PC review

Upgraded Zen is quick but comes at a higher price

The Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IE's in-plane switching (IPS) display offers good viewing angles. The graphics chip has also been upgraded but the biggest improvement is its quickness in loading apps or games.
The Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IE's in-plane switching (IPS) display offers good viewing angles. The graphics chip has also been upgraded but the biggest improvement is its quickness in loading apps or games.PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

From the outside, the Asus Zen AiO Pro Z240IE looks identical to the version I tested in 2015.

It has a similar aluminium chassis with diamond-cut edges and a clean, minimalist design.

Like its predecessor, this all-in- one (AiO) computer could be mistaken, from a distance, for the Apple iMac, though the Zen's light gold finish gives it away.

More importantly, the features that were missing in the 2015 model have made the cut this time.

For instance, its 23.8-inch touchscreen has a 3,840 x 2,160-pixel, or 4K, screen resolution. This is up from the 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen on the 2015 model.

There is more desktop real estate with the higher 4K resolution. And, unlike older Windows operating systems, Windows 10 has more options to adjust the size of the icons for high-resolution displays.

The Zen's in-plane switching (IPS) display offers good viewing angles. But it is reflective, likely because of the substantial air gap between the LCD and its outer glass layer. The display can be tilted slightly towards the user, but its fixed stand design means you cannot swivel or pivot the screen.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $3,198

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-7700T (2.9GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 4GB GDDR5

    RAM: 32GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 23.8-inch, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 4 x USB 3.1, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI-in, HDMI-out, Gigabit Ethernet, SD card reader, audio jacks

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

Unlike its predecessor, the new Zen comes with a front infrared camera that can be used to log into Windows 10 via its facial-recognition feature.

I was also pleased that the Zen has an HDMI input port, which means you can connect it to another device and use the Zen as a 24-inch monitor instead of as a computer.

The graphics chip has been upgraded. The Zen has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 chip that, despite being an entry-level model, is able to run Doom at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and at Ultra setting at a respectable 52 frames per second.

But the biggest improvement is its quickness in loading apps or games. Thanks to its 512GB solid-state drive, the Zen takes seconds to boot into Windows, while its predecessor takes twice as long because of a slow 5,400rpm hard drive. There is also a 1TB secondary hard drive to store your movies and music.

Taking its cue from Samsung and its SideSync app, the Zen has a companion ZenLink app to transfer files, messages and URLs between the computer and a compatible Windows 10 or Android device with the app installed.

Comparisons with the Apple iMac is inevitable, even though the iMac comes in 21.5- and 27-inch screen sizes, unlike the 23.8-inch Zen AiO Pro.

While the iMac lacks a touchscreen, the 27-inch version has a 5,120 x 2,880-pixel wide-gamut display that looks better than the Zen's 4K screen, while the 21.5-inch model can be configured with a 4K wide-gamut screen.

On the other hand, the Zen review set that I tested has a more powerful Core i7 processor, 24GB more memory (for a total of 32GB) and a newer GTX 1050 graphics chip than the standard iMac.

Bumping up the standard 27-inch iMac to more closely match the Zen's specs gets you a final bill of around $4,200. It makes the $3,198 Zen look relatively cheap.

But, as a PC enthusiast, I do not quite see the value proposition or the appeal.

An equally capable small- form-factor PC and a 27-inch monitor can be assembled for less than the price of the Zen, albeit without a touchscreen, or the all-in-one design.

Vincent Chang

•Verdict: The 2017 version has a host of improvements over its predecessor, but the corresponding price increase (from $2,198) dampens its appeal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Upgraded Zen is quick but comes at a higher price'. Print Edition | Subscribe