What weighs a little kilo, has an infinite contrast ratio and can be thrown Cyberpunk 2077 at 30 fps in a hotel room? The new gem from Asus, the Zenbook S 13 OLED – which also responds to the sweet code name UM5302. Weighing exactly 1.091 kg (that’s correct, huh!), this ultraportable from the Taiwanese manufacturer is not a crazy machine for the price. Shown at €1,499 in our test configuration, it’s certainly not cheap, but it’s cheaper than the MacBook Air M2 and other large XPS from Dell. But it turns out to be lighter, stronger* and more efficient in 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 on the basis of what is expected of this engine range and price. A 13-inch screen, 1 TB SSD and 16 GB of RAM. But it has two big advantages, starting with an excellent OLED screen. And a chip we’ve been waiting for months: the AMD Ryzen 7 6800U. A chip that not only met 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 popularity by emphasizing the wide angle of all its compacts, Asus has tried to identify the main proponent of OLED. With some success: the brand began to master the technology well, if in terms of energy consumption. Most of the machines we tested with high-definition and touchscreen OLED panels make up for it with battery. Not the Zenbook S 13 OLED, which is actually a champion in its class! OLED obliges the contrast ratio to be infinite and the viewing angles as well as the homogeneity are models of their kind. The colors, although slightly off, are brilliant.
What is also impressive is the definition and the ratio of the OLED panel which is for most of the pleasure of use. In terms of image definition, we are entitled to 2800 x 1800 pixels. On 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 you’ll want to throw away any laptop with a hideous 16:9 aspect ratioe in Full HD to be placed next to it. The Zenbook’s screen offers more verticality, great for working. And its meaning makes texts and images more pleasant to read and look at.
To grumble a little, we can balance this praise by criticizing that the colors are a little western out of the box. The default Delta E is 3, which results in fairly attractive colors. Just set it to sRGB and it’s below 2 (Delta E 1.93). As for its brightness, it lacks a little punch with only 337 cd/m². It’s still good for most purposes, though, apart from working on the broad heatwave sun in south-west France – but the aperitif should make your vision blurry anyway.
Game: Radeon 680M, a gem called RDNA2
Even 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, our machine’s CPU was comfortable with all common tasks. To add more applications, especially beyond 4K and simple rendering, we recommend that you upgrade your processor. But for an ultraportable, it’s a hair.
If we’re really excited about the Ryzen 7 6800U, it’s less for the CPU performance than the 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 start from small chips, such as the graphics part of Samsung’s Exynos 2200, up to the large Radeon RX 6900 XT type graphics. After using the Vega core architecture up until the Ryzen 5000 series, AMD integrated the first mobile iteration of RDNA2 for laptops with this 6800U.
A graphics part that AMD calls the Radeon 680M and comes with 12 calculation units (CU for Compute Unit) of up to 2.2 GHz. Clearly, compared to the previous generation of Vega 8, our Ryzen 6800U benefits from 50% more graphic cores. And what’s more, more modern cores, clocked faster and combined with higher CPU performance. The result follows our expectations: the Zenbook S 13 OLED is officially the first single-chip ultraportable PC capable of full launch all Games.
Yes, all games: at the “Steamdeck” detail level of 800p (1280 x 800 points), the internal standard of Cyberpunk 2077 (GOG version) averages 36 frames per second (36.75 to be exact). Having played a few dozen minutes, the game is actually playable. Although some slowdowns can be seen when there is a strong change of zone towards a larger environment (drop to 10 fps, then back above 30 fps). Same story with Horizon Zero Dawn (Epic Games version), where the AMD drivers reported an average of 31.5 fps after 20 minutes of playing (1280 x 800, performance mode, Anti-Aliasing OFF).
For older games, even better: DESTRUCTION (2016, Steam version) runs at 45-65 fps in Full HD (low detail level), Skyrim 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 definitions and level of detail, you can play all your favorite titles. With an engine that weighs less than a kilo!
Strong and light, but it gets warm
Not content with being powerful, this Zenbook is also badass. In our versatile autonomy test, the machine surpassed Apple’s MacBook Air with 2:07 pm on the clock! And this, while Apple’s M chips are carved in 5 nm and the Ryzen 7 6800U in “only” 6 nm. Everything is not to his advantage this creature.
In the video decompression game, Apple still has a big advantage. While the autonomy of the MacBook Air is close – 46 minutes away – the Zenbook S 13 OLED lasts 4:32 less in the video with an excellent score of 9:35 (compared to 2:07 in total purpose). This is probably due to a less efficient multimedia engine of AMD, but also to the fact that in this mode, the OLED panel is stimulated 30 to 60 times per second.
No god in the Greek pantheon has blessed this machine with other supernatural powers than the excellent OLED screen + AMD 6800U processor combination. But if these two components provide these skills, our laptop must meet the harsh laws of physics. In this case, its lightness – 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. When the device is used for a maximum of a few minutes, its temperature rises… We are rewarded with a small hum, certainly not very annoying, but unknown in the world of MacBook Air M1 and M2.
Careful design and ergonomics
Decorated with a smart logo, this ultra portable does not have the minimalism of Apple machines, but the device has charm. Especially in a very matte dark blue color… a bit sabotaged by a shiny hinge – sometimes one wonders what Taiwanese designers have for breakfast…
The device can be opened at 180 °, which avoids possible damage to the plastic hinges that are limited to a low angle.
The touch of the external material is pleasant, but we regret that the opening notch is not slightly pronounced. To improve cooling, opening the hood raises the chassis, which is necessary when playing. Without matching Apple in this regard, the keyboard is fine. Both flexible and responsive, typing on it is comfortable. the touch pad also good standard, spacious and responsive. Asus obliges, it comes with a “calculator” mode that can be very practical for Excel junkies. Working without deactivating the touchpad, this function offers a real productivity gain for those who manage numbers every day.
As we have already mentioned, the two technical limitations of combining this power in such a small format are the heating and the blowing of the fans when the engine is under heavy load. It’s not a mistake 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. Even in cold weather, the 50.9°C it measures is good for warming the duvet.
Then there’s that horror of McAfee taking 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 is the webcam which, while not bad in itself, remains limited to 720p. At a time when Full HD is starting to spread at the high end, it’s a shame that this PC doesn’t take advantage of it. But we suspect that Asus will have to fight, more than Apple, to maintain margins.
Let’s finish with the AC adapter: neither heavy nor (nor) ugly, we blame it on its non-removable cable. It’s a bit silly but once you’ve had a taste of the USB-C cable separating 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 (not even Micro SD! ) . Yes, the flaws are minor, very minor, sometimes on the order of quibbles. Because you have to find fault with a very good machine.