The ZenBook 14 is the first laptop we've tested equipped with Intel's new Meteor Lake processor. Intel announced that chip in December 2023 to much fanfare. The presentation focused on artificial intelligence. In 2023, we will be bombarded with artificial intelligence and this will continue in 2024, but what is the benefit of such an AI processor in concrete terms? In this review I'll take a look at the ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED and find out what I noticed about this AI.
Asus ZenBook 14
It's been a while since I've done a full review of an ASUS ZenBook, but a review is rarely annoying, because ZenBooks are ASUS' most advanced consumer laptops. You'll notice it right away when you take the ZenBook 14 out of the box. It's a thin laptop, sleekly designed, and when you turn it on, the (oversaturated) colors of the OLED display shine at you. It is also a well-known design. The laptop has a dark blue metal casing. It's light for a 14-inch model, 1215g, and you'll notice that somewhat in the casing. It can move slightly under pressure, for example when pressing on the metal under the space bar or on the top corners of the touchpad.
The back of the screen, also made of dark blue metal, can also be a little impressed, but you see that with many laptops. It's good that ASUS added a number of subtle lines that represent the ASUS logo. On the other side, there is a black plastic frame surrounding the screen. The camera at the top has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and works with Windows Hello facial recognition. The camera produces a nice, sharp image, while the speakers sound small, as you'd expect from a laptop. These speakers are located at the bottom of the laptop so the sound reflects through the surface you place the ZenBook on.
Keyboard and touchpad
ASUS has of course equipped the ZenBook 14 with a backlit keyboard, which can be set to three settings on this laptop. The keys are quite flat and have an acceptable amount of travel. Not much, but you can't expect much from a laptop this thin. The power button is integrated at the top right of the keyboard and funny enough, this key requires more force to press compared to the other keys. This means you won't accidentally turn off your laptop.
The glass touchpad has two icons in the upper corners. If you press and hold the calculator at the top right, you can use the touchpad as a numeric keypad. ASUS calls it the Numberpad and it doesn't work well. You'll probably use this feature a few times for fun if you've just bought a ZenBook, but since the touchpad doesn't provide feedback, you'll never be able to use the Numberpad blindly, like a regular numberpad.
Despite being a thin laptop, ASUS has found enough space to fit a USB-A connection and an HDMI connection on the ZenBook. Unfortunately, this concerns the “slow” versions of both connections. The USB connection is a USB 3.2 Gen 1 box, with a maximum speed of 5Gb/s. In the specifications, ASUS explicitly says it's HDMI 2.1 TMDSThe connection goes. As with USB, the naming of HDMI standards allows different speeds to be included under the same name. In this case, Tmds likes to point out that the maximum speed is 18Gb/s, making it an efficient HDMI 2.0 connection. Suitable for 4k60, but not for 4k120, such as the fastest HDMI 2.1 connections. There are also two Thunderbolt 4 connections. The included 65W charger also has a USB-C connection, just like the Thunderbolt ports. Finally, there's a connection jack on the laptop, which is a good thing, because there was a period when ASUS left this on their most expensive laptops.
Intel artificial intelligence, what is good?
ZenBook is equipped with Intel's new processor codenamed Meteor Lake. We previously wrote an extensive background article on this processor. The processor is important to Intel for various reasons, for example because it is a modular design that Intel makes partly through the new Intel 4 process and partly at TSMC. What Intel itself attaches great importance to is the presence of the NPU Neural processing unit, which is intended for “artificial intelligence calculations”. The latter seems quite obscure, and to clarify it a bit, it's good to look at how Apple does it. This manufacturer has already built an NPU into the M1 processor in 2020.
apples Neural drive It is used, for example, to recognize and possibly translate text in images directly, and to recognize objects and people in images. The webcam can also recognize the person and then blur the background thanks to the NPU. The NPU can also recognize people in the video editing software Final Cut Pro and, for example, track and copy a person's movement. It helps Siri recognize your voice better, and there are many examples of software where the npu plays a role. If, like me, you initially think that this type of device is only used to create images and texts, like ChatGPT, then you are wrong.
What specific use do you currently have for npu in Meteor Lake? Not much, since there are few programs that use the npu. If you use Adobe Firefly to create images or ChatGPT for text, this program connects to Adobe or OpenAI servers to perform those calculations. The most obvious example of what an npu can do is provide a nice background blur because it can recognize people well. It's not the most exciting feature, but it's a start and it won't doubt be long before parts of Windows, other than the camera, use the NPU, as well as third-party software that can exploit its capabilities. So the Meteor Lake NPU is not a reason to buy a new laptop, but a kind of preview of what laptops will look like under the hood from now on. In addition to having a CPU and GPU, the NPU will also become normal soon.
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