Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED review: the alternative to the MacBook Air

At this point, if you’ve used an Asus Zenbook, you’ve used them all. It’s the closest Asus has to a competitor to the MacBook Air, with a slightly flimsier chassis, touchpads with more sophisticated features and slightly less intimidating price tags. In recent years, they have also become one of the cheapest ways to get an OLED screen on a laptop.

But this particular Zenbook, the $1,299 OLED Zenbook S 13, is also exciting because it’s one of the first devices I got to test with AMD’s long-awaited Ryzen 6000 series inside. And while the Zenbook’s chassis is otherwise unremarkable, the chip inside delivers both CPU performance and integrated graphics that are, again, some of the best you can get in an ultra-slim laptop. This power, combined with the ultra-portability that the Zenbook line is famous for, makes the Zenbook S 13 OLED a very viable MacBook Air alternative for those open to Windows.

The Zenbook S 13 doesn’t look particularly different from the legions of other Zenbooks, but that’s not a bad thing. At 2.43 pounds and 0.59 inches thick, it’s one of those devices you can fit into even the most packed backpacks (and won’t even feel it while it’s there). ). While the lid and deck have a somewhat plasticky feel, there’s very little flex in the keyboard lid or deck. Both were also quite resistant to fingerprint collection, which is an issue I’ve had with Zenbooks in the past.

The rear right corner of the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED.

Look at the new logo, by the way.

Hitting an OLED panel on an ultraportable line notoriously has the danger of making that line sky-high and destroying its battery life. This makes this device a breath of fresh air. This OLED touchscreen, while not as vibrant as the more expensive OLEDs on the market, is still quite nice, hitting a perfectly usable 360 ​​nits in my tests with almost no glare. (And it’s 4:10 p.m., providing more vertical space.)

And I still averaged seven hours and 45 minutes of office work on this device with the display at medium brightness and battery saver turned on (and that was very consistently the time I saw on several tests). While I could squeeze a few more hours out of the most recent MacBook Air, it’s still good compared to the various 12th Gen Intel machines I’ve tested this year (as well as all sorts of Intel-powered Zenbooks).

The Asus Zenbook 13 S OLED opens on a blue and pink surface.  The screen displays the Asus Zenbook S OLED logo above a jet of water on a blue background.

Covers 100% sRGB, 100% P3 and 97% Adobe RGB.

Zenbooks are also some of my favorite media machines, and this one works well for that use case. The sound was quite good, with audible bass and percussion and no distortion at maximum volume. It sounded quite similar to the MacBook Air in side-by-side testing, with voices perhaps slightly clearer on the Air. There’s a noticeable surround effect – I felt like my music surrounded me – and it’s all adjustable in the Dolby Access app. In fact, I thought the Game and Movie profiles (which prioritize positional accuracy) led to higher-quality, more surround-sounding music than the Music profile (which seemed a little muted in comparison).

The microphones, which support AI noise cancellation, weren’t a problem for me either, and people could hear me just fine over the very loud air conditioner in my apartment.

The Asus Zenbook 13 S OLED keyboard seen from above and from the left on a blue and yellow surface.

I love Asus keyboards, and this one is awesome.

The Asus Zenbook 13 S OLED half open, lid visible, on a yellow and blue surface.

The classic concentric tourbillon has also disappeared here.

The only significant downside that people should be aware of is port selection. The Zenbook is now close to MacBook levels of connectivity – all you get are three USB-C ports and a headphone jack. I like that there’s at least one USB-C port on each side (and they’re USB-4 compatible). Asus includes a USB-C to USB-A adapter in the Zenbook box, but needing to use left and right dongles is still a hassle. (There’s at least a headphone jack, which some previous OLED Zenbooks have made the unfortunate decision to omit.)

The port on the left side of the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED.

A USB-C on the left.

The ports on the right side of the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED.

Two USB-Cs and a headphone jack on the right.

The unit I’m testing (which is the only Zenbook 13 S configuration I could find for pre-order) is currently listed at $1,299. It features the eight-core Ryzen 7 6800U, 1TB of storage, 16GB of RAM, and the 2880 x 1800 OLED display. That’s a very attractive price for those specs, especially considering the display.

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED webcam.

The webcam is… good.

The system worked very well throughout my working day. I used a whole bunch of Chrome tabs in addition to all sorts of downloads, apps, and a Zoom call on Battery Saver with no lag. I sometimes felt heat on the bottom of the device, but never felt any on the palm rests or keyboard. (And I didn’t hear the fans unless I had the Performance profile enabled, and even then they weren’t obnoxious.) In intensive testing, the CPU didn’t go above 96 degrees Celsius (but it spent a lot of time hovering between 85 and 95 degrees Celsius, which is definitely hot).

The Zenbook finished exporting a five-minute, 33-second 4K video in just over 15 minutes. This doesn’t compare favorably to the scores we’ve seen on previous machines that have completed this test, as the latest version of Premiere Pro gave slower scores in all areas than previous iterations. Still, it’s worth noting for any budding video enthusiasts that these types of workloads aren’t usually AMD’s forte. The device loses to the MacBook Air M2 (as well as the M1 device) on PugetBench for Premiere Prowhich tests live playback and export time at 4K and 8K, as well as various 12th Gen Intel systems.

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED opens on a pink and blue background.  The screen displays The Verge home page.

If it didn’t have seven negative ports, I’d consider it for casual gaming.

Outside of those use cases, however, AMD’s integrated graphics are very impressive. I’ve been saying this for years, but there’s really no reason to buy laptops with entry-level Nvidia MX GPUs when the integrated graphics are performing well.

The system averaged 238 fps on League of Legends and 114fps on rocket leaguemaximum settings of (all at 1080p resolution). Surveillance was even playable on Epic settings, averaging 52fps on this preset and 83fps on Ultra. Same Shadow of the Tomb Raider was more than playable at the lowest settings, averaging 53fps. (Although not playable on the highest settings, averaging 25fps.)

These results are among the best we’ve seen with integrated graphics in a 13-inch device. They edge out the MacBook Air M2 (not to mention the M1 model), and they also beat the 12th Gen Intel XPS 13 Plus Intel. Given how much more affordable this device is than both these laptopsit’s pretty impressive (and, frankly, encouraging) to see.

That’s what I take away most from the Zenbook S 13 OLED: AMD still makes some of the best integrated graphics you can get in a laptop of this size.

The eight-core Ryzen 7 chip remains a serious challenger to the best mobile chips from Apple and Intel you can find in the 13-inch space. While it doesn’t offer the long battery life that the M2 does, or Intel’s dominance in creative workloads, it’s still a powerful all-around chip that delivers an experience of really excellent game without too much external heat. Maybe one day Intel will regain the top of the chip market, but not this year.

Couple that with the acceptable battery life the Zenbook gave us and the OLED touchscreen, and I’d say it’s a great option for anyone who finds high-end ultraportables like the MacBook Air are over budget (or just prefer Windows over macOS).

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