Slim and light laptops are becoming more affordable, and it's always good to see manufacturers paying attention to what people really want. If, like me, you spend most of your day using a laptop and have to carry it with you wherever you go, it had better not become a burden. Thankfully modern laptops use slim SSDs and CPUs that don't require very heavy cooling, and of course it's safe now to drop optical drives and several legacy ports, all of which help.
Still, while I do of course like having all the latest hardware and high-end specifications, usability is just as important as being able to check a bunch of boxes on a list. In particular, I look for a comfortable keyboard and trackpad, battery life, portability, and sturdiness. If these factors are not in place, the raw power, looks, and other bells and whistles hardly matter.
That's why I'm reviewing the Asus ZenBook UX425JA today. This 14-inch ultraportable weighs just 1.17kg which is lighter than even the current-gen MacBook Air, but promises versatility and power. I've been impressed with previous ZenBook UX-series models, so let's see what the latest one has in store.
The most striking aspect of the ZenBook UX425JA is just how thin and light it is. This is a 14-inch laptop that is smaller than some 13-inch models from not too long ago. It's also just 14mm thick at its thickest point. Asus says it has used an aluminium alloy for durability. The entire body is metal, including the keyboard deck and bottom. This model is available in a Pine Grey finish, which Asus describes as “calm” and “wise”, and I like the fact that there are no blingy gold accents this time.
The body actually looks somewhat blue-grey under bright light. There's an off-centre Asus logo on the lid, with the trademark Zen-series concentric circle design radiating out from it. The brushed metal effect is very subtle and you might not even notice it at first. Overall, this is a smart, professional-looking laptop that you can carry with you anywhere. The equivalent 13-inch ZenBook UX325 model is available only in Lilac Mist, which is a little less neutral.
Asus claims that this is the world's thinnest 14-inch laptop with a full set of ports, but that's a contentious claim. Sure, you get a full-sized HDMI output and a standard USB Type-A port, which I do appreciate, but there's no 3.5mm audio socket. Like on modern smartphones, Asus apparently thought it would be okay to drop this basic, universal standard (which even Apple hasn't done on its most minimalist laptops) and I strongly disagree. You do get a dongle in the box — more on that later — but this will be a huge inconvenience in many situations.
The left and right screen borders are 2.9mm thin, but there's enough room above the screen for a webcam where it needs to be. That's important, since face recognition is another one of this laptop's selling points. At least modernity and practicality have been balanced here. The screen itself is non-glossy, which is great for productivity.
Opening the lid inclines the lower half of the laptop at a relatively unnoticeable 3 degree angle. Asus says this improves ergonomics, but it's more to do with allowing better air intake through the vents on the bottom and exhaust from right above the hinge.
On the lower half we have a fairly well-spaced keyboard that nearly reaches the edges of the laptop's body. Immediately, I noticed the row of dedicated paging keys on the right, which I always like to see. The arrow keys are unfortunately compressed into one row, but are much wider than usual and are also slightly isolated, so they're easy to find by touch alone.
The keyboard is quite comfortable. The action is a bit spongy but key travel is good for such a slim body, and nothing is out of place. The power button in the top-right corner is a little stiffer than the others to help prevent accidental presses. You get three levels of white backlighting but I found the light leaking through the bottoms of the keycaps a bit distracting.
You won't get Asus' exotic ScreenPad LCD screen trackpad here, but there are still a few hidden tricks. With one tap in the upper right corner, the trackpad can turn into a number pad, which is super convenient for quick calcuations and data entry. The backlit numbers work just like a physical number pad, and there are even math symbols. The best part is that while the number pad is active, it can still differentiate between trackpad taps and intentional use of the numbers, so you can continue to move your cursor around and select things as usual without switching modes. The backlight will turn itself off after a few seconds of inactivity, but the number pad will be ready to spring back to life when touched.
Not only is this super convenient, but there's another shortcut. A swipe inward from the upper left corner will pull up the Windows Calculator app, and another swipe will dismiss it. The combination of shortcuts can really come in handy sometimes. As for the trackpad's basic functionality, its generous dimensions make working in Windows a breeze, and it was always smooth and accurate. Windows 10 multi-touch gestures also worked well for me.
Starting at Rs. 79,990, the ZenBook UX425JA isn't the most affordable laptop, but prices have risen across the industry of late, so that's something to factor into your purchase decision. The 13-inch ZenBook UX325 starts at the same price. The base variant has a Core i5-1035G1 CPU with Intel UHD integrated graphics, and 8GB of RAM. I'm reviewing the variant priced at Rs. 95,990, which has a Core i7-1065G7 GPU with more powerful Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics and 16GB of RAM.
These CPUs are Intel's 10th Gen ‘Ice Lake' 10nm models, which have a few modern features such as AI-based acceleration for certain kinds of workloads. They're also supposed to run efficiently in slim laptops without generating much heat or chugging too much power. Asus has used soldered, non-upgradable LPDDR4X RAM, but both variants have a modular 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD.
The full-HD 1920x1080-pixel has a 300nits maximum brightness which is good enough for productivity and entertainment. Asus advertises some other premium models with colour-calibrated screens and advanced gamut coverage, but not for the ZenBook UX425JA.
In terms of connectivity, there's an HDMI 2.0 video output and two Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports on the left. The Thunderbolt ports support DisplayPort video output and USB Power Delivery charging. On the right, you get a USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-A Port and a microSD card slot. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 round out the wireless options.
Asus bundles USB Type-A to Ethernet and Type-C to 3.5mm adapters with the ZenBook UX425JA. The audio dongle appears to be active, and is High-Res certified. This still doesn't make the lack of a 3.5mm socket okay — you might need to plug in a pair of earphones for any number of reasons when out and about, and there's no telling if you'll have a pair of Type-C or Bluetooth earphones handy. The fabric sleeve that's included with this laptop doesn't even have a pouch for the dongle and of course it would be easy to lose.
There's a 67Wh battery, and Asus claims up to 22 hours of productivity. You can use either of the two Thunderbolt 3 ports to charge this laptop. The included 65W adapter is relatively compact and is USB Type-C Power Delivery compliant. This will let you quickly charge the battery from zero to 60 percent in under an hour, but you can also charge it slowly using other Type-C adapters or even a power bank.
I had a generally pleasant time using the ZenBook UX425JA. It's light enough to take anywhere in even a small bag, but you might not want to use it directly on your lap because of the vents on the bottom. I was happy that there was very little fan noise, even when running heavy workloads. The centre and left side of the keyboard can get a bit warm but the palm rest areas stayed comfortable throughout.
I was a little wary of physical sturdiness, considering how slim and light this laptop is. The lid doesn't flex much at all though, and there's no warping on screen when I tried. The hinge runs the entire width of this laptop and makes contact with your desk surface when open, so the lid stays relatively stable. I also liked the fact that the base stays stable when opening the laptop with one finger. However, the keybed does flex a little bit when typing.
The keyboard and trackpad are comfortable and easy to work with. I noticed some degradation of contrast and colour fidelity on the screen when watching any content at a sharp angle. I don't think this laptop is particularly great for entertainment in a group, but it was fine for just me sitting directly in front of it. The speakers produce surprisingly loud and crisp sound, with nearly no distortion, but the bass is weak.
Windows 10 ran perfectly fine, and the ZenBook UX425JA booted quickly enough. I had no trouble with everyday apps, running several browser tabs including Web apps and streaming video simultaneously. Asus has preinstalled McAfee LiveSafe which did pester me with very large pop-up advertisements to purchase a subscription.
The MyAsus dashboard app offers system diagnostics, customer support, driver updates, and a few promotional offers on downloadable software. You can adjust parameters for battery health, display colour modes, fan profiles, and more. There's also a ‘Link to MyAsus' feature that lets you pair an Android or iOS phone via Bluetooth and receive calls and notifications on the laptop, including the ability to reply to notifications. You can also transfer files and URLs if you have the MyAsus app installed on your phone. On Android, there's also the ability to mirror your phone's screen or use it as an extended display.
The 512GB SSD showed sequential read and write scores of 1856.5MBps and 976MBps respectively in CrystalDiskMark 6, and this performance contributes to the overall snappiness of the ZenBook UX425JA. Compressing a 3.24GB folder of assorted files with 7zip took 2 minutes, 52 seconds, and transcoding a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 in Handbrake took 1 minute, 46 seconds.
As for overall system performance, PCMark 10 reported scores of 4,205 and 3,443 in its standard and Extended runs respectively. Cinebench R20 completed its single-threaded and multi-threaded render tests with scores of 436 and 1,383 respectively. POV-Ray's benchmark test ran in 4 minutes, 24 seconds.
The ZenBook UX425JA isn't a gaming laptop by any stretch, and graphics power is limited to the integrated Intel Iris Plus GPU. You can expect to run simple 3D games, or maybe some older titles at low settings, but most relatively modern AAA games aren't going to work. 3DMark's Time Spy and Night Raid tests put up 810 and 7,483 points respectively. I fired up Shadow of the Tomb Raider and managed only 14fps at the Lowest graphics quality setting with the resolution pulled down to 1280x720. Disabling anti-aliasing entirely raised that to only 17fps.
Asus makes some impressive claims about battery life. In real-world use, I wasn't able to get anywhere near 22 hours of use, but I did manage to get through a full 8-10 hour workday with light browser-based apps running and some media streaming in the background. The CPU-intensive Battery Eater Pro benchmark ran for a 3 hours, 24 minutes which is very good.
I really like the ZenBook UX425JA, and I think that Asus has done very well overall, delivering such a portable yet capable laptop. It has no severe shortcomings, and its performance and battery life will be fine as long as you aren't expecting to do serious content creation work or play modern games. Students and working folks will like it a lot.
While this laptop should be handled with care, it's pretty sturdy for something so slim and light. The keyboard, trackpad, and screen are good for productivity and the light-up number pad is genuinely useful without detracting from core functionality.
Of course it isn't perfect, though. The biggest problem I have is the lack of a standard 3.5mm audio socket, and I'd happily trade a few millimetres and grams to have one. It's frankly ridiculous that a laptop has tried to ditch this standard, and I do hope this isn't the beginning of a trend. The display is slightly underwhelming for entertainment, though fine for productivity. Also, if you were hoping for a touchscreen or cellular data, you'll have to look elswhere.
The ZenBook UX425JA will compete with Xiaomi's Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition on the low end, and the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre models as well as the MacBook Air (2020) if you have a generous budget. The variant I tested officially costs Rs. 95,990, which is a lot to pay. Still, a laptop like this would have cost much more not too long ago. The Core i5 variant at Rs. 79,990 will be more attractive, and is an interesting option for those who want something one step up from the mainstream.
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