What weighs a small kilogram, has an infinite contrast ratio and can throw Cyberpunk 2077 at 30 fps in a hotel room? The new jewel from Asus, the Zenbook S 13 OLED – which also responds to the sweet code name UM5302. Weighing exactly 1.091 kg (that’s precise, huh!), this ultraportable from the Taiwanese manufacturer is not a crazy price machine. Displayed at €1,499 in our test configuration, it is certainly not cheap, but it is much more affordable than the MacBook Air M2 and other large XPS from Dell. But it turns out to be lighter, more durable* and more efficient in games than its competitors.
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The technical sheet of the device is in the standard of what is expected in this range of machine and price. A 13-inch screen, 1 TB SSD and 16 GB of RAM. But it has two major advantages, starting with a superb OLED screen. And a chip that we have been waiting for several months: the AMD Ryzen 7 6800U. A chip that not only fulfilled all our expectations, but even exceeded some of our expectations. Making this machine a MacBook Air killer.
OLED touch screen
Like Panasonic in the world of photography, which has worked on its notoriety by promoting wide angle in all its compacts, Asus is trying to be recognized as the main promoter of OLED. With some success: the brand is beginning to master the technology very well, if only in terms of energy consumption. Most of the machines we tested in high-definition and touchscreen OLED panels pay for it on the battery. Not the Zenbook S 13 OLED, which is actually a champion of its kind! OLED obliges the contrast ratio is infinite and the viewing angles as well as the homogeneity are models of their kind. The colors, although a little false, are shimmering.
What also seduces is the definition and the ratio of the OLED panel which are for many in the pleasure of use. On the image definition side, we are entitled to 2800 x 1800 pixels. In this 13.3 inch screen, it offers one of the best resolutions on the market – 255 dots per inch! But above all its ratio between 3/2 and 16/10e makes you want to throw away any laptop with an awful 16:9 aspect ratioe in Full HD which would be placed next to it. The Zenbook screen offers more verticality, ideal for working. And its definition makes texts and images much more pleasant to read and look at.
To grumble a little, we could balance this praise by criticizing that the colors are a little to the west out of the box. The default Delta E is 3, which results in somewhat flashy colors. Just set it in sRGB and it goes below 2 (Delta E 1.93). As for its brightness, it lacks a bit of punch with only 337 cd/m². It’s still good for most purposes, though, apart from working in broad daylight in the heatwave in south-west France – but the aperitif should make your vision blurry anyway.
Gaming: Radeon 680M, a gem called RDNA2
Whether in benchmark tests or in use (Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, 4K rendering in Premiere Pro), the Asus machine never slows down. With its sixteen cores, the CPU of our machine is at ease in all common tasks. To go further in applications, especially beyond 4K and simple renderings, we recommend that you upgrade your processor. But for an ultraportable, it’s a hair.
If we are so enthusiastic about the Ryzen 7 6800U, it’s less for its CPU performance than for its GPU part. The chip is indeed an “APU”, an (almost) all-in-one chip whose graphics part is based on the same architecture as the Playstation 5, Xbox Series and other Steamdecks.
Called RDNA 2, this architecture is modular and can start from very small chips, such as the graphics part of Samsung’s Exynos 2200, up to large Radeon RX 6900 XT type graphics. After having used its Vega architecture to the core until the Ryzen 5000 series, AMD has integrated the first mobile iteration of RDNA2 for laptops into this 6800U.
A graphic part that AMD calls Radeon 680M and which integrates 12 calculation units (CU for Compute Unit) which go up to 2.2 GHz. Clearly, compared to the previous generation in Vega 8, our Ryzen 6800U benefits from 50% more graphics cores. And what’s more, more modern cores, clocked faster and coupled with a higher performance CPU. The result lives up to our expectations: the Zenbook S 13 OLED is officially the first single-chip ultraportable PC to be able to launch absolutely all Games.
Yes, all games: in “Steamdeck” level of detail at 800p (1280 x 800 points), the internal benchmark of Cyberpunk 2077 (GOG version) averages 36 frames per second (36.75 to be precise). For having played a few tens of minutes, the game is really playable. Even if some slowdowns can appear in the event of a rapid change of zone towards a larger environment (drop to 10 fps, then return above 30 fps). Same story with Horizon Zero Dawn (Epic Games version), where the AMD drivers announce an average of 31.5 fps after 20 minutes of play (1280 x 800, performance mode, Anti-Aliasing OFF).
For older games, it’s even better: Doom (2016, Steam version) runs at 45-65 fps in Full HD (low detail level), Skyrim is super smooth in 1920 x 1200. And in the same image definition, Deep Rock Galactic oscillates between 60 and 90 frames per second in “Medium” detail mode. The result is simple, if you know how to adapt the definitions and levels of detail, you can play all your favorite titles. With a machine weighing a small kilogram!
Durable and light, but it can heat up
Not content with being powerful, this Zenbook is also wickedly tough. In our versatile autonomy test, the machine exceeds Apple’s MacBook Air with 2:07 p.m. on the clock! And this, while Apple’s M chips are engraved in 5 nm and the Ryzen 7 6800U in “only” 6 nm. All is not to his advantage that being.
In the game of video decompression, Apple still has a huge advantage. While the MacBook Air’s autonomy is quite close – 46 minutes apart – the Zenbook S 13 OLED lasts 4:32 less in video with an already very good score of 9:35 (compared to 2:07 in general-purpose). This is probably due to a less efficient multimedia engine at AMD, but also to the fact that in this mode, the OLED panel is stimulated 30 to 60 times per second.
No deity of the Greek pantheon has blessed this machine with another supernatural power than its excellent OLED screen + AMD 6800U processor combination. But if these two components give it its skills, our laptop must however meet the harsh laws of physics. In its case, its lightness – 1.09 kg! – and its good performance is paid for by a need to evacuate its heat. What he knows how to do at the cost of a little heating.
If watching a movie or surfing the Net with the machine on your lap is no problem, it is different to play. Or any other computationally intensive task. As soon as the device is used to the maximum for a few minutes, its temperature rises… and the speed of its fans with it. Rewarding us with a small hum, certainly not very annoying, but unknown to the world of the MacBook Air M1 and M2.
Careful design and ergonomics
Adorned with a discreet logo, this ultra portable does not have the minimalism of Apple machines, but the device has allure. Especially with its very matte dark blue hue… a bit sabotaged by a shiny hinge – one sometimes wonders what Taiwanese designers have for breakfast…
The device can be opened 180°, which avoids possible plastic breakage of the hinges limited to a lower angle.
The touch of the external material is pleasant, but we regret that the opening notch is not a little more pronounced. In order to improve cooling, the opening of the hood raises the chassis, which will be necessary when playing games. Without matching Apple in this regard, the keyboard is good. Both flexible and responsive, its typing is comfortable. the touch pad is also of a very good standard, both broad and responsive. Asus obliges, it is equipped with a “calculator” mode which can be very practical for Excel junkies. Working without deactivating the touchpad, this function offers a real gain in productivity for those who handle numbers on a daily basis.
The few flaws
As we have already pointed out, the two technical limits of integrating this power in such a small format are the heating and the blowing of the fans when the machine is under heavy load. This will not be a fault unless you want to play with the machine on your lap at all costs or want to launch a 3D rendering in your bed at 2am. Although in cold weather, its 50.9°C measured could advantageously heat a duvet.
Then there’s that horror of McAfee taking up space on the SSD, in RAM, and in your visual space all at once – since this software absolutely wants you to subscribe to a subscription plan. The best solution will be to uninstall it. Finally, there is the webcam which, while not bad in itself, remains limited to 720p. At a time when Full HD is starting to spread in the high end, it’s a shame that this PC doesn’t take advantage of it. But we suspect that Asus must fight, much more than Apple, to maintain margins.
Let’s finish on the AC adapter: neither heavy nor (too) ugly, we blame it for its non-removable cable. It’s pretty silly but once you’ve tasted the USB-C cable that separates from the charger, it’s hard to do without it. Asus and the others would benefit from copying Apple in this area (and in others, but that’s another story). Ah, and we also bemoan the lack of USB-A and HDMI sockets. USB-C is fine, but in the real world, my wired mouse and my Logitech dongle are USB A. Note also the impossibility of plugging in a memory card to expand storage (not even Micro SD! ). Yes, the defects are minimal, very minimal, sometimes of the order of quibbles. Because you have to find fault with a really excellent machine.