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Light in your bag and relatively light on your wallet (for its class), the Asus ZenBook UX430UA offers high-end features in a 1.26 kilogram package. In addition to strong performance, this Asus laptop offers one of the most colourful 14-inch displays we've tested. You can get longer battery life, a more elegant chassis and a better typing experience from competing laptops that cost hundreds more. The ZenBook is a great value.
The Asus ZenBook has a premium but plain grey-aluminium chassis that will neither embarrass you nor make you stand out at the coffee shop. Like most Asus ZenBooks, it has a metallic, concentric-circle design on the lid, with a matte metal deck, sides and bottom surface. I really wish Asus would use the attractive blue-and-gold colour scheme that it employs on the ZenBook 3.
Weighing just 1.26 kilograms and measuring a modest 32.5 x 22.6 x 1.5 centimetres, the ZenBook UX430UA is really light and easy to carry for a 14-inch laptop. When I was carrying the laptop around in my backpack, I barely noticed it.
Dell's XPS 13 has the same weight and thickness, despite having a smaller, 13-inch display, while the 14-inch Lenovo IdeaPad 720S weighs about 0.22 kilograms more but is just as slim.
You'll find a decent selection of ports on the UX430UA. On its right side, there's a USB 3 port and an SD card reader; the left side has a micro HDMI port, a second USB 3 port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB Type-C connector. Unfortunately, the Type-C port cannot charge the laptop, and considering the ZenBook's premium aspirations, a Thunderbolt 3 connection would have been appreciated. Thunderbolt 3 allows you to connect to a variety of high-speed peripherals, including external GPUs and powerful docking stations.
The ZenBook UX430UA's 14-inch, 1080p display is a feast for the eyes, filled with vibrant colours and detailed images. When I watched a trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, the green in Hela's costume and Thor's skin really stood out, as did the blue shade of Valkyrie's cape. Fine details, like the stubble in Bruce Banner's beard and the markings on Thor's armour, were sharp and easy to make out.
According to our colorimeter, the ZenBook's display can reproduce an impressive 129 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is 30 percent better than the 14-inch-laptop category average and about 15 to 20 percent above the readings from the Dell XPS 13 and the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S.
The matte screen is also pretty bright, registering 286 nits on our light meter. That's about 13 percent above the category average and good enough to provide wide viewing angles. Colours faded only very slightly, even at 90 degrees to the left and right. However, the XPS 13 is a full 29 percent brighter than the ZenBook, and the IdeaPad 720S is also a few points ahead.
If you want to have a dance party, you can fire up your playlist on the ZenBook UX430UA and start grooving, no external speakers required. Asus' laptop offers fantastic output, with rich, layered sound that's loud enough to fill a living room. When I played AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock," I could hear a clear separation of sound, with various instruments appearing to come from different sides of the machine. The music was smooth and detailed, without a hint of the distortion I hear on so many laptop sound systems.
Asus also preloads its AudioWizard software, which allows you to choose among sound profiles for music, voice, movies and gaming. Disabling AudioWizard, which is on by default, made the song sound quiet and hollow, so don't do it.
The ZenBook UX430UA's keyboard provides a mixed typing experience, with decent travel and mostly snappy keys but some stiffness, too. The keys have a solid 1.5 millimetres of travel (1.5 to 2 mm is typical) and require a strong 79 grams of force to actuate, but the left side of the keyboard felt stiff during my testing.
When I took the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I achieved a rate of 104 words per minute, which is on the high end of my usual range, but with a 7 percent error rate (2 to 4 percent is normal for me). When I slowed down my pace, I got a rate of 94 wpm with a 3 percent error rate, but during both tests, my left pinky felt sore when I hit the A key. Depending on your typing style, your experience will vary.
The 10.41 x 7.11 centimetre buttonless touchpad provided smooth, accurate navigation around the desktop, while the right and left clicks offered good feedback, without feeling stiff. The pad also responded quickly and accurately to multitouch gestures such as three-finger swipe and pinch to zoom.
With an Intel 8th Gen Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD, the ZenBook UX430UA is well equipped to handle serious multitasking and productivity tasks. Whether I was watching video, surfing the web or running office apps on it, the ZenBook UX430UA handled every task I threw at it..
The ZenBook UX430UA scored a strong 12,973 on Geekbench 4, a synthetic test that measures overall performance. That's 51 percent better than the category average and 82 percent higher than the score from the IdeaPad 720S, which has an older, 7th Gen Core i5-7200U processor. The Dell XPS 13, which we tested with the same exact processor as the UX430UA, scored 9 percent higher than Asus' laptop.
The laptop's 512GB PCIe SSD promises fast performance, and it undoubtedly enables speedy app opens and a responsive system. However, the drive turned in a mediocre 145 MBps on our file copy test. That's far behind the 216 MBps category average and less than a third of the Dell XPS 13's 508 MBps mark.
The ZenBook UX430UA can crunch large spreadsheets without breaking a sweat. The machine took just 3 minutes and 8 seconds to complete our spreadsheet macro test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses in OpenOffice Calc. That time is about a minute and a half quicker than the category average and a minute better than the time from the IdeaPad 720S. The XPS 13 finished the test in nearly the same amount of time.
With its Intel UHD 620 integrated GPU on board, the ZenBook UX430UA isn't built for serious gaming, but it can handle video playback and casual gaming. The Asus laptop scored a strong mark of 79,242 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics benchmark. That's about 10 percent better than the category average, a few points slower than the Dell XPS 13 (which has the same integrated GPU), and 14 percent behind the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S (which has an Nvidia 940MX GPU).
The ZenBook ran Dirt 3, a low-end racing game, at a strong 49 frames per second, which is slightly ahead of the category average and very playable (30 fps or above is playable). However, the XPS 13 and the IdeaPad 720S were about 10 percent better.
The ZenBook UX430UA lasted 8 hours and 40 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. That's long enough to take you through a workday, and identical to the category average for all the 14-inch laptops we test. However, the Dell XPS 13 endured for more than 16 hours, and the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S came up 40 minutes short of the ZenBook's runtime.
While no internal laptop webcam is as good as a decent external unit, the ZenBook UX430UA's 720p sensor is pretty good. When I shot a selfie under the fluorescent lights of my office, the green and blue stripes in my shirt appeared accurate, as did my reddish-brown hair. However, there was still a fair amount of visual noise in the background.
The ZenBook UX430UA stayed pleasantly cool throughout our tests. After we streamed video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 26.9 degrees Celsius, the keyboard hit 29.7 degrees and the bottom went up to 31.6 degrees. We consider temperatures below 35 degrees Celsius as comfortable, so this laptop definitely fits the bill.
The ZenBook UX430UA runs the Signature Edition of Windows 10, which means that Asus does not preload any of its own bloatware onto the system. However, the laptop still has all of the standard unnecessary preloads that Microsoft includes in every Windows install. The only Asus software we saw on the system was the AudioWizard, which lets you control the sound output, and a product registration app.
Asus' ZenBook UX430UA offers a compelling mix of features and functionality for less than similarly equipped competitors. In particular, the ZenBook's vibrant display, rich audio and light weight stand out. On the other hand, we wish the typing experience were better and the SSD faster.
If you're willing to consider a laptop with a 13-inch display, take a look at Dell's XPS 13, which has a more premium design, a brighter (but less colourful) screen, faster performance and nearly double the battery life. But the most similar XPS 13 costs more for half the RAM (8GB) and half the storage (256GB); to get the Dell with higher-end specs, you need to also get a high-res screen and pay more. So if you want a high-performance, lightweight laptop that gives you a lot for your money, the Asus ZenBook UX430UA is a great choice.