Review: Asus Zenbook 14 OLED (2024)

Review: Asus Zenbook 14 OLED (2024)

The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, the newest model in a line of reasonably priced, straightforward, ultralight laptops that has been in production for more than ten years, is part of the march toward more affordable laptops that provide some degree of artificial intelligence-focused tweaking. Similar to the Acer Swift Go 14, the Asus Zenbook 14 (UM3406HA) is available for purchase at a price that is well under $1,000. In contrast to the Swift Go, the Zenbook is constructed on AMD’s most recent Ryzen CPU. I was interested to see how the two directly compared, among other things.

There are several similarities between the laptops made by Acer and Asus. Both include 14-inch touchscreens with integrated graphics, 16 GB of RAM, and a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. The 512-GB solid-state drive on the Zenbook is less sophisticated than the 1-terabyte type found on the Acer; however, the primary distinction is in the CPU, with the Asus model sporting an AMD Ryzen 7 8840HS rather than the Acer’s Intel Core Ultra 7.

As you move around the laptop, you’ll also see that the port lineup is much less functional. Your connectivity options are one USB-A port, two USB-C ports (one for charging, one for use as a 4, and one for use as a 3.2), and a full-size HDMI output. These are all inferior to what Acer offers. Once more, all of the ports are side-mounted here since, when the screen is opened, the back of the chassis is covered by the LCD’s rear edge due to design.

I didn’t love the overall look, but the aluminum frame feels much more sturdy than most at this price range. It’s completely black, and the lid is engraved with seemingly random lines that combine to create an asymmetric geometric pattern that, the more you look at it, seems to have been drawn in the 1980s.

The keyboard has a Copilot key and useful, half-height arrow keys. It is small but well-thought-out and has respectable key travel. The backlighting on the keyboard is subtle. The touchpad is spacious without being overly enormous; fortunately, this didn’t negatively affect the typing experience. My palms tended to rub against the corners when I was typing. For any kind of entertainment, the Harman Kardon speakers are powerful and provide a wide sound range.

Performance is the key concern, and I’m pleased to say that the two laptops’ results were comparable to those of the Acer Swift Go. The Zenbook would do somewhat better on some tests, while Acer would win on others. Functionally identical results were obtained for several benchmarks, including large ones like PCMark 10, which gauges the performance of common applications.

When it came to battery testing, however, the Zenbook 14 outperformed the competition. In my full-screen YouTube playback test, it outperformed Acer’s score by a full four hours with a running time of just over fifteen hours. That’s a noteworthy accomplishment, especially since the Asus also has a somewhat brighter screen, which should require more power on its own.

There are a few oddities with this laptop. It randomly switches between battery mode and regular mode when using third-party chargers, so it’s not the best of friends. Using the supplied power brick caused me no issues in that regard. Even with light loads, the fan still runs more than I’d like, but at least it’s not too loud.

Ultimately, throughout my testing, the OLED screen inexplicably malfunctioned a few times, resulting in strange color washes out, with reds fading to pink and blacks going to gray. I’ve never seen anything like this problem before, so I never was able to figure it out, but a reboot fixed it right away. I assume that it has to do with a driver problem, which should be fixed in upcoming releases.

When all of this is considered, the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED is unquestionably a capable low-cost device, and like the Acer Swift Go 14, it offers amazing value when comparing its price to its performance. The laptop should work well for you if you can put up with a few minor annoyances and don’t require cutting-edge performance. Given its robust build, extended battery life, and satisfying audio quality, it seems like a particularly good option for students.

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