Many publications (The edge included) have heralded this year’s MacBooks as the best laptops you can buy today. For many users, they will be.
But a few surprisingly compelling Windows-based alternatives have popped up in Asus’ high-end Zenbook lineup, offering build quality, display, and performance to rival Apple’s. The 13-inch Zenbook 13S OLED has proven to be a worthy competitor for the M2 MacBook Air, and the 14-inch Zenbook 14X OLED (and particularly the powerful Space Edition) has been eyed as a possible rival to the fan-equipped M2 MacBook Air Per.
I got my first look at a pre-release version of the Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition back in January, and this week I was able to test a real, finished device for performance and battery life. The Zenbook does beat the MacBook in a number of important areas – but it loses in one crucial category.
Zenbook 14X vs MacBook Pro: Dimensions
The Zenbook and MacBook are very, very similar in size. The Zenbook weighs 3.09 pounds while the MacBook weighs three pounds. The Zenbook is 0.62 inches thick while the MacBook is 0.61 inches thick.
I will say from long experience that the Zenbook feels noticeably heavier, especially when I lift it with one arm. But they’re both fairly thin and light devices for the performance they offer.
Zenbook 14X vs MacBook Pro: Price
The Zenbook is slightly cheaper than the MacBook Pro, although I don’t imagine the difference will be huge for most buyers.
There is only one configuration of the Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition – it packs a Core i9-12900H processor, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. Its cheap $1,999 on the Asus websitealthough some retailers currently have it listed for $1,979.99.
If you wanted to buy one 13 inch MacBook Pro With 24GB of RAM (the maximum available) and 1TB of storage, you’d have to pay $2,099, a $100 premium. While neither the Zenbook nor the M2 MacBook are cheap, both are within the range of what consumer ultraportables cost. A 32GB/1TB version of the 14-inch MacBook Pro (even with the base CPU option) would be $2,599.99.
Now, if If you’re someone whose workload won’t take full advantage of the 1TB/32GB that the Zenbook offers, you might be better off buying, say, a $1,699 MacBook Pro with 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage and save several hundred dollars over the Zenbook. That depends on what your daily needs are.
It’s also that the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro is often on sale these days (you can currently get a 16GB/512GB model for $1,599). If you can make do with 512GB of storage and don’t mind a little extra weight (the 14-inch weighs about 3.5 pounds), this is the model for you.
Zenbook 14X vs MacBook Pro: Design
Sorry, Apple, but no MacBook can keep up. Both laptops are very sturdy, well built and difficult to turn. But when it comes to looks, the M2 Pro still has the same boring, gray design with large bezels that MacBook Pro models have had since 2016. The 14-inch device has an updated design, but overall it still looks, well, MacBook-y.
The Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition, on the other hand, looks like a spaceship. Design elements on the lid and keyboard deck are reminiscent of a shuttle and a cockpit, and it looks like there’s Morse code hidden inside if you fancy sitting down and deciphering something. Of course, this is a subjective thing, but I would go with the Zenbook’s design every time.
The Zenbook 14X also wins in terms of display. The Zenbook features a 14-inch 16:10 OLED touch panel with a resolution of 2880 x 1800 and a refresh rate of 90 Hz. The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a slightly smaller 13.3-inch screen with a lower resolution (2560 x 1600) and a lower refresh rate (60 Hz). While the MacBook’s screen is certainly good, I’d pick the Zenbook any day – it’s crisp and vibrant, and I’m always there for that deep OLED black.
The Zenbook also has what’s called the ZenVision display on its lid, a 3.5-inch OLED panel that can show your music, the time, battery percentage or other stats, a business card, text of your choice, or cute little astronaut animations . (It’s supposed to be the spaceship’s window, I assume.) The MacBook Pro has a touchscreen touch bar on its deck, while the Zenbook has a physical feature suite, but I personally find the ZenVision display much cooler.
The Zenbook also features the ErgoLift hinge, a feature you’ll find on all types of Asus laptops. This hinge folds slightly under the keyboard deck, raising it a few degrees off the ground for better airflow, and it digs into your legs when using the Zenbook on your lap. It’s not super sharp, but it’s one thing to deal with that the MacBook doesn’t have.
Zenbook 14X vs MacBook Pro: Performance
If you’re looking for a Windows laptop that can beat Apple’s silicon for CPU-heavy tasks, the Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition is your pick. It performed some of the best I’ve seen from a laptop of this size this year. I can’t imagine it will have any problems with a general office workload.
As you can see, the Zenbook is quite powerful for its size, performing better than the M2 and M1 Pro MacBooks on many of our CPU benchmarks. However, both of Apple’s products have the edge when it comes to graphics performance, including gaming and video work in Premiere Pro. If your work is graphics-heavy, the MacBook is a better choice for you. (Oh, and in case that doesn’t go without saying, the gaming benchmarks are for testing purposes only – if you plan on gaming a lot, skip all those models and get something like the Zephyrus G14.)
The unplugged performance of the MacBook is also better. This machine returns identical results when running benchmarks on battery power. But that’s not the case with the Zenbook – the score went down when it was unplugged. For example, the Geekbench Compute Score dropped to 20,675 on battery power.
Zenbook 14X vs MacBook Pro: Battery Life
Unfortunately for Asus, the MacBook outperforms the Zenbook here.
The M2 MacBook Pro lasted over 16.5 hours of constant use at medium brightness. The M1 Pro 14-inch gave me around 10 hours. Even with Power Saver turned on and the screen powered down to 60Hz, the Zenbook only lasted about a quarter of that time with the same workload and brightness setting. I spent an average of four hours and 35 minutes on this machine and that was a consistent result across a number of trials.
For a lot of people, the extra hours of the MacBook are probably worth the extra money – this is a very big difference. Even if your budget is limited, it may still be worth downgrading to a lower-spec MacBook Pro to get that extra time.
Intel really needs to fix the efficiency issue its processors seem to have. The noticeable gap between these two otherwise similar competitors should illustrate just how unacceptable a 4:35 lifespan is in today’s market. It’s one of the worst results I’ve seen from a non-gaming laptop this year, and I really want to see at least seven hours from a device of this price. It even loses out against some dedicated gaming machines – the AMD-powered ROG Zephyrus G14 lasts me almost twice as long.
Which ones should you buy?
The Zenbook’s disappointing battery life is a very good argument in favor of the MacBook Pro, as it’s the better buy for most people. Even if you love the 14X’s futuristic design, it comes at a price. Especially if you’re looking for a portable device to take with you on the go, the extra hours of freedom from a power outlet that the MacBook gives you should be worth an uglier computer. For those willing to compromise on RAM, storage and a few hours of battery life, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is also a great alternative – and it can be picked up for less than the Zenbook if you can find it on sale.
If you are looking for a Windows alternative to the MacBook Pro and you don’t care about the battery life at all, this Zenbook is basically competitive in every other way. It’s incredibly well built and powerful with an outstanding display, and its vibrant design is fun like no Apple laptop has ever been. It’s really a shame that Asus didn’t install an AMD chip.
This article was previously published on Source link