Asus Zenbook S13 Review: A Notch, a Bump, a Clever Little Laptop

When I first saw the ZenBook S13, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of For starters, putting a notch on a laptop just seemed like a weird holdover from Asus’ phone business, and its bluish silver and copper orange color scheme sometimes made it hard to see the letters on its keys. But the more time I spent with the ZenBook S13, my feelings started to change. It’s a clever bit that takes some time to appreciate, and all told, it’s a worthy alternative to the systems like the Dell XPS 13 and Huawei MateBook X Pro.

Asus Zenbook S13 Review: A Notch, a Bump, a Clever Little Laptop

Curated via Twitter from Gizmodo’s twitter account….

Thankfully, for such a portable system (the S13 weighs less than 2. 5 pounds and measures half an inch thick), the ZenBook does come with a decent amount of ports, including a two USB 3. 1 Type-C ports and a microSD card reader on the left, along with a USB 3. 1 Type-A port and a headphone jack on the right.

But the really smart thing about the ZenBook’s design, is that in combination with that Ergolift hinge, Asus is able to hide the bottom part of the display behind the keyboard deck, which makes the ZeBook S13's already tiny bezels appear even smaller.

Even the Razer Blade Stealth (10:11) offers an extra hour of battery life, though when specced out similarly to our Core i7 ZenBook S13, the Razer costs $200 more.

Starting at $1,400, Asus is asking a lot more than many competitors just to get you into ZenBook S13, though once you’re there, it’s accommodations are quite choice.

Technically, Asus offers various sizes for the ZenBook’s SSD storage as well, but like the ZenBook’s choice of CPUs, it’s difficult to find those configs online.

Obviously there’s the notch, which not only provides room to hold the laptop’s HD webcam, it’s also a handy tab that makes it easier to open the Zenbook one-handed.

As for graphics, the ZenBook’s Nvidia MX 150 GPU comes standard, and while it’s a generation behind the optional MX 250 GPU in the Matebook X Pro, it’s still more than enough to play Overwatch at Full HD on medium to high settings, or less taxing games like Dota Underlords.

Even the ZenBook S13's touchpad performs multiple roles, serving as a way to move your mouse around, but also log into the system thanks to the fingerprint reader stashed in the top right corner.

That selection of ports is enough to let most people travel and work without needing to carry any dongles around, though if you do need more connectivity, Asus does offer an optional $70 Mini Dock that comes with an extra USB-C, HDMI, and USB-A ports.

However, if you look closer at that hinge, you’ll see how Asus fudged the numbers a bit, because it’s clear Asus isn’t factoring the part of the ZenBook’s screen that extends below the deck.

Inside, the ZenBook comes well equipped with your choice of a quad-core Intel Core i5-8265U CPU, or a Core i7-8565U CPU like the one in our review unit.

That means your only real choice when it comes to configuring the ZenBook S13 is figuring out if you want 8GB of RAM for $1,400, or 16GB of RAM for an extra Benjamin.

That said, this is probably the one time Asus would have been better off keeping these two functions separate, as the fingerprint reader takes away from the touchpad’s overall surface area, and for a touchpad that’s just average in size, there isn’t really that much room to spare.

It’s battery life is fine, specs are solid, and it comes with a lot of smart design choices that enhance its most important features.

But as a system that features a good blend of price for performance along with a nifty design, the ZenBook S13 feels like it will strike the right balance for a lot of folks.

On our video rundown test, ZenBook lasted just 8 hours and 57 minutes, which is half an hour less than what we got from the XPS 13 (9:26), and more than an hour and a half less than MateBook X Pro (10:36), which has a slightly beefier GPU.

The XPS 13 has a much lower starting price at $900 (though that model comes with less impressive components), while the MateBook X Pro’s newer GPU makes it a better choice for mobile creatives.

In short, the ZenBook S13 wasn’t made to be your primary gaming machine, but if you want to relax with a quick frag session after work, the ZenBook has you covered.

It’s a clever bit that takes some time to appreciate, and all told, it’s a worthy alternative to the systems like the Dell XPS 13 and Huawei MateBook X Pro.

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