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ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) Review – The Complete Package
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ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) Review – The Complete Package

by January 15, 2024
Overview
Warranty

2 years

Price

RM 4,499 (as tested)

Positives

+ Beautiful 2.8K OLED 120Hz display
+ Even lighter chassis over its predecessor
+ 16GB RAM works for most tasks
+ Significantly more powerful onboard GPU
+ Surprisingly good speaker quality
+ Impressive battery life

Negatives

- CPU performance is a mixed bag
- Palm rest gets quite warm during recharging
- Still attracts fingerprints

Pokde Scoreboard
Pokde Rating
Appearance
8.5
Efficiency
9.0
Features
8.3
Materials
8.0
Performance
8.0
Portability
9.0
User Experience
8.5
Value
9.0
Bottom Line

For the price, you're getting a lot of laptop out of ASUS's new Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405).

8.5
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Meet ASUS’s first Intel Core Ultra-powered laptop: the ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405). From the outside, there doesn’t seem to be much difference compared to its predecessor – but hold your judgment first. There’s a lot to cover with this new Zenbook, so let’s get into it.

Click here to purchase the ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) (via ASUS website)

Unboxing

Packaging-wise, it’s mostly identical when comparing the new Zenbook to the old one. One crucial difference is the box handle – it is now made of a cardboard-like material, as part of the company’s efforts to integrate fully recyclable material into the packaging. However, do take extra care as it is prone to break if you’re hand-carrying it over long distances, as ours did. Perhaps you can do with reinforcing the handle next time around, ASUS.

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Box contents

Opening the box, you’re greeted with a few items, including:

  • Power cable (UK, Type G)
  • USB-C PD power adapter (65W)
  • User guide
  • Quick start guide
  • MyASUS leaflet
  • USB-A to LAN adapter
  • Carrying case
  • The ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) laptop itself

Walkaround

For reference, the unit we’re reviewing today comes in the Ponder Blue color. (There’s also the Foggy Silver version that’ll come at a later date.) While the lid shares an identical design as its predecessor, one big difference sits within: the webcam array is now a whole lot busier than before, with two sensors – one FHD camera and the other being an IR sensor, responsible for Windows Hello facial recognition. The other two cutouts are likely ambient light or color sensors of sorts, based on what ASUS says.

The Windows Copilot key is all the rage right now for new laptops, but it seems likely that the new Zenbook is born just a bit too early to see the right Ctrl key turned into a dedicated AI button. Granted, it looks like Copilot is not yet available in Malaysia, so having that button right now would be kind of useless until the service gets officially introduced here.

Some changes have been made to the Fn row of the keyboard, which now includes two new functions: a dedicated Emoji button (which you had to press Win+period to access), and something called Directional Recording Mode. There’s also the microphone killswitch, of course. One omission here is the webcam killswitch – which is no longer needed given that the newly implemented mechanical shutter already takes care of that.

Touchpad, while unchanged, remains solid – and there’s also the integrated virtual NumberPad for improved convenience in data entry. Moving to the underside, here we see the intake has been revised, with much more perforations for fresh air to enter. This is likely coupled with the design decision to do away with the lift-hinge mechanism (which ASUS calls ErgoLift), which we’ll get in a bit.

The front and rear of the laptop are nothing out of the ordinary – with the rear exhaust hidden under the hinge to maintain a sleek look. This rear exhaust is assisted by a second exhaust located at the left side (image below), all with a single fan on this laptop. As mentioned, the laptop does away with the ErgoLift hinge, so in exchange, ASUS has raised the rubber feet by quite a bit to ensure there is less resistance for fresh air to enter the laptop’s underside.

I/O wise, it’s largely unchanged from its predecessor, though there is one exception – you lose the microSD card slot on the new one. Apart from that, all ports are located at the same location as before, with a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports at your disposal if you need more than just a few ports this laptop provides by default. Note that charging the laptop occupied either of the TB4 ports, but you can use a dock to utilize power passthrough in case you need two concurrent Thunderbolt connections.

Specifications

ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405M-APP146WS)

CPU Intel Core Ultra 5 125H (4P+8E+2LPE – 14 cores, 18 threads)
Intel Evo Edition certification
RAM 16GB LPDDR5X-7467 (soldered)
GPU Integrated: Intel Arc Graphics (7 Xe Cores)
NPU Intel AI Boost NPU (3720VE)
Storage Micron 2400 SSD 512GB (MTFDKBA512QFM-1BD1AABGB – PCIe 4.0, M.2 2280)
Display 14″ 2.8K 16:10 OLED
2880×1800@120Hz, 0.2ms response time
100% DCI-P3, 10-bit (1.07B colors)
400 nits max brightness / 600 nits peak HDR brightness
Glossy non-touch panel
VESA DisplayHDR True Black 600 Certification
TÜV Rheinland Certified
SGS Eye Care Display
Speakers Downward-firing stereo speakers tuned by harman/kardon
Dolby Atmos Support
Webcam ASUS AISense 1080p 3DNR IR camera
Ambient light/color sensor
Dual mechanical shutter
I/O
Left:
1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) Type-A
Right:
1x 3.5mm combo jack
1x HDMI 2.1
2x Thunderbolt 4 (DisplayPort 2.1 Alt Mode, 65W USB-C Power Delivery support)
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3 (Intel AX211)
Battery 75Wh 4-cell Li-ion
Power Supply 65W, USB-C Power Delivery
Operating System Windows 11 Home
Dimensions 312.4 x 220.1 x 14.9 mm
Weight 1.20kg
Click here to purchase the ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) (via ASUS website)

Performance

All benchmarks are measured under Standard power profile unless otherwise noted.

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Inside this laptop you get a PCIe 4.0 SSD by default, in this case we have a 512GB SSD courtesy of Micron 2400 SSD. The sequential performance measured here is more or less what Micron advertised, and smaller SSD capacities usually are slower in write speeds. Still, the random I/O does indicate that its realistic performance should be better than other drives out there.

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Moving on to the CPU test. Before going through the numbers, there are a few things you need to understand about the Intel Core Ultra 5 125H processor, with appropriate contexts. First, the Core Ultra should be directly compared to the Core i5-1340P. In terms of core counts – the Core Ultra chip gained two new Low Power E-cores (we’ll be referring this as LPE-cores going forward), on top of 4 P-cores and 8 E-cores.

Also, see the difference in suffixed letters in their model numbers? Here’s the deal: Intel skipped the ‘P’ series entirely this generation – however, the Core Ultra 5 is still a 28W chip. H-series chips, meanwhile, have always denoted 45W-class chips. As a matter of fact – only the Core Ultra 9 185H runs at a 45W TDP in the Meteor Lake lineup. Let’s say we’re not a fan of this new naming system.

Anyways – onto numbers. The Zenbook’s Core Ultra 5 does manage to edge out the competition here, although it’s worth noting that the power envelope dictates performance more than the chips themselves in lightweight laptops like this one. Under the Standard power profile, the CPU stabilizes at 20W during long-term workloads, whereas short bursts can use up to 63W, then immediately fall to 35W, before slowly lowering its power target to the 20W stabilized state.

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…which is why in a sustained multicore workload like the new Cinebench 2024, the Core Ultra simply fell behind both Ryzen chips we’ve tested thus far. Granted, this power curve is designed to not burn your laps – the CPU stayed at 75°C at 20W of power draw, but any kind of instantaneous power bursts will creep into 100°C+ in no time, including putting the laptop under Performance power profile. We measured a peak temperature of 107°C under short bursts of power in CB2024 in this mode (and it scored 561 points after the run).

For single-thread performance, there doesn’t seem to be any improvement at all – and Intel did quietly note that the Meteor Lake architecture is, in fact, slower in single-core than its Raptor Lake (13th Gen) predecessors. That puts its performance territory roughly the same as the Ryzen 7040 “Phoenix” series APUs.

Side note: while pushing for a chassis this thin does have some negative effects on thermal management (and usually whinier fans as a result), I’m glad to report that the fans stay mostly silent during normal use. Conveniently, the MyASUS app now provides fan speed monitoring – and it says the fans stay at 2000 RPM during normal use, whereas Performance mode will pin it to 5000 RPM under maximum load.

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While the CPU performance of the Core Ultra 5 is admittedly a bit underwhelming, this is not the case for its onboard GPU. The 7-core, Xe-LPG-powered Arc Graphics managed to edge ahead of the AMD Ryzen 7 7840U on the Acer Swift Edge 16, likely with the help of the super-fast LPDDR5X-7467 RAM.

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The gap is even larger in favor of the Arc Graphics, giving the Intel GPU a whopping 50% lead over the AMD GPU. However, it’s worth pointing out that AMD’s RDNA architecture traditionally does not scale well in this particular benchmark, so only use this as a point of reference. (The Superposition 4K benchmark above should paint a more accurate picture of performance.)

For the new generation of laptops with neural processing capabilities – like this Zenbook – we’re now also including tests to evaluate its performance. For now though, it’s difficult to compare as one, the sample size is limited for now; and two, NPUs of today function like a dedicated accelerator similar in nature to a video encoder/decoder, where the performance or capability is universal across all chips on that generation. However, over time we may see the specs for AI chips possibly diverge as use cases expand.

Still, here’s what we can infer from the limited amount of performance testing we get, through UL’s Procyon suite. Here’s an interesting one: Procyon compares the AI performance using CPU, GPU, and NPU – and we know that GPU is much faster than CPU as it is highly parallelized in nature. How does the NPU stack up against the GPU on the same test? From the performance perspective, if you’re running something like Stable Diffusion, the Arc GPU is going to be better at it, although not by that much.

However, one advantage NPU has is its efficiency. GPU is designed for general-purpose computing first and foremost, so think of it as “jack of all trades” silicon, hence the efficiency may not be as good as a chip that is solely engineered to do only the kind of calculations that AI workloads require. In the same Procyon test, we observed the total chip power measuring around 25 watts when the GPU is used, whereas that figure cuts by more than half, to just 11.5 watts on average, when the NPU is used instead.

Note that the numbers may not be comparable across architectures as each vendor has their own implementation of AI framework – in this case, Intel chips are optimized for its OpenVINO framework, which is not compatible with chips from NVIDIA, for example.

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Here on Novabench, the tables get turned in favor of AMD when you compare the Zenbook against the Swift in terms of GPU performance. This may be an optimization issue or just the inherent nature of the difference in graphics architecture – but the takeaway here both Intel and AMD’s GPUs have their strengths and weaknesses. On the CPU side of things, AMD edges out the Intel chip, the same goes for the SSD and RAM segments of the test, which Acer proved superior.

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Next is PCMark 10: the onboard Arc GPU puts the Core Ultra 5 chip onto second best in the Digital Content Creation category, only ever-so-slightly behind the Radeon 780M housed inside the Ryzen 7840U powering the Acer Swift. The overall score also puts the Zenbook second on this list, with its main deficit being the Productivity score, where AMD laptops are far ahead. Still, it holds ground on its own compared to laptops powered by previous-gen Intel processors.

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And here’s the best part of this laptop, so good that I almost dropped my jaw seeing this number: the Zenbook managed to run for a whopping 14 hours 42 minutes on a single charge, far outlasting any laptop we’ve tested in this chart, and is among the longest-lasting laptop we’ve ever tested. Mind you, the previous-gen Zenbook “only” lasted for 10 hours and 26 minutes. Very impressive showing for both ASUS and Intel here.

One thing to point out that’s not visible through this chart is the standby power. This laptop behaves basically like a smartphone – I’d argue it can even outlast them when you leave both on sleep – as it sips so little power that you don’t have to worry about it losing power overnight anymore. Is this LPE-core’s magic? It could be, but the result is just amazingly good.

The Good

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Starting with the good stuff – the Zenbook 14 OLED is packed with a lot of them. The display, as usual, continues to impress. For a laptop in this class, this panel is just about as good as you can get, in terms of resolution, color, and refresh rate. All is packed within an even thinner, lighter chassis, measuring 14.9mm and 1.2kg respectively – I imagine this laptop would be popular among students or workers on the go due to how easily transportable it is.

On that note, they will also appreciate the amazing battery life this laptop offers. This is one of the very few laptops that I think truly goes into the “all-day battery” category without actually worrying about power usage, turning on power saving features and whatnot, and the sheer efficiency is truly a testament of the work both ASUS and Intel has done here.

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Performance-wise, there’s highlights, too. The new Arc Graphics is significantly more powerful over its Iris Xe predecessor, and is capable of matching, if not edging out, the AMD’s best on offer, the Radeon 780M. Keep in mind that this is still a cut-down variant of the Arc iGPU, so comparing this to something like Radeon 760M would give the Arc even bigger advantage. The laptop also comes packed with 16GB of RAM – plenty for most work, and even for Stable Diffusion if you’re into that.

Another thing worth commending ASUS for is the speakers. The new super-linear unit on the Zenbook legitimately surprised me with the amount of bass, mids and highs it can deliver – although it’s worth saying that it’s not perfectly right out of the box for some. Those who like the V-shaped EQ curve might find the bass slightly low and the mids a bit too high to their liking, but other than that, this is a very good pair of speakers for media consumption uses.

The Bad

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While the Zenbook 14 OLED is impressive in many things, there’s a few quirks, too. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: since the chassis is largely unchanged, expect plenty of fingerprints. At this point, it’s pretty much a Zenbook thing – so maybe the company needs to look into new materials to prevent these visual annoyances from appearing, especially from users with sweaty hands.

Another thing worth pointing out is the CPU performance itself. It’s not bad per se – but there’s no performance improvement to speak of, though part of that blame goes to Intel as the new architecture is in fact regressed in single-core performance. To be fair to Team Blue, there’s a minor improvement in multi-core performance, which is likely down to the extra pair of LPE-cores contributing to overall performance.

Finally, a small detail – if you’re charging this laptop, you may find the right side of the touchpad to be particularly hot. ASUS did say it employs fast charging for its 75Wh battery, which means the battery charging circuitry can get pretty heated as a result.

Verdict

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The configuration that we have today, in the Core Ultra 5 125H + 16GB RAM + 512GB SSD configuration, will cost RM4,499 apiece. There’s also the higher-end configuration with Core Ultra 7 155H + 32GB RAM + 1TB SSD, but that one in my opinion is slightly worse off in terms of value proposition.

For the price of the Core Ultra 5 model, you’re getting a lot of laptop out of the ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) – this laptop basically ticked every box any typical user would demand out of their machine, and for someone as picky as myself, I could hardly find any significant flaw in the entire package. If I didn’t have a particular need for a firepower-heavy laptop today, this would be my next laptop.

So good job ASUS, you truly earned this Gold Pokdeward.

rog-ryujin-ii-360-review-gold-pokdeward

Click here to purchase the ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) (via ASUS website)

Special thanks to ASUS Malaysia for providing us with the Zenbook 14 OLED (UX3405) for this review.

About The Author
Low Boon Shen
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