This ASUS Zenbook 14 has a lot going for it in a stylish, slim and lightweight package. The high-resolution 14-inch LCD screen packs 2560 x 1600 pixels behind its non-reflective matte surface, the large touchpad doubles as a numeric keypad and the keyboard is a joy to use. Plus, there's a good range of connections, long battery life and a powerful 12th-generation Intel i5 processor, giving a go-anywhere workhorse that you'll be happy using hour after hour.
This ASUS Zenbook 14 (model UX3402ZA-KP382W) combines good speed and features with a stylish modern look and quality finish that you'll want to be seen with.
This model is not the one with the flashy OLED screen, nor is it a touchscreen – it's a high-resolution matte screen that means business. Having 2560 pixels x 1600 pixels gives you enough room onscreen to view two full-size documents side by side.
When first unpacked, the touchpad's removable sticker overlay indicates how it can become a large illuminated numeric keypad.
The screen uses an IPS (in-plane switching) panel that provides good brightness. Though it has a matte finish, the screen shows very good detail and colour balance, and the lack of reflections makes it easy on the eyes for long work sessions.
For online meetings, the built-in webcam is more than fine. It gives 2MP still images and 1080p video, providing well detailed and well illuminated scenes in bright and dim lighting, with minimal noise.
We rated the keyboard as very good. The backlit keys are large and well-spaced, soft to touch, and quiet with plenty of travel and very good responsiveness. The power button includes a fingerprint reader for authentication.
The very large (130mm x 74mm) touchpad doubles as a number pad with illuminated virtual numeric keys that are large and easy to use. Just hold down the top-right corner to illuminate the grid of numbers.
How does the Zenbook 14 perform?
The fast 12th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and long battery life will keep most users happy. Our test model included a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-1240P processor with 12 cores, plus Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of memory (RAM), and a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD).
This Zenbook should be more than fast enough for most people's general needs. Though only an i5 processor, we found that performance was very snappy overall, and the SSD was also up to the task, producing decent read and write speeds in our testing.
The fast 12th-generation processor and long battery life will keep most users happy
It was also pleasantly quiet to use. We could hear a bit of cooling fan hum when we pushed the Zenbook to keep running under full CPU load during testing, but it's very much a silent partner during normal working conditions, which is a nice feature.
The Wi-Fi speed was also very good, giving us 54MBps when using Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and up to 43MBps using Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).
Long battery life
You can expect to get through a long day of work with this Zenbook 14. In our heavy usage testing we achieved a very healthy 6hr 46min of battery life. This is impressive considering the battery-draining potential of a high resolution screen with excellent brightness.
We measured peak brightness at 487nits, but lowering the brightness level in normal usage will extend the battery life even further. The only downside of the high brightness was that we noticed some backlight bleed at the bottom-right of the screen when watching movies in a dark room (it's not an issue under normal lighting conditions).
The challenge for thin laptops in particular is in producing high quality audio output. To its credit, the Zenbook 14 has Harmon Kardon internal speakers and support for Dolby Atmos surround sound effects.
Despite these inclusions, though, we found the audio quality fine for such things as video chat – it was nothing to rave about for pure entertainment compared to some other laptops we've tested. We found the sound a bit muffled overall, and the bass response lacked real depth. You might find it fine for personal movie viewing and music listening, but audiophiles will want to keep external speakers or headphones handy.
The wired connectivity inclusions are good, with USB-A, USB-C (two Thunderbolt 4), full-sized HDMI, a headset port, and a microSD card slot for memory cards.
This means you don't immediately have to buy an adapter if you want to use an external mouse and monitor (the screen can be laid flat out of the way, which is handy if you only want to use one external monitor with the laptop's keyboard).
There's no security lock slot, a common omission these days on thin laptops. For wireless connectivity, you have Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3, both the latest standards.
The screen folds all the way back to lie flat, which can be useful if you're using an external display.
This Zenbook has good upgrade potential, which can extend its useful working life. Under the removable base you'll find the battery, Wi-Fi, and SSD modules can be replaced, but the RAM is soldered on.
This is a key point. If you plan on using more than 8GB of RAM (which is what this machine is configured with), then you need to order a model with more RAM at the time of purchase, as there are no slots for additional RAM.
While upgrade potential is good, specify all the RAM you need upfront as you can't change it later
The build quality of the Zenbook is good. It feels generally solid and well built, even though it weighs just 1.4kg (plus 0.32kg power supply).
All up, this is a stylish and versatile laptop with a very good keyboard and bright screen for under $1500. It's very fast, with a good range of ports and high degree of user comfort thanks mainly to a very good keyboard and a touchpad that can also double as a number pad.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.