When it comes to ultra-portable laptops, the Macbook Air remains at the forefront, but for laptops running Windows the competition is hot. Enter the ASUS Zenbook S13, the world’s slimmest OLED ultraportable laptop.
ASUS isn’t cutting corners with the Zenbook S13 either. It includes either a 13th Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, up to 16GB DDR5 RAM and up to a 1TB Gen 4 SSD. It also includes a 13.3-inch 16:10 2.8K OLED HDR NanoEdge display in a chassis that’s just 1.18 cm thin at its thickest point and just 1Kg in weight.
Priced from $2,099 for the Core i5 model, ASUS have sent over the Core i7 model for review which starts at $2,399.
I’ve been using the ASUS Zenbook S13 for two weeks and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
Picking up the ASUS Zenbook S13, it’s immediately apparent this is something special in terms of design. There’s almost no weight to it, and the slim 1.18cm profile, ASUS have managed to still fit in a surprising amount of ports. There’s a full-sized USB Type A and audio jack on one side and dual USB Type C (Thunderbolt 4) ports and HDMI out on the other.
ASUS have also engineered a specially designed ultra-slim OLED panel for the Zenbook S13 which is 30% smaller to minimise the footprint. This panel is hidden behind a Basalt Grey coloured top, made of something called plasma ceramic aluminium. By pure dint of the manufacturing process, each lid has a unique finish to it and it feels fantastic to the touch, similar to a smooth stone and doesn’t retain fingerprints.
To aid in passive cooling, the lid of the Zenbook S13 acts as a pivot, lifting the lower deck from the desk and allowing more airflow. Under load though the Zenbook S13 has a couple of fans that ramp up, you can hear them when they kick in, but they’re also not overly noisy unless you’re in a very quiet room. I also found the feet on the base of the laptop weren’t quite as ‘grippy’ as other laptops so there was a little movement on the desk as you type.
While it has a thin profile, it’s far from flimsy with the magnesium alloy chassis feeling quite strong, with very little flex. The Zenbook S13 is also certified US MIL-STD 810H military-grade standard, meaning it’s been tested for drops, extreme temperatures and more.
The lower deck includes an excellent ASUS Keyboard and glass covered ErgoSense Touchpad. The keyboard is backlit and is extremely comfortable to type on, with slight depressions on each key making it more comfortable to type on or just rest your fingers and the deck itself has essentially no flex so it feels fast and stable when typing.
The glass touchpad is big and responsive with a nicely satisfying click when you use it. ASUS has removed the ‘NumberPad 2.0’ feature, which was present on last years model which is a disappointment, but if you don’t use the numeric keypad a lot you won’t miss it.
The display is a highlight of the Zenbook S13. It’s a 13.3-inch 16:10 2.8K OLED HDR NanoEdge display, with an IR enabled FullHD resolution webcam above which works fairly well in terms of quality – though there’s no manual privacy shutter.
The OLED display itself is gorgeous to look at. It’s colour accurate (it supports 100% DCI-P3 and is Pantone validated) and it’s Dolby Vision certified and supports HDR so the colours really pop.
With a peak brightness of 550nits, It’s also bright enough to work in almost any lighting conditions. The display has a glossy finish though, so reflections can be a problem, but the hinge allows for up to 180° so you can lay the display flat if you need, making it pretty easy to find a good angle.
To pair with the fantastic OLED panel, ASUS have included Harman Kardon certified speakers with Dolby Atmos support in the Zenbook S13.
The quality of audio is good, with the dual speakers able to ramp up volume without losing clarity and getting distorted – thanks to the ASUS Audio Booster software which can boost it more than 5x the volume without distorting.
Overall, you’re not going to get thumping bass from it, but with the distortion-free mid-range sounding great, it’s a good quality audio setup that means you can watch media on there with decent quality.
The 13th Gen Intel Core i7 U-series processor, 16GB DDR5 RAM and 1TB M.2 SSD make for a very good combination for the majority of work. The only time you may not find the combo sufficient is for gaming, with the Intel Iris Xe GPU not quite suited for gaming.
I tried out Cyberpunk 2077, Sons of the Forest, with neither offering any sort of playability even with lower settings. I did have some good play using the Xbox Game Pass app (there’s a 3-month trial included) and Forza Motorsport was able to play fairly nicely using low settings.
As far as wireless performance goes, the Zenbook S13 includes dual-band WiFi 6E (802.11ax), as well as Bluetooth 5.2. The faster Wifi connectivity is of course dependent on you having a compatible router, but if you do, it’s a nice speed improvement.
Of course I ran the ASUS Zenbook S13 through 3DMark and here’s how it went.
Battery and Charging
There’s a 63WHr 4-cell Li-ion battery included in the Zenbook S13, with a 65W USB Type C charger included in the box.
In terms of battery life, the Zenbook S13 will get you through a full day of battery life when doing work. My average day saw me able to work from 8am until just after 4pm most days with a few breaks. This work was mostly online in the browser or doing work in Google Docs/Office, with some music and videos along the way.
It was a solid performance, and if you do need some more power you can get almost 50% charge in just 30 minutes.
As with most laptops, having the USB C ports all on one side can be a little difficult for charging if the power outlet is on the other side, but it is what it is.
ASUS offer the Zenbook S13 with both Windows Home and Professional, depending on your needs. Microsoft keep Windows updated and patched regularly, but you of course get McAfee pre-installed to keep you free from malware, virus’s etc. and it will pop up to remind you that your free trial will end soon.
There is of course a variety of utilities for the hardware in the laptop. There’s Intel apps for configuring the GPU, as well as wireless file transfer, Realtek app for your audio and Dolby Access for your Atmos config.
Of course Microsoft include all their usual apps, including the free MSOffice 365 trial which you’re free to decline.
ASUS also have their MyASUS software. It’s a hub for your laptop including Software Updates, Hardware config and even the option diagnosing issues with your laptops, and even special offers including a 3-month trial of Adobe Creative Cloud.
Overall it’s a fairly standard loadout for laptops. You can uninstall the apps you don’t want and go from there.
Should you buy it?
There’s a lot of ultra-portable laptops running Windows out there, but the Zenbook S13 is one of the few which ticks a lot of the boxes. It has good performance, battery life, it’s extremely light-weight and it looks fantastic doing it.
Of course there’s things you could improve. The lack of touchscreen for one and possibly some improved cooling for less fan noise under load. But overall, it’s a heck of a laptop and unless you’re after the option to game, the Zenbook S13 will do almost everything you ask of it.
At $2,399 it’s an absolute beast of an ultra-portable and offers a very lightweight, yet tough option for anyone looking to get work done on the road.