone USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A on the left.

The ports on the left side of the Asus Zenbook 14X OLED.

All the opposite portson the appropriate (two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, one HDMI 2.0, one microSD reader, one audio combo jack).

The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED touchpad, displaying the Screenpad homepage.

Behold the ScreenPad, working ScreenXpert 2.

Elsewhere, that is Zenbook via and thru. It’s a fine-looking machine with a good lustrous lid which you can simply open with one hand and no display wobble. A warning about Zenbooks, on the whole, is that the lids are fingerprint magnets — my unit was continuously smudged. The construct is a bit plasticky — there’s a small quantity of flex within the display and keyboard, and I noticed one small dent within the backside of the deck after battering the machine round in my full backpack for a few days — but a step above funds fodder. There’s a darkish grey futuristic-y end. It’s 0.67 inches (16.9 mm) thick and simply over three kilos (1.4 kg) — not a featherweight but moveable sufficient.

Like many Asus laptops, this Zenbook has the Ergolift hinge — the lid folds beneath the deck and lifts the keyboard up a few levels, conveniently hiding among the backside bezels. This is meant to make typing extra ergonomic and assist with cooling, but it was additionally a bit sharp on my lap.

The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED webcam.

It’s an HD digital camera, and it’s very tiny.

There are two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, one HDMI 2.0, one microSD reader, and one audio jack. That’s a good combine, although I want each USB-C ports weren’t on the appropriate facet. The Harmon Kardon audio system sound effective but don’t get practically as a lot quantity as I’d like — I generally needed to lean far ahead to listen to my Zoom calls. The keyboard is comfy with respectable journey, and there’s a fingerprint sensor within the energy button that didn’t give me any bother.

One last factor to concentrate on: the webcam isn’t good. Colors are correct, but it’s grainy and a bit blurry at occasions — my editor stated it seemed like somebody had smeared Vaseline over it throughout a Zoom name. I do sufficient video requires work now that this might be a concern for me. I additionally admire bodily shutters (which this one doesn’t have, although there’s a kill swap on the keyboard) the extra I hear about embarrassing Zoom incidents.

The Zenbook 14X OLED touchpad displaying the ScreenPad homepage.

You hit that tiny button within the backside left nook to show the Screenpad again into a common navigable touchpad.

Inside is a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage, along with an Nvidia GeForce MX450 discrete GPU. Samsung and Asus gave me a value of $1,400 for this unit but caveated that pricing could change nearer to launch. If that occurs, I’ll replace this assessment.

These specs, to place it bluntly, confuse me. The MX450 is a very entry-level GPU that I wouldn’t even advocate for esports gaming. (Forget about hitting 90 frames per second in trendy video games with it.) 16GB of RAM (probably the most you will get on this machine) may also not be sufficient for a lot of skilled workloads. I’m joyful to see 1TB of storage at this value, but I nonetheless can’t see this being a sensible choice for professionals or for avid gamers — it nonetheless appears primarily slated to be a multimedia machine for individuals who like OLED screens and easy scrolling. For these of us, a Zenbook 14x is e-waste — the Vivobook pairs the identical display with an RTX 3050 for (allegedly) $200 cheaper.

That apart, the Zenbook did a effective job with my each day workload, even within the silent fan profile (referred to as “Whisper Mode” in Asus’ management middle) with Battery Saver on. It was generally heat but by no means sizzling, and I didn’t normally hear any fan noise.

But there’s a massive tradeoff for that: battery life. I’m positive the Vivobook’s longevity isn’t helped by the truth that it’s working a 90Hz high-resolution panel and additionally working a secondary display. Still, this Zenbook doesn’t final lengthy sufficient. I solely averaged 5 hours and 38 minutes of steady workplace use with this machine round 200 nits of brightness. That does barely beat the Dell XPS 13 OLED, but it’s lower than we’ve seen from every kind of high-resolution units like Huawei’s MateBook 16 or any of Apple’s M1-equipped laptops. It means I couldn’t go a workday with out plugging the machine in. For most individuals (but particularly these searching for a 14-inch machine), battery life goes to be extra helpful than an MX450 and a touchscreen touchpad.

My last be aware is on bloatware. This machine shipped with a massive load of annoying software program preinstalled, together with a number of McAfee applications that insisted on scanning every thing I downloaded earlier than I may open it, and that required me to shut all my Chrome tabs and restart the pc to be able to be uninstalled. This stuff shouldn’t be on a laptop that prices $1,400 — it simply shouldn’t.

The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED angled to the right on a wooden table, half open.

Booo, bloatware.

The Zenbook 14X OLED is a pretty reasonably priced technique to pair a 90Hz OLED display with a GPU. Despite varied nitpicks I’ve, it really works nicely sufficient as a driver. The drawback is that one other laptop exists — the Vivobook Pro 14 OLED, with a very comparable chassis, a very comparable display, and a higher GPU — at a considerably lower cost. I’m really questioning if Asus and Samsung received wires crossed right here as a result of it is senseless that the Zenbook prices a lot extra, so I’ll be preserving an eye fixed out for any adjustments as we method the discharge.

The major factor that would probably justify the Zenbook’s value premium is its fancy touchpad. I actually do like that Asus is doing this touchpad. I like that there’s a firm on the market attempting issues like this which can be new and completely different — and that these issues really work. I can’t inform you how refreshing it’s, as somebody whose job it’s to check a million laptops a week which can be all mainly the identical factor, to know that there’s a firm on the market attempting to determine the place they’ll do issues in another way.

I actually, actually hope there’s a group of individuals on the market who has a good use for this touchpad of their life and who will prove in droves to pay further for this Zenbook as a result of it’s the primary laptop ever made that completely fits their wants. I’m not on this group, and I’m skeptical that it exists, but God, I hope it does.

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