App & Software Gaming Review

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (2023) review: lighter than Air

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Asus’ Zenbook S 13 OLED holds a particular place in my coronary heart. When folks ask me what the most effective MacBook Air different for Home windows customers is, the 2022 mannequin has been my go-to for the previous 12 months. It’s skinny, it’s gentle, it’s sturdy, it has an awesome display — what’s to not like? 

After which, this 12 months, Asus made an announcement that despatched me right into a panic. The corporate introduced that it had made the Zenbook S 13 even thinner and lighter; whereas it was skinny and light-weight earlier than, it’s now, at 2.2 kilos and effectively below half an inch thick, one of many lightest laptops you should buy. That, to be frank, scared me. As a result of when Home windows laptops get unbelievably skinny and light-weight, that may imply sacrifices. It means keyboards and touchpads get shallow and ports go away and a chassis that runs as sizzling because the Solar. 

Thank the heavens above — that has not occurred to the Zenbook. The 2023 Zenbook S 13 OLED is thinner, lighter, and nonetheless nice. With an Intel processor, an OLED display, and a premium however nonetheless interesting $1,399.99 price tag, it’s my favourite Home windows laptop computer that I’ve examined for fairly a while. It stays my advice for Home windows customers looking for an alternative choice to the MacBook Air. See, everybody? I discovered one! Right here you go. 

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The principle factor to learn about this gadget is how gentle it’s. It’s noticeably lighter than each final 12 months’s mannequin and the most recent MacBook Air. I carry it round in my backpack, and I really feel like I’m carrying nothing. I truly stopped to open my bag and ensure the gadget was in there one time — that’s how weightless it’s. At 10.9 millimeters (0.43 inches) thick, it’s additionally one of many thinnest units on the market — even thinner than Samsung’s dearer Galaxy Book3 Pro.

There’s all the time the fear {that a} skinny gadget means a flimsier construct. Whereas the Zenbook doesn’t fairly have the construct high quality of the MacBook Air (it feels a bit plasticky, particularly on the keyboard deck), it’s sturdy sufficient. I introduced it on a cross-country journey, and it survived all method of bumps and jostles with out a scratch — definitely higher than many dearer units would have fared. 

Specifically, the lid is strong. It’s made from what Asus calls “plasma ceramic aluminum,” it’s bought a gorgeous inventive design, and the feel feels fairly good, definitely a step up from the remainder of the chassis. One neat factor is that every lid has an individually distinctive look because of the means that Asus makes use of “temperature and electrical energy” to fine-tune the units. I can’t let you know how a lot of a distinction that truly makes — I’ve solely bought a pattern of 1 to have a look at — nevertheless it’s a enjoyable little factoid. And it does a nice job of hiding fingerprints, which I nearly by no means get to say about darkish laptops.

Asus can also be selling this as essentially the most eco-friendly Zenbook ever produced. The lid makes use of “pure water” and requires no “natural compounds, robust acids, or heavy metals,” and the ceramic aluminum part is one hundred pc recyclable. Each firm makes lofty claims in regards to the environmental footprint of its merchandise, however what I like about what Asus is doing is that it’s specializing in the facet of its gadget that truly has a considerable environmental impression: the manufacturing course of. (That stated, as I preach at each alternative, essentially the most eco-friendly gadget is one which lasts a very long time.) 

My one massive observe on the chassis itself is that the pads on the underside of the Zenbook aren’t notably efficient. The gadget was slipping and sliding on my desk and a lot on my lap desk — rather more than I are likely to see from its rivals.

There are two shade choices: “Basalt Grey” and “Ponder Blue.”

That is an Evo-certified laptop computer co-engineered with Intel.

HDMI and two USB-C on the left.

The 2880 x 1800 OLED show doesn’t disappoint. Colours popped, brightness was aplenty, and the 16:10 panel left loads of room for shopping and scrolling. There could be a lot of glare in brighter settings; even with the display’s brightness pretty excessive in my workplace or at instances after I was proper by a window, I used to be seeing a variety of myself as I labored.

Glare was a lot much less of an issue in my considerably dimly lit condo, the place I may maintain brightness at 30 to 40 p.c with out seeing any. I do miss the excessive refresh price OLED panels that you may get on some Asus units on this class, nevertheless it’s nonetheless an awesome viewing expertise total. 

The touchpad is 129 x 81mm (5.1 x 3.2 inches, roughly).

USB-A and headphone jack on the proper.

Then, we get to the port choice, which has managed to stay pretty sturdy regardless of the downsizing. You get an HDMI 2.1, two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 (permitting for the connection of a 4K exterior show), a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Kind-A, and a headphone jack. Each of the USB-C ports are on the left aspect, which could be ever so barely a ache, however I’ll take that any day over the one-on-each-side-and-no-other-ports setup that’s turning into troublingly widespread on 13-inchers nowadays. Please, please let me maintain that HDMI. 

The 65W USB-C adapter will take up a type of ports. The Zenbook additionally helps Asus’ USB-C Straightforward Cost, which suggests you possibly can juice the gadget up with a variety of USB-C chargers, together with transportable chargers and energy banks. That gained’t essentially be quick, nevertheless it’s helpful should you’re somebody like me who forgets to deliver their charger to locations extra usually than they need to. (Good battery life, as you’ll see afterward, helps me out right here as effectively.)

The video calling expertise comes with some fancy new options, together with two-way AI noise cancellation (high quality; no person had bother listening to me on video calls) and numerous webcam results together with lighting optimization, background blurring, and the notorious eye monitoring characteristic. Audio is a little bit of a weak level — the skinny chassis doesn’t go away a variety of room for bass, and also you’ll miss it in lots of songs should you’re not actively listening for it.

The keyboard has 1.1mm of key journey, which is okay however not nice. You’ll be hitting the deck.

I like Asus keyboards, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I wasn’t essentially at my quickest or most correct on it, however the keys are so extensive with such a satisfying click on that I used to be having a good time nonetheless (and it’s fairly quiet). The deck is way sturdier than you usually discover on units this skinny, and my keystrokes didn’t depress it in any respect. The font (the identical one you see throughout Asus’ traces) is sort of giant and simple to learn, which my eyes fairly respect. There’s a little bit of backlight bleed, which I do know bothers a few of you greater than it does me.

The touchpad has shrunk a bit since final 12 months, nevertheless it’s nonetheless pretty massive and particularly fairly tall. It additionally does not flip into an LED numpad as final 12 months’s did (however that, in equity, has all the time struck me as having a considerably slim use case). In any other case, the touchpad has a little bit of a loud and agency click on (I a lot choose the Zephyrus G14’s blissfully simple one), nevertheless it’s easy to the contact and doesn’t gather prints or smudges. I’m barely relieved to see that it didn’t go haptic within the march to thinness. Whereas there are definitely good haptic trackpads on the market, we’ve additionally seen an entire bunch of skinny and clunky ones on the Home windows market as of late.

There was one oddity I skilled: typically when utilizing the Zenbook on a floor that wasn’t flat (and even sometimes on my lap desk), urgent the palm relaxation in sure locations, at a sure angle, would inadvertently depress the touchpad. That is one thing you see every now and then on very skinny units, and it was occasional right here — I didn’t see it almost as usually as I do on, say, the Floor Professional 9. Nonetheless, that is an annoyance that you just wouldn’t count on to see on one thing just like the XPS 13 (or the haptic-equipped MacBook Air).

Inside this Zenbook is Intel’s brand-new thirteenth Gen Core i7-1355U. Intel didn’t promise large efficiency features from these chips in comparison with the twelfth Gen U-series, however that is nonetheless one of many prime ultraportable chips that you just’ll see available on the market this 12 months. 

The model I received is $1,399.99. It has 32GB of RAM (LPDDR5) and 1TB of storage. It’s the highest SKU you should buy — and at present, from a glance at Asus’ website on the time of this writing, the solely thirteenth Gen Intel SKU you should buy. 

For $1,399.99, these specs are a reasonably respectable deal. The M2 MacBook Air, for comparability, can solely go as much as 24GB of reminiscence, and pairing that with a terabyte of storage would value you at least $1,999. When you think about that the Zenbook is thinner and lighter, with a greater port choice and a higher-resolution display, it makes for a gorgeous different on paper.

The display bezels are big-ish however mix in effectively with darkish photographs like this one.

The AMD Ryzen 6000 collection was in final 12 months’s Zenbook S 13 OLED, and that powerhouse chip was an enormous a part of what made the gadget such a standout. Alternatively, that gadget was additionally mainly inconceivable to purchase a lot of the time, and rumor has it that offer points on AMD’s finish have been at the least partially responsible. So I used to be half relieved and half anxious to listen to that the road had been switched to Intel-exclusive this 12 months.  

However the thirteenth Gen Core i7 is holding its personal towards each AMD’s and Apple’s choices. It carried out comparably to the Ryzen 7 6800U that was in final 12 months’s take a look at unit on the graphics assessments we ran. It did a bit better in Premiere Professional efficiency (the place Intel is sort of robust) and a bit worse in gaming efficiency (the place AMD is sort of robust). A few of its artificial benchmark scores have been behind those of its AMD predecessor, and maybe that discrepancy will present by means of in heavy workloads, however for the most typical ultraportable use circumstances (emailing, net use, normal workplace duties), I don’t discover a lot of a distinction. It’s not as massive of an issue for me as it could be on a gaming laptop computer or workstation.

In opposition to Apple, the Zenbook truly beat the M2 MacBook Air in single-core benchmarks. (The MacBook dominated in multicore benchmarks because it has two extra performance-oriented cores than the i7-1355U does and was unsurprisingly a stronger graphic performer.) Whereas the M2 achieves higher outcomes total, it’s not fairly giving Intel’s ultraportable chips the sound drubbing throughout the board that it as soon as was. 

Benchmark testing was the place the Zenbook’s skinny profile began to indicate by means of a bit. It was clear that the followers (which have been fairly loud below these heavy hundreds) had a troublesome job of retaining the Core i7 cool, and temperatures usually bounced into the low 90s throughout benchmark testing. That’s not 2022 XPS ranges of warmth, nevertheless it’s nonetheless hotter than I choose to see. The thermal limitations have been mirrored in Cinebench scores, which decreased between the 10-minute and 30-minute runs.

Whisper Mode stored the followers utterly silent

This wasn’t a priority throughout my common work use, after all, which consisted of round 20 Chrome tabs with Spotify typically operating within the background. That’s the place I used to be in a position to placed on Whisper Mode (accessible within the MyAsus software program), which stored the followers utterly silent. Whisper Mode considerably limits efficiency, and I didn’t fairly get the unbelievable velocity that I do from the MacBook — I sometimes noticed some drag with issues like window resizing and opening some heavier apps like Lightroom — nevertheless it was nonetheless loads comfy to be used, and what heat did happen beneath the keyboard wasn’t sufficient to be a distraction. You possibly can flip off Whisper Mode for heavier work, however count on to listen to a low hum from the followers every now and then.

There’s no bodily webcam shutter, however there’s a digital camera kill change on the keyboard.

However the facet of this gadget that was by far — by very far — essentially the most thrilling shock was battery life. I ran the battery down many instances on the Zenbook doing the every day workload described above, and I averaged simply over eight and a half hours of use from it. Eight and a half! On the entire, it was higher than final 12 months’s Zenbook. It’s round what I often get from the MacBook Air.

The facet of this gadget that was by far — by very far — essentially the most thrilling shock was battery life

And that’s what actually seals the deal for me with this laptop computer. It has been so tough for me to actually enthusiastically suggest a conveyable 13-inch Home windows laptop computer in recent times as a result of their battery life simply hasn’t been corresponding to what the MacBook Air can present. I lastly, lastly discovered one which lasts about as lengthy. Lastly! 

That doesn’t imply the Air doesn’t have loads of different benefits over the Zenbook. It’s, on the entire, a extra premium gadget (and its increased value displays that). However I’m so, so happy to see all-day battery life from an Intel machine that I’m discovering it arduous to care too a lot in regards to the Zenbook’s different flaws. 

On the finish of the day, this gadget is an effective package deal, and the mix of efficiency, display, port choice, specs, and battery life that it presents beat what you’ll discover in some dearer merchandise. There are areas for enchancment, notably with the audio system and trackpad, however not many egregious compromises. If you happen to’re asking me for a Home windows-running MacBook Air different, the Zenbook S 13 OLED could be very a lot it.

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