Image source: engadget.com
An alluring AI desktop locked in a tried-and-true layout
We are still anticipating more alluring AI capabilities, although Intel’s Core Ultra processor is impressive.
The newest ZenBook 14 OLED from ASUS has a lot of the features we look for in a contemporary ultraportable, including a beautiful OLED display, a respectable amount of connections, and Intel’s new Core Ultra processors. Considering the significant improvements made by ASUS with the Zephyrus G gaming series and years of testing their laptops, it’s surprising to see that their premium Zenbook hasn’t improved much recently.
With its neural processing unit (NPU) for speeding up artificial intelligence work, the new ZenBook 14 is a good entry into the “AI PC” era. However, it also serves as a reminder that ASUS is not as well-designed as Apple or Microsoft. It isn’t as well-made or stylish as the Surface Laptop, and it isn’t quite as durable as the revamped MacBook Air. Visually, the ZenBook 14 OLED is just what you’d expect from an AI-generated rendering of a generic ultraportable.
In comparison to Apple and the majority of its rivals, ASUS offers far better value for money when it comes to computers. If you’re looking for a laptop with a Core Ultra 7 155H processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, Best Buy has the ZenBook 14 OLED for $1,300. Similarly priced, but with an M2 configuration, the MacBook Air has 256GB of SSD storage and 16GB of RAM (with the option to increase RAM to 24GB). A decent assortment of connectors is also included by ASUS, including a microSD card slot, an HDMI socket, two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, and a USB-A connection. To use some of those ports on a Mac, you would need to upgrade to the more expensive 14-inch MacBook Pro.
The Zenbook 14’s stunning 14-inch 3K OLED screen is what really sold me, even though ASUS is promoting the Core Ultra’s AI capabilities as the main upgrade this year. When called for, it’s amazingly vivid and brilliant, and it achieves the deep blacks that OLED screens are known for. This year’s Zenbook also has an OLED screen that can achieve a 120Hz refresh rate, which is now standard for high-end laptops and makes scrolling much smoother.
With its organic light-emitting diode display, the ZenBook 14 is perfect for watching Netflix marathons or catching up on YouTube videos. Because of the ZenBook’s extremely narrow bezels, the screen seems to float; in fact, I became oblivious to the ZenBook’s otherwise unremarkable appearance. Additionally, I would want a less rigid trackpad and a keyboard with a little more give and depth.
I digress to the Core Ultra processor from Intel. The tested device outperformed ultraportables powered by Intel’s 13th-generation processors because to its 32GB of RAM, Intel Arc graphics, and Core Ultra 7 155H. In PCMark 10, it outscored the ZenBook S 13 with a Core i7-1355U by 1,000 points, and in the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme benchmark, its Arc graphics were nearly twice as fast as the S 13’s Intel Xe graphics.
The ZenBook 14 OLED isn’t exactly a gaming rig, but with low graphics settings, it managed 30–49 frames per second in Halo Infinite at 1080p. Results were significantly better when games were streamed over Xbox cloud gaming: Enjoyed playing Halo Infinite and Forza Motorsport on my business Wi-Fi like a dream. That speaks more about the ZenBook’s wireless hardware than its graphics, though.
Even Intel’s own tests reveal that its Core Ultra chips are beaten by 13th-generation processors in certain single-threaded tasks—a sacrifice the company made to provide superior artificial intelligence and graphics performance—but that’s not all they’re concerned with. Developers like as Adobe and Audacity have stated their intention to incorporate AI-powered functionality into their respective apps; the ZenBook 14 OLED’s NPU enables it to manage AI workloads going forward. There isn’t much you can do with an NPU in Windows outside of those apps, but Studio Effects from Microsoft allows you blur backgrounds and stay in frame automatically during video conversations, so it’s worth considering. Notably, compared to Zoom’s and Google Hangouts’ built-in equivalents, Studio Effects provides significantly superior backdrop diffusion and human recognition.
An artificial intelligence laptop, such as the ZenBook 14 OLED, is less of a speed boost and more of a wager on the future. However, with the backing of Microsoft and other major IT companies, an NPU-equipped PC may soon be worthwhile. Like Apple’s efforts to make Siri available offline (which is also driven by the company’s Neural Engine), Microsoft may make Copilot more responsive by adding offline capabilities. At some point, you might be able to command Copilot to search files or a specific PC setting only by speaking to it.
I can understand if you aren’t enthusiastic about the prospects of AI personal computers. When Macs began using Apple Silicon processors instead of Intel’s older hardware, performance, battery life, and the Neural Engine all saw significant advances. However, Windows users can only cross their fingers and hope that NPUs are truly utilized by developers.
At least Intel’s Core Ultra CPUs should provide respectable battery life for the time being. Among the laptops we examined, the ZenBook 14 OLED had the longest battery life at 12 hours and 43 minutes on the PCMark 10 Modern Office benchmark. For the most part, it held up for about 1.5 days of productive use while on the road, including heavy online browsing, writing, editing photos, and a few video conversations.
In our benchmark, the M2 MacBook Air lasted for 16 hours and 30 minutes, proving that ASUS is still behind Apple. Its fans also make a lot of noise, which is an issue because they whirled up during a podcast recording but don’t bother with the fan-free MacBook Air, which stays silent even while working very hard.
The ZenBook 14 OLED’s OLED screen is beautiful, and I’m excited to see what the Core Ultra chip’s NPU can do after using it for a while. The fact that those features are confined to such a mundane package is a real disappointment. However, if saving money is more important to you, this ZenBook is hard to beat.