Asus’s Zenbook range has always been left behind in best laptop lists by brands like HP and Dell, offering great quality and unique features, but usually with a catch, be it inconsistent performance, poor battery life or poor battery life. Strange configuration option. The ZenBook S13 OLED may break that pattern, especially with the way it compares to the MacBook Air.
A fresh look helps elevate the laptop from the storied designs of other flagship machines, and the OLED display is second to none. We still have some more tests to do to fully see the ZenBook S13 OLED, but my initial time with the machine has been very positive.
specs and configuration
A new generation means a spec bump for most laptops, but the ZenBook S 13 OLED has a bit more going on. You’re getting an Intel Core i7-1355U with 32GB of LPDDR5-5200 memory. There’s also a 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD inside.
|Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED (2023)|
|DIMENSIONS||11.66 x 8.51 x 0.42 Inch|
|processor||Intel Core i7-1355U|
|GRAPHICS||Intel XE Graphics|
|to hit||up to 32GB LPDDR5 5200MHz|
|Show||13.3-inch 2,880 x 1,880 OLED|
|storage||Up to 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD|
|ports||2x Thunderbolt 4 Ports, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A, 1x HDMI 2.1|
|wireless||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2|
|webcam||1080P + IR Camera|
|Operating System||windows 11 pro|
In the previous generation, Asus offered 12th-gen Intel processors, but only Inside its 2-in-1 model. The standard clamshell design was discontinued for AMD’s Ryzen 6000 processors. It’s unclear whether Asus will offer the Ryzen 7000 CPUs in their new designs once they hit shelves, but going back to Intel is an interesting move. You’re also getting twice the RAM compared to the previous generation, but the same amount of storage.
Asus changed the ports as well, and I’m happy with the changes. Instead of three USB-C ports, Asus splits the ports with two Thunderbolt 4 connections and one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port. You also get a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port, saving you some money if you want to use an external display and don’t have a Thunderbolt dock.
It’s a small change, but the addition of a USB-A port helps make the ZenBook S 13 OLED more practical in day-to-day use. I wouldn’t argue with the additional HDMI 2.1 port, even if it isn’t necessary for this type of design. Either way, it’s a big step up from alternatives like the MacBook Pro 13-inch or MacBook Air.
This configuration, the UX5304, is the only one we have right now. Asus will likely sell at least one other configuration, but I’m not sure what its specs will be. Asus is asking $1,400 for this configuration, placing it somewhere in the range of the MacBook Pro 13 or Dell XPS 13 Plus.
Advanced Zen Design
The ZenBook S 13 OLED looks incredible, and its design goes well beyond a few aesthetic changes. You have two color options, either the classic Ponder Blue or the new Basalt Grey, which at first seems like a downgrade. The previous generation offered four color options, but there’s a good reason for Asus only offering two.
The lid is made with a plasma ceramic aluminum process, which hardens raw aluminum through a chemical process carried out by a bath of water and electricity. The top lid can tolerate up to 8H Pencil marks without leaving a scratch. Compare this to traditional anodized aluminum, which can see scratches with 5H hardness. This is the second laptop to feature this lid, which was originally introduced by the Zenbook 14X.
It’s hard to argue with the added durability, but Asus managed to elevate the laptop’s looks in the process. The ZenBook S13 OLED’s lid has a soft subtle texture that’s much more attractive than an anodized top, and because of the unique lid-making process, each laptop is a Little Separate. Not to mention the cleaner process for manufacturing – unlike anodized tops, Asus’s process doesn’t require any acids or heavy metals.
But enough with the lids. It’s a nice update, but elsewhere Asus made the earlier ZenBook S13 OLED a great 13-inch laptop. The laptop clocks in at the same 2.2 pounds as the first model, so it’s lighter. Asus has managed to trim the thickness as well, bringing it down from 1.5cm to just 1cm. it’s a little thinner than that M2 MacBook Air.
This is a highly portable laptop, so much so that Asus has made some updates to keep it quiet during use. Similar to Asus’ ROG Zephyrus M16, the hinge is more aggressive in kicking the laptop. This helps dissipate heat, but more importantly, it angles the keyboard so the laptop is more comfortable to type on. You can also keep the laptop upright. Talking about the keyboard, this is the first laptop that mimics Apple’s most recent MacBook Pro design, with a black island backdrop for its keyboard. The resemblance is unmistakable, and I suspect Asus will be the last to copy this particular design element.
The ZenBook range has always looked good – just read our Asus ZenBook 14X OLED review – but the ZenBook S 13 OLED’s redesign makes it feel unique. In a wide sea of 13-inch laptops, the ZenBook S 13 OLED feels like it stands out, and it’s all helped with its durability and stability.
World Class OLED Display
Asus was one of the first to introduce OLED displays in laptops with machines like The Zenbook 16X OLED, and the Zenbook S13 OLED carry that torch. It features an Asus Lumina OLED display, which according to the company, is the name given only to panels that meet Asus’ strict quality criteria.
We’ll have to test the panel further to see if that benchmarks, but there’s no doubt that an OLED display looks far better than an LCD like the one you’ll find on the Dell XPS 13. Asus claims you’ll get less color error. over 1, plus 0.2 millisecond response time. Again, we’ll need to verify those claims, but Asus has the branding to back up its specifications. The display comes with DisplayHDR True Black 500, Dolby Vision and Pantone Validated certification.
If Asus’ previous OLED models are any indication, the Zenbook S 13 will hold OLED. Even in my brief time with the display, the colors jumped out of the screen. And with OLED panels being able to control the brightness of individual pixels, you get perfect black levels.
It comes with the same resolution and aspect ratio as previous Asus designs – 2,880 x 1,880 with a 16:10 aspect ratio – but the smaller 13.3-inch size bumps up the pixel density. At this size and resolution, the ZenBook S13 OLED actually has a slightly higher pixel density than the Liquid Retina XDR display on the MacBook Pro 14, so it looks remarkably sharp. But compared to what is offered in the MacBook Air, this OLED display is going to be a major upgrade in terms of image quality.
My initial impressions of the ZenBook S13 OLED are very positive, but there’s still a lot to test. Most importantly, we’ll test performance and battery life to see where the laptop falls. Asus claims 14 hours of battery life, and this will be a key area where the ZenBook S13 OLED lives or dies.
Outside of the obvious, webcams are another important area we’ll be focusing on. The previous generation model could ship with a 720p webcam, which wasn’t the best. Asus has updated the webcam to full 1080p, but we’ll need to spend some more time with it to see how it really looks.
However, at first glance, the Zenbook S 13 OLED is surprising. The screen is gorgeous, as we’ve come to expect from Asus’ Zenbook range, and the portability is unmatched. We’ll update this review once we’ve had some time to fully test the laptop, but so far it’s looking good.