We may have just suffered through the year the billionaires travelled to space, but Asus wants you to know it made it there first, and it’s commemorating the achievement with a laptop that looks like it was designed for another planet.
Revealed today at CES 2022, the ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition is one of the oddest devices I’ve seen in recent memory, and frankly, I think I’m in love. Before I describe what’s going on with the design, I should mention the origin story (I promise, it beats Fantastic Four).
It turns out that in 1997, Asus sent P6300 and P6100 laptops to orbit on the Soviet Union-built Mir space station, the first modular space station and the first inhabited long-term research station in space. Asus claims the laptop lasted the entire mission without facing defects, so in remembrance of this feat, the company designed a special edition version of its latest ultra-portable laptop.
On the lid and deck of the ZenBook 14X are etchings inspired by the space age. The dots on the lid are morse code for the Latin “ad astra per aspera” (meaning “through hardships to the stars”) while the patterns represent the Mir station and the arced lines symbolise a space capsule. To me, the lid gives off major Star Wars vibes, with the lid drawings somewhat resembling a TIE fighter.
Anyhow, you might be wondering what’s going on with that rectangular window on the lid. Asus calls it ZenVision, and it’s apparently inspired by the spaceship’s datasheet. The little 3.5-inch OLED panel has a 256 x 64 resolution and can be used to show customisable messages to the people around you. Or you put an interesting graphic on the panel or cycle a gif, similar to the dot matrix, or AniME Matrix, on the new Zephyrus G14.
I’m counting the days before I can see this laptop in person, not only to get a closer glimpse at those design elements, but because of the unique colour that Asus calls Zero-G Titanium. It looks like a matte taupe to me but the images suggest the shade shifts drastically based on the lighting.
Keeping with the space theme, the 1 kg ZenBook 14X passed U.S. Space Systems Command Standard SMC-S-016A testing protocols, which Asus claims are four times more stringent than the standard MIL-STD testing most laptop vendors use to make their products sound indestructible. These acronyms mean the 14X can withstand temperatures between -24 Celsius and 61 Celsius, so feel free to take the ZenBook on that Antarctica trip you’ve been planning.
You’ve probably already made your mind up about the ZenBook 14X by now, but I’ll list the key specs here anyway. The ZenBook 14X Space Edition has a 14-inch, 2880 x 1800 OLED display at 90Hz with 550 nits of peak brightness. Powering this machine is the laptop equivalent of a rocket engine: up to a 12th-gen Intel Core i9 H-series CPU with Iris Xe graphics, up to 32GB of DDR5 RAM, and up to a 1TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD.
Asus didn’t reveal pricing (expect a very large figure) but said the ZenBook 14X OLED Space Edition will be available in Q2 of this year.
Asus ZenBook 14 OLED
If you could do without all the space stuff, Asus also released the new ZenBook 14 OLED, a portable 14-inch laptop powered by either an Intel Core i7 P-series chip or an AMD Ryzen 5000-series processor (not the newer Ryzen 6000, interestingly). One of the highlights, besides the sleek design, is a 2.8K OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate.
Like the Space Edition, the ZenBook 14 passed durability tests, though these were your typical military-grade ones. The laptop will be available in Aqua Celadon and Ponder Blue (on certain models) or Jade Black.
The Zenbook 14 OLED will be available in the coming months; pricing has not been revealed.