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Asus Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition hands-on review: To the stars

It’s not often we see collectors’ laptops like the Asus Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition. Announced at CES 2022, it’s an updated version of the already-released Zenbook 14X OLED, fit with new 12th-gen Intel processors and a more robust build — but hardware isn’t what makes the Space Edition special.

The machine is inspired by Asus’s own P6300, which launched into space in 1997 and managed to stay outside the atmosphere for 600 days without any defects. It’s an homage, a celebration, and a retrospective on how far laptops have come.

Don’t let the space theme fool you, though. The Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition is still in the running to be one of the best laptops on the market, even ignoring its theme. And after spending a few days working and playing on the machine, I’m even more convinced of that.

Design

Asus Zenbook 14X Space Edition laid flat.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

I had to constantly remind myself that the Zenbook 14X Space Edition is geared toward collectors. And that’s because I wanted to use it as my daily driver. Space theme aside, this is an excellent laptop that stands on its own.

The theme doesn’t ever get in the way of that. The swirling patterns on the top and deck of the laptop are clean and elegant, and the two orange keys — the space bar and power button — are understated and never distracting. I could use the 14X Space Edition every day, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

That’s because it’s built on the foundations of a great laptop. The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED is top of its class, and the Space Edition just builds on that design. This new model comes with up to an Intel Core i9-12900H and Wi-Fi 6E, as well as a more robust build that adheres to the U.S. Space Systems Command standard — a large step up from the military standard used on other Zenbook models.

You can also cram in up to 1TB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage and 32GB of RAM.

Ports

Ports on the Asus Zenbook 14X Space Edition.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

For all the changes, there’s a lot that Asus kept the same. For ports, you still have access to dual Thunderbolt 4 connections, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, a micro-SD card slot, and a full-size HDMI 2.0 port. You still get a fingerprint reader on the power button and NumberPad 2.0 for the trackpad, which continued to be useful.

Display and speakers

Keyboard on the Asus Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

It comes with the same beautiful 16:10 OLED display, too, which boasts 100% coverage of the PCI-P3 color gamut and is Pantone-validated for color accuracy. It looks incredible, with rich contrast and vibrant colors from edge to edge.

Even with the screen, the keyboard stood out for me. It’s not any different from last year’s Zenbook 14X OLED — and that’s a good thing. The key travel is great at 1.4mm, and the spacing matches a desktop keyboard. I typed this article on the Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition, and I never missed a keystroke.

The speakers would distort all too often, even at low volumes.

Audio was my only issue in the brief time I spent with the Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition. The laptop includes a pair of down-firing speakers, and they get loud.

The problem is that they would distort all too often — even at low volumes — and dynamic sources triggered a nasty compression that would duck the volume. It’s possible that I have a blown speaker on my test unit, but that doesn’t make a difference. This machine should adhere to the Space Systems Command standard, so broken speaker or not, it wasn’t a great audio experience.

The ZenVision display

ZenVision display on Asus Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The most striking change in the Space Edition is the monochrome ZenVision display on the top of the laptop. It looks great and is functional. By default, it displays the time when your screen is open, and it shows the time and your battery level when the lid is closed.

Unfortunately, the display turns off after 10 seconds with the lid closed, and I couldn’t find a way to extend that time in the MyAsus app. This is the most practical use of the ZenVision display, so it’s a shame there isn’t a way to extend the duration. It doesn’t pop up when the battery is charging, either, which feels like a missed opportunity.

I love the idea of the ZenVision display, but Asus needs to work on the software.

In fact, the software side leaves a lot on the table. You can use one of four animations provided by Asus, add any text you want, or use it as a label with a QR code (which Asus graciously includes a generator for in the MyAsus app). That’s it as of right now, though Asus suggested in a press briefing that more functionalities will arrive for the display over time.

Hopefully, that includes more settings to adjust the time the display stays active, tools for creating your own animations, and more granular control over animation speed and the like. I’d also like to see better tools for adding your own images. You can throw any image — GIFs included — on the ZenVision display. but you need to crop it to a specific resolution, not just an aspect ratio. The results aren’t great, either, as you can see with the compressed image of the Exo Stranger in Destiny 2 below.

ZenVision display on Asus Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

I love the idea of the ZenVision display, but Asus needs to work on the software. As it stands now, it’s not as practical as it could be. Hopefully, Asus will update the app with more functions in the future, say maybe a status indicator for Spotify or stats for a game you’re playing.

Accessories

Outside the laptop itself, the Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition comes with a variety of extra goodies in the box. There’s a stand for the laptop, which doubles as a place to store your cables, as well as a sticker sheet, a welcome card, and a “package from space,” which is a silver bubble mailer that holds the other extras.

Accessories for the Asus Zenbook 14X Space Edition.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

All of that comes packed inside a Space Edition box that looks wonderful, which itself is packed inside another cardboard box with a nylon handle. Asus says this can double as a carrying case, but I’m not sure how practical that is now that I’ve had a chance to lug the Zenbook 14X around.

I love the extras, but they’re not as premium as I was expecting. Asus says the Space Edition is inspired by the legacy of the P6300, but the accessories don’t feel like they pay homage to this original machine in the way they could.

This is a breathtaking laptop.

That’s because they feel too cheap to display but too expensive to throw away. The stand is just made of cardboard, for example, and the package from space, although cosmetically appealing, is just a bubble mailer with Velcro on it. To be clear, Asus didn’t have to include anything extra. I just hoped for more, considering this is billed as a collector’s item.

Asus Zenbook 14X OLED with its accessories.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

What makes the Space Edition feel special is the laptop itself. The engraved lines hold whispers of morse code, and the bottom of the laptop includes a solemn engraving of “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” which feels as though it’s echoing through space with how it sits alone on the silver base. This is a breathtaking laptop, and it more than makes up for the less-than-premium accessories included in the box.

Price and availability

The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED Space Edition on a gray background.
Jacob Roach / Digital trends

Asus isn’t ready for performance testing quite yet, but I’ll say that the ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition is worthy of the hardware inside. It’s not quite the collector’s item I expected, but that shouldn’t overshadow the laptop itself. It’s an improved version of the Zenbook 14X OLED, and the attention to detail on the machine is — ahem — out of this world.

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