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Best laptop for under $1,000? This Windows option is lightweight and full of power

The Asus Zenbook 14X has all the performance and power you'll need for work and play, with one of the best laptop displays in its price range.
Written by Cesar Cadenas, Contributing Writer
Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

People like MacBooks. But why? Well, there are many different reasons, but in my experience, people tend to mention the same four: good performance, great features, and compact design topped off with a long-lasting battery. PC manufacturers have rolled out their own rendition of Apple's MacBook throughout the years as they attempt to emulate that style of computer. 

The Asus Zenbook 14X comes close as it has good performance, great features, and a compact design with just passable battery life. It only lasts 10 hours on a single charge, max. By comparison, the MacBook Air can last a good 18 hours.

Also: Apple's M2 MacBook Air: ZDNET Product of the Year

I wanted to rip off that band-aid first because it is the biggest problem affecting the Zenbook 14X, but much of everything else is remarkable. For the review unit I recently tested, I had the lowest configuration: a 13th Gen Intel Core i5-13500H processor, an Iris Xe graphics card, and 8GB of RAM. I tested its battery by playing an infinitely playing video at 50 percent brightness and it only lasted six hours. So be sure to keep the charger at hand. Otherwise, this is one of the better sub-$1,000 laptops money can buy today.

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So it's not all bad with the Zenbook 14X because there are a lot of positives. It's packed to the gills with features. There's something in it for professionals and creatives alike. It's like a Swiss Army Knife.

Overall, my experience with the laptop was a pleasant one. Its display measures 14.5 inches across so it passes by the slightest margin as "compact". One of the problems I have with ultraportable computers is their keyboards can be too small. I tend to make more mistakes on smaller keyboards than on bigger ones. But that wasn't the case on this laptop. In fact, I was pleasantly pleased with the Zenbook 14X's roomy keyboard. Another thing I liked is each key has a slight indentation and a travel distance of 1.4 mm. That's fairly long for an ultraportable like this. It's good to have this distance as it allows for a comfortable typing experience.

Also: This lightweight laptop is surprisingly powerful (and it's not the MacBook Air)

I should mention Asus equipped the laptop with its proprietary IceCool thermal tech to keep things running at a low temperature. As someone who often places laptops on their lap, I want to thank Asus for saving my legs.

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

The Zenbook 14X comes equipped with a gorgeous 2.8K (2880x1800 pixels) OLED touchscreen -- great for creative people to show off their work. I loved how vibrant and saturated the colors looked on the display even from across the room. It's a real head-turner. Asus also told me Zenbook 14X covers the entirety of the DCI-P3 color gamut, explaining where all the vibrancy comes from. I even watched a couple of episodes of the second season of Baki Hanma on Netflix and was impressed by the richness. 

I recommend becoming familiar with the onboard MyASUS app as most of the software features are on it and they all help take care of both the laptop itself. My best tool has to be Asus OLED Care which refreshes the pixels on-screen after being left idle for 30 minutes. A major problem with OLEDs is the chance, albeit small, for an afterimage to become permanently burned into the display, effectively ruining it. Refreshing pixels solve this issue.

Also: This Alienware laptop has no business being this powerful for its size

For teleconferencing, you have a 1080p webcam further enhanced with its own set of features. Chief among them is Blur Background to obscure the room around so the focus is only on you and not the messy room. Unfortunately, you can only pick one of the features to activate. You can't have the full array. The same goes for the audio enhancers; You can only have one.

ZDNET's buying advice

The Asus Zenbook 14X gets my recommendation if you're looking for a work or school laptop. As you can see, it is a very capable machine that's more than able to meet the lifestyle of busy users. Its webcam is high-quality, the screen is high-resolution, and the keyboard is surprisingly comfortable to type on. 

It's also quite hardy as the Zenbook 14X sports an aluminum alloy frame for lightweight toughness and its touchscreen is made out of Corning Gorilla Glass to resist damage.

Also: I tested Dell's latest XPS laptops and can't recommend them enough

If you're going to buy one, I would recommend the Zenbook 14X Q410 which has the Intel i5 processor I mentioned earlier. That one costs a nice $799. The next model, the Zenbook 14X Q420 has a 13th Gen Intel Core i7 and 16GB of memory for $999. Better hardware, but not by much. 

ASUS had told me later on there will be a Zenbook 14X version equipped with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, Intel Core i9 CPU, and 32GB of RAM. That may seem like overkill for a work laptop. However, if you see yourself doing a lot of video editing or running a ton of apps in the background, consider this third option. Unfortunately, I don't know when it'll launch. All I can do is suggest you keep your eyes peeled.

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