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Another good laptop gets swept away by Copilot+

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Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED

MSRP $1,399.00

Score Details

“The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is too little, too late.”

Pros

  • Solid build
  • Thin and light
  • Excellent OLED display
  • Very good keyboard
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Battery life doesn’t live up to promise
  • Relatively expensive

The sudden onset of generative AI and large language models (LLMs) has created a new class of laptop: the “AI PC.” It started with Intel’s Meteor Lake chipset, which added a neural processing unit (NPU) for the first time in Windows laptops with the aim of speeding up AI-based tasks. The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is a Meteor Lake machine and therefore, technically speaking, an AI PC.

Contents

  • Specs and configurations
  • Design
  • Keyboard and touchpad
  • Connectivity and webcam
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Display and audio
  • Another one bites the dustShow 3 more items

Related

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  • This Windows laptop costs under $1,000 and handily beats the MacBook Air

  • CES 2023: The Zenbook Pro 16X is looking like a serious MacBook Pro alternative

It’s one of the better 13-inch laptops available today, coming in a very slim and light package with good enough performance and an excellent display. But it will be superseded soon by a new crop of laptops with faster NPUs and a greater focus on AI as part of Copilot+. It’s a good laptop, but its time is growing short.

Specs and configurations

 
Asus Zenbook S 13 (2024)

Dimensions
11.66 inches x 8.52 inches x 0.43-0.46 inches

Weight
2.2 pounds

Processor
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H

Graphics
Intel Arc

RAM
16GB

Display
13.3-inch 16:10 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED, 60Hz

Storage
1TB SSD

Touch
No

Ports
1 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x 3.5mm audio jack

Wireless
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3

Webcam
1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello

Operating system
Windows 11

Battery
63 watt-hour

Price

$1,399

There’s just one configuration of the Zenbook S 13 OLED, a $1,399 model (down from $1,599) for an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H chipset, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 13.3-inch OLED display. At its price for $200 off list, it’s a premium laptop but not overly expensive. Its primary competition, the Dell XPS 13, costs $1,549 for the same configuration. The MacBook Air is also a competitor, and it costs $1,699 with the same configuration.

As more Copilot+ PCs and new laptops running Intel’s and AMD’s latest chipsets roll out, it’s likely that these prices will fall. If you could get the Zenbook S 13 OLED for hundreds less than the new crop and it meets your performance needs, then it could become a viable, more affordable option while supplies last.

Design

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Zenbook S 13 OLED is a classic 13-inch laptop design. It’s very thin at 0.46 inches at its thickest, comparable to the MacBook Air’s 0.44 inches and thinner than the XPS 13’s 0.58 inches. It’s also very light at 2.2 pounds, which is around a half-pound lighter than the Apple and Dell machines. Both metrics make the Zenbook S 13 OLED one of the thinnest and lightest laptops around.

The lightness is presumably afforded by the partial “plasma ceramic aluminum” construction that’s light, strong, and makes for an interesting look and feel on the lid. I’m not sure of the chassis material, but the Zenbook S 13 OLED feels solid in spite of it lacking the kind of dense feeling of the MacBook Air and the XPS 13. There’s no bending, flexing, or twisting anywhere, making for a very portable laptop that also feels very robust.

The aesthetic isn’t as much of a standout as with the MacBook Air (blockier and more elegantly designed) and XPS 13 (extremely modern when you open the lid). It’s a minimalist design in a dark gray with an even darker keyboard. The lid is the most attractive feature, in a gray that borders on black and with a shiny geometric pattern. The bezels aren’t as thin as on the XPS 13, especially on the bottom chin, and they’re plastic and not edge-to-edge glass. That’s the one design feature that, for me at least, always detracts from the premium look.

Keyboard and touchpad

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Zenbook S 13 OLED has an excellent keyboard. It has large keycaps and is quite spacious, with a comfortable layout. The switches are snappy and precise, with enough travel to be comfortable and with a bottoming action that’s not at all fatiguing. I found the switches the tiniest bit too stiff, keeping Apple’s Magic Keyboard at the top for me. But most users will likely love the keyboard. I did like it better than the XPS 13’s zero-lattice keyboard that took me some time to get used to.

Asus incorporated its iconic keyboard angle that makes for a more comfortable experience. It also offers up some advantages in airflow and cooling.

The mechanical touchpad is very large, especially for a 13-inch laptop, and it has a precise feel and responsive buttons. My biggest problem with it is that the clicks are a bit loud and sharp. And I’m looking forward to the day when haptic touchpads are standard on premium laptops. The MacBook Air’s Force Touch haptic touchpad is much better, and while the XPS 13’s haptic touchpad has a learning curve because of its hidden nature, it’s still better once that learning curve passes.

Connectivity and webcam

Most small laptops today — and that includes some 14-inch laptops — have very limited connectivity. The XPS 13 and MacBook Air both are limited to just USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, and the Dell even drops the 3.5mm audio jack. The Zenbook 13 S OLED is therefore a standout, with a solid mix of Thunderbolt 4 and legacy ports. Surprisingly, Asus even managed to fit in an HDMI 2.1 connection, and yes, it has an audio jack. All of that’s impressive. There’s no Wi-Fi 7 support, but that standard won’t be common for years.

The webcam is 1080p with an infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello facial recognition. That’s equal to the XPS 13 and MacBook Air, and like the XPS 13, there’s an NPU that supports a few AI features like Microsoft’s Studio Effect software that provides hardware-assisted background blur, face tracking, and some other functions.

Performance

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Zenbook S 13 OLED is the second laptop we’ve reviewed with the Intel Core Ultra 7 155U, a 15-watt chipset with 12 cores (two Performance, eight Efficient, and two Low Power Efficient) and 14 threads. It’s a significant step back from the more popular 28-watt Core Ultra 7 155H that has more cores and threads, but the slower chipset promises better efficiency.

In our benchmarks, the Zenbook was slightly faster than the HP Envy x360 14 2024 with the same chipset, but it was significantly slower than the XPS 13. It’s fast enough for productivity work, but anything that requires fast multi-core performance will be a challenge. Its Intel Arc integrated graphics are about the same as on the faster chipset, but that’s not saying much. This isn’t a laptop for creators or gamers. And as I said in the introduction, other, much faster chipsets will be coming soon, and so this laptop will need to be a lot less expensive to clear out inventory.

Geekbench 5
(single/multi)

Handbrake
(seconds)

Cinebench R23
(single/multi)

PCMark 10
Complete

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(Core Ultra 7 155U)
Bal: 1,692 / 8,309
Perf: 1,663 / 8,505
Bal: 131
Perf: 119
Bal: 1,770 / 7,171
Perf: 1,786 / 8,532
5,957

HP Envy x360 14 2024
(Core Ultra 7 155U)
Bal: 1,515 / 7,710
Perf: 1,713 / 7,710
Bal: 139
Perf: 120
Bal: 1,713 / 6,751
Perf: 1,766 / 8,146
5,750

Dell XPS 13
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 1,469 / 10,774
Bal: 1,666 / 10,446
Bal: 83
Perf: 82
Bal: 1,649 / 9,311
Perf: 1,606 / 12,005
5,928

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus 2024
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 1,681 / 11,331
Perf: 1,635 / 11,274
Bal: 72
Perf: 70
Bal: 1,629 / 13,153
Perf: 1,676 / 14,529
6,688

Asus Zenbook 14 Q425
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 1,693 / 10,983
Perf: 1,728 / 11,473
Bal: 94
Perf: 82
Bal: 1,653 / 9,156
Perf: 1,635 / 12,130
6,316

Battery life

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The benefit of running with a 15-watt chipset is better efficiency. The Zenbook S 13 OLED has a 63 watt-hour battery, which is a good capacity for a 13-inch laptop and a bit more than the 55 watt-hours in the Dell XPS 13. But the Zenbook also has a high-res OLED display.

In our battery suite, it managed 8.75 hours in our web browsing test and 12.5 hours in our video looping test. In the Procyon Office Productivity battery test that’s a simulation of real-world work, it lasted for 13.5 hours. That’s a lot better than the XPS 13’s 7.25, 8.25, and 11.25 hours, respectively. It’s also competitive with other Intel Meteor Lake laptops.

The thing is, it’s still not great. The upcoming Windows on ARM laptops running Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite chipsets promise much longer battery life, and the MacBook Air 13 is also a lot longer-lasting. So, the performance drop from the lower-power chipset doesn’t pay sufficient dividends in battery life.

Display and audio

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The Zenbook S 13 OLED has a 13.3-inch 16:10 OLED display running at 2.8K (2880 x 1800). Those are excellent specs that make for a sharp panel with dynamic colors and inky blacks. Its only downside compared to some competitors is its increasingly pedestrian 60Hz refresh rate.

According to my colorimeter, it’s an objectively excellent display. It’s more than bright enough at 391 nits, its colors are wide (100% sRGB, 97% AdobeRGB, and 100% DCI-P3) and accurate at a DeltaE of 1.12 (many OLED displays are less than the 1.0 mark that’s considered the gold standard), and its contrast is incredibly deep at 27,180:1.

It’s a spectacular display for every user, whether for productivity, creativity, or media consumption. It’s a much better display than the MacBook Air 13’s IPS panel, but the XPS 13’s OLED display is roughly equivalent although brighter at 482 nits.

The audio isn’t nearly as good. The two-speaker audio is just OK, with sufficient volume, clear mids and highs, and very little bass.

Another one bites the dust

If we weren’t going through one of the most significant transitions in the Windows laptop era ever, the Zenbook S 13 OLED would be a very compelling laptop. It’s a bit too expensive even by those previous standards, given its lesser performance and just decent battery life.

But it’s also going to have a bunch of new competition reasonably soon. Microsoft’s Copilot+ PC initiative will start with laptops running Qualcomm’s hyper-efficient chipsets and will end up with much faster (for on-device AI) and more efficient chipsets from Intel and AMD. The Zenbook S 14, for example, has already been announced, which is a full redesign that supports Intel’s next-gen chips — and looks gorgeous.

The Zenbook S 13 OLED is a good laptop today and will remain competitive for a few months given potential compatibility issues with Windows on ARM. But anyone who can wait a while to buy a laptop likely should do so.

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