Apple Macbook Pro (M1) vs Asus Zenbook 14 vs Acer Swift 5 . Pros and Cons. Tech Comparisons.
Apple announced its M1 System on a Chip, the first Apple Silicon product that would power a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini. And today I will cover the tech comparisons between the Macbook Pro with M1, the Asus Zenbook 14 and the new Acer Swift 5 Pro (SF514-55GT)
Apple did not change the overall design and approach to MacBook Pro. The M1-powered version replaces the old 8th-generation Intel model, with two USB-C ports on the left side of the deck. On the right side is a headphone jack. Otherwise, it's the same old MacBook Pro that Apple has made for the last few years. On the inside is Apple's Magic Keyboard with scissor keys, a Touch Bar with a dedicated Escape key and a Touch ID power button that will read your fingerprint in order to unlock the computer, approve purchases in Safari, or open apps like 1Password. Below the keyboard is Apple's large Force Touch trackpad.
The outside of the housing is the traditional silver color, with an Apple logo. It looks identical to my 2016 MacBook Pro, the first MacBook Pro to ship with a TouchBar. Inside is a 13.3-inch display with 500 nits of brightness, True Tone technology and wide color P3 support.
Centered above the display is Apple's 720p FaceTime camera. Many, including myself, had hoped Apple would update the camera. Alas, it didn't happen, but according to Apple the M1 includes the same image signal processor (ISP) that's used in the iPhone 12, and the webcam benefits from that. In the couple of video calls I've held during my time testing, I can confirm that I do indeed look better on this camera when compared to my 2016 MacBook Pro.
For the Asus Zenbook 14 UX425, It’s slightly thinner and lighter and it is also slightly larger, which allows for a thicker chin underneath the screen). Metal pieces are still used for the entire case, and the Input/ Output has been improved in this, with Thunderbolt 3 support and full-size HDMI and USB ports. LTTG is sad to inform that the 3.5 mm jack has been axed, marking an unexpected debut of this first ZenBook without a headphone jack.
Asus chose to sacrifice it due to the limited internal space and the fact that many users are switching over to wireless headphones and earbuds these days, but that’s a bold move on their part and one that I do not agree with. Sure, they included a USB-C to 3.5 mm adapter in the package, so you can still use your existing headphones, at least until you misplace it. However, if something had to be axed, that should have been the HDMI port imo, given how that’s only 1.4b and can only drive an FHD panel at 60 Hz, while the USB-C ports now support Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort, and it’s what you’ll end up using anyway if you plan to hook up QHD or UHD screens at 60 Hz. Still, Asus went this route and it’s up to you if this is a potential deal-breaker or not. As for the rest of the IO, both the USB-C slots on the left edge support Thunderbolt 3, with data, video, and charging. Asus also includes a full-size USB-A slot on the right, although that’s a slow gen1 variant, a microSD card reader on the right as well, and the status LEDs have been split between the two sides.
Much like all the other Asus ZenBook these days, this UX425JA still implements what they call an Ergolift hinge design, with a screen that raises on these small rubber feet and lifts the laptop’s main body from the desk, allowing for extra airflow underneath. This might seem like a tiny detail, but it’s something that will improve the product’s reliability, and a welcomed update in my book. Asus includes a combined IR+webcam combo at the top of the screen, flanked by microphones, moved the status LEDs out of the way to the sides, and put fairly grippy rubber feet on the bottom, where you’ll also find the speaker cuts, firing through those cuts on the laterals.
For the Acer Swift 5, the design of this laptop doesn’t appear to have changed from the year before. We are still talking about a magnesium chassis, that now weighs exactly 1 kg. Its profile is 14.9mm, which makes it one of the thinnest and lightest 14-inchers out there. Thankfully, Acer’s engineers have designed the device in such a way, that it still has a structurally-sound body, despite its thin and light nature. he display has an “Antimicrobial” Corning Gorilla Glass cover, which also helps with the rigidity of the panel. And to address the difficulty of supplying the fan with air, they have risen the bottom panel thanks to the leverage system of the lid. On the left, you get the charging plug, an HDMI connector, followed by a USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, and a USB Type-C connector with Thunderbolt support (likely Thunderbolt 4). And on the right, you will find a Kensington lock, another USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, and an audio jack.
For the MacBook Pro 13 display, it comes with 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Retina display with IPS technology. It has a 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors. The laptop has 500 nits brightness with wide color (P3) and True Tone technology.
While the Zenbook, Asus offers two screen options for the ZenBook 14 UX425 series. Both are matte non-touch IPS panels with FHD resolution, but one is a standard option with 300-nits of max brightness, and the other is this newer generation and more efficient 1W panel with up to 400-nits of maximum brightness. Our test units both got the standard panel, but I’d expect most retail variants to ship with the 1W screen instead, which would make the laptop more versatile in brighter light conditions, and positively impact the battery life in a normal room. That aside, this standard Chi Mei panel is fine for a ~$1000 ultraportable, with almost 100% sRGB color coverage, good contrast, and wide viewing angles.
For the Acer Swift 5 has a touchscreen Full HD display, Its diagonal is 14″ (35.56 cm), and the resolution 1920 х 1080. Additionally, the screen ratio is 16:9, the pixel density 157 ppi, their pitch 0.161 x 0.161 mm. The screen can be considered Retina when viewed from at least 55 cm (from this distance, the average human eye can’t see the individual pixels).
If you're disappointed with the lack of a new design, I understand. I personally had hoped we would at least see a slightly different take on the MacBook Air, adding cellular connectivity LTE or 5G -- doesn't matter to me -- and decreasing the overall size of the laptop. But after using the MacBook Pro, it's clear that Apple wanted the performance of its new M1 chip to be the star of the show. Instead of reviews and critiques splitting time between design changes and performance tests, sticking with the same design gives Mac owners a feeling of familiarity and lets the tech-savvy focus on how fast the M1 SoC is compared to Intel.
Inside the $1,299 MacBook Pro I was sent is 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. You can bump up the memory to 16GB, with storage topping out at 2TB. Some professionals will understandably be frustrated with the memory cap of 16GB, and it's unclear why that's where Apple has chosen to draw the line with its M1 processor's memory support. However, Apple is keeping Intel MacBook Pro models around, for the time being at least, with the option to add more memory. A fully loaded MacBook Pro with an M1, 16GB of memory and 2TB of storage prices out at $2,299.
Zenbook, with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor and Intel Iris Pro graphics, 16 GB of LPDDR4x 3200 MHz memory and a fast 1 TB Samsung SSD. Spec-wise, this is based on the same Intel Ice Lake hardware implemented by a multitude of other ultrabooks available these days, from affordable options such as the Acer Swift 3 14 2020, up to top-tier products such as the Dell XPS 13 9300, Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 or the Razer Blade Stealth. It’s a 4C/8T processor, snappy in single-core tasks, and averagely competent in multitasking, especially when allowed to run at higher TDP settings. By default, this is a 15W platform, but it can stably run at 25+W in the better products. Not in this ZenBook, though, at least not in sustained loads, as you’ll see down below.
Graphics are handled by the Intel Iris Pro iGPU with 64 EUs, and we’ll talk about its performance down below. Our configurations also got 16 GB of LPDDR4x 3200 MHz RAM out of the box, in dual-channel, and a Samsung PM981 PCIe x4 SSD, one of the fastest storage options out there. Expect the 256 or 512 GB configurations to ship with slower drives, although Asus also mentions options for SSDs with Intel Optane memory support. Nonetheless, upgrades are possible if you remove the back panel, hold in place by a couple of visible Torx screws, and two more hidden behind the rear-rubber feet.
The CPU and memory are soldered on the motherboard and non-upgradable, and inside you’ll notice that most of the internal space is occupied by the battery here, leaving for a small motherboard that sent over the SSD right near the CPU plate. I was afraid that would spread heat from the CPU to the SSD, and we measured high temperatures of around 65 C in our storage tests, and average temperatures in the 53-58 degrees with actual use, without any performance degradation in any of these cases.
In terms of graphics, you get the integrated Iris Xe Graphics G7, as well as the dedicated GeForce MX350 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Since Intel has provided quite a significant increase of their Base clocks for the Tiger Lake processors, we see that after 15 minutes of extreme workload, the Swift 5 struggles to maintain a frequency above the Base one. However, it still runs pretty quickly, and the temperature at the end is decent. While we still have some doubt over Intel for bringing a knife to a gunfight, with their quad-core CPUs, compared to AMD’s 8 cores, we can’t neglect the fact that they have done their homework. The Core i7-1165G7 we found in this unit, is probably the fastest quad-core CPU on the market right now, regardless of the TDP. Also, we found something particularly interesting about the graphics.
Just out of curiosity, we decided to disable the dedicated GeForce MX350, and run the same GPU benchmarks and gaming tests we did, when it was enabled. The Iris Xe Graphics G7 performed better in every single test. It was better in both productivity tasks and when it comes to frames per second. Sure, in some apps like Premiere, where the CUDA cores of the MX350 will work in tandem with the integrated graphics solution, it would be better not to disable it, but most of the time, the Iris Xe G7 is just better!
On the inside is Apple's Magic Keyboard with scissor keys, a Touch Bar with a dedicated Escape key and a Touch ID power button that will read your fingerprint in order to unlock the computer, approve purchases in Safari, or open apps like 1Password. Below the keyboard is Apple's large Force Touch trackpad.
They updated the layout, stretching it across the entire chassis, and that translates in a wider set of keys in the right side, wider arrows, and an extra column of Function keys, with dedicated Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End. The power-button remains the top-right key, and while it’s stiffer than the regular keys, you should still disable it in Windows to prevent the laptop from going to sleep by mistake.
The overall feedback is what makes this better than what Asus has put on their previous ZenBooks, with slightly increased resistance and improved accuracy over most other ultrabooks, but while remaining a quick and quiet implementation (except for the Space key). Good job. I also noticed that these keys have a slightly concave shape and are not completely flat, which might also help with the overall typing experience. They also feel nice to the touch, with a soft rubberized surface.
This keyboard is also backlit, with white LEDs and three levels of intensity, plus a dedicated indicator for CapsLock. Some light creeps out from beneath the keycaps, but the keys are overall well and uniformly lit. Down beneath, centered on the chassis, Asus implemented a spacious glass clickpad with Precision drivers and secondary NumberPad functionality, the same they also put on the ExpertBook series. It’s a smooth, reliable, and sturdy surface, with good gesture support and palm-rejection, and I have nothing to complain about it.
As a side note, there’s no ScreenPad offered for this series, which remains an exclusive of the ZenBook 14 UX434 line. As for biometrics, there’s no finger-sensor on the Zenbook UX425, but you do get an arguably more seamless method of singing into Windows with that IR camera at the top of the screen.
On the base, we see a backlit keyboard, which has a rather shallow key travel, but somewhat clicky, with the exception of the “Tab” key, which is really soft. By the way, the Arrow keys are still pretty small, and they are neighboring the “Page Up” and “Page Down” keys, which can be a little annoying on some occasions. Further down, there is the touchpad, which has decent gliding and not bad tracking. Overall, it is an average unit for a Windows-based laptop. There's a fingerprint reader, which works very quickly and reliably.
With the efficiency improvements power conserve by M1, the MacBook Pro impresses in battery life that far exceeds the battery life of the prior-generation model. It has a 58.2WHr battery in the M1 MacBook Pro models that lasts for up to 17 hours when browsing the web and up to 20 hours when watching movies in the Apple TV app.
For the Asus, There’s a 67 Wh battery inside the ZenBook UX425, which is larger than what you’d normally get on a 14-inch notebook. Corroborated with the efficient Intel hardware implementation and screen, this notebook should last for a fair while on a charge. Asus mentions up to 16 hours of use with the standard FHD panel that we have here and up to 22 hours with the 1 W panel, but we’re far from those numbers on our units.
For the Swift 5, It has a 56Wh battery pack. Interestingly, it is mounted to the chassis via double-sided tape, so if you have to remove it, make sure you have some tape at your disposal. he battery tests with Windows "Better performance" setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This laptop’s 56Wh unit delivers 20 hours of Web browsing and 13 hours and 53 minutes of video playback.
Wifi and Bluetooth
The M1 MacBook Pro comes with 802.11ax WiFi, also known as Wi-Fi 6, the newest WiFi protocol that's faster and more efficient than the prior-generation 802.11ac WiFi with up to 1.2Gb/s throughput. It also has Bluetooth 5.0 support. While the, the Zenbook UX425 also has the wireless connectivity up to date, with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 on board. For the Swift 5, it settles with the Wireless LAN Standard IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth Standard 5.0 on it.
The M1 MacBook Pro starts at $1299. Get it here.
The Zenbook is available at $1099. Get it here.
You can get the Acer Swift 5 with 11th Gen Intel Processor at $1299. Get it here.
Pros and Cons
M1 MacBook Pro PROS
Long Battery life
Better thermal cooling
Great speakers and Display
Touch bar and Touch ID
ASUS Zenbook UX425 PROS
Lightweight with premium specs
Matte IPS Screen
Good amount of inputs
Great for multitasking
No fan noise in heavy usage
67 Wh battery and good battery life
Decently priced for the specs
Acer Swift 5 (SF514-55GT-79BM) PROS
Both Intel and Nvidia GeForce MX350
Thin and light form factor
Great Battery life
Dual Heat Pipe
M1 MacBook Pro CONS
No SD Card slot
RAM can't upgrade
ASUS Zenbook UX425 CONS
Not a touchscreen panel
Acer Swift 5 (SF514-55GT-79BM) CONS
No SD Card slot
Weak jack port
Apple Macbook Pro M1
There's clearly some work to be done when it comes to app support, particularly with iPhone and iPad apps. Big names like Google or Facebook are missing from that section of the App Store, and it's not clear if we'll see apps from them anytime soon. iPad app developers will need to do some work in order to provide the best experience possible on a Mac, and, again, hopefully that's something that happens in short order as Apple begins selling M1-powered Macs.
The average consumer who walks into an Apple Store or Best Buy, buys a MacBook Pro and goes home to set it up will very likely never realize that Apple has completely transitioned away from Intel to Apple Silicon, and that's the right way to go about this. It shouldn't matter to the end-user what's inside the computer, the only thing that should matter is performance, battery life and that their apps work. And if it really does come down to those three things, then Apple nailed it with the first M1 Macs.
Asus Zenbook 14 UX425
The battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This laptop’s 56Wh unit delivers 20 hours of Web browsing and 13 hours and 53 minutes of video playback.
Acer Swift 5 (SF514-55GT-79BM)
Every time we get a thin and light device, we are exposing the same weaknesses over and over. They include high thermals, weak chassis, and more than ever – incapable hardware.
However, the case with today’s hero is different. The magnesium alloy of this machine is not only thin and light but also structurally sound. Also, the laptop features one of the best CPU/GPU combos you can see out there, especially now that the Tiger Lake CPUs have hit the market.
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