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ASUS ZenBook 14 Ultralight review: ZenBook perfected

By Kenny Yeo - 9 Jan 2021

Performance & conclusion

Benchmarking the notebook

The ZenBook 14 Ultralight is powered by an Intel Tiger Lake processor and NVIDIA's latest GeForce MX450 graphics.

The ZenBook 14 Ultralight is powered by Intel's new Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 processor and NVIDIA's GeForce MX450 graphics. We will be looking at closely at how it performs against other ZenBooks like the ZenBook 14 UX434 because that has a 10th generation Comet Lake processor with NVIDIA GeForce MX250 discrete graphics. It will also be interesting to see how it performs against the ZenBook 14 UX425 which has an Ice Lake processor and also the ZenBook 14 UM425 which is powered by a Ryzen 4000 processor.

Specifications comparison
Model ASUS ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435EGL ASUS ZenBook 14 UX425 ASUS ZenBook 14 UX434 ASUS ZenBook 14 UM425 Huawei MateBook 13 HP Spectre x360
Display 14-inch, Full-HD 14-inch, Full-HD 14-inch, Full-HD 14-inch, Full-HD 13-inch, 2K 13-inch, Full-HD
Processor Intel Core i7-1165G7 Intel Core i7-1065G7 Intel Core i7-10510U AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Intel Core i5-10210U Intel Core i7-1065G7
Memory 16GB 8GB 16GB 8GB 16GB 16GB
Storage 1TB SSD 1TB SSD 1TB SSD 1TB 512GB 1TB SSD
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce MX450 Intel Iris Plus Graphics NVIDIA GeForce MX250 Radeon RX Vega 7 NVIDIA GeForce MX250 Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Price S$2,398 S$1,698 S$2,098 S$1,598 S$1,598 S$2,899

 

Performance analysis

Intel made big performance claims when it unveiled Tiger Lake and the results here were decent. On PCMark 10, the ZenBook 14 Ultralight recorded the highest scores we have seen yet on a 13 to 14-inch ultraportable notebook. WebXPRT 3 scores were the highest we have seen yet too. And on Cinebench R20, the ZenBook 14 Ultralight impressed with its single-core numbers. Multi-core score was still outclassed by the ZenBook 14 UM425 and its Ryzen 7 4700U processor. Insofar as CPU performance is concerned, the results suggest improved single-core performance but the multi-core performance crown still lies with AMD especially for apps that can take full advantage of it. 

The presence of discrete graphics usually means decent graphics performance and the GeForce MX450 didn’t disappoint. Numbers on 3DMark was decent but it where it really impressed was on Tomb Raider where it was handily the fastest performer. It achieved nearly 80fps even on the more demanding High setting. That said, thermal throttling was an issue as frame rates could dip as much as 40% after as little as just 30 minutes. What this means is that you’ll need to turn down the settings to get decent gaming mileage out of this notebook.

Overall, the ZenBook 14 Ultralight offers marked improvements in performance over older ZenBooks, particularly the ZenBook 14 UX434 which also has an Intel processor and discrete NVIDIA graphics.

 

Battery life 

Note: Battery tests were conducted using PCMark 10's battery benchmark with display set to 100% brightness.

Battery life was quite good. Even at full brightness, it managed nearly 8 hours running productivity tasks and just over 1.5 hours of gaming. Much of this can be attributed to its fairly large 63Wh battery because if we look at power consumption figures, we can see that it hasn’t changed much when compared to the older ZenBooks. In fact, gaming power consumption is the highest we have seen yet at just over 38W. That is 13% more than the ZenBook 14 UX434 which has a GeForce MX250 GPU. The increase in graphics performance has a price to pay.

 

One kilo wonder

The ZenBook 14 Ultralight is arguably ASUS’ most complete ultraportable notebook yet. Build quality is commendable and it is extremely portable. Notebooks with magnesium bodies can often feel janky but the ZenBook 14 Ultralight looks and feels like a quality item. The display could be better but performance is good and mostly better than older ZenBook models. However, thermal throttling can be an issue and power consumption hasn’t improved at all.

On the right of the notebook is a USB-A port, 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card slot. Note the ErgoLift mechanism lifting the notebook up at an angle.

Connectivity is well considered. This has often been the downfall of many ZenBooks – the ZenBook 14 UX434 didn’t support USB-C charging while the ZenBook 14 UX425 didn’t have a 3.5mm jack. Happily, ASUS has finally got it right with the ZenBook 14 Ultralight. The only change I would ask for is a full-size SD card slot instead of a microSD card slot.

ZenBook 14 comparison
Model ZenBook 14 Ultralight ZenBook 14 UX435EG ZenBook 14 UX425EA ZenBook 14 UM425 ZenBook 14 UX434
Display 14-inch, Full-HD 14-inch, Full-HD 14-inch, Full-HD 14-inch, Full-HD 14-inch, Full-HD, touchscreen
Processor Intel Core i7-1165G7
(Tiger Lake)
Intel Core i7-1165G7
(Tiger Lake)
Intel Core i7-1065G7 (Ice Lake) AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Intel Core i7-10510U (Comet Lake)
Memory 16GB 16GB 8GB 8GB 16GB
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce MX450 NVIDIA GeForce MX450 Intel Iris Plus Radeon Vega 7 NVIDIA GeForce MX250
Storage 1TB SSD 1TB SSD 1TB SSD 1TB SSD 1TB SSD
Trackpad type NumberPad 2.0 ScreenPad 2.0 NumberPad 2.0 NumberPad 2.0 ScreenPad 2.0
Weight 0.99kg 1.19kg 1.17kg 1.22kg 1.35kg
Price S$2,398 S$2,198 S$1,698 S$1,598 S$1,898


Sadly, all this refinement comes at a price. The ZenBook 14 Ultralight is S$2,398, which makes it ASUS’ priciest ultraportable notebook by some margin. Certainly, it can be argued that it justifies its price tag and there is a good amount of evidence to support that. But the flip side of the coin is that other ZenBooks offer almost as much but for less. So the question is: how much are you willing to stretch to get what is arguably the ultimate ZenBook 14?

Some minor issues aside, this is probably the best ZenBook 14 ASUS makes.

And if you are willing to look outside of ASUS, there’s no shortage of featherlight magnesium-bodied rivals. Acer’s Swift 5 and the Lenovo Slim Carbon 7i both have magnesium alloy chassis, weigh around 1kg, and can be spec’ed almost equivalently (the two lack discrete graphics). But most of all, they are less expensive. ASUS may have finally perfected its ZenBook but unfortunately for them, the competition hasn’t been stagnant. 2021 looks like it will be an interesting year for ultraportable notebooks.

8.5
  • Design 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 7.5
  • Mobility 9
The Good
Extremely light
Great burst performance
USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports
Full-size USB-A and HDMI ports
16GB memory and 1TB SSD
Good battery life
The Bad
Thermal throttling is an issue
Display is only Full-HD
Power consumption hasn't improved
Trackpad a little small
Quite pricey