ASUS ZenBook 14X OLED UX3404 review: Great performance & portability (Updated)
Note: This review was first published on 12 April 2023 and was updated on 24 April 2023 with availability and pricing details of a touchscreen version.
The spicy ZenBook
How has ASUS crammed a Core i9 processor (H-series, no less) and NVIDIA RTX graphics into a notebook just 16.9mm thick is the question I asked myself when I first received the ZenBook 14X OLED UX3404. Claimed weight is 1.5kg but it feels lighter than that – more like 1.3kg. If you are old enough, you’ll know that performance and portability are mutually exclusive concepts. So it’s remarkable to see how an ultraportable notebook can pack so much performance these days. Or is this all just fluff on a spec sheet? Let’s test and find out.
The TLDR version:
A great choice for anyone who wants a portable notebook but doesn't want to compromise (too much) on performance. However, the lack of a touchscreen might be a dealbreaker for some buyers.
X is for power
The first thing you need to know about the ZenBook 14X OLED UX3404 is that the X means it’s the performance-oriented version of the ZenBook 14. So to ensure its performance superiority over a regular ZenBook 14, the ZenBook 14X has a Core i9 H-series processor and discrete NVIDIA RTX 3050 graphics. And yet, if you close your eyes and held it, I doubt many will be it to distinguish it from the lighter and less powerful ZenBook 14. To me, that’s a remarkable feat of design and engineering.
Build quality is high. It feels noticeably more rock solid than ZenBooks of old, so that must be applauded. It comes in two finishes: Inkwell Grey (which this is) and Sandstone Beige. The latter is quite special because its surface is treated to create a ceramic-like coating that is resistant to both fingerprints and wear. We had the chance to play around with a Sandstone Beige unit earlier this year and the surface truly resembles the feel of a ceramic tile. Check it out below. Inkwell Grey makes the notebook look like your typical grey notebook (which is no bad thing), but the cover is exceptionally prone to smudges.
@hwztech Who would have thought a ceramic tile would look good on a laptop. Only on the @ASUS 2023 ZenBook 14X OLED. #asus #ces2023 #asuslaptop #notebooks #laptop #rtx3050laptop♥️ ♬ Lofi - Domknowz
The biggest problem with its display, however, is that it doesn’t support touch. I’ll say it again, it’s not a touch-enabled display. Personally, I’m not too bothered by it because I’m a keyboard-and-mouse kind of guy, but I can certainly understand why some readers might be frustrated by it. After all, the modern versions of Windows have and were designed for touch, and seeing that it’s already 2023, it’s surprising to see this feature missing on what is ASUS’ high-end version of the ZenBook 14.
Despite being so slim, you don’t lose much in terms of connectivity. There are two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, a single USB-A USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, and you even get a full-size HDMI 2.1 port and a 3.5mm audio combo jack. The only thing missing is a memory card reader of any kind.
Wireless connectivity is also good because it supports Wi-Fi 6E – a moot point given that the IMDA has yet to approve the standard, but someday, maybe?
ASUS’ keyboard game has been strong and is no different here. I always liked how tactile their keys feel. ASUS doesn’t say, but the actuation force of its switches must be higher than its rivals’ because they feel stiffer. The trackpad can be erratic at times. The good thing is that it’s large and the surface is smooth, but the actual tracking action is prone to random moments of stickiness and inconsistent tracking.
The sound system is said to be certified by Harman Kardon and it features a smart amplifier. It does get quite loud, but at high volumes, there’s noticeable distortion. The treble is overly exaggerated and the bass doesn’t hit quite hard enough. The overall sound, though slightly better than most notebooks, still sounds thin. I recommend packing some headphones.