It’s been over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began. During that time, the work-from-home mantra has become mainstream. While everyone was used to working at their office workstations, having a laptop at home became paramount these past few months.
In contrast to the office, where everything is strictly work-related, life at home is a far more flexible combination of the two. One company that has positioned itself to be at the forefront of that work-life balance is Asus. They’ve recently launched the Zenbook 14 Flip OLED and I’ve had the pleasure of using it as my daily driver (replacing my Microsoft Surface Pro 8) for over a week now.
I’m here to tell you that the price is steep but what you get in return is a reliable workhorse. Let’s dive in-depth to find out just why I think that.
An AMD processor and a metallic black finish
With the Zenbook 14 Flip OLED, one can choose between three storage and processor configurations (RAM is standard on them all). There’s either a Ryzen 5 5600H CPU (with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD), Ryzen 7 5800H CPU (with 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD) or a top-of-the-line Ryzen 9 5900HX (with 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD).
The rest of the specifications are similar on all models. There’s the 14-inch 2.8K OLED (16:10 aspect ratio) touchscreen display with a 90Hz refresh rate, The laptop weighs just 1.4 kg. Asus claims that this laptop is the world’s slimmest 14” convertible laptop with an OLED display. The laptop features Asus’ 360* ErgoLift hinge design (lifting the keyboard when the laptop is opened), two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports, a full-sized HDMI 2.0 port, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s also a microSD card reader. The laptop is also compatible with the Asus Pen Stylus but that is sold separately and not included in the box.
The chassis and the lid of the laptop are made of ‘diamond-cut aluminum alloy’. Prices start at Rs 91,990. The laptop can be purchased through Asus e-shop, Amazon, or Flipkart.
It’s been many years since Lenovo came out with the original Yoga laptop, and it’s good to see that the 2-in-1 concept has caught on.
What’s to like
From the moment you open the lid, you realise it’s a laptop that is going to impress you. The OLED display on the Zenbook 14 Flip stands out and is simply stunning. The Zenbook 14 (as I’ll refer to it henceforth) is a laptop-first device that’s also a convertible, thanks to the 360* hinge. This means it can easily become a tablet and creative professionals can use it to draw and do so much more. It also features the Asus Numberpad 2.0, something that I’ve been using very often (especially since I deal with numbers on a daily basis). It basically turns the trackpad into a number pad with one touch.
The display offers “an ultrawide color gamut of 100% DCI-P3, which is widely used in the motion picture industry, and is PANTONE® Validated to provide the most precise color accuracy. Like other OLED displays, the one on the Zenbook 14 offers vibrant colours along with stunning blacks. It’s especially good for those who stream a lot of content online and for those who edit a lot of photos and videos on the go.
Watching shows like Severance (Ben Stiller’s amazing show on Apple TV+) and Tokyo Vice (Michael Mann’s HBO Max thriller) and you realise just how pleasurable it is to consume content on the Zenbook 14. While using this laptop, the tent mode was the best for consuming content and getting as immersive an experience as possible.
The speakers are tuned by Harman Kardon and that’s another plus point. The audio is clear, even at the highest of volumes. There is hardly any crackle but there’s also not that much bass. To Asus’ credit, the fan noise that hampered some previous Zenbook models has gone. They were hardly audible even when pushing the laptop on a daily basis.
This review of the Zenbook 14 is being written on the Zenbook 14 itself and no fatigue in the fingers even after typing for hours on end. There’s a good amount of travel from the keyboard but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is the best. The keyboard is backlit - sufficiently enough - and one can work away even when the sun isn’t out and the lights are off.
I tested the 360* ErgoLift Hinge by opening, closing and rotating it 360* over 50 times within a short span of time. Not for a moment did I think the lid was loose or that it would come apart. In fact, at times, I opened and rotated it with much more force than any regular consumer would and yet didn’t notice any wobble. The build quality is pretty rock solid.
My review unit came with the AMD Ryzen 7 5800H with Radeon Graphics and it was capable of handling daily tasks without breaking a sweat. I opened a million Chrome tabs and it barely stuttered. The times I had to ‘wait’ was when I was loading games to play. Then again, the Zenbook 14 isn’t a gaming laptop, far from it. Editing photos in photoshop worked without any hiccups. The dual fans helped keep the laptop relatively cool unless I was gaming for long hours.
My gripes with the Zenbook 14
Yes, the Zenbook 14 is a solid daily driver but it isn’t perfect. The touchscreen lacks an anti-fingerprint coating and thus will leave plenty of smudges. The keys on the keyboard also get dirty pretty often. One can keep cleaning it with a microfiber cleaning cloth but that is far from an ideal situation.
Despite being able to work all day, I was disappointed with the battery life whenever I pushed the laptop even a little. Despite the Zenbook 14 having a 63 Whr battery, I only managed to get 7-8 hours with a medium usage pattern. AMD is supposed to be better at battery efficiency than Intel and hence I was expecting to eke out over 10 hours from the machine. But alas, that didn’t happen.
Verdict: Should you buy it?
It’s a lot of money. With a starting price of Rs 91,990, the Zenbook 14 is by no means cheap. It’s a premium Windows convertible with an OLED display, top-of-the-line processor and a plethora of I/O ports.
Asus is launching the Zenbook 14 with the Ryzen 5000 series processors at a time when AMD has already announced laptops with Ryzen 6000 series. Couple that with the high entry cost and you get a product that is hard to recommend.
Don’t get me wrong though. The Zenbook 14 is a great blend of work and play and I’ve had a great experience using it for a week. The display alone is enough to make the laptop worthy of a purchase. I could watch David Fincher movies for hours on end.
Taking into account the competition, the Zenbook 14 falls a little behind. One would have hoped that it came with the latest processors. The Ryzen 5000 Series is very capable, no doubt, but the laptop should have been priced accordingly. Alternatively, one can look at the HP Spectre x360 (also a 2-in-1) and the Dell XPS 13 ultrabooks.
The Zenbook 14 is not for enterprise users, and neither is it for gamers, but everyone else can go for it. It’s just a matter of whether you’re sold on the 2-in-1 concept or not.