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ASUS Zenbook S 13 OLED (UX5304) review: A worthy competitor to the MacBook Air

By The Count - 2 Jun 2023

ASUS Zenbook S 13 OLED (UX5304) review: A worthy competitor to the MacBook Air

Note: This review was first published on 21 April 2023.

The ASUS Zenbook series has often found itself outshined by more established brands in leading laptop rankings. However, the Zenbook S 13 OLED could give ASUS the perfect opportunity to shift this dynamic, especially when compared to the MacBook Air. With an updated design that I believe outclasses rival flagship laptops and an exceptional OLED screen, my experience with this laptop has been nothing short of impressive.

Specifications and various options

CPU Zenbook S 13 OLED (UX5304)
CPU 13th Gen Intel Core i7-1355U (2 Performance Cores + 8 Efficient Cores)
RAM 16GB LPDDR5-6000
Storage 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
  • 13.3-inch "Lumina" OLED display
  • 2880 x 1800 resolution (16:10) 
  • DisplayHDR True Black 500
  • Dolby Vision
  • Pantone Validated
  • HDMI 2.1
  • Thunderbolt4
  • WiFi, Bluetooth v5.0
  • 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB Type-C
  • Backlit Keyboard, Inbuilt Microphone
Dimensions 296.2 x 216.3 x 10.9 mm
Battery 63 WHr
SRP S$2,399

While most laptops receive a specifications boost with each new generation, the Zenbook S 13 OLED (UX5304 model) offers a bit more. It comes with an Intel Core i7-1355U processor, 16GB of LPDDR5-6000 memory, and a 1TB Gen 4 SSD. Previously, ASUS provided 12th-gen Intel processors only in its 2-in-1 model, while the standard clamshell variant featured AMD's Ryzen 6000 processors. Although it's uncertain whether ASUS will incorporate Ryzen 7000 CPUs into its latest design, returning to Intel is an intriguing move.

ASUS has also modified the ports to provide a better user experience. Instead of having three USB-C ports in its 2022 model, the new Zenbook S 13 OLED features two Thunderbolt 4 connections and a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port. The inclusion of a USB-A port enhances the laptop's practicality for everyday use. It also includes a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port, which saves you money if you want to use an external display without a Thunderbolt dock. Even though it's not essential for this design, the additional HDMI 2.1 port is a considerable improvement compared to options like the MacBook Pro 13-inch or MacBook Air.

Currently, the latest Zenbook S 13 is only available in the UX5304 configuration and is priced at S$2,399.


A refined Zen aesthetic

From an aesthetics point of view, the Zenbook S 13 OLED certainly looks impressive and more than worth the weight of its price tag. Its design goes beyond mere cosmetic changes too. Globally, there’s the choice of choosing the classic Pine Blue or the new Basalt Gray lid colours, but only the latter is available for the Singapore market. A key highlight of the Zenbook S 13 OLED is its lid and there’s much to talk about.

The laptop's lid is created using a plasma ceramic aluminum process that hardens raw aluminum through a chemical reaction involving water and electricity, making it more scratch-resistant than traditional anodized aluminum. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was first introduced in the Zenbook 14X and was also used in the latest Zenbook 14X OLED.

Essentially, ASUS has not only improved durability but also enhanced the Zenbook S 13's appearance. The laptop’s lid has a soft micro texture that's more appealing than an anodized top. It is also a lot more resistant to both fingerprints and smudges. As sustainability becomes more important, ASUS has also made the manufacturing process cleaner, avoiding the use of acids or heavy metals.

Aside from the lid, ASUS has maintained the features that made the original Zenbook S 13 OLED an excellent 13-inch laptop. It weighs just almost 1kg like its predecessor but now has a reduced thickness of just 1cm. It’s a remarkable engineering feat and makes it quite possibly the most portable 13-inch class laptop today, if just based on weight and size. The hinges also allow the laptop to lay flat, allowing for a better viewing experience when sharing with multiple people.


Top-notch OLED display

ASUS continues to champion OLED displays in laptops with the Zenbook S 13 OLED, which features an ASUS 2.8K Lumina OLED display. According to ASUS, the Lumina name is reserved for panels that meet the company's strict quality criteria. The company also claims the OLED display will deliver a color error of less than 1 and a 0.2 millisecond response time, and while I do not have the equipment to confirm such claims, the display does come with DisplayHDR True Black 500, Dolby Vision, and Pantone Validated certifications – these typically appear in most of ASUS’ top end laptops.

What I can say though, from my experience with the laptop, is that its smaller 13.3-inch size contributes to a higher pixel density when compared to the MacBook Pro 14's Liquid Retina XDR display. With a resolution of 2,880 x 1,880 and a 16:10 aspect ratio, this laptop offers a significant upgrade in image quality compared to my MacBook Air. Pictures look gorgeous and videos run stunningly on the Zenbook S 13 OLED. I have said it before, and I will say it again: ASUS laptops have some of the best screens around.

The Zenbook series has always been among my top choices for Windows-based multimedia devices, and the S 13 OLED certainly lives up to this reputation. Audio quality is quite impressive with the built-in Harmon Kardon speakers, delivering clear bass and percussion without any distortion even at the highest volume levels. When compared side by side with the MacBook Air, the audio performance was comparable, with perhaps marginally better vocal clarity on the Air. The laptop's surround sound effect is noticeable, creating an immersive audio experience, and users can customize settings via the Dolby Access app. The built-in microphones, which feature AI noise cancellation, functioned well, ensuring clear communication during Zoom calls even in the bustling environment of my local Starbucks cafe.


Performance tests and benchmarks

I have used the laptop for most of my daily tasks at work for the past couple of weeks, and I’m happy to say that the Zenbook S 13 OLED performed just fine and well within expectations. These include participating in Zoom calls while running the laptop on battery, and literally spamming a bunch of Chrome tabs and running Photoshop for some simple editing. I did occasionally feel some warmth on the bottom of the device but never felt any on the palm rests or keyboard deck, and most times I don’t even hear the fans at all.

It's important to remember that the laptop is powered by an Intel Core i7-1335U processor and an integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics processor. When combined, both aren’t going to turn the Zenbook S 13 OLED into a content creator or gaming machine – even though it can still run less-taxing titles like Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and even Shadow of the Tomb Raider at low settings.

But while the Zenbook S 13 OLED does not quite have the kind of raw power you would find in its siblings such as the Zenbook 14X or even ASUS’ ROG series, it compensates it with not only its extremely svelte form factor but also its incredible battery life. Look at our real-world SYSmark 30 and MobileMark 25 benchmark results below.

Essentially, the Zenbook S 13 OLED works as a great laptop for office and school productivity (surfing the web, getting work done on Word or Powerpoint) and the occasional simple photo editing tasks. And the laptop will also give you plenty of mileage while on the road too: it clocked an impressive 12 hours and 54 minutes in MobileMark 25’s battery test.

The next big question is, how does it compare with my daily (and personal) workhouse, the MacBook Air (2022), which many would agree is one of the best laptop available today? For that, I ran CrossMark – one of the only few cross-platform benchmark that gives a wholistic overview of a system’s performance – on it and compare the results with the ASUS laptop.

For context, my MacBook Air comes with the M2 chip (8-core CPU and 10-core GPU) with 512GB SSD storage and 8GB of memory. It also comes with a $2,169 price tag on the Apple Store, putting it pretty much square with the Zenbook S 13 OLED as far as price is concerned.

The results are certainly interesting as it’s not everyday we see a laptop coming close or even topping the MacBook Air with an M2 chip. Certainly, the Intel i7-1355U (with its two Performance Cores and eight Efficient Cores) could have contributed to the superior performance, versus the 8-core version of this M2 chip. Although it’s worth noting that the Macbook Air is still faster when it comes to creative-related tasks.


My final thoughts

With its sleek design, top-notch build quality and OLED display, and impressive specifications for this class of laptops, it’s not difficult to give it my thumbs up. Certainly, there are some minor nit pickings from me: such as the small left “Ctrl” key, which really should have been bigger than the “Function” key next to it – causing me to miss the key on occasions when I need it – and the lack of a physical privacy cover for its web cam. But these are more about my personal preferences, and for all intents and purposes, the Zenbook S 13 OLED is a wonderful laptop that’s also a worthy competitor – both in performance and design – to the MacBook Air.

For that, ASUS can take a bow.

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  • Design 9.5
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 9
The Good
Great design
Extremely light yet durable
Performance is par for the course
Exceptional battery life
The Bad
ASUS is only bringing in one colour to Singapore
Mediocre content creation performance
Limited gaming options
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