Superb design combined with a great display and powerful processor makes the Zenbook 14X a winner
- Lovely OLED touchscreen
- Stunning design and build
- Excellent speaker system
- Middling battery life
- Heavier than the competition
The race is on to see which laptop claims the title of the most desirable compact laptop 2023, and the Asus Zenbook 14X OLED is among the early contenders. It’s certainly one of the nicest laptops we’ve reviewed recently. Take a closer look, however, and it’s obvious that it’s also a cracking all-rounder.
Its 14.5in OLED toushcreen is glorious and, with a powerful H-series 13th Gen Intel CPU inside alongside discrete graphics, it has the sort of muscle that compact laptops could only dream of a few years ago. It certainly ranks alongside the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro (£1,349) and the M2 MacBook Air (£1,349) as one of the best ultraportable laptops on the market today.
Asus Zenbook 14X OLED review: What you need to know
Like the Galaxy Book3, the Asus ZenBook 14X OLED comes with an exotic 2.8K 120Hz OLED display. But there are plenty of differences between the two. The Asus’ panel is touch-sensitive and slightly bigger at 14.5in.
The Asus also comes with the more powerful H-series of Intel 13th Gen CPUs (Core i5, i7 or i9), so it’s capable of dealing with heavier workloads, and it also comes with the option of a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series GPU, further boosting performance levels, although this is no full-blown gaming laptop.
Otherwise, the target market for both machines remains the same: anyone looking for a slim, light, well-engineered premium laptop with decent battery life and a colour-accurate display.
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Asus Zenbook 14X OLED review: Price and competition
Configuration tested: 14.5in, 2.8K, 120Hz OLED display; Intel Core-i7 13700H CPU; Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics; 16GB RAM; 1TB SSD. Price: £1,499 inc VAT
All told, there are three CPU options for the Asus Zenbook 14X OLED, all Intel 13th Gen H-series chips. You can have either the Core i5-13500H, the Core i7-13700H or the Core i9-13900H, each of which can be had with or without Nvidia’s RTX 3050 GPU.
There’s also the choice of either 512GB or 1TB of SSD storage and 16GB or 32GB of RAM. Take the back off the Zenbook and you can upgrade the SSD yourself, although the memory is soldered to the motherboard.
The obvious competitor in the thin-and-light 14in-ish category is the M2 Apple MacBook Air. Prices start at £1,349, but if you want a model with a Zenbook-matching 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage you’ll need to part with £1,789, making it a more expensive option. The MacBook Air’s battery life is far superior but the display is smaller and less impressive.
Turning to Windows machines, the new Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro has the best display we’ve ever seen on a laptop, is a very light and compact affair and prices start at a reasonable £1,349. It’s available with either Core i5 or Core i7 13th Gen Intel CPUs but these are the less powerful P-series models.
Two other machines worth considering are the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon (£1,099) and the Acer Swift 3 OLED (£1,199). Both are high-quality ultraportables: light and compact, stylish and well made, and both are considerably cheaper than the Zenbook.
The Acer boasts another high-quality 2.8K OLED display while the Lenvo tips the scales at well under 1kg. Both have older 12th-generation Alder Lake processors, but that doesn’t mean they lack the necessary performance.
Asus Zenbook 14X OLED review: Features and design
I’m not suggesting that looks alone are reason enough to choose one laptop over another but, nevertheless, my opinion is that this new Zenbook is the most visually appealing laptop on the market today. No matter which colour scheme you pick – Sandstone Beige or Inkwell Grey (our review machine is the former) – you’re getting a truly impressive piece of design.
The body of the beige model is finished in what Asus calls a “Plasma Ceramisation Coating”, which apart from feeling lovely to the touch (think ultra-fine sandpaper) makes the Zenbook immune to greasy fingerprints. The lids of both colourways have the same delicately engraved lines, which while devoid of function, are the sort of subtle design touches that make you feel better about spending so much on a laptop.
And the Zenbook isn’t just a pretty face. It meets US MIL-STD 810H military-grade durability standards and, for once, Asus actually lists the tests involved. The chassis is made from magnesium alloy and is extremely sturdy, with even the lid being impressively resistant to twisting and bending.
At 1.5kg in weight and 16.9mm thick the Zenbook is a little heavier and thicker than the Samsung (1.17kg and 11.3mm) and Apple competition (1.24kg and 11.3mm), but much of the extra size is down to the larger display and the space required for the optional discrete GPU, not to mention the cooling requirements of the powerful H-series CPU.
That should also mean there’s more room for ports and sockets, and Asus obliges here with a generous selection. On the left edge you’ll find a single USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, while on the right are two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI 2.1 video output and a 3.5mm audio jack. The only small issue here is that you’ll lose one of the USB-C ports to charging duties. As for wireless connectivity, there’s support for 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E, courtesy of Intel’s AX211 Wi-Fi adapter.
The keyboard is one of the better examples you’ll find on a compact. The keys have a decent amount of travel at 1.4mm and the base is solid enough to encourage vigorous typing. The key caps have a 0.2mm dish in them, which is frankly hard to discern by touch or sight, but they’re still very pleasant to the touch.
The trackpad is a spacious 130 x 75mm affair with what Asus calls a “PVD anti-fingerprint coating”. Until I read that in the press literature, I assumed it was glass. Whatever the coating, it works faultlessly, and I especially like the click action, which is perfectly calibrated. It also has Asus’ virtual NumberPad keypad built in, which magically appears in a four by five grid on the touchpad when you tap the icon in the upper right corner. Does it replace a proper numeric keypad? No. Is it better than nothing? Yes.
Asus Zenbook 14X OLED review: Webcam, microphone and audio
Importantly, in this world of hybrid and online working, the Zenbook’s 1080p webcam is one of the better examples of the breed, producing images that are bright, crisp and colourful. It also comes with a full suite of AI enhancements such as gaze tracking, background blurring and motion tracking to name but three, although you can only use one feature at a time.
Video capture is limited to 30fps rather than the 60fps that Samsung’s Galaxy Book3 Pro can achieve, but that’s the only negative comment I can make. The webcam’s Windows Hello IR facility lets you unlock the laptop quickly hands free – in the absence of a fingerprint reader, it’s the only biometric security – and, while there’s no physical shutter, a tap of the F10 key disables it electronically.
The dual-microphone setup has effective noise cancellation, which did a good job of filtering out the sound of typing while recording a video message. And the Harman Kardon speaker system is very impressive. Not only is there a decent amount of volume, producing up to 75dBA from a pink noise source at 1m, but there’s also an impressive level of bass and plenty of detail and space.
Between the Dolby Atmos and MyAsus audio control panels there’s a lot of scope for messing around with the sound profile until you get things just right.
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Asus Zenbook 14X OLED review: Display
If the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro has the best screen of any laptop, the ZenBook’s display (ironically also made by Samsung) runs it a close second. It isn’t quite as colour-accurate but it is slightly bigger and supports touch.
The Zenbook certainly doesn’t lack colour, with up to 94.3% of the Adobe RGB gamut and 98% of DCI-P3 covered. As is the case with many Asus laptops, you can switch between sRGB, DCI-P3, Display P3 and a “Native” colour profile in the MyAsus app.
My colorimeter recorded a maximum brightness of 366cd/m² in SDR mode but, in HDR mode, that jumped to 605cd/m² (the panel carries a Vesa DisplayHDR True Black 500 certification). When it comes to colour accuracy the Zenbook recorded a Delta E variance of 0.75 vs sRGB and 1.15 vs DCI-P3. That’s not as impressive as the Galaxy Book 3 Pro, which barely crept over the 0.5 mark against any profile, but it’s still very good. And, because OLED panels have no backlight, the Asus has an effectively perfect contrast ratio.
Watching HDR video on the Zenbook 14X is a genuine treat as a result, with colours really popping and superlative levels of contrast between light and dark areas.
Asus Zenbook 14X OLED review: Performance
Inside our Asus Zenbook 14X is an Intel 13th Gen Raptor Lake Core i7 processor – in this case, the Corfe i7-13700H with 14 cores (six performance and eight efficiency) and 20 threads. Compared with the previous generation Core i7-12700H chip it has a higher boost clock speed of 5GHz versus the older chip’s 4.7GHz. The chip has access to 16GB of quad-channel DDR5 RAM.
Our 4K multimedia benchmark returned a score of 327 on the Zenbook, which is an excellent score for a laptop without a discrete GPU. To put that into context, the Acer Swift 3 OLED (£1,199) we tested recently scored 251 running on an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU with 16GB of RAM, so that’s a good indication of the advantage that the new 13th Gen chips hold over their 12th Gen forebears.In the GeekBench 5 test, the difference between the Core i7-13700H and the Core Intel i7-12700H was less emphatic, although overall there was still a reasonably clear advantage for the newer CPU.
When it comes to graphics performance, that will depend largely on the model you choose. The laptop on test only comes with Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics, so performance in GPU-heavy applications, such as 3D modelling, will be limited. That’s why this model scored only 14.65fps in the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D modelling test – essentially the same as the Intel Core i7-12700H in the Swift 3. If you want better you’ll need to opt for the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 model.
You don’t buy a laptop like this for gaming but, having said that, its performance on this front really wasn’t at all bad. The Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem benchmark ran at 63.6fps in Full HD resolution (with the highest quality settings selected) and 39.9fps at 2.8K, which is really rather impressive.With such a powerful specification confined in a small space I was a little concerned about thermal throttling, but I needn’t have been. In Performance mode, even prolonged runs of demanding tasks didn’t drive up the temperature too far, and the fans were never what you could call noisy.
The 1TB Micron SSD returned average sustained read and write speeds of 3,560MB/sec and 1,754MB/sec, which puts the Zenbook towards the back of the pack, well beaten by both the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro and the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i. The Zenbook’s speeds are roughly in line with those of the M2 MacBook Air, though – quicker to read, slower to write – but since drive speed is not a MacBook Air strong point that’s nothing to shout about.Our standard video rundown test drained the Zenbook’s 70Wh battery in 8hrs 19mins, which is more than 30 minutes shy of the Galaxy Book 3 Pro and not even half the duration of the M2 MacBook Air.That’s a rather disappointing performance, given the Asus has the battery with the highest capacity of any of its main Windows rivals. It did beat the only other machine running on an H-series processor in the chart (the Swift 3), but that has only a 59Wh battery so it’s a rather hollow victory.
Asus Zenbook 14X OLED review: Verdict
On one hand, the Samsung is lighter and thinner, has better battery life and a truly superb display. On the other, the Asus is more powerful, has a larger, touch-sensitive screen, a better sound system and, with the beige ceramic finish, looks and feels quite extraordinary. It’s not an easy call.
Personally, I like my compacts to have a touchscreen so that would sway me towards the Asus but, no matter which you go for, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with your purchase.