The Zenbook S 13 OLED has great performance, good battery life and an excellent screen, all within a device that weighs just 1kg. But the price tag and cooling stop it from being the best ultraportable laptop you can buy, especially considering how noisy it is.
Opting for an thin and light laptop usually means making significant sacrifices elsewhere.
Performance, battery life, ports and display are are among the most common compromises, but the 2023 Zenbook S 13 OLED manages to avoid all of these.
Aside from the premium price tag, are there any other reasons not to buy it? The short answer is yes, although they might not be dealbreakers.
Design and build
Extremely thin and light
Feels very sturdy and durable
The ultralight Asus Zenbook models we’ve previously tested have varied greatly in weight, and they’ve rarely been among the lightest. That changes with this year’s top model, which is one of the lightest of 2023 so far at just under 1kg.
According to Asus, it’s “lighter than any other 13.3-inch laptop in its class”. But what does that actually mean? There are other 13in laptops that weigh 1kg or less, so the more pertinent question is what Asus means by “its class”.
Judging by the way it looks, we’re talking premium devices. Even before you switch on the Zenbook S 13 OLED, it’s an eye-catching computer. Its sleek design and cut-outs in the screen lid, inspired by Asus’ new logo, make it unmistakable.
It’s a traditional approach to a laptop of this size, with the 13.3in display adopting the classic widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio.
The device is built from sturdy pieces of lightweight metal and holds a rigid shape, although it creaks a bit when you turn it around. You shouldn’t have to worry about long-term durability, though, with military-grade certification for impact resistance.
When open, the back of the screen cover goes down behind the keyboard slightly. This raises the back of it an extra centimetre or so, leading to a more comfortable viewing angle and more effective cooling.
The Zenbook S 13 OLED is one of the more expensive ultralight laptops you can buy, but you still get plenty of performance for your money.
With a powerful Intel Core i7 processor from the latest 13th generation, 16GB of RAM, a huge 1TB SSD and high resolution OLED display on the model I tested, expectations were high. Fortunately, Asus certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to Zenbook S 13 OLED performance.
It’s worth noting that a cheaper AMD Ryzen 7 version is also available in some countries, and it offers the same amount of RAM and SSD storage. But I can’t comment on its performance or power efficiency, as the sample we received is the Intel version.
The latter is fast, largely matching an M2 MacBook Air in most tests. There is a drop-off in graphical performance, which reflects the the choice of integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics rather than a discrete GPU.
However, a read speed of the 7Gbps means the SSD storage is also quick. To boost speeds even further, there’s the option to double RAM to 32GB, although you will pay a premium.
Some rival laptops offer similar specs, but the lack of effective cooling systems can often limit performance. On the Zenbook S 13 OLED, the cooling is solid, but not the most subtle.
In ‘performance’ mode, which is supposed to have the most active cooling, fans kicked in during simple tasks such as watching YouTube or installing a new app. They can get annoying during more demanding workloads, but it’s the constant background whine that proves to be the most distracting.
Like many laptops, the Zenbook is prone to overheating on its underside. This is a device to be used on a table – not your lap.
But despite the challenge of cooling in such a compact chassis, the hardware delivers plenty of computing power. You can easily edit video and high-resolution photos, something which can’t always be said for thin and light laptops.
ccc. Its an OLED panel, offering all the vibrant colours and excellent contrast we’ve come to expect from them.
A maximum brightness of around 350 nits is fairly typical for a modern laptop, bit it makes outdoor visibility a bit of a challenge. You may be able to get higher by enabling HDR mode, with the latter delivering a truly impressive HDR experience.
Compared to the OLED display on Acer’s Swift Go 14, you can also expect better colour accuracy. There are four presets available: Native, sRGB, DCI-P3 and Display P3. All four look great, while AdobeRGB coverage is similarly impressive – you’re looking at around 96%.
The Zenbook S 13 OLED has stereo speakers built into the underside of the computer, plus Dolby Atmos support on the software side. As a result, you can expect rich and full-bodied sound. Music has a distinctive sound and plenty of bass, while there’s great depth to the audio while watching films or TV shows.
Below the display is a full-size keyboard, although Asus has still left wide margins on all sides. Being such a compact device means there’s relatively little key travel, something which is even more pronounced on Shift and Tab keys.
However, it’s still a comfortable keyboard to type on. It feels clicky and responsive, while the backlighting is appropriate for all ambient lighting conditions. The large touchpad is also impressive, allowing for a level of precision that you don’t always get on laptops.
Ports, webcam and software
Plenty of ports
Impressive 1080p webcam
Clean version of Windows 11
Despite being so thin, the Zenbook S 13 OLED has an impressive range of ports. Both USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 4 (on Intel models) and can be used for charging, while you also get one USB-A and an HDMI port.
Devices such as the Dell XPS 13 Plus make big sacrifices in this area, offering only USB-C. Thankfully, Asus has opted for something more practical. Wireless connections via Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 are solid, too.
Above the screen, you’ll find a solid Full HD (1080p) webcam. It handles exposure well and offers decent colours, although you’ll need good ambient lighting for the best results.
Asus also has an AI-assisted mode, which can blur the background, maintain eye contact with the camera, or keep your face in frame at all times. It works well, but puts a strain on the processor and produces intense fan noise.
The Zenbook S 13 OLED runs Windows 11, and there’s relatively little extra software. In fact, alongside Realtek and Dolby audio tuners and Intel chipset software, the only other extra pre-installed app is MyASUS. It includes various extra customisation options, such as those for the display, cooling and webcam. It’s a worthwhile addition.
Price and availability
The Zenbook S 13 OLED is a premium laptop, and its price reflects that.
In the US, you can pick up the Intel Core i7 model tested for $1,399.99, both from Asus and Best Buy.
The product page is live on the Asus UK site, but it’s not available to buy yet. We also don’t yet know how much it’ll cost there.
Nonetheless, that US price puts it in direct competition with some of the best laptops you can buy. Among 13in devices, it’s arguably more well-rounded than the Dell XPS 13 Plus or Microsoft Surface Laptop 5.
If you need a premium laptop but portability is your top priority, the Zenbook S 13 OLED is definitely worth considering.
Despite being just 1.2cm thick and 1kg in weight, none of the typical compromises are apparent here. Performance is impressive, battery life is solid and there are even plenty of ports. With a slick design and OLED display that rivals some of the best around, there’s a lot to like here.
However, it’s by no means perfect. The fans regularly kick in and can get annoying, while the keyboard lacks true depth.
It’s also relatively expensive, so meaning the Zenbook S 13 OLED isn’t an instant recommendation for everyone. But it is an excellent laptop.