Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review

A load of laptops from Asus turned up and the smallest one was the Asus Zenbook S 13. It’s one of the smallest laptops we’ve seen in ages and yet it’s got an impressively high spec. It’s also made from a new, eco-friendly material which seems to be the strongest and lightest we’ve ever seen on a notebook. At (almost) 1KG in weight and at just 1cm thick, we had high hopes for this one.

Specs

Screen13.3-inch, glossy, 60Hz, 2,880 x 1,800, OLED display
Processor3.7-5.0GHz Intel Core i7-1355U CPU
Memory16GB LPDDR5-5200 RAM
Graphics1.3GHz Intel Xe (integrated into CPU)
Hard drive1TB
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.3
2 x Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
3.5mm audio jack
HDMI 2.1
SpeakersYes
Extra SecurityWindows Hello (webcam)
WebcamFull HD
Battery63Wh
Dimensions296 x 216 x 12mm
Weight1.05KG
SKUUX5304V
Full specs here.

Features, Ergonomics and Design

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED’s chassis is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s not just very thin but totally solid and has a fine-grained, almost-sandy, textured finish. Asus calls it ‘Basalt Grey’ and it’s almost completely resistant to fingerprints. It’s very impressive.

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review lid
The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED’s indented, geometric line design on the front (along with the Asus Zenbook moniker) look stylish and classy from a distance.

Even more impressive is that this high-tech chassis is not some premium, exclusive, luxury material, it’s eco friendly. Asus says that the chassis cover and ‘bottom case’ are made from post-industrial recycled aluminium, while the keyboard cover is constructed from a, ‘Post-industrial recycled magnesium-aluminium alloy.’ More of this, please, laptop industry?!

Opening it up reveals the glossy, 13.3-inch OLED screen which has a UHD, 2,880 x 1,800 resolution. It displays a sharp Windows Desktop with bright, vibrant colours. In multimedia tasks, colours remain very vibrant, contrast is excellent and even the typically tricky monochromatic gradients are very good. There can, however, be some fine banding in colour gradients, which is common on many laptops. Remember too that the glossy finish means it can turn into a black mirror when displaying dark content.

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review front
Few people will be using their Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED outdoors in bright light, but more will be occasionally view dark content indoors and suffer reflections accordingly.

Not surprisingly for a bona fide ultraportable, it has standard 60Hz screen which, when combined with a reasonably fast pixel response time, still can’t render fast moving objects without noticeable blur. But, only gamers would grumble and this isn’t a gaming laptop.

Asus tells us the speakers are made from post-consumer recycled, ocean bound plastics and yet, they’re excellent. Despite the minute body, they (and Asus doesn’t specify their specs beyond that they’re provided by harman kardon) get impressively loud and offer very good fidelity from top to bottom. Asus’ MyAsus app lets you tinker with the audio for different occasions (Voice, Music, Movie etc) and to also boost the maximum volume and these settings can improve fidelity according to your setting (or make it worse).

MyAsus app Sound Modes settings
The MyAsus app Sound Modes settings make a significant difference.

The keyboard is a low-travel, touch-type, Scrabble-tile affair that is comfortable and accurate to use for extended typing sessions. It’s also white-back-lit to three degrees. It’s got squished arrow keys but they’re isolated in the bottom right corner and we had no issues with their reduced size.

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review keyboard
We can (just about) forgive having squished arrow keys when they’re isolated like this.

Above the screen is an impressive Full HD webcam which captures a sharp image in good lighting and does a decent job of fending off grain in very low light. Asus offers a bunch of image enhancement features in its MyAsus app (including features like background blur) but be aware that these can double-up with similar features in webconferencing apps and make images worse. It’s nonetheless very good indeed and it’s partnered by infra-red cameras which facilitate Windows Hello’s facial-recognition log-on feature.

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review flat
The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED has an excellent folds-flat hinge which can also slightly elevate the keyboard for typing comfort and improve ventilation.

The microphone array is also impressive and captures particularly crisp and clear audio. The MyAsus app also offers some additional features here, which you can tailor to your environment, and improve capture-quality further. The Asus Zenbook S 13 is excellent for web-conferencing.

MyAsus app AI noise-canceling microphone settings
The MyAsus app’s AI noise-canceling Microphone settings can be tailored for one person, multiple people in front of the screen and a room full of people.

Ultimately, it’s a great laptop to interact with.

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED Review: Photo Flourish

The photos in our Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review were taken at Sydney’s Dee Why beach right before a storm hit.

Performance

Inside the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is a spunky 3.7 – 5.0GHz Intel Core i7-1355U processor which is impressive for a laptop this small. It’s flanked by 16GB of low-power, LPDDR5-5200 memory and a fast, 1TB, NVMe hard drive.

2D Performance

In the PCMark 10 benchmark, which apes all types of computing tasks, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED scored 5,601 which is about average in the whole wide world of laptops… including the really big gaming flagships. So, that’s good.

In the Cinebench rendering tests, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED scored 1,493 in the rapid R15 test and 7,296 in the longer R23 test. These are rather low, but a CPU with only two Performance cores (and eight Efficiency cores – which all run across 12 threads) can only do so much in this area.

3D Performance

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED’s 3D performance comes via the 1.3GHz Intel Xe graphics that are integrated into the processor. Naturally, it’s not a rival for some of its larger siblings which reside at the top of our Best Gaming Laptop list.

It wouldn’t run the difficult 3DMark ray-tracing tests, Speed Way and Port Royal, which mimic the top-eye-candy-rich games.

In the AAA-game-title-aping 3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike Extreme tests, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED scored 1,797 (average 10fps) and 2,414 (average 10.8fps) respectively. As such you’ll have to dramatically drop the resolution and detail settings to get any games running smoothly.

Meanwhile, in the easier 3DMark Night Raid test, which is similar to casual and competitive games, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED scored 16,787 which is an average of 102.6fps. So, it’s not completely without gaming potential.

Cooling Performance

MyAsus Fan Profile settings
The MyAsus app’s Fan Profile settings make a big difference on the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED.

The cooling system of the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is generally impressive, but with caveats. If you run it under load in whisper mode, it will get hot (at the base, not the palm-rest) but remain near silent. If it’s in Performance mode, the fans can ramp up to a noticeable, medium-pitched whoosh quite quickly. Ultimately, we’re impressed that it can stay silent and cool for a long time when performing general office work and that you can flit between noisy/warm and silent/hot when performing intensive computing tasks.

Connectivity and Ports

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review left
On the left is an HDMI 2.1 port and two Thunderbolt 4 ports (one of which is used by the power connector).
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review right
On the right is a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port.

Inside there’s Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. It’s an impressive complement for such a thin and light laptop.

Portability and Battery Life

As we’ve mentioned, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED’s chassis is one of the most solid and rigid we’ve ever seen. It should easily survive life on the road.

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review underside
We’re grateful to the diminutive Everki EKP118E-ECO Studio Expandable Backpack for protecting the Zenbook from scratches. Because we don’t want to go through that again. Oh no. Beaches hate laptops. A rogue oyster shell properly gouged our MSI Modern 14 last time we tried this. MSI was sad. We’ll be reviewing the laptop bag in due course.

At 1.05KG it’s the lightest we’ve tested in over a year. The power supply and cables only add an extra 341g.

Meanwhile, the relatively sizeable 63Wh battery ran our PCMark 10 Modern Office test for a very-impressive 16 hours and 15 minutes(!)

Unsurprisingly, it’s about to be crowned our new Number 1 Best Portable Laptop.

Price and Availability

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is available in various SKUs right now. Our review spec can be found on Asus’ own website for $2,999 which is pricey but still good value. However, you can buy a version with a 512GB hard drive (that’s otherwise identical) for $2,399 which is much better value.

Conclusion: Should you buy the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED?

If you want an ultraportable laptop, then this is the best. It’s superbly built, relatively powerful, very small, lightweight and has a brilliant battery. It also has great ergonomics and represents decent value (the much-cheaper 512GB version is even better value). There are almost no weak points and the fact it’s so innovative and eco friendly is the cherry on top. The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is an outstanding feat of engineering.

Awards

Best Portable Laptop Award
Best Portable Laptop Award.

Pros

Very light
Very well built
Excellent battery life

Cons

Base can get warm
Fans can get slightly noisy under load
Our review spec is quite expensive

Results

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED Scores
  • 2D Performance
  • 3D Performance
  • Features, Ergonomics & Design
  • Stability
  • Portability
  • Value
4.3

Summary

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is the most portable laptop we’ve reviewed. It weighs little, has great battery life and is a brilliant feat of engineering.

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