The ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED Is A Mighty Work Machine With A ScreenPad-Sized Problem

The ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED Is A Mighty Work Machine With A ScreenPad-Sized Problem
Image: Asus

I’ve just spent a week with the ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED laptop and I have to say, good things do come in small packages. But it wasn’t all love for this small and mighty machine, which sucks, because I had a lot of love to give it.

I have to assume the conversation at ASUS when making this laptop went something like, “Let’s try reinvent the wheel by making it rounder”. What do I mean by that? The trackpad, sorry, ScreenPad, sounds great on paper, but in execution it kinda sucks. One seemingly small thing has ruined the brilliance that exists everywhere else. But it does have one redeeming feature.

The ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED

The Zenbook 14X OLED is touted by ASUS as the ‘world’s first 14-inch 4K OLED HDR display‘. The screen is brilliant, the colours are perfect, vivid – truly unrivalled. The laptop is slim, light and compact and I’m now sold on the need for a laptop to have a touchscreen. It’s powered by the latest 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor and it can handle load so well. But, the elephant in the room…

I hate the ScreenPad

I need to get this out of the way first. The ScreenPad on the Zenbook 14X OLED is an interactive secondary touchscreen that ASUS reckons enhances productivity, allowing for more efficient workflow. It includes a collection of ASUS utilities to boost this productivity. What it really is, is a quick launch space for certain apps. Out of the box it has a number key app, handwriting input app, calculator, Spotify and Films & TV, to name a few. Selecting most of these sees a window pop up on the laptop. With the exception of the handwriting app, none of these are worth launching from the ScreenPad. I can find them easy enough on the desktop/via the Start menu, and I’d in fact argue this feature is a hinderance to my productivity. Windows is already optimised for shortcuts, anyway.

Zenbook 14X OLED
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Swapping out of app mode is relatively easy, however it doesn’t remove the apps from view, rather places a sort-of transparent box over the top of them to allow you to use the ScreenPad as a trackpad. And when you leave the device, you have to reenable it (I’ve now launched the alarm clock three times sliding my finger across the trackpad to wake the machine). I want a trackpad as standard and a ScreenPad as secondary, even a quaternary, quinary, heck senary, feature.

Using the ScreenPad as a trackpad is a little sticky, but it’s otherwise quite responsive. By sticky I don’t mean it gets stuck, more like it feels genuinely sticky. Sticker residue-like sticky. No, there’s no residue, but it is a second screen and you can feel this. The only way I can describe it is that it feels I’m resting my unlocked phone below the keyboard and I’m constantly thinking the illumination is a message. It feels like I’m swiping around on my phone when I’m using the ScreenPad, but from a weird top angle and it makes my fingers feel sweaty, it’s just very uncomfortable underneath my fingers. And I have to use the ScreenPad to select something, otherwise I’m pressing the ‘mouse’ buttons with enough force to poke a hole in a wall.

However…..

You can make the ScreenPad a secondary screen. Yup. I watched a crab rave on it:

With the Zenbook 14X OLED, ASUS is trying to make the consumer range like the gaming range (see the ASUS Zephyrus Duo 16, which has a larger version of this ScreenPad). Either way, I’m going to watch some crabs dance.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

I’m not too sure what else I could put here, as it’s far too small for me to read anything on it comfortably. OK, I’ve hyperfixated enough on the ScreenPad. Let’s move on to the keyboard.

I love the keyboard

I love it. It’s so big and spaced out – surprising considering the Zenbook 14X OLED is only 14-inches. My issue with using Apple’s iPad Magic Keyboard is that it just isn’t big enough, that my fingers are too squished together while typing. While the ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED isn’t a rival to the iPad, I can’t help but think the fact it’s so compact AND has a touchscreen, while still being a Windows machine, leans into a Chromebook/tablet/2-in-1 competitor, too.

Zenbook 14X OLED
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

The only issues I ran into using the keyboard were as a result of using nothing but a MacBook for the last four months. Since I hesitantly packed away the Dell XPS 15 9510 laptop, the only machine I have used is a Mac and getting re-familiar with the concept of a right click and how to navigate a Windows OS in general is all I’ve had to deal with. And that’s all on me. Being forced to use Edge in the first instance, however…that’s on Microsoft.

I also love the touchscreen

This is a gimmick I can get behind, it just adds a bit of fun to the Zenbook 14X OLED. The screen is responsive and this feature works really well – especially performing simple tasks like pausing/playing YouTube, launching Chrome, closing a window. Although, I used this more than I thought I would purely because the trackpad would return to app mode and I honestly cbf selecting trackpad mode.

While I love the fact it’s a touchscreen, I also feel terrible putting my grubby fingers on the screen. Adding to this is the angle you have to swipe on it isn’t great for fake nails, I’m going to scratch the crap out of this thing.

…and this thing is very pretty

ASUS has made a very, very pretty laptop in the Zenbook 14X OLED. The shell is a perfect colour, made from a perfect (and light) material, the keyboard as I mentioned above is also perfect.

Zenbook 14X OLED
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

But the hinge is where this thing stands out among its peers. Look how far this thing goes back.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

If it didn’t feel like the Zenbook 14X OLED was going to break holding it so far open (not because it feels cheap, just because it feels like it shouldn’t do this and I don’t trust myself holding something so big), it would be a great new way To Laptop. Although, the ASUS folding boi does this.

Zenbook 14X OLED
Zac holding the darn thing like a newspaper. Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

It also must be said the very ASUS curves this thing boasts are reminiscent of its latest ROG phone. It’s a very ASUS laptop and that’s fine, they make nice lookin’ stuff.

The Zenbook 14X OLED’s guts

As I mentioned above, the Zenbook 14X OLED packs an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, but it also boasts Nvidia GeForce MX450 discreet graphics, up to 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD. There’s a tonne of ports (1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 2x Thunderbolt-4, 1x HDMI 2.0, audio and a Micro SD card reader.

What about power?

I tested the processor in Cinebench. In the single-core test, the laptop scored 1,098 points and 6th position, whereas in the multi-core test, the laptop scored 4,002 points and 10th position (beating out the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio we reviewed last month by one spot in the multi-core test). That’s really great, indicating that this laptop could handle some strenuous, multi-application tasks (like photo-editing and video production).

Speaking of strenuous, the Chrome tab test was a bit of fun. It was only once I had 45 YouTube tabs (44 of them were cat videos) and 22 Gizmodo articles open that the lag was noticeable. I didn’t realise a lag before that, given it was hard to determine if the Zenbook 14X OLED was under pressure or if the ScreenPad was just being useless.

I also (with the help of Zac) benchmarked Forza Horizon 5, results below:

Zenbook 14X OLED
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The display is perfect

The Surface performed better for graphics-intensive applications than the Zenbook 14X OLED (gaming, designing), but it looked better. While it’s not as powerful as some of its peers when it comes to game play (and look, this is why ASUS has its whole gaming range), the Zenbook 14X OLED truly shines in game mode, picture wise. The 90Hz OLED display showcases the brilliance of HDR and the crisp, bright OLED screen really brings something like Forza to life.

ASUS touts the display as boasting cinema-grade 100 per cent DCI-P3 colour gamut and I can’t pull them up on this. I wish my camera could do its ultra-vivid, ultra-accurate colours justice. OLED technology gives you true blacks for enhanced realism. And the 4K is just utterly gorgeous.

Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Verdict

The ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED has a perfect display, rivalled only by my iPhone 13 Pro Max. It has a brilliant battery life (5.5 hours, super intense use), with the power behind it to still tackle heavy work loads solely on battery. The laptop looks great, 14-inches is a perfect size for daily work/leisure, the weight (1.4 kg) is helpful for lugging it to the office every day and the touchscreen adds an extra win to the long list. At a little over $2,000, it performs (and looks) how you’d want it to. Hindering the Zenbook 14X OLED is purely its ScreenPad. If you want to watch crabs raving all day, then it’s fine. But this laptop could definitely do without it.

Where to buy the ASUS Zenbook 14X OLED?

The machine I reviewed has an RRP of $2,299 and you get it via ASUS.