Asus updates the ZenBook 14 for 2019

If you're of the mind that 13.3" is too tiny and 15.6" is a bit bulky, then perhaps you'll take a liking to the just-right size of Asus' latest ZenBooks. The ZenBook 14 UX431 series are slim ultrabooks that Asus says strike a balance between "fast" and "flashy" without burning up your pocketbook.

I probably won't make any friends at Asus by saying this so directly, but savvy gerbils already know that ZenBook is more or less code for "Asus MacBook." The new ZenBooks continue that trend with their brushed-aluminum exteriors and trim dimensions. There are three models, two of which come with Core i7-8565U CPUs, and the cheapest of which steps down to a Core i5-8265U. Those chips are all quad-core CPUs with Hyper-Threading, the only real difference being that the Core i7 boosts much higher—up to 4.6 GHz, thermals permitting.

The top-end model gets 16 GB of DDR4 memory and a GeForce MX150 discrete graphics card. That's not bad for a laptop that's less than 2/3" (1.6cm) thick. That model and the middle unit come with 512 GB PCIe SSDs, with the entry-level unit packing a 256 GB drive. Both lower-end units come with 8 GB of memory. Regardless of which model you choose, you'll get a 1920×1080 display with narrow, 6.5mm bezels that give the machine a screen-to-body ratio of 86%. As usual, Asus claims that means this laptop packs a 14" screen in the chassis of a 13.3" laptop.

The keyboard on all three models is backlit and includes a fingerprint scanner. If you're a ten-key addict, the touchpad on these machines can pull numeric keypad duty—a cool feature for when you forgot to bring your external keypad. Asus says the four-speaker system (which puts two on top for high notes and two on bottom for bass) offers the best-ever sound out of a ZenBook. Unlike the Macbooks they externally resemble, ZenBooks still offer some regular old USB Type-A ports—two, to be specific—as well as a USB Type-C connection, a full-sized HDMI port, and a regular old 3.5mm combo audio jack.

Two of the three versions headed to the States are available for purchase immediately. You can find the UX431FA-ES51 and its Core i5 CPU at Amazon and Newegg for around $800. The step-up UX431FA-ES74, with a Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of memory, and a 512  GB SSD, is $900 at the same places. The top-end model with the GeForce MX150—the ZenBook UX431FN-IH74—isn't available yet, but it will show up exclusively at Costco for $1200.

Comments closed
    • Kretschmer
    • 8 months ago

    This looks like a great deal, but you can’t really commit to a laptop without months of data on:
    (1) Battery life tests. These firms love to stick tiny batteries in ultrabooks that wouldn’t even last an international flight. Or there’s some driver bug that empties a battery much faster than expected.
    (2) Build quality/design issues. Screen cable becomes loose, keyboard cannot process simultaneous input from certain keys, fans whine, max power draw exceeds power circuitry and AC adapter brick capacity, et cetera (all problems with recent $1,000+ ultrabooks!).
    (3) Sufficient cooling for parts. If you ever want to play a game or run a simulation, you need to wait for multiple reviewers to stress the thermal dissipation capacity of a given model. Based on reviews and anecdotes, I’d estimate that 85+% of “gaming ultrabooks” throttle when running games that simultaneously stress the GPU and CPU. My current gaming laptop from Lenovo requires a custom GPU power curve to prevent throttling….and then it turns out that the power subsystem/brick are underrated for max CPU and GPU load.

    I’m a patient man, but the odd decisions of laptop design engineers really make me want to shake someone. “WHY DID YOU DESIGN A GAMING LAPTOP THAT CAN’T DISSIPATE THE HEAT OF PLAYING GAMES?!? DID YOU TEST WITH SOLITAIRE?”

    • bkydcmpr
    • 8 months ago

    I’d stay away from ASUS laptops for now, because the set back to those stupid antique USB-As and even DC power brick. Probably there was some management change at ASUS so the 2019 models are heading backward. I was hoping a successor to the 3 thunderbolts equipped Zenbook 3 Deluxe, but. I know there people left you because of lacking USB-A, remember there are also people leaving you because of you put them back!
    Advice to the people addicted to USB-A: invest in some new cables instead dongles and move forward.

    • rudimentary_lathe
    • 8 months ago

    Looks like a pretty good value. I’m not a fan of the orange keys.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 8 months ago

    Fake bumped is useless.

    • chuckula
    • 8 months ago

    It’s time for another Good Idea, Bad Idea.

    Bad Idea: Calling this thing “Zen”Book 14 when there’s no Zen in it!

    Good Idea: Renaming it to RipperBook 3 with a mobile 64 Coar Threadripper.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 months ago

      Good idea: Playing catch with your grandfather.
      Bad idea: [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhWJPBqEkXU<]Playing catch [i<]with[/i<] your grandfather[/url<].

        • chuckula
        • 8 months ago

        +3 for getting the reference.

      • tipoo
      • 8 months ago

      Hmm, a Zen Zenbook wouldn’t be a bad idea at this point, you’d give up some battery life for lower cost, while it can post pretty close results to the i5+MX150. But technically, Asus was First to calling things Zen.

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 8 months ago

        Maybe not first…
        [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfCPih_PQDQ<]Bush[/url<] [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbXFvZu4tuQ&list=PL6A82h92fhM6RO_-4IiSnvV9dU99ttOrK&index=7<]Robert Plant[/url<]

    • thedosbox
    • 9 months ago

    [quote<]ZenBooks still offer some regular old USB Type-A ports[/quote<] Yes! I've been looking for an upgrade to my 3-yr old XPS 13, but they've gone USB-C only. Any idea if this uses the Microsoft precision touchpad driver? The official site vaguely mentions "precision touchpad technology".

      • TheRazorsEdge
      • 8 months ago

      If the touchpad can act as a numeric keypad, I’m assuming it’s a proprietary driver. I couldn’t find a support page for this product yet.

      • MrDweezil
      • 8 months ago

      Yeah a couple Type-A ports are appealing to me too. I’d love to see a review of this thing, it seems like its chassis has changed enough since last year’s model (the speakers most obviously) that the older reviews probably don’t apply.

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 months ago

      The biggest problem with the new XP3 13 is that someone will give you a USB-A thumb drive.
      Yeah, Dell give you an adapter dongle.
      No, I don’t have it with me – dongles are for losers.

        • Kretschmer
        • 8 months ago

        Freakin’ hell, Dell. You’re making me agree with Chrispy.

        After getting into photography a bit I’m thoroughly in dongle hell: cameras are all old micro USB, phone is USB-C, thumb drives are USB-A, and I travel in abject fear of losing a dongle and trying to pick through corner stores and bazaars for a newfangled cable or adapter. Less of a problem in Tokyo, but certainly a concern in small European towns…

    • Chrispy_
    • 9 months ago

    The numeric keypad on the trackpad makes these look cheap and nasty, even though they’re neither.

    I just wish Asus would stop using their proprietary wall warts with dumb barrel connectors; They’re fragile and pointless, requiring you to carry a bulky adapter around which defeats the purpose of “ultraportable” in the first place.

    USB-C charging has been a thing for how many years now?

      • Growler
      • 9 months ago

      I don’t think the 10-key is always on. It’s just an option if you choose to use it.

        • RAGEPRO
        • 8 months ago

        Yeah, that’s correct. Check the angle pic up top. Appears to be lit from underneath somehow.

          • Chrispy_
          • 8 months ago

          Ah okay. One problem down, one to go!

          So why are manufacturers so slow to adopt USB-C charging and insist on these one-off proprietary adapters. It’s not like they make a profit from them because nobody who loses one buys an original, they just get a generic one off Amazon anyway.

      • cynan
      • 8 months ago

      My HP 745 G5 14″ may be a whole 0.1″ wider, but dangnabbit, at least it has an actual Zen in it. Looks like ASUS and HP should swap ultraportable prefix monikers.

    • Phr3dly
    • 9 months ago

    Is that a charging port I see? Does it support charging through the USB-C port? (Same question about the LG Gram 17, and why the heck do they bother to include a charging port and a power brick when USB-PD is a thing?)

      • IOwnCalculus
      • 9 months ago

      Sure looks like it, looks just like the one on my UX430UN.

      • RAGEPRO
      • 8 months ago

      I personally much prefer having the charging port. Very silly to take up the USB Type-C port with a charger.

        • Usacomp2k3
        • 8 months ago

        So add one more USB-C than you otherwise would and give the best of both!

        • cygnus1
        • 8 months ago

        If the design is stupid enough to only have one USB C port doing double duty as charge port, agreed. But I won’t consider a new laptop that doesn’t have at least 2 USB C ports that can be charged through any of them, so this obsolete Asus is out. It’s 2019, if USB C PD can handle the power draw of the device, it absolutely should and I really doubt this laptop pulls more than 100W.

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