Review unit on loan from ASUS Singapore
The ASUS Zenbook S 13 OLED (UX5304) is a compact lightweight non-gaming laptop designed for people who value portablility. This 13.3-inch laptop is just 1cm at the thinnest part and weighs 1kg.
The only other competing laptop I know in this lightweight category is the LG Gram 14 (review) at 999g. Even the Apple Macbook Air 13.3 and 13.6 are heavier by more than 200g.
My review is from the perspective of a visual content creator and graphic design. The bottomline is this laptop is not designed for editing videos or gaming so if you edit videos or play games, you should look at the many other laptops better suited for those.
The laptop looks beautiful and extremely portable. Display is colour accurate. Audio quality is great. Port selection is good.
For design work, the main limitation is really the small 13.3-inch display so having a HDMI port to connect to a larger external display is great. Overall performance is smooth except when exporting loads of photos in the background, but the export is fast so system will be back to being responsive quickly. This laptop has limitations due to the size and specs but there aren't major downsides.
Here are the specifications for the review unit I received:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-1355U
- Graphics: Intel Iris Xe (integrated)
- Memory: 16GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
- Display: 13.3-inch 2880 x 1800 OLED, 60Hz
- Networking: Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211, Bluetooth 5.3
- Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4 (USB Type-C), 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, HDMI 2.1 (TDMS), 3.5 mm combo audio jack
- Camera: 1080p, IR
- Battery: 63 WHr
- Power: Adapter 65W
- OS: Windows 11 Pro
- Dimensions: (WxDxH) 11.6 x 8.52 x 0.43 inches (29.62 x 21.63 x 1.18 cm)
- Weight: 2.2 pounds / 1 kg
- Price: SGD 2,399, USD 1279 on Amazon US
The purchase comes with 2 years warranty in Singapore.
The pricing is competitive with the SGD 2299 LG Gram 14 but the ASUS has the additional advantage of having 1TB storage instead of 512GB, and the display is a 13.3-inch 2880 x 1800 OLED vs 14-inch 1920 x 1200 LCD, and the Zenbook build quality is more solid. Those are the main differences if you compare specs for specs.
Included in the box is the laptop, carrying sleeve, a 65W power adapter and a 2m long USB-C to USB-C charging cable.
The cardboard holders can actually be used as laptop stands. This laptop and packaging uses lots of recyclable materials and you can't tell just from the looks.
The laptop is available in two colours: Ponder Blue and Basalt Gray, and Singapore only has the Basalt Gray model for sale.
The Basalt Gray top cover is made with so called plasma ceramic aluminum which is basically aluminium with surface finishing that mimics fine-grain sandstone texture.
If you like natural materials like paper, wood, leather, stone, you will love this texture. It's quite impressive that ASUS can actually give metal the texture of stone. This is the type of surface finishing I wish I have on my table and floor. I hope they make more laptops in the future with this finishing.
Oh, the logo A design element looks quite stylish too.
The laptop may be 1cm thick at the thinnest part but it can still include a number of ports. On the left is a full-sized HDMI 2.1 and two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports that support charging. A full charge takes slightly over 2 hours with the included 65W charger.
On the right, there's a USB-A 3.2 gen 2 and 3.5mm audio jack.
This laptop features a lifting design where the keyboard will rise when the display lid is open. This design allows for more air intake beneath the laptop, and it makes possible to put the laptop on your laptop without feeling the heat.
The hinge is stiff and the display does not wobble.
The bottom can be opened with T5 Torx screws. Inside, there are two fans and the only thing user-upgradeable is the one NVMe SSD.
Audio quality from the sidewards down-facing speaker is good. There's Dolby Atmos technology and volume is loud enough, clear and has a decent amount of bass. Volume adjustment has 100 steps, and the volume from 50 to 100 isn't significantly louder though.
The speakers do not face forward so there is still the slight hollowness but overall the audio experience is enjoyable, significantly better compared to down-facing speakers from other laptops.
The laptop is thin and light and is designed for people who value portability.
The compromise with such design is ASUS was not able to pack a more powerful processor and discrete graphics card.
This is a 13.3-inch non-touchscreen 60Hz OLED display that has standard brightness of 400 nits and HDR brightness of 550 nits. Contrast ratio is 1,000,000:1 and colour support is 100% DCI-P3. The display runs in 8-bit colour mode by default but can be configured to run 10-bit colour using the Intel Graphics Command Center app, and turn off the distracting adaptive brightness setting while at it.
This display is definitely good enough for graphic design work that requires colour accuracy.
The front camera has 1080P resolution and IR for Windows Hello face unlock which works quite effectively and fast.
The main downside to the 13.3-inch size is it will not be able to fit more palettes and toolbars of graphic design apps compared to larger displays. This means you will often need to hide and unhide palettes and tools which to me is not very productive. If you work at home, you can always connect a larger external display.
The resolution is 2880 x 1800 so all visuals are sharp with no noticeable pixelation. Aspect ratio of 16:10 is better for protectivity compared to 16:9.
The display is glossy and reflective with no anti-reflective coating. Viewing angles are good with minimal colour shift and drop in brightness.
Typing experience on the keyboard is good. The keys have good travel even though reduced by 0.3mm compared to the previous model. The keys are well spaced and feedback is good, and typing noise is low.
The touchpad is big, responsive and accurate, and supports finger gestures.
The keys are backlit with light that can shine through the letter.
What surprised me is keyboard deck is quite firm with minimal flex. I was expecting the keyboard deck to flex due to the the lightweight material but the build quality is solid. Even the display lid has minimal flex, and doesn't wobble. Overall build quality is surprisingly solid for a laptop this lightweight.
The processor used is the 13th gen Intel Core i7-1355U which is a 10-core (2P 8E) chip that runs from 1.7Ghz to 5Ghz and draws 15W to 55W (usually on the low end for sustained workflows).
According to benchmarks I have seen, this Intel processor has comparable single-core performance compared to last year's model UM5302 with AMD Ryzen 6 6800U processor, but weaker mutli-core processor. In order to achieve the slim and lightweight design, ASUS had to make some compromises in the choice of processor.
Overall performance with mutli-tasking is smooth and lag-free. Launch of apps and saving of huge files is fast. When exporting photos in the background, the performance will start to feel sluggish but quickly gets back to being responsive when the task is done. This level of performance should be fine for most people unless you edit videos or play games.
I only notice the fans coming on when charging the battery and exporting loads of photos, and playing games.
Gaming performance with 3D games is not ideal. With 2 Point Hospital at 1280 x 800 resolution and low graphics settings, I could only get 20 FPS.
This laptop has limitations but no major downsides, at least for me. I actually don't have many bad things to say about this laptop so I will comment on the downsides listed by other reviews I've seen.
Pre-installed software, bloatware - McAfee anti-virus (1GB) is installed which you can uninstall. There are also some links in Microsoft Edge which you can right-click delete. Spotify, Netflix and Instagram don't take up much space.
No touchscreen - Not having a touchscreen is not a downside. This means your display will not have fingerprints.
Fans get load with heavy workflow - Yes. It can be a problem if you have heavy workflow constantly.
Finicky touchpad - The touchpad I used is responsive and accurate.
Weak audio - It's loud enough until 50%, and anything beyond is not much louder. I definitely will not describe the audio as weak. Unless you really enjoy audio that vibrates your table.
Key travel on the low side - The typing experience is good.
Middling performance - The processor is not powerful, relatively speaking, but it is not slow. Only time I experience lag is with exporting loads of photos. No, I did not edit videos on this laptop.
The main thing you need to know with this laptop to get enjoyable and best visual experience is to disable adaptive brightness and panel self refresh, and enable 10-bit colours.
The Zenbook S 13 OLED (UX5304) is a beautiful, well built portable laptop with decent performance. This is a laptop suitable for office workers, students and those who value portability. Battery life is around 8 hours.
The display is colour accurate and hence this can be used for visual content work too, except I personally prefer using a large display of at least 15 inches for graphic design work.
This is a good laptop with no major deal breakers.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Beautiful design
+ Lightweight at 1kg
+ Slim at 1cm
+ Surprisingly solid build quality despite the lightweight material
+ Good typing experience
+ Touchpad is accurate and responsive
+ Face unlock is effective and fast
+ Useful ports included
+ Bright, vibrant, high resolution OLED display
+ Lifting design makes it comfortable to use it on the lap
+ Decent performance for non-gaming laptop
+ Good audio quality
+ 8hrs battery life
+ Competitive price with other laptops in the extreme portable category
- Volume does not get much louder beyond 50%
- A few bloatware that can be uninstalled easily
- Expected poor gaming performance