Weighing a small kilo, has an infinite contrast ratio and can be thrown away Cyberpunk 2077 at 30 fps in a hotel room? The new gem from Asus, the Zenbook S 13 OLED – which also lives up to the sweet code name UM5302. Weighing exactly 1.091 kg (that’s right, huh!), this ultraportable from the Taiwanese manufacturer is not a crazy price machine. Listed at €1,499 in our test configuration, it’s certainly not cheap, but it’s more affordable than the MacBook Air M2 and other large XPSs from Dell. But it turns out to be lighter, more durable* and better at games than its competitors.
Also read: Ryzen 6000 Mobile: AMD plays on its RDNA2 graphics advantage to dominate Intel in laptops (January 2022)
The technical sheet of the device is at the standard of what is expected in this machine and price range. A 13-inch screen, 1 TB SSD and 16 GB of RAM. But it has two main advantages, starting with a very good OLED screen. And a chip we’ve been waiting months for: the AMD Ryzen 7 6800U. A chip that not only met all of our expectations, but even exceeded some of our expectations. This makes this machine a MacBook Air killer.
OLED touch screen
Like Panasonic in the world of photography, which has worked on its popularity by promoting wide angle in all its compacts, Asus is trying to be known as the main proponent of OLED. With some success: the brand is beginning to master the technology well, if only in terms of energy consumption. Most of the machines we tested with high-definition and touchscreen OLED panels make up for it in battery. Not the Zenbook S 13 OLED, which is truly a champion of its kind! OLED obligates that the contrast ratio is infinite and the viewing angles as well as the homogeneity are models of their kind. The colors, though a little off, are brilliant.
Also attractive is the definition and the ratio of the OLED panel which is for many the pleasure of use. On the image definition side, we are entitled to 2800 x 1800 pixels. With this 13.3 inch screen, it offers one of the best resolutions on the market – 255 dots per inch! But above all its ratio is between 3/2 and 16/10e makes you want to throw away any laptop with a horrible 16:9 aspect ratioe in Full HD to be placed next to it. The Zenbook’s screen offers more verticality, perfect for working. And its definition makes texts and images more pleasant to read and view.
To complain a little, we can balance this praise by noting that the colors are a little western out of the box. The default Delta E is 3, which results in fairly bright colors. Just set it to sRGB and it’s less than 2 (Delta E 1.93). As for its brightness, it lacks a bit of punch with just 337 cd/m². It’s still fine for most purposes, however, apart from working in broad daylight in a heatwave in south-west France – but the aperitif should still make your vision blurry.
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 slowed down. With its sixteen cores, our machine’s CPU comfortably handled all the usual tasks. To go beyond applications, especially beyond 4K and simple renderings, we recommend that you upgrade your processor. But for an ultraportable, it’s a hair.
If we’re enthusiastic about the Ryzen 7 6800U, it’s less for its CPU performance than its GPU side. The chip is actually 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 range from very small chips, such as Samsung’s Exynos 2200 graphics part, to large Radeon RX 6900 XT type graphics. After using its Vega architecture all the way up to the Ryzen 5000 series, AMD has included the first mobile iteration of RDNA2 for laptops in this 6800U.
A graphics part that AMD calls the Radeon 680M and includes 12 calculation units (CU for Compute Unit) that reach 2.2 GHz. Clearly, compared to the previous generation with Vega 8, our Ryzen 6800U benefits from 50% more graphics cores. And more, more modern cores, clocked faster and with higher CPU performance. The result lives up to our expectations: the Zenbook S 13 OLED is officially the first single-chip ultraportable PC to fully launch all Games.
Yes, all games: at “Steamdeck” detail level at 800p (1280 x 800 points), the internal benchmark of Cyberpunk 2077 (GOG version) averaged 36 frames per second (36.75 to be precise). For playing a few tens of minutes, the game is really playable. Although some slowdowns may appear in the event of a quick zone change to a larger environment (drop to 10 fps, then return to above 30 fps). Same story with Horizon Zero Dawn (Epic Games version), where AMD drivers announced an average of 31.5 fps after 20 minutes of gaming (1280 x 800, performance mode, Anti-Aliasing OFF).
For older games, this is better: Sentence (2016, Steam version) runs at 45-65 fps in Full HD (low detail level), Skyrim is super smooth at 1920 x 1200. And at the same image resolution, Deep Rock Galactic oscillates between 60 and 90 frames per second in “Medium” specification mode. The result is simple, if you know how to adjust the definition and level of detail, you can play all your favorite titles. With a machine that weighs a small kilo!
Durable and lightweight, but it can get hot
Not content with being powerful, this Zenbook is also very tough. In our versatile autonomy test, the machine outperformed Apple’s MacBook Air with 2:07 pm on the clock! And this, while Apple’s M chips are etched at 5 nm and the Ryzen 7 6800U at “only” 6 nm. Everything is not to his advantage.
In the video decompression game, Apple still has a big advantage. While the autonomy of the MacBook Air is quite close – 46 minutes apart – the Zenbook S 13 OLED takes 4:32 less in the video with a very good score of 9:35 (compared to 2:07 in the general purpose). Perhaps this is due to a less efficient multimedia engine in AMD, but also to the fact that in this mode, the OLED panel is stimulated 30 to 60 times per second.
No god of the Greek pantheon has blessed this machine with another supernatural power than its excellent combination of OLED screen + AMD 6800U processor. But if these two components provide its skills, however, our laptop must meet the harsh laws of physics. In this case, its light – 1.09 kg! – and its good performance is compensated by the 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, gaming is different. Or any other computationally intensive task. As soon as the device is used at its maximum for a few minutes, its temperature increases… and the speed of its fans along with it. We are rewarded with a small hum, certainly not too annoying, but unknown in the world of the MacBook Air M1 and M2.
Careful design and ergonomics
Adorned with a discreet logo, this ultra portable lacks the minimalism of Apple machines, but the device has charm. Especially in its very matte dark blue color… slightly sabotaged by the glossy hinge – sometimes one wonders what Taiwanese designers have for breakfast…
The device can be opened 180°, which avoids possible damage to the plastic hinges that are limited to a lower angle.
The touch of the external material is pleasant, but we regret that the opening notch is not so pronounced. To improve cooling, opening the hood raises the chassis, which is necessary when playing games. Without matching Apple in this regard, the keyboard is good. Both flexible and responsive, it’s comfortable to type on. The touch pad is also a very good standard, both broad and responsive. Asus obliges, it’s equipped with a “calculator” mode that might come in handy for Excel junkies. Working without deactivating the touchpad, this function offers a real productivity benefit for those who handle numbers every day.
As we have already mentioned, the two technical limitations of combining this power in a small format are the heating and the blowing of the fans when the engine is under heavy load. It won’t be a sin 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, the 50.9°C it measures can be useful to warm the duvet.
There’s also the awful McAfee that takes up SSD space, RAM, and your visual space all at once – because this software really wants you to subscribe to a subscription plan. The best solution is to uninstall it. Finally, there’s 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 this PC doesn’t take advantage of it. But we suspect Asus will have to fight, more than Apple, to maintain margins.
Let’s finish with the AC adapter: neither heavy nor (too) ugly, we blame it on its non-removable cable. It’s a little silly but once you get a taste of the USB-C cable that detaches from the charger, it’s hard to do without it. Asus and others would benefit from copying Apple in this area (and 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. Also note the impossibility of plugging in a memory card to expand storage (even Micro SD! ). Yes, the flaws are minimal, very minor, sometimes on the order of quibbles. Because you have to find fault with a very good machine.