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Asus ZenBook 14 UX435EG review: ScreenPad-equipped ultraportable gets updated hardware

sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
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8.0

Asus ZenBook 14 UX435EG

Excellent
Like
  • Solid build quality
  • 11th-generation Intel Core processor
  • Discrete Nvidia graphics
  • Good audio subsystem with noise cancelling
  • ScreenPad provides a small secondary screen
Don't Like
  • Noisy keyboard
  • ScreenPad may be an acquired taste

The 14-inch Asus ZenBook 14 UX435EG incorporates the quirky ScreenPad -- a tiny secondary screen embedded in the touchpad that supports a range of uses, which you won't find on laptops from any other maker. The ZenBook range's usual thin-and-light build is present and correct, and while the price of £1,399 (inc. VAT; £1,165.83 ex. VAT) might seem a little high you do get an 11th-generation Intel Core processor and discrete Nvidia graphics. This model updates the ZenBook 14 UX434FL, which I reviewed in August 2019.

At its launch Asus proclaimed the ZenBook 14 UX435EG to be "the world's smallest 14-inch laptop with ScreenPad", which is somewhat less impressive when you note that Asus is the only laptop manufacturer that does ScreenPads. 

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The Asus ZenBook 14 UX435EG runs on 11-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with discrete Nvidia GeForce MX450 graphics, up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD storage. It weighs 1.19kg and is MIL-STD 810H compliant.

Images: Asus

Still, the ZenBook 14 UX435EG is indeed small at 31.9cm wide and 19.9cm deep, and also thin at 1.59cm thick at the front, rising to 1.79cm at the back where it needs to accommodate various ports and connectors. The weight of 1.19kg makes it an ideal laptop for carrying around, and the build is impressively robust. The aluminium alloy chassis material means I couldn't bend the lid in my hands, and it lends plenty of solidity to the base too. Asus says the ZenBook 14 UX435EG meets MIL-STD 810H, but if you don't want to ding the etching on the outside of the lid, you might still want to use a protective sleeve when carrying or storing this laptop. 

Asus can squeeze a 14-inch screen into a chassis that's barely larger than the screen itself thanks to its minimal-bezel NanoEdge screen, which delivers a (claimed) 92% screen-to-body ratio. Asus gives us two separate measurements for the tiny short-side bezels: 2.6mm measured between the edge of the non-active screen display area and the inside edge of the case, and 4.1mm measured from the edge of the screen to the inside edge of the chassis. For the top and bottom bezels, which are thicker, we just get measurements to the edge of the non-active screen: 6.1mm for the top edge and 3.3mm for the bottom. The relatively deep top bezel accommodates the IR webcam with Windows Hello support.  

The display itself is a 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED-backlit IPS touchscreen. It's bright, clear and sharp with 400 nits maximum brightness, but rather reflective. The touch responsiveness on my review model was exemplary. 

The excellent screen is complemented by a Harman Kardon-certified dual speaker setup that delivers good-quality sound, although top volume could be louder. If you use the integrated audio subsystem for voice or video calls, the AI-assisted noise-cancelling audio capability may come in useful. There are four modes to select from: Normal, Balance, Single Presenter and Multi-Presenter. 

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asus-zenbook-14-ux435eg-2-keyboard.jpg

The full-size keyboard is backlit and sensibly laid out, but some users will find it noisy. The touchpad doubles up as a secondary 5.65-inch display (ScreenPad).

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The keyboard manages to be both 'clacky' and 'thunky'. Heavier-handed typists might find the noise level a little irritating, and there's a fair amount of flex. Still, the keys are large and well spaced, and I was able to touch type at my usual speed. The touchpad is offset a fair way from the space bar, which took a little getting used to, but it's relatively large and very responsive.  

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ScreenPad offers utilities that can be moved to the main screen as required, along with shortcuts, controls and a number pad.

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet  

The ScreenPad is the most notable feature of this laptop -- and indeed of a growing number of Asus laptops. The basic idea is that the touchpad doubles up as a second screen -- a 5.65-inch FHD+ (2160 x 1,080) Super IPS panel that delivers a range of productivity-enhancing shortcuts, controls and utilities. 

So, for example, there's a utility for automating keyboard sequences called Quick Key, a feature for launching chosen groups of apps with a couple of taps, and a handwriting recognition utility. You can even switch content between the main display and the ScreenPad -- although the pad is so small that it's only practical for a small number of functions. There's also a potentially handy number pad.  

Asus provides an API for third parties, so maybe more functions and even bespoke apps might appear in the future. The ScreenPad is easily toggled on and off via a Fn key, for those times when you just want to use the basic touchpad features. 

Every time I've reviewed an Asus laptop with a ScreenPad I've found it interesting to play around with, but not an indispensable addition to my everyday computing. If it were a permanent feature of my everyday laptop I might use it more, but I can't be sure. For now, it's an intriguing but unproven Asus-specific feature. 

The ZenBook 14 UX435EG is powered by an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor with discrete graphics courtesy of Nvidia's 2GB GeForce MX450 chipset, along with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. This is a very well-specified ultraportable laptop -- hence the price tag. There are other configurations, but these are not currently available in the UK.  

SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks(TechRepublic Premium)

There are two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, one of which is occupied when the laptop is charging, a single USB 3.2 port, a full-size HDMI port and a 3.5mm headset jack. There's also a MicroSD card reader.  

On its website, Asus merely quotes battery life from the 63Wh battery as 'outstanding'. Over three hours of a typical working day during which I mostly worked into web apps, browsed, listened to music and watched video, the battery went from 100% to 74%. On that basis, you should be able to get a day's work done on battery power, if you're running mainstream workloads. 

Conclusions

The Asus ZenBook 14 UX435EG is well made and has an up-to-date, high-end configuration. The keyboard is noisy but very comfortable to use, the 14-inch IPS screen is excellent and all-day battery life should be no problem for knowledge workers. The ScreenPad may be an acquired taste, but you won't know if it suits you until you spend some time with it.

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