Among the multitude of ASUS ZenBooks available in stores these days, the ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435 series steps-out of the crowd with its sub-one-kilo lightweight magnesium construction, good-quality matte screen, uncompromised IO, and long battery life.
Most lightweight ultrabooks sacrifice on some of those aspects, though, but not this one. Furthermore, the series is also a reasonably capable implementation of Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake hardware platform, with an optional Nvidia MX450 dGPU on some configurations. However, be prepared to pay extra for the lighter construction, and somewhat sacrifice on inputs over the regular 14-inch ZenBook 14 UX425 of this generation.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve spent time with an early version of this ZenBook 14 Ultralight series. Our unit is the UX435EGL variant with the included MX450 dGPU, but given the early BIOS and drivers only available at this point, we’re not going to discuss the Nvidia chip in this article. In fact, I’ve disabled the Nvidia chip for all our tests, in order to look at what Asus sells as the ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435EAL model, exclusively powered by the Intel i7-1165G7 chip with Irix Xe graphics. We’ll follow-up on the UX435EGL model in a separate article, and compare how the two face against each other in terms of performance, thermals, and noise levels.
Update: We were informed that the current software available for this sample significantly skewed our initial benchmark results, so we decided to retract them, as they were not accurate for the retail versions of this laptop. We’ll update the performance section as soon as we get a new finalized sample from Asus. Thanks for understanding.
Specs as reviewed – ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435EAL
||Asus ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435EAL
||14 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, 16:9 aspect ratio, IPS, matte, non-touch, AU Optronics B140HAN06.B panel
||Intel Tiger Lake, up to Core i7-1165G7, 4C/8T
||Intel Iris Xe graphics (optional MX450 on UX435EGL models)
||16 GB LPDDR4x 4266 MHz (soldered, dual-channel)
||1x M.2 PCIe x4 SSD (1 TB Intel 660p SSDPEKNW010T8)
||Wireless 6 (Intel AX201), Bluetooth 5.0, Ethernet with adapter
||1x USB-A 3.2 gen1, 2x USB-C 3.2 with Thunderbolt 4 (data, video, and power), HDMI, microSD card reader, 3.5 mm jack
||63 Wh, 65W USB-C charger with quick-charging
||319 mm or 12.57” (w) x 201 mm or 7.94” (d) x 14.9 mm or 0.61” (h)
||from 2.09 lbs (.95 kg)+ .45 lbs (.21 kg) charger, US version
||white backlit keyboard with compact layout, glass NumberPad, HD+IR webcam with Hello, stereo bottom speakers
Asus offers the ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435EAL in a couple of configurations, with various amounts of memory and storage, as well as either Intel i5-1135G7 or Intel i7-1165G7 hardware platforms. They all get the same IPS 400-nits matte screen, IO, inputs, and battery, so most of this article applies to any of the configurations you might be interested in.
As mentioned earlier, we’ll discuss the UX435EGL variants with the optional Nvidia MX450 dGPU in a separate article.
Design and construction
The UX435 Ultralight series shares the overall design language with the standard ZenBook 14 UX425, implementing the same kind of Ergolift hinge mechanism, 14-inch matte display, and the IO spread around the sides. However, once you start looking closely you’ll quickly realize these two feel a fair bit different in actual use.
For starters, the UX435 Ultralight weighs less than a kilo in the configuration tested here, while the UX425 weighs 1.2 kilos, and you can immediately tell the difference when picking them up. It also feels friendlier to the touch and grippier. Down below I’ve added some pictures of the Ultralight ZenBook UX435 (on the left, lighter gray color) next to the standard ZenBook 14 UX425 (on the right, darker gray).
Asus went with the same kind of magnesium alloys we’ve experienced in the ExpertBook B9 series for the entire chassis and exterior of the UX435EAL, with the dark-gray matte porous finishing that feels great to the touch and does a much much better job at hiding smudges. In fact, this is one of the most maintenance-free laptops I’ve come upon in a while, as even the clickpad and the keyboard don’t show smudges easily either.
Now, in all honesty, this sort of magnesium alloys might not feel as premium as the regular aluminum pieces used on other ZenBooks, but I do prefer its texture and overall friendliness. On top of that, this Ultralight model is sturdier made than the regular ZenBook 14, with less flex in the keyboard deck and the screen, and without any of those squeaky noises when picked up. It also benefits from a blunted front-lip that won’t dig into your wrists. Furthermore, it still meets the MIL-STD 810H reliability standards, much like the entire range on modern ZenBooks.
Back to those inputs, Asus went with a smaller clickpad on this 14-inch laptop, as well as a slightly smaller keyboard layout. We’ll touch on those in the next section.
Practicality-wise, the Ergolift hinge design still raises the laptop’s main-body on two small rubber feet at the bottom of the screen. I did notice that for some reason these are not made from the same kind of softer rubber as on the regular ZenBook, so this laptop is not as stable on a desk, and the screen’s back-angle is slightly more limited, at around 140-degrees on the back. Otherwise, you can still easily pick up the screen and adjust it with a single hand.
Now, the thermal design is a common culprit of these modern ZenBooks, with the exhaust blowing hot-air straight into the screen. That’s not that much of an issue on the regular 2020 ZenBook 14 which gets a slightly thicker chin under the display, but it is here, as the UX435 Ultralight series is more compact and the exhaust ends up within an inch of the screen. You’ll see what that means in a following section, especially when running demanding loads and games, which you might want to on this Tiger Lake hardware (not to mention on the MX450 configurations).
This aside, I should also mention that the speakers are still placed on the bottom of this laptop, that there’s still a webcam with IR at the top of the screen, and that the IO is lined around the sides. Aside from the USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, full-size HDMI and USB, and the microSD card-reader, Asus also squeezed in a regular 3.5 mm jack on this series, unlike on many of the other 2020 ZenBooks. I’m glad they backed down on that, even if I’m not entirely happy with it on the left side. A USB to LAN adapter and a sleeve are included in the default bundle.
Keyboard and trackpad
This series does not get the same keyboard as the one Asus puts on their standard ZenBook 14s. The layout is a bit more compact, but don’t worry, that mostly translates in narrower function keys at the left and right side, as the main keys are still full-size at 15 x 15 mm (compared to the 16 x 15 mm ones on the ZenBook 14 UX425).
However, this keyboard just doesn’t feel as reliable in daily use, with a mushier and softer stroke that makes it more prone to errors and missed types. So while the regular ZenBook 14 is one of my favorite types in this class at this point, this here is only about average for an ultrabook, fine for most potential buyers, but not impressive. Now, I can’t tell for sure that this is the final-retail keyboard, though, so take these impressions with a grain of salt.
The keyboard is also backlit, with three brightness levels to choose from. It gets bright-enough at the higher level, but the illumination is not entirely uniform and light creeps out from some of the keys. Again, that’s something that could be addressed with the retail products, so make sure to look into other reviews as well.
Down beneath the keys lies a mid-sized clickpad, a glass surface with Precision drivers and NumberPad functionality. It’s smaller and a bit stiffer than the clickpad on the regular-sized ZenBook 14 UX425, but it’s still smooth and responsive with daily use and sturdy enough so it doesn’t rattle with taps. Can’t complain here.
A ScreenPad (clickpad with secondary display) is not available for the UX435 Ultralight series, but is available on the ZenBook 14 UX435 lineup. I know, Asus have a neck for confusing their customers with these names, and they offer three very similar ZenBook 14 models: standard UX425 model with the larger NumberPad, UX435 with ScreenPad, and UX435 Ultralight with the smaller NumberPad, the one we have here.
Finally, I’ll also mention that there’s no finger sensor on this laptop, but you do get a set of IR cameras at the top of the screen with Hello support.
There’s a single screen option available for this series, and it’s the 1W 14-inch FHD matte panel made by AU Optronics that Asus also puts on the higher-end versions of the regular UX425.
This is a solid panel with 400+ nits of brightness, good back and contrast levels, wide viewing angles, and no flickering. It’s excellent for daily use, fine for occasional color-accurate work with 100% sRGB coverage and good uniformity (with a slight imbalance in the lower-left corner), but not amazing for games with the 60Hz refresh-rate and slow response rates in the ~40 ms GTG.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUOA48F (B140HAN06.B);
- Coverage: 99.1% sRGB, 70.8% AdobeRGB, 73.4% DCI-P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.26;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 424.53 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 21.75 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1725:1;
- White point: 6400 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.24 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
The panel came surprisingly well calibrated out of the box and I’m seeing some light-bleeding around the corners, but no bezel pinches. There’s no guarantee you will get the same.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced configuration of the Asus ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435EAL, with an Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16 GB of LPDDR4x 4266 MHz memory, and a mid-level 1 TB Intel 660p SSD.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit is a pre-production model sent over by Asus and tested with the software available as of early-November 2020 (BIOS 200, MyAsus 188.8.131.52 app). Take our findings with a grain of salt, some aspects might change with future software updates.
Update: We were informed that the current software greatly skewed our initial benchmark results, so we decided to retract those results, as they were not accurate for the retail versions of this laptop. We’ll update this section as soon as we get a new finalized sample from Asus. Thanks for understanding.
Spec-wise, the ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX425EAL series is based on the late-2020 Intel Tiger Lake platform:
- the i7-1165G7 includes a 4C/8T processor with Max Turbo Speeds of 4.8 GHz and 12 MB of cache, plus Intel Iris Xe graphics with 96 EUs and up to 1.3 GHz clock speeds.
- the i5-1135G7 includes a 4C/8T processor with Max Turbo Speeds of 4.2 GHz and 8 GB of cache, plus Intel Iris Xe graphics with 80 EUs and up to 1.3 GHz clock speeds.
Both variants are paired with up to 16 GB of LPDDR4x memory soldered on the motherboard, and PCIe x4 storage (a single slot). Our test unit gets a middling Intel 660p drive, but I’d expect the retail versions to ship with faster SSDs, especially in the 1 TB variants. Both standard drives and drives with Intel Optane memory are offered. I do have to mention that the SSD runs a lot cooler in our tests in this chassis than on the other 2020 ZenBooks we’ve tested.
The storage is nonetheless upgradeable, but everything else is soldered. Getting inside is a simple task, it just requires poping up the back panel hold in place by a couple of Torx screws, all visible around the sides.
Update: We were informed that the current software greatly skewed our initial benchmark results, so we decided to retract those, as they were not accurate for the retail versions of this laptop. We’ll update this section as soon as we get a new finalized sample from Asus. Thanks for understanding.
Price and availability
The ZenBook 14 UX435 series is not yet available in stores at the time of this article, so I can’t fully comment on its pricing and availability.
I’d expect a fair premium over the standard ZenBook 14 UX425, though, so it should start at around $1200 for an i5 model or more. At the top, the standard full-size UX435EG is listed for around 2000 EUR in Germany, so this Ultralight version should go for at least the same, if not more.
We’ll update when we know more, and in the meantime, follow this link for updated prices and configurations in your region.
Update: We were informed that the current software greatly skewed our initial benchmark results, so I can’t draw final conclusions based on this sample. We’ll update the entire article as soon as we get a new finalized sample from Asus. Thanks for understanding.
— initial conclusion still available below —
While for the most part this ZenBook 14 Ultralight feels and works like the standard ZenBook 14s of this generation, there are a couple of aspects that could convince you to pay the extra for one of these.
Firstly, there’s the obvious difference in weight, with this model weighing under 1 kilo. If you’re carrying your laptop to work or school every day, this detail matters, even if the standard ZenBook 14 is also fairly compact and lightweight for a 14-incher, at 1.2 kilos. But that’s not all. The magnesium alloys used by this Ultralight series are also a lot friendlier in daily use than the aluminum on the other 14-inch ZenBooks, don’t show smudges as easily, and require less maintenance, plus this laptop also gets blunted and more comfortable edges.
On top of all these, this Ultralight series also gets a 3.5 mm jack, but in all fairness that’s also available on the standard 2020 ZenBook UX435 series (non-Ultralight). I know, all these names are highly confusing, nothing we can do about it.
These aside, the specs, the performance, the battery life, the screen options, and the overall build quality are all top-notch for both the Ultralight and the non-Ultralight ZenBooks of this generation. With a slight advantage for the Ultralight, as this one doesn’t creak when picked up.
On the other hand, I feel that the typing experience takes a hit on this Ultralight model compared to the regular ZenBook 14s, with a mushier and more unforgiving keyboard, at least on this early sample. And then, with the smaller form-factor comes a smaller screen-chin, which means that the hot air is blown straight into the matte panel, which reaches temperatures in the 50s Celsius right near the exhaust, and these could cause panel degradation over time. In fact, this is my single major gripe with this laptop, and something you should weigh in your decisions if you plan to run demanding loads or games on this ultrabook, which I’d expect you might since you’re opting for a Tiger Lake ultraportable to begin with.
Furthermore, that’s going to be an even greater issue on the ZenBook 14 UX435EGL models with the Nvidia MX450 dGPU, but we’ll talk about that once we get finalized drivers and can properly test it.
This wraps up our review of the Asus ZenBook 14 Ultralight UX435EAL series, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, so please get in touch in the comments section down below.
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