ASUS ZenBook 14X OLED review: The gorgeous display comes at a price
Note: This review was first published on 23 October 2021.
OLED is coming
Every flagship-class phone has an OLED display and it looks like that’s going to be true too for notebooks. Increasingly, we are seeing more flagship-class notebooks outfitted with equally high-end OLED displays. ASUS did this earlier with the ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED and the ZenBook Flip S. And now, they are putting an OLED display in a traditional clamshell-style notebook. This is the new ZenBook 14X OLED.
The ZenBook 14X is the latest addition to ASUS’ ever-growing ZenBook 14 lineup. It joins others like the dual-screen ZenBook Duo 14 and the more basic ZenBook 14 UX425. If you are looking for a traditional clamshell-style notebook, this is ASUS’ top-tier option.
Design & specifications
With its angular profile and subtle but distinctive spun-metal finish on the front panel, the ZenBook 14X is unmistakably a ZenBook. It comes in Pine Grey, which is supposed to be a light shade of grey but ends up looking like black most of the time. Build quality is good. There’s little flex in the chassis and the notebook generally feels like a quality item.
The highlight of this notebook is its display. It’s a 14-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels. ASUS says it covers 100% of the P3 colour space, is Pantone validated, and has 550 nits of brightness. It’s hard to verify these claims without a professional measuring tool, but the fact is this display looks excellent. As you’d expect, blacks are a particular highlight, but equally important, other colours look vivid but realistic and the display gets sufficiently bright. It makes even a great IPS display look pedestrian.
At 16.9mm and 1.4kg heavy, it’s slightly chunkier and heavier than other similarly-sized ZenBooks. There are good reasons for that: it has better ports and discrete graphics. Apart from two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, it also has a full-sized HDMI 2.0b port, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader.
ASUS offers the ZenBook 14X in two configurations and here are the specifications of the two models.
|Display||14-inch, 16:10, 2880 x 1800 pixels touchscreen OLED display|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-1165G7|
|Memory||16GB 4266MHz LPDDR4x|
|Storage||1TB PCIe x4 M.2 SSD|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce MX450||Intel Iris Xe|
Clearly, the two are largely identical except the base model has integrated graphics and doesn’t get ASUS’ ScreenPad. Since the price difference isn't exorbitant, I suspect many will be tempted to go for the step-up model since it has discrete graphics. The unit I'm testing is the step-up UX5400 and we’ll see the benchmark results on the next page if the extra S$200 will be a worthwhile outlay.
Keyboard and trackpad
ZenBook keyboards have typically been decent and it’s no different for the ZenBook 14X. The keys are of a good size and the layout is fairly conventional – save for the additional column of navigational keys. There’s not much in the way of key travel but the general feeling of the keys is mostly positive, and at least they don’t feel vague and mushy. The keyboard also benefits from ASUS' ErgoLift design which uses the display cover as a prop to lift the back of the notebook up by a couple of degrees. This creates a gentle tilt that makes it more pleasant to type on. Overall, this is a very solid keyboard.
The trackpad is ASUS’ ScreenPad 2.0 and you can use it as a regular trackpad or as a secondary display. As a secondary display, it can be used to show optimised versions of popular apps like Spotify or shortcuts for other apps like Word and Excel. I wrote about the ScreenPad at length in my review of the ZenBook 14 UX434 and my thoughts haven’t changed. As a secondary display, its utility is debatable – it isn’t large enough to be easily legible and the picture quality is quite fuzzy. But as a trackpad, because it's large and responsive, I have no complaints. The extra functionality will take a little exploration to see how it best fits your personal needs, but since the primary trackpad function works well, the secondary display is a nice extra.