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Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA review

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA is a good business laptop on a budget

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA review
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA is a solid laptop thanks to its crisp speakers, colorful display and good performance.

For

  • Solid performance
  • Crisp speakers
  • Colorful display
  • Decent battery life

Against

  • Gritty design
  • Dim display

 

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA is a good laptop for people looking to do a little bit of everything. For $799, you get solid mid-tier performance from a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor and over 9 hours of battery life. In addition to a comfortable keyboard, the laptop also has a pair of surprisingly powerful speakers. However, a dim display and polarizing design might give some shoppers pause. 

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA pricing and configuration

The ZenBook 14 I reviewed costs $799.99 and comes with a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-10210U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD and an integrated Intel UHD Graphics GPU. However, you can upgrade to an Intel Core i7-10510U CPU and discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 for $899.99.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA design

The Asus ZenBook 14’s spun-metal chassis possesses a shiny silver finish accented by a design resembling the striations found within a vinyl record. Those faint lines are deceptive, though, as the laptop is completely smooth to the touch. It’s also intended to possess a “Utopia Blue” hue, but this tint isn't noticeable. The shininess of the silver overwhelms any other shade.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Opening the lid reveals the same silver finish across the palm rest and keyboard deck. The keys are of a similar tint without the stylish striations, and the characters within the keys are colored dark bronze. This contrast is bold and original, but the combination of a muddy bronze and silver is a bit too industrial for my taste. However, if you increase keyboard brightness to its max, the bronze begins to glow and adds a shininess to the laptop that makes it far more pleasant to look at.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The speakers sit to the left and right of the keyboard while the trackpad sits directly below. The fingerprint scanner is placed within the top right of the touchpad.

The laptop has a 145-degree hinge and, when you pull it back far enough, the bottom of the screen props up the laptop and gives the base 4.5-degrees of breathing room.

The Asus ZenBook 14 measures 12.7 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches and weighs 3.3 pounds, making it the heaviest laptop compared to its competitors. The Acer Swift 3 AMD (12.7 x 8.6 x 0.6) is the lightest of the bunch at 2.7 pounds while the 2.6 x 8.5 x 0.6-inch Lenovo Yoga C940 and the 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7-inch HP Envy x360 13 (2020) sit in the middle at 3 and 2.9 pounds, respectively.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA security and durability

The Asus ZenBook 14’s fingerprint scanner works wonders with Windows Hello. I set up Windows Hello by placing my finger on the scanner in dozens of different ways. From there, I tested to see how well the laptop recognized my prints. Everytime I used my index finger, the laptop would log me in within milliseconds, and if I tried using any of my other fingers, it would deny me. ]

Despite its sleek looks, the ZenBook 14 is pretty tough. The notebook has undergone MIL-STD-810G testing, meaning it can withstand “extreme altitudes, temperatures and humidity” as well as a drop or two. The laptop is undeniably sturdy, but I noticed the bottom can sound a bit rickety. However, this only happens when tilting the laptop to its side.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA ports

The Asus ZenBook 14 has enough ports to satisfy everyday users. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the left side, there’s one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, an HDMI port and a DC-Jack. On the right side, there’s an SD card slot, an audio jack and a USB 2.0 Type-A port.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

If you need more ports, check out our best laptop docking stations and best USB Type-C hubs pages.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA display

The Asus ZenBook’s 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is quite good at presenting colorful, albeit slightly dimmer than average images. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

While watching the Greyhound trailer, the grittiness of the vast ocean and the lifelike explosions get propped up by the vivid composition. Additionally, the internal red glow of the submarine when it goes into an alarmed state beautifully shone across Tom Hanks’s face. And when it became dark and the crew had to get down in the face of a barrage of glowing bullets, the color contrast of the black night and glowing flames highlighted the striking moment.

If the color isn’t to your liking, you can adjust color, gamma and color temperature settings with the pre-installed Asus Splendid software. There are four presets: Normal, Vivid, Manual, and Eye Care. While Normal looks nice, Vivid is absolutely the best of the bunch. It allows for every color on the screen to pop, and when watching films, the texture becomes far more vibrant and immersive.

While measuring color reproduction, the Asus ZenBook 14 hit 104% of the sRGB color gamut, which is far higher than the Acer Swift 3 AMD (62%) and moderately better than the mainstream laptop average (96%). However, it falls short compared to the HP Envy x360 13 (108%) and ties the Lenovo Yoga C940.

The Asus ZenBook 14 averages 288 nits of brightness, which is higher than the Acer Swift 3 (251 nits). Unfortunately, it scores lower than the mainstream laptop average (315 nits), the Lenovo Yoga C940 (339 nits) and the HP Envy x360 13 (364 nits).

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA audio

Perhaps the most glowing praise the ZenBook 14 deserves is that the speakers are phenomenally crisp. Designed by Harman Kardon, two top-firing speakers present nearly every element of a track perfectly. However, the volume could be a bit higher.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I immediately defaulted to my latest obsession and began playing “Stronger Than You” from the Steven Universe soundtrack. Estelle’s emotional voice comes through with a crispness, and the electronic drops really compliment the drum and bass. To present these speakers with a more difficult test, I then tried “Crawling Into A Fireplace Cackling” by Lauren Bousfield. The chaotic nature of this track is kept intact and Lauren’s low voice could be heard as clearly as it would with solid headphones

However, these speakers seem to pick and choose which aspects should be louder or quieter. “Stronger Than You” came through at a solid volume, while “Crawling Into A Fireplace Cackling” was a bit quiet for the first half of the track. In general these speakers could definitely be louder, but the quality and crispness of the audio is undeniably incredible.

The laptop comes with a software called AudioWizard, which allows you to tweak certain speaker settings. Bypass, Music and Movies are its three presets. Activating Music mode allows for tracks to come to the forefront with their bass, greatly increasing intensity.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA keyboard and touchpad

As someone who’s typically used to a large mechanical keyboard, getting used to the Asus ZenBook 14’s island-style keyboard was pretty easy. The keys are responsive and feel rather satisfying to click.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I took the 10fastfingers typing test and scored 108 words per minute with 96% accuracy. Next, I took the same test on the keyboard I have been using for about a year and scored 115 words per minute with a 97% accuracy. Scoring such a similar accuracy on a keyboard I had only been using for a day is quite a good sign.

The Asus ZenBook 14’s trackpad is pretty responsive when performing Windows 10 gestures, delivering quick reactions for pinch-zoom, three-finger tap and flick. However, the trackpad occasionally froze and did not respond to any swipes or clicks for about five seconds. 

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA performance

The Asus ZenBook 14 sports a quad-core 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-10210U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GBf PCle SSD and an Intel UHD Graphics GPU. With these specs, this laptop is more than capable of handling YouTube videos, editing, document writing and crowded email inboxes. With many chrome tabs open running Twitch, YouTube, Discord, Google Docs, Gmail, Spotify and Slack, I only started noticing a slowdown when I ran movie trailers.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the Geekbench 4.3 synthetic overall performance test, the Asus ZenBook 14 scored 15,309, which is slightly above the mainstream laptop average (15,001). However, the score is pretty underwhelming when compared to its competitors. The Acer Swift 3 (10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1) scored 19,163, the Lenovo Yoga C940 (Intel Core i7-9750H) scored 18,672 and the HP Envy x360 13 (Ryzen 5 4500U) scored 19,064.

When we ran the Handbrake Video Editing test, the laptop took 12 minutes and 32 seconds to transcode a 4K video into 1080p. This is far quicker than both the mainstream laptop average (21:48) and the Lenovo Yoga C940 (19:32). However, the Acer Swift 3 has it beat at 11 minutes on the dot.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

During the File Transfer Test, the Asus ZenBook 14 took 11.1 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files for a transfer rate of 458 megabytes per second. The Lenovo Yoga C940 managed a transfer rate of 1,017 MBps while the HP Envy x360 13 managed a transfer rate of 318 MBps. It also surpassed the mainstream laptop average of 369 MBps.

Due to its integrated GPU, the Asus ZenBook 14 will likely encounter some trouble when running demanding titles. When we ran the Dirt 3 benchmark on Medium settings at 1080p, the laptop managed 27 frames per second, which is far below the mainstream average (56 fps) and considerably worse than its competitors. The Acer Swift 3 delivered the highest performance with 79 fps, while the Lenovo Yoga C940 and HP Envy x360 13 hit 51 fps and 78 fps, respectively.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA battery life

The ZenBook 14 has a battery life of 9 hours and 27 minutes based on the Laptop Mag Battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness). It just surpassed the 9:25 mainstream average, but the time was well below its competitors. The Acer Swift 3, Lenovo Yoga C940 and HP Envy x360 13 (2020) clocked in at 11:09, 11:46 and 11:52, respectively.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA heat

We streamed a 1080p YouTube video for 15 minutes and measured specific spots on the laptop once the time elapsed. The touchpad measured 81 degrees Fahrenheit, the middle measured 88 degrees, and the underside measured 91 degrees. At its hottest spot, just left of the middle underside, the laptop hit 94 degrees. None of those temperatures climbed over our 95-degree comfort threshold.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA webcam

The ZenBook 14’s 720p webcam gets the job done, but it's not particularly good. In my test photos, my brown bed frame and blue shirt looked washed out while my hair turned into a poofy mess with no texture. If you plan on having many video calls and want to look as colorful and crisp as possible, consider investing in one of the best webcams.

Asus ZenBook 14 UX431FA software and warranty

The ZenBook 14 comes with a handful of software. MyAsus is the most useful, as it gives the user the ability to change the functionalities of the Fn key, enable WiFi SmartConnect and utilize Battery Health Charging, which effectively act as power settings. Additionally, it possesses Tru2Life, which is meant to enhance the quality of videos by making them clearer and more detailed.

The laptop also comes with standard Windows bloatware, including Netflix, Skype, Solitaire and Hotspot Shield Free VPN.

The ZenBook 14 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how Asus fared in our annual Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands special reports.

Bottom line

The Asus ZenBook 14 is a solid laptop thanks to a handful of successful features. For $799, you get a colorful display, strong, mid-tier performance and a pair of surprisingly powerful speakers. The keyboard is also very comfortable and the battery life is relatively good.

However, if you’re looking for a brighter display, longer battery life and stronger performance, you’ll want to check out the HP Envy x360, which also costs $799. Overall, the ZenBook 14 is a solid mainstream laptop with a number of premium qualities.