Asus has so many ZenBook 14 models that they stress me out. There’s the UX433, a slim 2.6-pound affair. There is the Flip 14, an elegant convertible. There’s the UX431, a $ 900 mid-tier option. And there’s the UX425, which Asus quietly launched earlier this summer, which included some changes to the traditional ZenBook design. Earlier this month, the UX435, with a small secondary display instead of the touchpad, and the UX425EA were announced.
For the past few days, I’ve been testing the ZenBook 14 UX425EA (specifically, the UX425EA-SH74). You can̵
I got to try out the flagship Core i7-1185G7 in an Intel reference design earlier this month, and the results I’ve seen from Intel’s new integrated graphics have been excellent. So I had high expectations for the very similar 1165G7 too, particularly on the gaming front. I entered this review with two main questions: Did the 1165G7 beat its Intel predecessor (the 1065G7, which powers the newer Dell XPS 13) and beat AMD’s Ryzen 7 4800U (part of Lenovo’s IdeaPad Slim 7)? The answer to both of these questions is yes, although not as bad as I expected.
First, a quick crash course on ZenBook 14. The appeal of this line (and the UX425 in particular) is portability over performance. The UX425 is light for a 14-inch laptop at 2.49 lbs (1.13 kg) and thin at 0.54 inches (13.72 mm). Asus has managed to turn the display into a chassis that doesn’t look too big than most 13-inch rigs – there’s a 90% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to the thin (2.5mm) bezels on the sides of the display. (The top and bottom bezels are more visible than those on the Dell XPS 13, but they’re not terrible – 6.2mm and 10.9mm respectively.)
Two other features help differentiate the UX425 from the field. The first is a 1W screen option, which should theoretically help extend battery life: Asus claims it consumes 63.6% less power than most laptop displays.
However, the ZenBook’s battery results did not impress me. Our test involved running the system through my daily workload (using about a dozen Chrome tabs, downloading, uploading, copying files, Google Sheets, Zoom calls and other office stuff) on the Better Battery profile of about 200 nits of brightness – it lasted seven hours and 20 minutes. It’s identical to the result we saw with the Dell XPS 13, but it doesn’t come close to the gigantic lifespan of Lenovo’s IdeaPad Slim 7, which did 13 and a half hours. Charging speed was fine too, but not mind blowing: it took 58 minutes and 40 seconds to squeeze up to 60 percent (during light use).
The second is NumberPad 2.0. If you tap a small icon in the top right corner of the touchpad, an LED numeric pad appears. (This requires surprisingly steady printing – I usually had to say this a couple of times.) This is a clever idea (how often do you see a number pad on a 14-inch laptop?) And it worked as advertised. One thing I didn’t expect is that you can still use the touchpad to navigate and click on things while the numeric keypad is up – the ZenBook has never mistaken my step for a tap or vice versa. I could also rest my palm on the number pad while clicking smoothly. You can also swipe down from the top left corner of the touchpad to view the Calculator app (regardless of whether the numeric keypad is on or off).
There are some other curiosities to note. Design-wise, the UX425 is the ZenBook as it comes, with Asus’ distinctive concentric swirl design on the lid and a familiar aesthetic that I can best describe as “industrial chic”. Asus claims that the UX425 meets the MIL-STD-810G test standard, which means it has passed a barrage of drop tests, temperature tests, vibration tests, and altitude tests. There’s quite a bit of flexibility in the lid and a pinch in the keyboard, so I’m not blown away by the build quality. But the chassis feels tough enough not to be worried about banging the thing around.
Port selection is decent, with one odd omission. You get two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports (you can thank the 11th Gen chip for those), one USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, one HDMI 2.0, and a microSD card reader. Have you noticed that something is missing? Yes, there is no audio jack; Asus rejected it for the UX425. If you’ve completely switched to wireless headphones and microphones, don’t pay attention, but it could reasonably be a headache for people who still want to use wired devices. The ZenBook comes with a dongle, but the thought of having to use a valuable USB-C port to connect headphones to a laptop makes me sad.
For authentication, there is a webcam that supports Windows Hello but no fingerprint reader. The webcam isn’t great for video calling – I wasn’t washed out in bright areas, but there were also times when my face was completely dark even though I wasn’t in very dark surroundings.
Finally, the keyboard has an extra column of keys on the far right containing Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End. There are various hotkeys, including one that turns off the webcam, one that locks the entire system, one that disables the touchpad, one that lets you take a screenshot and one that brings up the Asus command center.
This ZenBook setup will cost $ 1,099. In addition to the 1165G7 with Intel Xe integrated graphics, it has 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of memory, a 67 Wh battery and a 1920 x 1080 panel screen (with 1 W power draw). There’s also a $ 899 model, which has 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. The extra storage space can be worth the premium for people who want to play – 512GB can fill up quickly – and I’ll always recommend buying as much RAM you can afford.
The ZenBook performed solidly throughout my working day and the pages loaded a little faster than they have on the Ice Lake systems I recently tested. The bottom of the laptop got hot at times (concentrated on the left side), but the keyboard, touchpad, and palm rests remained cool during my tests and I never felt the fans. During the game, the CPU did not exceed 95 degrees Celsius.
It completed exporting a five-minute 33-second 4K video in 11 minutes and 28 seconds, which is much faster than Iris Plus systems such as Surface Laptop 3, XPS 13 2-in-1, and LG Gram 17 However, c ‘was a significant difference in performance between this system and the Core i7-1185G7 reference design – that device completed the same task in eight minutes.
Speaking of games, Intel’s biggest bet with Tiger Lake is on its integrated Xe graphics, which it claims to deliver up to double the graphics performance of previous generations. While the ZenBook beat both the 1065G7-powered XPS 13 and the 4800U-powered IdeaPad Slim 7, it didn’t give them the sound the reference design had made me expect.
The system worked well with easy titles, averaging 200 fps League of Legends and 92 fps Rocket LeagueThe maximum settings of. (The XPS 13 averages 160 fps in the former and 70 fps in the latter.) Overwatch, however, it stuttered at maximum settings, averaging 43fps on Epic and 62fps on Ultra. It’s better than the XPS and Slim 7 but still closer to those than the reference design 1185G7 (which averaged 59fps on Epic and 89fps on Ultra).
And, of course, this isn’t a laptop you would buy for serious gaming. Shadow of the Tomb Raider it was not playable at 1080p, averaging 29 fps at the lowest settings. This is, again, better than the Ice Lake XPS 13, which averages 17fps, and worse than the 1185G7 reference platform (obviously I wouldn’t recommend using any of these to actually run this title).
In short, these results are an improvement over Ice Lake and Ryzen 4000. They are a respectable step forward. But they also remember that not all Tiger Lake systems (and not all chips) are created equal – and this configuration isn’t as far ahead of Lenovo’s 4800U system as I was hoping.
At $ 800, I’d call this ZenBook a bargain. At $ 1,100, I’ll say it’s a good buy. It is portable and functional, as ZenBooks tend to be. On the outside, there is no category where it is terrible and no category where it is the best in its class (aside from the NumberPad, which is legitimately very cool but won’t be useful for everyone).
And then there is the processor. Yes, it offers the best gaming performance we’ve seen from integrated graphics outside of a test project. But that’s a step forward, rather than the leap forward that the 1185G7 seemed to be – and given the advantage AMD has in multicore performance, I’m not sure that’s enough to crown Intel the new ultraportable king. Tiger Lake is certainly a more formidable competitor than Ice Lake, but the battle isn’t over.
Photograph by Monica Chin / The Verge