ASUS Zenbook 14 UX3402: sexy workhorse, but not without its niggles

Ambitious design choices fall a little short, but there's much to like here.

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It’s hard for laptops to stand out these days but the ASUS Zenbook 14 UX3402 (N2N0LP01P322094) is making a good show of it. The design is sleek and mostly minimalist, with a smattering of flair inspired by traditional kintsugi art on the lid. There are two pretty cool colours: Aqua Celadon and Ponder Blue, the latter of which is shown here.

Most laptops these days look premium despite their modest price tag, and the new Zenbook 14 goes one step further with a fresh design and a vibrant display, which certainly will help it stand out among its peers.

In the field of slim workhorses, the Zenbook 14 isn’t the slimmest at 16.9mm thick but nor is it the heaviest at 1.39kg. It’s a pretty respectable form factor and it certainly feels well-balanced and is a breeze to carry. It also manages to squeeze the minimum number of ports so you might not need to carry a hub with you – two USB-C ports (both Thunderbolt 4), one USB-A (v3.2), one HDMI port and a card reader covers most of the usual peripherals that you will need when working on the move.

I’m pretty sure some people will be unhappy that the USB-A port is on the left as opposed to the right, but I’d say that it’s time lefties get some love. I jest, but to be honest, it’s often best to just use a wireless mouse for a setup like this. The slightly more concerning choice that ASUS has made is that since the charger will take up one USB-C port, you really only have one USB-C port available.

In terms of structural rigidity, the Zenbook is relatively sturdy though I find that it can be prone to creaks if you nudge it one way or another in the centre. While I have no reason to believe that it indicates an issue with shell integrity, it’s a rather surprising problem to see on a laptop of this calibre – even sticking some foam internally would fix the issue.

Aesthetically, the Zenbook is very pleasing to look at. Thin bezels around the display are complemented by thick borders around the keyboard and a large touchpad that doubles up as a touch-sensitive number pad. When inactive, the touchpad is clean and doesn’t give away any signs of its secondary function. The numbers light up once you activate the number pad, and it can be easily turned off with a single touch. It doesn’t beat a full-fledged number pad, but this is pretty handy to have while on the move. The fingerprint sensor is suitably responsive and is integrated into the power button, so it all looks really neat and tidy. It seems that ASUS has managed to integrate function seamlessly into form.

Vibrant display, humdrum speakers

The star is undoubtedly the OLED display, which measures 14" in a 16:10 ratio and 2880 x 1800 resolution, which is mounted on a lid that can rotate almost 180 degrees to lie flat against the table. The display panel is fairly bright; on paper, it’s rated for colour accuracy up to 400 nits (600 peak) and it certainly looks like it can go brighter than that. While visibility is decent enough outdoors in the daytime, the glossy finish makes glare a regular inconvenience; stay in the shade, kids. The Pantone-validated display fully covers sRGB and DCI-P3 colour spaces and 97 per cent of Adobe RGB, and the Asus software has enough options for you to tweak the colour profile to your heart’s content. The display can also be tweaked for a refresh rate of 90 Hz, which is really smooth but I find myself wanting to switch to 60 Hz while on battery just to max out battery life.

As nice as OLED displays are, do bear in mind that they are subject to more wear and tear than the average IPS display. The MyASUS app does include some OLED Care features such as pixel shifting to reduce burn-in effects and prolong the screen’s lifespan, but if you’re the sort to fall asleep at your desk and leave your laptop on all night, the OLED route might not be for you.

The speakers on the Zenbook surprised me; they may be Atmos-certified, but clarity isn’t its strongest suit. Part of it, I figure, is down to down-firing design requires that you have a solid, sturdy surface to reflect sounds off for a decent presentation. It may have the potential to sound fuller, but also has the tendency to fall apart above a certain volume. I’d rather they used the bezel space on the sides for more consistent performance with an up-firing design. The 720p webcam is fairly modest; the software does a decent job in cleaning up images, so it’s sufficient for work calls.

Smooth operator

Speaking of getting the job done, the Zenbook 14 is also a decent workhorse. It’s equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor (i7-1260P) and Iris Xe graphics, and paired with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD giving it enough juice to handle everyday tasks and some light content creation work like basic video editing.

Benchmarks (Balanced Mode)
  • PCMark 10 5278
  • 3DMark (Time Spy) 1637
  • Cinebench R20 3352
  • Cinebench R23 7969 (multi-core)

The downside is that the laptop gets hot easily, and calling it a laptop is kind of a misnomer – I rather not put this on my lap, thank you. The fans can get a little loud when pushed but it’s tolerable, I guess.

This is a laptop where you need to be more mindful about the battery. Going ham with the laptop in a mixed-use environment, the battery lasts around the six-hour range, give or take. Obviously, I had to reduce screen brightness, refresh rate, and perhaps switch to the lower power Whisper Modes – which are more in line with regular laptop use on the move – to extend the battery life to nine or ten hours.

This might seem curmudgeonly nit-picky, but I think it’s necessary to point this out to manage expectations: using an OLED panel doesn’t mean you’ll save power. Bear in mind that if you spend a large majority of your time on a screen displaying white pixels, that’s going to consume a lot of power; more so than LCD panels.

Much like what the MyASUS app does for the display, what I like is that they offer an option here to extend battery longevity by only cycling up to 60 per cent. It’s rare that additional software is something users like, but I found that the MyASUS app has been rather pleasant to use.

Conspicuous minor flaws

Ambitious design choices, while admirable, don’t always come off, so it all comes down to whether the flaws will bug you or not. You certainly can’t fault ASUS for daring to try and for the most part, they’ve nailed the premium experience they’ve envisioned.

The display and the ergonomics are what I enjoy most, while the hardware performance and battery life were in line with what I would expect with these specifications (though I think the battery life was slightly underwhelming). I wasn’t as enamoured by the speakers and the squeaky housing as they aren’t naturally things you can sweep under the carpet once and call it a day; on the flip side, not everyone uses onboard speakers and not everyone constantly has their laptop in hand.

The Zenbook 14 is the perfect ’luxury’ offering for those who regularly work with basic video and photo editing and enjoy content on their laptops. It’s pricey at $1,899 for sure, but it’s pretty much par for the course for these specifications – until the likes of Huawei dangle a discount. If its inherent flaws don’t bug you, the adventurous design and the simplicity of the MyASUS UI alone might be nice differentiators in day-to-day use.

ASUS Zenbook 14 UX3402

  Features - 7/10

  Value Proposition - 7/10

  Performance - 8/10

  Design & Build Quality - 7/10

  Overall - 7/10

  Verdict

Niggles aside, the UX3402 is worth considering if you're in the market for a laptop with an OLED display

Specifications

Price $1,899
Webstore Link

Processor Intel Core i7-1260P Processor 2.1 GHz (18M Cache, up to 4.7 GHz, 4P+8E cores)
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Memory 16GB LPDDR5
Storage 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 Performance SSD
OS Windows 11 Home

Display 14.0-inch, 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED 16:10 aspect ratio, 0.2ms response time, 90Hz refresh rate, 400nits, 600nits peak brightness, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, 1,000,000:1, VESA CERTIFIED Display HDR True Black 600, 1.07 billion colors, PANTONE Validated, Glossy display, 70% less harmful blue light, SGS Eye Care Display, Screen-to-body ratio: 90 %

I/O Ports 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x HDMI 2.0b, 1x 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack, Micro SD card reader

Webcam 720p HD camera
Audio harman/kardon
Network Wi-Fi 6E(802.11ax) (Dual band) 2*2 + Bluetooth 5.2

Battery 75WHrs, TYPE-C, 65W charging
Weight 1.39 kg
Dimensions 313.6 x 220.6 x 16.9 mm

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