“OLED Screens in Affordable Devices” was the running theme of the laptop market this year. Between Lenovo’s 13-inch Chromebook Duet 5 and various 13-inch Windows options from Dell and Asus, 2021 really turned the OLED laptop from a luxury product to one, well, a little less luxury, if you know where to look have to .
The Asus Vivobook Pro 14 OLED is an attempt to bring OLED into another unprecedented form factor: the midrange workstation. It’s said to be the first 14-inch OLED laptop on the market, as well as the first OLED laptop with a refresh rate of 90Hz. Of course, it won’t deserve any of those nicknames until it’s actually released, which it hasn’t yet – Samsung (which makes the screen) and Asus claim “early 2022”.
Instead of being geared towards a multimedia experience – as 13-inchers like Dell’s XPS 13 OLED, Asus’ own Zenbook 13 OLED, and Samsung’s Galaxy Book Pro are – the Vivobook is here to work. It is equipped with AMD’s powerful eight-core processor Ryzen 9 5900HX and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050 GPU. It is aimed at creative work, on the go, on a budget.
With that in mind, my review unit (16GB of RAM, 1TB of storage) is a strong package for $ 1,199 – less than half the MSRP of a comparable 14-inch MacBook Pro. (Samsung gave me this price with the heavy reservation that it could change before it is released. You have my word that in that case I will change the VivoBook’s score accordingly and republish this review.) It has a good port selection, it’s not too difficult, and the speakers and microphones should meet your video calling needs. Still, there are weird things here and there that you won’t see on more expensive devices (and even many others at this price point). It’s an impressive and powerful machine, but it won’t be the right everyday driver for everyone.
If you’re considering this Vivobook, it’s probably because of the screen. I vouch for that: The 2.8K (2880 x 1800) 16:10 OLED panel is very nice and has a higher resolution than you normally see on OLED laptops of this size. It offers impressive contrasts, vivid colors and sharp details, reproduces 100 percent of the sRGB color space and achieves a maximum brightness of 399 nits. The hallmark of OLED technology is of course that black is completely black (since the individual pixels simply switch themselves off). Samsung claims the panel also emits less blue light than other displays, and you can select an “Eye Care” color profile in the MyAsus app that will make everything slightly yellow.
While the 90Hz refresh rate may not be a necessity for many people’s jobs, it is a nice bonus too. Scrolling is pleasantly fluid – once you get used to it, switching back to 60 Hz is downright painful. This is sure to be one of the sleekest screens you can get at $ 1,199 (again, assuming the VivoBook stays there).
If the screen didn’t spark your interest in the Vivobook, then it was probably the chip. The eight-core Ryzen 9 5900HX in my device is the most powerful processor that AMD makes for thin and light laptops. It’s unusual to see such a powerful chip combined with a GPU in such a small device – apart from Apple devices, this is one of the most powerful 14-inchers out there.
In the table below you can see how the Vivobook fared in various synthetic benchmarks. It goes without saying that the Ryzen 5900HX and RTX 3050 handily beat what we’ve seen with similarly sized AMD machines with integrated graphics like the Zenbook 13 OLED.
The more important question for many creatives is where exactly is the Vivobook among the MacBooks that represent the current gold standard and that we recommend to anyone for whom money is not an issue – they also have extraordinary screens.
The bad (but not surprising) news for Asus is that the Vivobook got less than half the score the 14-inch MacBook Pro got on PugetBench for Premiere Pro, which measures video export and playback time at 4K and 8K. (The MacBook got 1072, the Vivobook 494.) It also took twice as long to complete our real-world 4K export (although that task is an AMD weakness and an Apple strength) – it took seven minutes and 36 seconds where that Macbook only needed two and a half.
But it does get better results than the 13-inch MacBook Pro (that is $ 700 more for comparable specs) on some of these benchmarks and is comparable on most of the others. There’s a compelling argument that if for whatever reason you’re considering the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the Vivobook Pro is well worth a look too. (The 13-inch OLED Zenbook took over 14 minutes to export and achieved a 201 in the benchmark.)
It was also impressive how easy these tasks seemed to be for the 5900HX. The Vivobook’s fans ran throughout my benchmark test, but they were always so quiet that I could work on another device at the same desk without the distraction. The CPU temperatures were very much under control during the synthetic benchmarks – I saw some spikes during the export, but nothing above the high 80s (Celsius). In other words, these well-known CPU-heavy tasks didn’t put the Vivobook under too much stress.
Asus Vivobook Pro 14 benchmarks
|Cinebench R23 Multi||10270|
|Cinebench R23 single||1472|
|Cinebench R23 Multi looped for 30 minutes||8945|
|Geekbench 5.3 CPU Multi||7109|
|Geekbench 5.3 CPU Single||1505|
|Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL / Compute||55379|
|PugetBench for Premiere Pro||494|
There’s one caveat with all of this: battery life. The VivoBook’s battery life isn’t great, and it’s an area where the device lags far behind anything Apple currently sells. Given the high refresh rate and high resolution of the display, that’s not necessarily surprising. OLED technology is supposed to mitigate these penalties a bit, as it turns off pixels here and there, but even in dark mode with a completely black desktop background, I only got an average of six hours and 37 minutes of continuous use. (That was on a load of about a dozen Chrome tabs, with the occasional zoom call and video streaming). That’s not a terrible result, but it’s worse than many laptops in this price range. The main benefit of a 14-inch form factor is the ability to use it outside of the desk, and battery life is likely an important consideration for buyers in this category. Six and a half hours just give me a sour taste in my mouth.
The other thing for “professionals” is that the configurations seem a bit limited. The specs that the Vivobook comes with may change before it’s released (and I will update this review if so) but from the sheet I was given it seems like I have the top Model. This means that you cannot configure this device with more than 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage, which – even with a powerful processor – severely limits the capabilities of the device. (It’s also not possible to upgrade the memory or storage yourself afterwards.) Add the missing Thunderbolt ports that restrict compatible peripherals like external drives and docks, and you’re looking at a device that might be below the requirements many professional tasks. (There’s no 4K screen option listed here either if that’s what you need.)
The rest of this computer is pretty good. The sound is strong with no distortion at maximum volume. The microphones did a good job of filtering out loud dishwasher noises in the background of my zoom calls. The keyboard is pretty bouncy with a nice texture – I’ll notice the deck is a bit thin and my keystrokes sometimes hit the deck, which I know some people hate (and I have a pretty light stroke). .
One cool thing is that when you press a small button in the top right corner of the touchpad, an LED number pad will pop up on it. (This is a staple for a number of Asus laptops.) It’s potentially useful and doesn’t interfere with using the touchpad, but the button is sensitive enough that I accidentally pulled up the number pad with the palm of my hand on occasion when I was typing. Easy trouble.
Assuming this Vivobook stays at the price I was given, it’s a great deal. It also seems like a bit of a tweener, as we said with the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Realistically, I’m not sure how big the circle is looking for such a powerful processor with a discrete GPU, but which is fine with just 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. The mediocre battery life can further limit audiences given the thin and light stature of this device.
I mainly see this as a device for people looking for a primary driver who want to play or edit on the side. This is a good, affordable option for this audience, but you also get something you pay for – editors or anyone with GPU-heavy workloads who can afford to spend a little extra on the 14-inch MacBook Pro should gamers who do without the OLED screen can get a more powerful GPU, more RAM and a much longer battery life in the Zephyrus G14.
But I’m still glad the package exists; 90Hz OLED screens are really a joy to use and I hope we’ll see more of them at this affordable price. And with its Ryzen 5000 series, AMD continues to deliver performance for thin and light laptops that we haven’t seen in years. This is more of an exciting thing than something I would recommend to most people. But it’s very exciting.
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