Asus is stretching the boundaries of what’s possible with thin and light portable PCs, and the 2023 Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED sets a high bar for what’s possible in an ultraportable. The computer weighs in at just 2.2 lbs, and it’s only 0.39 inches thick — small enough that it’s a negligible addition to any backpack or travel bag, while offering a lot of power to help satisfy the workload requirements of a vast majority of people.
The Zenbook S 13 OLED for this year resembles the one that Asus released in 2022, but comes with enough significant differences that they’re really fairly distinct machines. The biggest difference is arguably the processor, since the 2023 version uses a 13th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and last year’s version sports an AMD Ryzen 7 6800 CPU. The other major difference comes in the case, which has a slimmer bottom half, which necessitated a keyboard switch. The display on the 2023 version also doesn’t support pen or touch input, whereas the Ryzen-powered 2022 Zenbook S does.
It’s a little bit more expensive than the Ryzen version was, starting at $1,399 rather than $1,299, but $100 difference isn’t really significant and you still get a lot of computer for the price.
The switch to Intel means you also get two Thunderbolt 4 ports, vs. the USB 3.0 C-type ports on the last version. There’s also one USB A port, a full size HDMI connector and a 3.5mm audio jack. The trackpad is bigger — I’d call it downright expansive now — but it does drop the nifty trick of previous Zenbooks of having the trackpad double as a numpad via a capacitive button press.
Asus estimates battery life for the 2023 Zenbook S 13 OLED at up to 14 hours, but of course that’s going to depend on what you’re doing with it (more on how it actually fares in the performance section below). The 2.8K HDR OLED display is capable of a max brightness of 550 nits, and it offers 100% DCI-P3 color gamut coverage. In the box, you get a 65w USB charger, and a sleeve-style case for extra protection.
Design and build
Asus has done a great job with the aesthetics of the Zenbook lineup over the past couple of years, and the 2023 Zenbook S 13 OLED is no exception. It features an eye-catching, contrast-colored top case that has a finish that evokes a matte patterned rock, and the palmrest and keyboard surround are made of a recycled magnesium-aluminum alloy that feels great to touch. This is already the only PC notebook that I’ve received compliments from observers about, which says a lot about the design choices made here on a purely superficial level.
Despite being so thin and light, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED also still feels remarkably durable and solid. Asus says it meets US MIL-STD-810H military-grade standards for durability, and while I didn’t put it through anywhere near that kind of rigorous testing, I can attest that it stook up remarkably well to both indoor and outdoor home use, as well as to travel without any extra effort given to protecting or babying it during transit.
The port loadout here is pretty ideal, with a range of options for accessories new and old. If there was anything to complain about here, it’d be the lack of an SD or microSD slot, but that’s understandable given how much focus Asus placed on making this the thinnest and lightest laptop possible. Speaking of that, it’s really remarkable to pick this thing up and see just how light it is: It even makes last year’s model feel a bit bulky, despite the fact that it’s only about 0.13 lbs heavier.
Features and performance
The 13th gen Intel chip powering the 2023 Zenbook S 13 provides plenty of pep, and it comes with 16GB of onboard memory and a fast 1TB SSD so it’ll never feel pokey. the trade-off for the power comes in the form of heat, which Asus mostly effectively dissipates with the onboard fan system. ‘Mostly’ being the key word, however. The notebook can get quite hot, especially around the back top middle of the bottom panel, and that can be hot enough that you might experience some discomfort using it as an actual laptop while wearing shorts. The heat seems only to be short-lived even when it does build up, however, even when using a more performance-oriented power profile and using an application like Photoshop as well as multiple browser tabs.
Where some users might have more of a problem is with the fan noise: The 2023 Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED can unfortunately make quite a bit of it, and it’s not so much that it’s loud, but that it’s fairly high-pitched. In a quiet room, this can result in a quite noticeable whine, which may not be ideal either for the user or for anyone sitting in close proximity to them. The good news is that if you have any decent level of ambient noise at all – if you’re at a coffee shop or outdoors, for instance, the noise essentially disappears entirely.
These issues are obviously going to be more of a problem for anyone who aims to use this computer for gaming, graphics work or anything else that’s going to tax the processor or integrated GPU: I took it on a few work trips and used it during five and six hour flights for my standard workload, which consists primarily of browser tabs and Photoshop, and didn’t have any issue with the noise in those settings.
The Zenbook did have impressive battery life — under real-world use conditions, I obviously wasn’t getting 13 hours, but I was getting around 10 on average which is more than enough for a work and play laptop.
For me, the 2023 Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is very nearly the perfect all-around PC — it’s easily the best for traveling, given its slim form factor and decently long-lived battery, along with that amazing, gorgeous display, It transitions perfectly between knocking out emails and spreadsheets, and streaming Netflix or Disney+ shows in vivid, beautiful, vibrant color with full Dolby Vision support.
As an owner of the Ryzen-powered 2022 model, there are some things I miss about that version, including less noticeable fan noise, touch and pen input, and keys with deeper keystroke depth. But this version adds a lot, including the ability to connect to Thunderbolt 4 accessories including external GPUs, and it takes the cake when it comes to pure portability.
The 2023 Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is a pint-sized powerhouse with a gorgeous display by Darrell Etherington originally published on TechCrunch