I make no secret that I love the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo. Hell, if it was cheaper, I’d have bought one for myself to use as my personal laptop. It’s that damn good.
After spending so much time with the ZenBook Pro Duo, it’s no surprise that my expectations were a bit colored by the ASUS ZenBook 14 UX434F.
I mean, isn’t it just like the Pro Duo, but with smaller?
What is the ASUS ZenBook 14 UX434F?
The ASUS ZenBook 14 UX434F (henceforth just the ZenBook 14) is a 14” notebook that comes packed with an Intel Core i7-8586U (1.8GHz) CPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB PCIe SSD and a NVIDIA GeForce MX250 (2GB).
It’s display is 1920 x 1080, has a 178-degree viewing angle and is a touchscreen. The ASUS ZenBook 14 also eschews a traditional mousepad, replacing it with the new ScreenPad 2.0 second display.
The machine has a single USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port, USB 2.01 port, HDMI port, MicroSD card reader and an audio combo jack.
Unlike the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, the ZenBook 14 isn’t a multimedia machine. With its dinky NVIDIA GeForce MX250 (2GB), you’re not going to be playing the latest games (not at 1080p/60 at any rate) or doing hardcore video editing.
The ZenBook 14 is a professional’s machine; it’s all about doing your daily work stuff like writing reports, doing spreadsheets, PowerPoint and work of that nature…along with light media consumption (Youtube, Netflix…etc) consumption.
That’s good too because the notebook’s audio done by Harmon Kardon and it delivers decent sound for their size. There’s ample volume and the audio remains clear even when the sound’s maxed out.
I’d have preferred a 4K screen instead of just FHD (1920 x 1080) but it’s a decent trade-off to keep the price low. Besides, I doubt most people will make the ZenBook 14 as their main media player, at least for UHD movies.
Streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix should be fine since they’re mostly encoded in 1080p anyways. I’ve personally found that the machine’s rather good at that.
Like the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, the ASUS ZenBook 14 has an awesomely tactile keyboard. The keys have decent travel and feel nice to the touch, making typing enjoyable.
The ScreenPad 2.0 is nice to have too. It’s not as great as the ASUS Pro Duo’s second screen but it does its job (serving as a shortcut bar, mini second display and track/numpad) very well.
The ScreenPad 2.0 isn’t just for shortcuts; it can also function as a smaller screen. With its 5.65” display (2160 x 1080), you can even watch movies on it if you like. Working on it isn’t advised though, especially if you need to read stuff. The text’ll be too small to make out due to the small screen.
I especially love that there’s a simple shortcut in it that nixes the ScreenPad 2.0 feature and locks it as a trackpad or numpad. It’s great if you’re requiring either and don’t want to fiddle with the ScreenPad 2.0’s UI.
Befitting its touchscreen nature, the ScreenPad 2.0 is as responsive as other touch displays. I didn’t notice any lag from my inputs at all. You can also customize different aspects of the screen (such as the apps on it or its brightness) so it’s a flexible tool that’s pretty useful once you get the hang of it.
With all the touching you’ll be doing, I’m pretty amazed that the ScreenPad 2.0 is as smudge resistant as it is. I tried using ONLY it for a few days; I used it as a trackpad instead of a mouse. At the end, the surface was barely smudged!
In fact, apart from the chassis’s display cover, that’s pretty much the case for the rest of the hardware too; the keyboard, the main display…even the sides of the machine.
In short, working on the ZenBook is a dream…but there are downsides.
Chief among them…the lack of ports. There are only 2 USB Type-A ports, with one of them being USB 2.0. I have no idea why both aren’t USB 3.1 ports. Putting that aside, at the end of the day, you’re still left with just 2 USB Type-A ports.
One’s going to be for your mouse (unless you’re going ScreenPad 2.0 all the way), which leaves just one more free. That’s nowhere near enough for working professionals.
At least there’s a MicroSD card reader slot, which does make transferring content back and forth easier. How much mileage you get out of that will definitely vary though…I don’t envision many people using MicroSD cards (other than in phones) instead of normal USB or external HDDs.
I ran the ASUS ZenBook 14 through the usual PCMark and 3DMark tests, plus our usual gaming benchmarks. Here are the results.
From PCMark 10’s score you can see that what I’ve been saying bears out. The notebook’s a workhorse with its Essentials and Productivity scores being pretty high.
In comparison, it’s Digital Content Creation score is pretty underwhelming; you’re not going to want to be doing heavy duty Photoshop or After Effects work on the ZenBook 14.
3DMark scores again show results in the same vein. The machine’s Time Spy (a DirectX 12 gaming pc benchmark) score was barely above 1K, meaning it’ll have trouble running the latest games without compromising on quality.
However, Night Raid (DirectX 12 benchmark for PCs with integrated chipsets) and Sky Diver (DirectX 11) scores proved that it can run older games just fine and even modern titles adequately, though as mentioned with lowered settings.
Gaming tests with Three Kingdoms and the Final Fantasy XV Benchmark showed that while the ZenBook 14 can play those games, it’s best done so at at low settings.
Here are the numbers for Three Kingdoms.
Only in the lower settings (all of them are on 1920 x 1080) does the game become playable, exactly as expected with the GPU in the ZenBook 14.
The bottom line.
To truly utilize the ASUS ZenBook 14’s potential, you’re going to have to go in knowing what to expect from the machine. It’s not a gaming machine or multimedia monster, but working man’s (or woman’s) handy companion.
The notebook’s svelte nature makes it incredibly portable, perfect if you’re always on the go. The ScreenPad 2.0 is an awesome addition too. Its customizable nature means you can tweak it to however you want AND its smudge resistant display definitely works as advertised!
On top of that, the ZenBook 14’s great performance for normal tasks show in its PCMark 10 score, proving that if you need some light and mobile (yet still with decent computing muscle), the ASUS ZenBook 14 is it.
It’s only with the ports that the machine falters somewhat. The machine’s tiny nature limits the ports one can have, which also means you’re going to want to carry a USB hub if you need more than 2 USB Type-A ports at once. It’s not a major downside but is an annoyance nonetheless.
If you can overlook that, the Zenbook 14 will serve you very well indeed.
Great as a working notebook but lacks muscle for gaming or content creation.
– ScreenPad 2.0 is great.
– Good performance for everyday tasks.
– Keyboard feels nice.
– Need more ports.
– Could do with a beefier GPU.