Around this time last year, Rory had the chance to take a look at the Asus Zenbook Flip S OLED, and while it wasn’t the end-all be-all for laptops, the key takeaway Rory had was that Asus’ move towards OLED displays was a great move. However, that did come with some caveats like higher price points and the usual problems of OLED displays like the risk of burn-in. As such, I personally didn’t think an OLED display would be that important. All you really need is a good, bright IPS display right? Just use the extra budget on important stuff like a better processor or more RAM duh.
And then I got to use the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, and suddenly everything made sense. I’m sorry I doubted you Rory, but I understand now.
OLED is out of this world
Now normally, when I get the opportunity to take a closer look at a laptop, I tend to start with what’s underneath as that’s what matters the most. However, with the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, I had to start with the display as it’s simply too good to skip. First, some basic specs on it; it’s a 14-inch, 16:10 OLED display pushing a 2.8K (2880 x 1800p) resolution with a 90Hz refresh rate. There’s also a 0.2ms response time and covers 100% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. By default it tops out at 400nits, but can hit a peak brightness of 600nits when viewing HDR content.
Almost immediately I noticed was just how bright this display was, which suited me just well—I absolutely love a bright display on my laptop and computer. I panned the Acer Swift X’s dim and dull display for instance, which was one of the biggest negatives on a laptop I deemed one of the best of 2021. As for the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, I’m glad to say that there’s absolutely no such problem here.
The colours on the display are also just so much more vivid and vibrant than nearly any other regular ol’ IPS display. It fact, it’s almost like staring into the screen of a flagship smartphone… which would make sense considering smartphones have just about made the switch to OLED and AMOLED panels. You’ll be seeing deeper blacks and more pronounced colours with incredible contrasts, and the viewing angles on it are very good too. Furthermore, the 90Hz refresh rate means a smoother time while browsing and working on the laptop.
Ultimately though, I will need to address the elephant in the room here. It’s a great display, but it’s also an OLED display meaning that it’s susceptible to what’s known as screen burn-in, which is when a static part of the image you’re viewing (like the taskbar, or a part of the UI on the screen) get’s permanently ‘burned’ onto the display. It typically happens when you’re viewing a static image over an extended period of time, which isn’t very common on smartphones as you’ll tend to turn off the display when not using it. However, on a laptop, even if you’re actively working and using it, there’s going to be some static elements like the Windows taskbar for instance.
That being said, there are some safety precautions that Asus have baked into their MyAsus software to help with that. These include a pixel refresh switch which launches a special screen saver after it detects you’ve been idle for 30 minutes and a pixel shift option which ever so slightly moves your pixels on static parts of your desktop. It also recommends you to turn on the Windows taskbar transparency effect which I do, as well as to automatically hide the Windows taskbar when in desktop mode which I personally do not use. It’s hard to tell if the display will eventually suffer from burn-in considering I’ve only used it for a month, but if we do end up with burn-in after a year or two we’ll update this article accordingly.
It will run hot though
Okay okay, I promise I’m done fawning over the display—let’s actually talk about performance now. The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED that we got comes with a 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1260P together with 16GB of 4800MHz LPDDR5 RAM and a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD. It’s also the first time I got to try out the P-series chips of the 12th Gen Intel Core lineup, which sits right between the powerful but power hungry H-series and the usual battery sipping U-series chips. However, just to be clear, the P-series is actually a similar class to previous generations’s 28W U-series chips; Intel has just decided to limit U-series on the 12th Gen lineup to 15W, and make the 28W mobile chips its own category instead.
As for the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED in particular, it’s a solid showing for the Core i7-1260P. Single core benchmark results in Cinebench R23 has it beating the Acer Swift X’s AMD Ryzen 5800U by quite a mark, though still loses out to it in multi core performance. The integrated Iris Xe graphics on the Zenbook 14 OLED also does pretty well here, outperforming similar integrated GPUs on last generation Intel mobile chips. It’s not exactly the best processor, but for most people’s regular workloads like surfing the web, word processing and the like, it’ll do just fine.
Beyond just synthetic benchmarks, the Zenbook 14 OLED shouldn’t be your first choice when it comes to gaming, but will still be able to hold its ground when it comes to some light gaming here and there. In older titles like Left 4 Dead 2, I was able to get it running just fine with medium settings. Assuming you don’t mind lower graphical settings and mediocre FPS numbers, sometimes you can get newer and heavier titles like F1 22 and FIFA 22 to work too at playable frame rates.
However, regardless of how good or powerful the Zenbook 14 OLED is, the first major issue I found with it is that the laptop’s all-aluminum body gets very, very warm. Laptops running hot isn’t a new issue by any means, and most high-performance machines will come with a lot of heat. But with the Zenbook 14 OLED, the issue isn’t that the chip underneath is running hot, the issue is that I can feel that heat coming through the chassis onto my fingers and palms. Whenever I start running plenty of programs on it, the keyboard starts getting a little warm to the touch, with the metal frame surrounding it also running hot. The bottom of the laptop meanwhile gets much hotter too, sometimes becoming a little bit too hot to handle for long periods of time. There wasn’t too much in terms of actual thermal throttling, but there were times during heavy workloads when it would take just a little longer than expected to get things running.
Meanwhile, when it comes to battery life, the Zenbook 14 OLED gets me about six hours on average with its 75Wh battery, which is decent enough, considering that I do leave brightness up high at at least 80% most of the time. I also typically have it set to the best performance power mode rather than balanced, along with having plenty of programs such as Discord, Slack, Adobe Photoshop and more open in the background while I work with at least two Google Chrome windows open at any one time. As such, you can probably eek out more in terms of battery life if you tweak your settings and use case here and there.
So what about everything else with the laptop?
Moving on from there, I’ll first point out what else I didn’t like about the Zenbook 14 OLED, starting with the godawful speakers. The down-firing stereo speakers on the Zenbook 14 OLED are simply atrocious, and not because they aren’t loud enough, but rather more of its sound profile being so hollow. There’s just little to no oomph with the speakers and seem like a complete mismatch when paired with that brilliant display. It’s a bit of a shame really that the audiovisual experience isn’t a solid combo, but if you find that you’ll be hooked up to a pair of earbuds or headphones most of the day anyway, then I guess that’s not going to be much of a problem for you anyway.
That is just about the only major nitpick left with the Zenbook 14 OLED that I have left though. I guess the only other minor issues I have here includes the display not being flush with the bezels around it, instead having plastic bezels with the screen sitting recessed into it rather than having a glass layer over it. The 720p webcam is also pretty mediocre, but will be just fine for video conferencing and the like. On top of that, the I/O available also isn’t great, but the two USB-C ports, single HDMI port, one USB-A port, one 3.5mm audio jack and one microSD card slot will suffice I guess, though again I would much prefer to see an additional USB-A port here as well as a full sized SD card slot.
Other than that though, the Zenbook 14 OLED has been pretty great to use, mostly in part thanks to that bonkers good display. The keyboard was also really nice to use, with plenty of travel and a solid tactile feel to it too. Furthermore, weighing in at just 1.39kg, it’s easy enough to carry around without feeling too bogged down by it. The touchpad on the other hand is great to use and reasonably big for its size.
You’ll even be able to catch the room’s attention even before you pop open the laptop to show off the display, as the Zenbook 14 OLED comes with this minimalistic yet intricate design, where glossy lines juxtapose the traditional matte metal finish on the laptop. And speaking of design, the laptop’s solid aluminum chassis means that it comes with very good build quality, with minimal deckflex and a sturdy feel to the body overall.
Does this make the Zenbook 14 OLED a winner?
Well…. it’ll depend on what you actually want in your laptop. First though, let’s take a look at how much the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED costs:
At over five and a half grand for the Zenbook 14 OLED, it’s a tough pill to swallow for what is essentially a regular ultraportable laptop with an OLED display. But again, like I said, it depends on what you want. If you’re out there looking for a laptop with a brilliant display, it’s hard to top Asus’ OLED laptops.
There’s the Apple MacBook laptops of course, whose Liquid Retina displays are perhaps among the best you can get in this regard. And if you take a look at the M2-powered MacBook Air for instance, it might even seem like a great deal as it starts at RM5,499 rather than the RM5,599 for the model that we reviewed, complete with a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display pushing a 2560 x 1664p resolution. But then you’ll want to take into account that the base model MacBook Air only comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage; for 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, the price jumps to a much higher RM7,899. Besides, if you only want that bonkers display, you could also go for the cheaper Core i5-1240P-powered Zenbook 14 OLED for RM4,399.
Alternatively, for a more direct OLED-to-OLED comparison, there’s also the Acer Swift 3 OLED. It’s not technically out yet in Malaysia, but it is coming, and considering the Swift’s penchant to be a great bang-for-buck laptop, it could be a great alternative to the Zenbook 14 OLED. It too will have a 14-inch, 16:10 display pushing a 2.8k resolution with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 0.2ms response time, but has a slightly lower peak brightness of 500nits. However, it will arguably be more powerful—and power hungry—thanks to it using the 12th Gen Intel Core H-series chips instead.
For me personally though, I don’t know if it’s worth paying that much for it over something like the much more capable Acer Swift X, which has stellar performance. Starting at RM4,299, it packs an AMD Ryzen 5 5600U with 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and even has an RTX3050 Ti in it for good measure. However, it does lose out considerably when it comes to the display, and the Zenbook 14 OLED does seem to have the edge in battery life too. But for RM100 less than what the comparably specced Zenbook 14 OLED goes for, it’s hard to not consider it especially if you need the graphics power.
I guess with all that being said, it really just comes down to what you—the person who’s actually using it—wants in a laptop. I mean, I get it now yes: OLED displays really are amazing, but I still don’t know if it’s worth paying the extra for it. But if you’re someone who finds that having a good display is just as important or even more important than the silicon under the hood, the Zenbook 14 OLED might just be the one to get.