Asus ZenBook 14 UX433 Review: Most compact notebook ever

Carry the ZenBook 14 wherever you go

With so many notebooks on the market, it is often difficult for companies to stand out. Asus makes a variety of notebooks catering to different market segments. But the Zenbook 14 UX433 has something unique about it. An incredibly compact chassis and rich features make this a laptop you cannot avoid.

Design and build

Although the UX433 comes with a 14-inch display, Asus has remarkably packed it into a 13-inch laptop chassis. Holding the laptop for the first time had me a bit awestruck. You could truly call this an engineering marvel and Asus has been able to do it by shrinking the laptop’s display bezels to a minimum. With a 92 per cent screen-to-body ratio, the laptop is the size of a standard A4 sheet of paper. And to my surprise, there have been no compromises made to build quality either. The Zenbook 14’s aluminium chassis adds necessary sturdiness and MIL STD-810 military-grade durability, something we usually only see on higher-end notebooks. This helps the laptop withstand drops, vibrations and extreme temperatures.

The silver-and-gold colour scheme of the laptop gives it a nice look

The lid of the laptop has Asus’ signature concentric-circle design with its logo etched in the middle. In addition, Asus’ ErgoLift hinge also makes an appearance here. When the lid is opened, the chassis lifts up a few degrees for a better typing experience and to optimise cooling. Notably, between the screen and deck of the laptop, you also find a gold stripe adding to the notebook’s premium look. Despite the extremely thin 2.9mm bezels, the laptop is still able to pack a modest 720p web-camera. While this does not result in stunning visuals, it comes equipped with an infra-red scanner for quick and easy Windows Hello authentication.

Display and I/O

As mentioned already, the UX433’s thin bezel display makes for an extremely immersive experience. The display is vivid and accurate, which makes it a great tool for retouching photographs. However, it is on the dimmer side, and can struggle outdoors or when exposed to direct light. If you find yourself watching a TV series or movie, there is not much issue. The detail and picture quality are relatively high but in some darker scenes it becomes harder to make out what you are watching. The other issue may be the nature of the glossy display, which does lend itself to reflection.

Thunderbolt 3 support would have added more value to the UX433

With regards to connectivity, the ZenBook 14 comes with a wide variety. On the left is the power input, an HDMI connector, USB 3.1 input and a type-C USB port. On the right, you find a microSD card slot, USB 2.0 port and a combination microphone/headphone jack. There are also small LEDs here that give you a quick glance at battery level and power mode. Out of the box, Asus also bundles an Ethernet adapter for wired internet connectivity, which is a nice feature. But unfortunately, the notebook supports no Thunderbolt 3. This makes the UX433 unable to support certain docking stations or an external graphics card. A partial workaround to this could have been replacing the power input with a type-C USB port capable of Thunderbolt 3.

Keyboard and trackpad

Typing on a laptop is a subjective experience. But on the ZenBook 14, I think most people will be happy with it.

I could use this keyboard every day with no issue because of how good it is

The backlit keys on the laptop have a nice tactile click to them and require a very low amount of actuation force. If I was nitpicking, the gap between the space bar and the track-pad is small. So every now and then, I missed the key. However, that is something a minor adjustment fixed. Speaking of the trackpad, it is not my favourite. I would have preferred dedicated keys because more often than not, the trackpad was not sensitive enough to register my clicks. That said, Asus’ solution to use the trackpad as a number pad is great.

The trackpad doubling as a number pad or calculator is helpful

You can even use it to accomplish a few mathematical tasks but I would have liked some capacitive feedback too.

Performance

Equipped with an Intel Core-i7 8565U and 16GB of RAM, the laptop can deliver on a number of fronts. Browsing the web with multiple tabs open, playing or editing video. For the latter, the inclusion of NVIDIA’s GeForce MX150 helps. Although the dedicated graphics card is not the most high-end, it gives the notebook enough power for basic editing and rendering tasks. For gaming too, the notebook is capable of maintaining a 40-50fps on low to medium settings.

The processor and graphics card come in handy for light gaming and rendering work

While the laptop may not substitute a gaming or editing rig, it can recently perform well enough in emergency situations. During such usage, the temperature of the machine remained cool for the most part. Demanding tasks, however, did warm up the bottom and hinge section of the laptop, making it hot to the touch. Another notable mention should be the laptop’s ultra-fast PCIe SSD. With 512GB of storage, it does wonders for transferring large files. There was a notable improvement in both transfer speeds as well as read/write speeds when using the disk for editing and finding files on the laptop.

Battery life

For a laptop of this calibre, you come to expect good battery life. In that regard, the ZenBook doesn’t disappoint. At around 75 per cent brightness, the UX433 easily got me through seven to eight hours of web browsing and document editing.

You can get seven to eight hours of solid work on the go with the ZenBook 14

Of course, running heavier applications will drain the battery quicker but this is a respectable result for a laptop. I can easily get through working while on the go and in fact, the charger is not a burden to carry either. It has quite a compact form factor so I can take it with me in case the laptop needs a top-up.

Our verdict

Asus’ ZenBook 14 is one of the better options for an ultra-portable notebook. Just its design alone is enough to warrant a purchase. The added value of MIL STD-810 protection and the notebook’s form factor is a great bonus. If you can get past the dim display, the laptop delivers on everything else ranging from performance, feature set and battery life. At Dh4,999, it may be slightly on the cheaper side although you will not go wrong with the investment.