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This Windows laptop costs under $1,000 and handily beats the MacBook Air

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED rear view showing lid and logo.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The least expensive MacBook you can buy remains the MacBook Air M1, which Apple is keeping around in spite of a complete redesign with the MacBook Air M2. And there’s good reason. The MacBook Air M1 is among the best laptops that sell for under $1,000.

But it’s not the only great laptop for under $1,000. The Asus ZenBook 14 OLED is also a special machine, offering considerable value at a starting price of $700, including a luscious OLED display. As good as the MacBook Air is, the ZenBook 14 just might have it beat.

Specs

  Asus ZenBook 14 OLED Apple MacBook Air M1
Dimensions 12.34 inches x 8.68 inches x 0.67 inches 11.97 inches x 8.36 inches x 0.63 inches
Weight 3.06 pounds 2.8 pounds
Processor AMD Ryzen 5 7530U
AMD Ryzen 7 7730U
Apple M1
Graphics AMD Radeon graphics Apple M1
RAM 8GB
16GB
8GB
16GB
Display 14.0-inch 16:10 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800) OLED, 90Hz 13.3-inch 16:10 (2,560 x 1600)
Storage 256GB SSD
512GB SSD
256GB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
Touch Yes No
Ports 2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
1 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x microSD card reader
2 x USB-C 4.0 with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
Webcam 1080p 720p FaceTime HD
Operating system Windows 11 macOS
Battery 75 watt-hours 49.9 watt-hour
Price $700+ $1,000
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Price and configurations

The MacBook Air M1 is currently priced at the Apple store starting at $1,000 for an 8-core CPU/7-core GPU M1 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 13.3-inch Liquid Retina IPS display. Fully configured, it costs $2,000 with 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. But we’re talking about the entry-level model here, which is sometimes available for well under $1,000 from third-party vendors.

The ZenBook 14 OLED starts at $700 for an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, and that rises to $870 with an AMD Ryzen 7 7730U, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The kicker is the 14.0-inch OLED display that comes with both configurations. It’s unusual to find OLED on such an inexpensive laptop, and it adds tremendously to the ZenBook 14 OLED’s value.

Design

Let’s get this one out of the way. If you’re either a Windows or MacOS fan, then your decision is easy. These are both fantastic laptops, so just buy the laptop that runs the operating system you want and need. If not, though, that shouldn’t drive your decisions. Today, both operating systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and while Windows has a reputation for being unstable, that’s not nearly as true as it once was.

If you don’t have a strong preference and don’t have any Windows- or MacOS-specific applications that you need to run, then it’s safe to make your decision between these two laptops based on their features, performance, and pricing. Leave the question of the operating system aside.

In terms of its design, the MacBook Air M1 maintains the iconic tapered all-aluminum chassis that isn’t used in the more current M2 MacBook Air and exudes quality at whatever price point. MacBooks are the best-built laptops around, and this one’s no different. It’s small enough to be quite portable, and it’s attractive in a minimalist fashion. The ZenBook 14 OLED is a little flashier, but still simply designed. And although it’s also all-aluminum, its chassis isn’t quite as rigid as the MacBook Air M1’s. If you’re looking for the best design for under $1,000, then the MacBook Air M1 wins out.

The MacBook Air M1 also has a better keyboard and haptic Force Touch touchpad. Its switches are snappier and more precise than the ZenBook 14 OLED’s, although that keyboard is more than good enough. While the ZenBook’s touchpad is mechanical, it’s quite comfortable to use and offers an embedded LED numeric keypad for anyone who enters a lot of data.

The ZenBook 14 OLED offers more ports than the MacBook Air M1, including better legacy support. But, the ZenBook’s AMD chipset means there’s no Thunderbolt 4 support, which the MacBook Air M1 offers. The ZenBook 14 OLED also has the more up-to-date Wi-Fi 6E.

Finally, the ZenBook 14 OLED has a 1080p webcam that’s much sharper and brighter than the MacBook Air M1’s 720p version. For security, both laptops have fingerprint readers that allow logging in without typing a password, but the Zenbook 14 has the addition of an IR camera for Windows Hello facial authentication.

Performance

Apple MacBook Air M1 front view showing bottom of display and keyboard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The ZenBook 14 OLED uses AMD’s low-power Ryzen 5 and 7 CPUs. We tested with the 15-watt 6-core/12-thread Ryzen 5 7530U, and there’s an option for the faster 15-watt, 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 7 7730U. The MacBook Air M1 is available with the 8-CPU/7-GPU core Apple M1 CPU.

In our CPU-intensive benchmarks, the ZenBook 14 OLED was a bit faster in both our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265 and the Cinebench R23 benchmark. The M1’s GPU is better optimized for creative tasks than AMD Radeon graphics, so the MacBook Air M1 is likely to be a bit faster in creative apps like Adobe Premiere Pro.

Both laptops are competent productivity performers, and both can handle low-end creative workflows. Performance isn’t a reason to choose one over the other.

Asus ZenBook 14 OLED
(Ryzen 5 7530U)
Apple MacBook Air M1
(M1)
Geekbench 5
(single / multi)
1,424 / 6,562 1,727 / 7,585
Handbrake
(seconds)
123 156
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
1,457 / 7,527 1,479 / 6,680

Display and audio

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The MacBook Air M1’s 13.3-inch Liquid Retina IPS display is very good. It’s sharp at a resolution of 2,560 x 1600 and offers above-average brightness, color width and accuracy, and contrast. The ZenBook 14 OLED’s panel, though, is slightly less bright but has wider colors that are also very accurate and incredible contrast that displays inky blacks. It’s also great at displaying high dynamic range (HDR) video.

Asus managed to fit a spectacular display into a very low price, and it wins this category by a country mile. Whether you’re a productivity worker, a creator, or a heavy media consumer, you’ll find the ZenBook 14 OLED’s display to be far superior.

Asus ZenBook 14 OLED
(OLED)
Apple MacBook Air M1
(Liquid Retina IPS)
Brightness
(nits)
369 389
AdobeRGB gamut 100% 100%
 sRGB gamut 96% 79%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
1.44 1.29
Contrast ratio 25,660:1 1,130:1

Both laptops have dual stereo speakers and provide similar audio quality. Neither is equal to the better laptops on the market, such as Dell’s larger XPS laptops or Apple’s MacBook Pros. But both are fine for everything but high-quality music and media streaming, for which you’ll want to pull out a good pair of headphones or use external speakers.

Portability

Apple MacBook Air M1 side view.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Apple’s Silicon processors, starting with the M1, have been impressively efficient. We’ve seen some of the best battery life ever out of the latest MacBooks, and the MacBook Air M1 is no exception. It performed very well in our battery benchmarks, well above the Windows average.

At the same time, the ZenBook 14 OLED also performed well. It was two hours behind in our web-browsing test and just an hour behind in our video-looping test, and that’s with a power-hungry OLED display. Of course, Asus packed in 75 watt-hours of battery capacity compared to the MacBook Air M1’s 49.9 watt-hours, and that accounts for much of these results.

Nevertheless, the MacBook Air M1 will get you through a full day’s work, but the ZenBook 14 OLED won’t be too far behind.

Asus ZenBook 14 OLED
(Ryzen 5 7530U)
Apple MacBook Air M1
(M1)
Web browsing 12 hours, 13 minutes 14 hours, 34 minutes
Video 17 hours, 19 minutes 18 hours, 28 minutes

The ZenBook 14 OLED is the best laptop for under $1,000

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The MacBook Air M1 is a great laptop for the money, providing good performance, excellent battery life, a great display, and solid build quality. But the ZenBook 14 OLED is roughly as fast, also has great battery life, and offers a vastly superior OLED display.

The ZenBook is also less expensive, and you don’t have to go hunting for the best deal. It’s earned its place as the best laptop you can buy for less than $1,000.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Coppock
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