PC

Asus ZenBook 14 (UX433) ultrabook: Sturdy laptop with numeric touchpad

Asus' ZenBook 14 (UX433) ultrabook has a touchpad that doubles as a numeric keypad, as well as a well-built frame weighing a mere 1.1kg

Asus is not done experimenting with the touchpad.

The Taiwanese PC-maker came up with the ScreenPad - a touchpad that functions as a second screen - on last year's ZenBook Pro.

Its latest twist on the touchpad is dubbed the NumberPad and available on the ZenBook 14 (UX433) ultrabook, introduced last month.

As its name suggests, the ZenBook 14's touchpad doubles as a numeric keypad, a feature that is usually missing from compact laptops.

Press and hold the keypad icon at the top right corner and the touchpad lights up with the numbers and symbols you would find on a standard number pad.

Probably because its functionality is simple and straightforward, the NumberPad is not as buggy or as unresponsive as the ScreenPad.

Of course, the NumberPad is also less useful than the ScreenPad, though those doing data entry will appreciate this feature.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,898

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8565 (1.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5

    RAM: 16GB DDR3

    SCREEN SIZE: 14 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, USB 2.0, HDMI, microSD card slot, audio jack

    BATTERY: 50 watt-hour


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

I like how compact and light (1.1kg) the ZenBook feels in my hands. Asus says it is built to military standards - it certainly seems more sturdy than the typical ultrabook despite not having a unibody design.

Adorning its brushed aluminium lid is the signature look of ZenBooks - a pattern of concentric circles representing water ripples.

My review set in royal blue looks nice until my greasy hands touch it and create a mess of smudges.

The 14-inch screen is surrounded by very slim bezels. To my surprise, Asus still manages, despite the narrow top bezel, to fit an infrared camera above the screen for face recognition.

The display has a matt finish, which reduces glare. I would have liked the screen to be brighter, though I have no complaints about its viewing angles or contrast, which are excellent.

When the lid is open, the keyboard is slightly raised at an angle, a design seen on some older ZenBooks. It helps to improve the typing ergonomics.

The keyboard offers decent key travel (1.4mm), with a slight amount of flex in the middle. It is backlit, with three different levels of brightness.

Its connectors are a mixed bag. A USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port offers speeds of up to 10Gbps, but it is not as fast as Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps). I like that it has an HDMI port because I do not like to carry a dongle. But I cannot understand why it still has a slow USB 2.0 port.

Powering the ZenBook is Intel's latest Core i7 chip, along with a generous 16GB of system memory. My higher-end review set ($1,898) comes with Nvidia's entry-level GeForce MX150 graphics chip, which is slightly better than the built-in graphics from the Intel processor.

The cheaper version of the ZenBook 14 ($1,598) comes without the GeForce chip while the memory and storage are also downsized from the higher-end model.

My review set managed a score of 4,240 in the PCMark 10 system benchmark. This is similar to that of the Razer Blade Stealth, which has almost the same hardware.

Its cooling fan runs quietly while I play videos or browse the Internet.

However, the bottom of the ZenBook feels warm even while performing basic computing tasks. And it quickly becomes uncomfortable to touch when running a game.

Battery stamina has steadily improved with newer laptops and the ZenBook 14 manages a respectable 71/2 hours in the video-loop battery test at maximum brightness and volume.

• Verdict: The latest ZenBook adds a clever numeric keypad as well as a more sturdy build. But it feels warm to the touch even when performing basic tasks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2019, with the headline 'Sturdy ZenBook with numeric touchpad'. Print Edition | Subscribe