ASUS has been one of the early adopters of the ultrabooks under the ZenBook series of laptops. However, the ZenBooks were always with Intel-inside only. Now, the new ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431D is using completely AMD-only inside – including GPU.
It’s good to see ASUS going AMD this time around because the laptop space has been stagnant in terms of hardware – and perhaps the AMD-powered ZenBook offers something different? Let’s find out in this review.
Overall, we think that the new ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431D still has the high-quality, premium build quality from the other Intel-powered ZenBooks that we’ve got used to. It still has the iconic concentric circle design on the lid too.
ASUS also shook things up by applying a fresh coat of paint called the Utopia Blue. It looks mostly silver – but it does have a tinge of blue in it. I didn’t realize it at first until I looked at it at a certain lighting condition.
The I/O ports here are a bit of a mixed bag. On this laptop, we have:
- Power jack
- Full-sized HDMI
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
- Full-sized SD card reader
- Combo audio jack
- USB 2.0 Type-A
I mean, at this point, USB 2.0 should be completely phased out. Perhaps ASUS expected us to use that USB 2.0 port for an external mouse – but then again, if it is placed on the right side, then it’ll hinder my mouse movement anyway.
However, I do love the full-sized SD card reader. I think for many other laptops from ASUS’s catalog should have this instead of a microSD card reader.
Opening up the laptop, we’re immediately greeted by the ErgoLift hinge that lifts the laptop by a few degrees to make it ergonomic to type on – and also to improve the breathability of the laptop.
It is here that we can see the new ZenBook layout. There are two speakers here – one on each side of the keyboard and two more below the wrist rest area. The speakers are definitely loud – but they still don’t sound the best. Great improvement over the other laptops, though.
Once again, the laptop here is covered in the Utopia Blue color. One interesting thing is that the keyboard still uses the gold-colored legends like the previous ZenBooks with the Royal Blue color. However, on the ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431D, the legends look very orange and I can’t help but feel a mismatch in the colors. Perhaps it needs some time for this color scheme to grow on me.
As of now, I’m just going to disable the backlight of the keyboard because that orange color with this Utopia Blue color is just not my cup of tea.
Other than the color scheme, the keyboard itself is great to type on. It feels responsive and fun to type on as it has a great keyboard layout with properly-sized keycaps (except the arrow keys) and I absolutely love this keyboard.
As for the trackpad, it uses Windows Precision Touchpad drivers and supports all the fancy Windows 10 gestures, and it also has a fingerprint scanner at the top right corner for quicker login via Windows Hello.
Some sharp-eyed readers might have realized that the ASUS ZenBook 14 which was unveiled this year at Computex had ScreenPad. Well, unfortunately, the Malaysian version does not have ScreenPad.
But then again, the ZenBook 14 UM431D does come with a beautiful 14-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen with 86% screen-to-body ratio and has 100% sRGB color gamut coverage. The brightness however, could’ve been better for outdoor uses.
Then comes the brains of the ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431D. The specs set it apart from the usual ZenBooks that we’ve seen, but it does come with some drawbacks:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
- GPU: Radeon Vega 8
- RAM: 8GB DDR4-2400
- SSD: 512GB PCIe Gen3x2
The biggest drawback here is that for us Malaysians, ASUS is only selling the 8GB RAM variant of this laptop. The RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded, yet 2GB out of the 8GB RAM will be reserved as VRAM for the Radeon Vega 8 GPU. That means we only have 6GB of RAM to work with – which is not sufficient for our day-to-day use as we open lots of Chrome tabs and have Photoshop open most of the time.
The performance, however, is an interesting one. The AMD Ryzen 5 3500U performance is somewhere between a Core i3 and a Core i5, but the Radeon Vega 8 is miles ahead of the Intel integrated graphics.
That means we can play some games on the ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431D – which is just unheard of for an ultrabook. But it gets even more interesting as we can last for about 9 hours on the battery while using this laptop on our usual workload. That’s just mindblowing.
Another mindblowing thing here is the price. The ASUS ZenBook 14 UM431D is only priced at RM2,999 – and I literally gasped when I heard the price. This is the company’s most affordable ultrabook to date while maintaining that superbly high-quality build quality and that magnificent keyboard and trackpad, coupled with long battery life.
My only complaint about this laptop is going to be the non-upgradable 8GB soldered RAM. To add salt to injury, only 6GB is usable since 2GB is reserved for VRAM. It’s just insufficient for our usage – but we do get better gaming performance with the Radeon Vega 8 GPU. I just wish ASUS brought in the 16GB variant to Malaysia as well.
However, we do see the ZenBook 14 UM431D as an everyday laptop to get some simple Microsoft Office work done, with Chrome running YouTube and social media. Maybe Spotify and lightweight Photoshop too. For that use case, the ZenBook 14 UM431D is an instant recommendation from us.