Asus has crafted a really skinny, portable notebook with the new Zenbook S 13 OLED. It further improves on the previous model, which was one of my favourite ultraportable laptops last year. The 2023 edition is even thinner and lighter. And there's no longer a need for a dongle as it comes with a USB-A port, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI, and a headphone jack. But it's not all rosy. Performance and battery life have both taken a hit, and it's also more expensive than its predecessor.
- 13.3-inch (2,880 x 1,800 pixels) OLED screen
- Intel Core i7-1355U with 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD
- USB Type-A, 2x Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, audio jack
At 1kg, the Zenbook S 13 OLED is just a tad lighter than the previous model. But dropping the weight to the 1kg mark is already a big marketing win for Asus. Especially since it didn't come at the expense of the connectivity options. In fact, the Zenbook now has a full-size USB-A port, and a HDMI port. In contrast, last year's model had three USB-C ports, and hence required a dongle. My Basalt Gray model uses a new “plasma ceramic aluminum” material that's supposedly fully recyclable, and helps to make it the most eco-friendly Zenbook yet. The laptop's matte finish has a nice, slightly-textured feel, and seems quite resistant to fingerprints. And despite being so thin (around 1cm thick), the chassis feels stiff without much flex.
Unsurprisingly for a thin-and-light notebook, the Zenbook's keyboard doesn't offer much key travel. It may also feel a smidgen cramped. The keyboard is slightly angled and elevated when the laptop is open, like in some of Asus' other laptops. The touchpad is large, practically Apple-like in its size. Like the best business notebook, I could open the Zenbook's lid with just one hand, and it also opens 180 degrees to lie flat. There's no fingerprint reader. Asus has opted for facial recognition using an infrared webcam instead. It's a good alternative — fast and accurate — but there's no physical privacy shutter, just a keyboard shortcut to disable the camera. This 1080p camera automatically keeps my face in focus, but it's fairly noisy.
Going from AMD to Intel is why the new Zenbook S 13 OLED is actually slower than its predecessor. The older AMD-powered model had scored 6,255 in PCMark 10, which is about 10% faster than the 5,660 produced by the Intel Core i7-1355U processor in the latest model. That being said, this laptop's target audience — students and office workers — is unlikely to notice a stark difference in terms of responsiveness and user experience. But they may notice the difference in battery life. While the new Zenbook managed a very decent 7 hours of uptime in a video playback test with the screen brightness set to maximum, the older laptop lasted over 10 hours.
Overall, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED impresses with its sleek yet solid build. In particular, I liked its matte textured finish that's seemingly fingerprint resistant. It also improves on the connectivity front compared with its predecessor. However, battery life, while still very decent, has taken a significant hit. Performance is also slightly lower than last year's AMD-powered Zenbook. At around S$2,200, it's a bit more expensive than the 2022 version (S$2,098). But this Zenbook is still a very good ultraportable laptop that's competitive with other thin-and-light notebooks in the market. Buy it from Asus, Lazada or Shopee.
Note: Review unit provided by Asus.
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