Updated: March 31, 2021 7:14:00 am
The ultrabooks, because of their slim designs, come with compromises either on battery life or display. Though I have reviewed some of the best Windows notebooks in recent months, even those devices suffered from mediocre battery life. Now, it seems like this Achilles Heel might have found a fix.
When I started using Asus’ latest ZenBook 13 OLED I wasn’t too sure about its performance. But this AMD Ryzen 5000 series-powered notebook does seem to address the core issues I have had with ultra-portable laptops for years.
Here is my review of the ZenBook 13 OLED.
Asus ZenBook 13 OLED price in India (as reviewed): Rs 99,990
Asus ZenBook 13 OLED review: What’s new?
The ZenBook 13 OLED will catch your attention, thanks to the signature concentric circles design over the top of the lid. The emphasis has been on the craftsmanship and the design, which is very much evident from how the ZenBook 13 looks. My review unit comes in this Pine Gray colour scheme, which in my opinion is very sophisticated and classy. The build is robust — the notebook is made of aluminum and the ZenBook 13 OLED has also undergone drop, vibration, altitude, and temperature tests, and meets MIL-STD-810G.
For a 13.3-inch notebook, the new ZenBook 13 is remarkable at 1.14kg. It fits perfectly in my mid-sized messenger bag, which makes it portable and travel friendly. I think the thin borders around the screen also helps reduce the overall footprint of the notebook. I could also open the lid of the laptop with one hand, a feature missing from most modern-day notebooks.
On the sides, you will notice a lot of familiar ports — a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port on the right along with a microSD card slot. On the left, there’s a full HDMI 2.0 port and two USB-C ports (both Thunderbolt 4 enabled).
Asus ZenBook 13 OLED review: What’s good?
The 1080p screen really is almost edge-to-edge, though it lacks touch sensitivity. But for me, though, the highlight of the ZenBook 13 is its OLED display. OLED (organic light-emitting diode) offers several advantages over the LED monitor used by most brands in their flagship laptops. Asus has sourced the OLED panel from Samsung, which offers the best display solutions on the market. I am not going to do an explainer on the OLED technology but what I can tell you is that the colour reproduction is excellent with the deep reds and bright greens. If you are someone who spends a majority of their time with a laptop, whether working or consuming multimedia content, you will feel the difference between an OLED screen and the standard LED display.
The OLED display is accompanied by great speakers. They are not as good as the ones found on the Dell XPS 13 and a 16-inch MacBook Pro, but the Harman/Kardon speakers get really loud, almost filling a mid-sized room.
Opening the laptop reveals Asus’ ErgoLift hinge which raises the keyboard 3-degrees to make typing convenient. I found the keyboard comfortable to type on, though it took me some time to adjust to it. The conclave keys are spacious and yes, they are backlit as well. I could type on this keyboard non-stop for hours.
With every laptop, I have a different typing experience. So if you ask me which keyboard is better than the other, I would not be able to give you a perfect answer. The trackpad is spacious; it has a touch-sensitive number pad built-in as the keyboard lacks a physical one. The multi-functional LED-lit number pad can also be used as the calculator, all you need is to tap the icon in the top-right corner.
For most people the chip inside the laptop is insignificant, but what matters to them is the performance. Asus loaned me a review unit with the next-generation AMD Ryzen mobile 5000 U-series CPUs (announced at this year’s CES 2021). To be precise, this unit is running on the Ryzen 7 5700U, the 7nm chipset which has eight cores and up to 16 threads.
Over the past week, I’ve had this notebook, I’ve written and edited stories, done a bit of photo editing, streamed music via Apple Music, watched YouTube videos; all things I usually do on my main computer. Honestly, I didn’t run any benchmarks, because they don’t really tell how fast a computer is. But I can tell you, based on my experience, that the ZenBook 13 did not even once stutter or freeze in my testing. I primarily used this notebook for both work and play, and I did my best to push the ZenBook 13 to the maximum. At one point, I thought the notebook would give up but I was wrong.
I opened dozens of Chrome tabs in the background as well as all my favourite apps which I use on a daily basis, and I was able to switch between chrome taps and apps easily. Running Desperados III via Xbox Game Pass was speedy, but I would still say this machine is not really meant to deliver the oomph and guts a dedicated gaming laptop is capable of. It should be noted that my review unit has 16GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 1TB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD.
The ZenBook 13’s performance gives a rough idea as to what to expect from AMD and its new line up of Ryzen CPUs. The Ryzen 7 5700U is a fast processor but it’s not just about the speed. The battery life on the ZenBook 13 is amazing. While Asus claims 16 hours of battery life on a single charge, I got an average of 10 hours (sometimes it hit at 11 hours) of juice with a 67Wh battery. If you are coming from an older laptop, you will notice a stark difference. In this case, I didn’t need to plug the machine before I pack my work in the evening. To be clear, I tested the notebook with the screen set at 37 per cent brightness.
Asus ZenBook 13 OLED review: What’s not good?
The 720p HD webcam, which is fitted in the middle of the top bezel, does support face recognition logins via Windows Hello. However, the video quality is average. In fact, I had to turn on an extra light so that I could attend a Zoom call. Strangely, the headset jack is missing from the ZenBook 13. Most laptops do have the headphone jack built-in. Asus, however, includes a USB-C-to-3.5mm dongle in the box for those who want to use their wired headphones with the notebook.
Asus ZenBook 13 OLED review: Should you buy it?
The competition in the ultraportable notebook is at its peak, and frankly, there are some really good options in this segment from Apple and Dell. Still, I would say the Asus ZenBook 13 is a compelling option. It costs Rs 99,990, which is not accessible by any means but this notebook includes expensive components like the OLED display as well as long battery life.
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