The work laptop I recommend to most people is not made by Apple or Lenovo



Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The 2024 Asus Zenbook 14 is available now for $799 and is a contender to be one of the best work laptops of the year.
  • It’s affordable, sports the latest hardware, and has a long battery life; all packed into a form factor that weighs less than three pounds.
  • As great as it is, this laptop has a tendency to run hot.

Among the plethora of work laptops, the 2024 Asus Zenbook 14 stands out above the rest. It performs incredibly well, has a comfortable keyboard, long-lasting battery, and bright, smooth display. There isn’t a single category where this device doesn’t excel. This Zenbook model is one of the best laptops I’ve used this year alongside the Dell XPS 16, and is nothing short of fantastic — especially at this price point.

Also: This Asus laptop looks unassuming, but it has a powerful feature creatives will love

Now that I’ve sufficiently sang its praises, let’s get into what makes the Zenbook 14 so good, starting with its battery. No matter which power mode the machine is set to, you can expect it to last the entire workday. I performed my usual test of running an endlessly playing YouTube live stream at 720p and 50 percent brightness. 

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On Best Performance, the battery ran for about 6.5 hours before dying. On Balanced, it surpassed that time by going over 10 hours. Then on Best Power Efficiency, the Zenbook 14 lasted a whopping 12 hours. Keep in mind these times were all achieved without the battery saver turned on. With that setting enabled, I expect run times to be even longer.

I was genuinely surprised by how long the device lasted, and haven’t been this impressed with a laptop’s battery performance since the Acer Chromebook Spin 714. It seems the model’s longevity is owed to the hardware.

Also: How I turned a cheap gaming monitor into the ultimate productivity tool 

Asus went with an energy-efficient chipset for this laptop, which greatly contributes to its impressive battery life. The processor on my review unit was an Intel Core Ultra 5 125H bundled with an integrated Intel graphics card and 8GB of RAM. Make no mistake: that is not a particularly high-end configuration. But it doesn’t need it. It performs this efficiently thanks to its secret weapon: a neural processing unit (or NPU).

NPUs are a recent addition to laptops, with 2024 seeing their large-scale integration. To oversimplify what they do, NPUs harness AI to boost the performance of CPUs and GPUs by taking some of the load off them. For example, while testing this laptop, I was able to have 50 tabs open across six windows, all without experiencing a drop in performance. Impressive performance indeed, considering the hardware.

Also: Microsoft is banking on this next-gen AI chip to beat the Apple MacBook, and I saw it firsthand

In addition, Asus equipped this laptop with a 14-inch, OLED display outputting a Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,200 pixels) image at a refresh rate of 60Hz. Recent laptops have shifted towards supporting 120Hz refresh rates for velvety smooth video, and it would’ve been nice to have the Zenbook join the party, but 60 Hz is fine for most applications. 

Instead, it makes up for the lower speeds by sporting a vibrant display. The screen covers the entire PCI-3 gamut, enabling bright, vivid colors and a FullHD resolution that results in highly-detailed images. Plus, the bezels around the display are very thin, resulting in a display with a 16:10 aspect ratio for wide-angle viewing.

All in all, this laptop has a marvelous design. It weighs less than three pounds yet is quite durable since it has an exterior made primarily from aluminum. Even the screen is tough, as Asus used Corning Gorilla Glass in its construction. However, since it’s so thin, there aren’t a ton of ports on this laptop. All it has is one USB-A input, two USB-Cs, a headphone/earphone jack combo, and an HDMI port. At least the basics are covered.

Personally, I appreciate laptops with great keyboards, and the Zenbook 14 does not disappoint. It comes equipped with the company’s patented ErgoSense technology which, as the name suggests, makes the keyboard ergonomically friendly. Each of the keys has a travel distance of 1.4mm travel distance, letting you type on them without having to press the buttons all the way down. This alleviates some of the stress on your fingers. Also, ErgoSense replicates the key spacing on full-sized keyboards, ensuring accurate typing.


Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

Now you may be wondering: what’s the catch? Is the Asus Zenbook 14 as perfect as you say it is? Well, there are a couple of considerations here. One issue is more of a pet peeve of mine: the speakers are at the bottom of the laptop, facing down, resulting in some muffled audio. Fortunately, they’re still powerful enough despite their poor placement. Music and media sound great coming from these speakers, but I did notice some audio distortion occurring at high volume.

Also: Asus’ new laptop is a solid MacBook alternative that’s better in several ways

My biggest issue with the laptop is the fact it can run incredibly warm. You can’t even type on the keyboard or have it on your legs without discomfort. Heat vents are found on the bottom and the side, but they don’t offer much relief. This problem is exacerbated if you try to use the laptop while charging. There’s so much heat that typing on the keyboard becomes uncomfortable. You’re honestly better off not using the laptop during this time.

ZDNET’s buying advice

The Asus Zenbook 14 is a solid work laptop. It boasts great performance, a crisp display, sturdy design, comfortable keyboard, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t even mention the 1080p webcam, the anti-fingerprint coating covering the trackpad, or maybe the best part of all: the affordable price.

You can purchase my review unit’s configuration on Best Buy for $799.99, but there’s always the option to upgrade the hardware if you’re looking for something with more power behind it. A Zenbook 14 sporting an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor, Intel Arc GPU, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage will run you $1,049. No matter which one you get, it’ll be worth the low price.

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