ASUS ZenBook S follows the Buddha saying, “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up because you will lose the ability to learn new things. Move forward with your life.”
The 2018 generation of ASUS Zenbooks are one step closer to perfection. They were pretty damned good anyway.
Reviewing an ASUS ZenBook always makes me sad because I know that I will have to give it back at the end of the review. Without a doubt, there is nothing to compare to the absolute drop dead sexy looks and design cred ZenBooks have. I covet one!
This review could well apply to any 2018 model with the Intel 8th generation Core CPU – flip, hybrid or now the Zenbook S.
2 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C 3.1 Gen 2); 1 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1; Wi-Fi AC (Intel 8265 2 x 2 MU-MIMO); and Bluetooth 4.2
50Wh battery for up to 13.5 hours use. USB-C, 20V/3.25A (65W) fast charger
Supplied with a leather sleeve and pen/stylus
A beautiful 4K touchscreen without peer
This 4K IPS screen has 100% sRGB (about 75% Adobe RGB) and a range of colour profiles for photography, drawing and more. It has a full 178° viewing angle. There are options for 1920 x 1080 (glossy or anti-glare alternatives).
The screen tilts to 145° which is great for desktop use but can be slightly limiting on an aircraft fold-out table or lap use.
When I read ‘glossy’ it immediately screamed fingerprint magnet – and it is. Glossy screens need non-reflective background behind you. If a direct light source like a window is behind you, it will show.
But you quickly forget this when you see the very small 5.9mm bezels (85% S-T-B-R), the amazing colour and brightness levels.
With ASUS Vivid adjustments and its Tru2Life video technology, this is the laptop for 4K streaming.
All metal case and hinge
The case is entirely metal – there is not a trace of cheap, nasty plastic. There is no flex or any hint of anything but a solid MIL-STD build.
The ‘ergolift’ hinge lifts the keyboard by 5.5° and allows for ventilation underneath. Cooling is via a ‘liquid-crystal-polymer fan’ with 71 blades offering 13.4% more airflow and a 5° temperature improvement over previous ZenBook models.
During tests, the maximum underside reached 45°. This is warm but not uncomfortable on your lap.
Ports – It’s Thunderbolts are go!
On the right side are two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C 3 3.1 Gen 2 ports. GadgetGuy has an article here on what that all means. These ports provide up to 40GB/s speeds (shared), support for USB Power Delivery 3.0 (5V to 20V and up to 100W).
Thunderbolt 3 is perfect to attach Thunderbolt docks (GadgetGuy reviews here) and will support up to 2 x 4K screens (as the Intel UHD Graphics 620 supports that).
They also support charging from any USB-C Power delivery device like Belkin’s 45W charger albeit at a lot slower rate. Belkin’s charger provides 9V, 12V and 15V/3A to charge compatible devices like the MacBook, Pixel Chromebook, Samsung Galaxy Tab/Book, ASUS, Dell, Lenovo, HP and any USB-C smartphones.
On the left side is a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gb/s) port. It may seem odd but there are times all you need is a passive dongle (supplied) to run things like an extra HDMI screen or USB-A port.
A 3.5mm audio jack is on the right side of the screen base.
There is no microSD slot, but USB-C dongles usually offer that.
It is a good keyboard
GadgetGuy is a sticker for good keyboards – it can make or break your ownership experience. Perhaps it is because we write the equivalent of a trashy paperback novel (word count, not the quality of content) each week.
There are some keyboards I cannot abide. Mainly those with a very shallow 1mm throw and low actuation pressure. It is like typing on a hard desk. That is why we have invested in tools to test keyboards.
There is an external quest for thinner notebooks. It seems the keyboard is where it can shave a few micromillimeters off. In fact, Apple came unstuck on its 2015 and later MacBook and Pro using its own designed 1mm throw butterfly switch.
The ASUS has a 1.2mm throw and a 35g actuation – this is pushing the limits too. This means you get the sensation of a small keypress and sufficient ‘debounce’ to get some feedback that you have pressed a key.
The backlit keyboard has three levels of lighting
In typing tests, it initially achieved 70% speed, and 75% accuracy compared 100/98 on my favourite Logitech G6713 mechanical keyboard. By comparison, the Microsoft Surface Book chiclet 1.5mm throw keyboard achieves 85% speed and 90% accuracy. If you want to read more about mechanical keyboards, look here.
After a few hours typing this review I found it a competent keyboard. No War and Peace epics on this, please.
The glass trackpad has an integrated fingerprint sensor supporting Windows Hello. It has intelligent palm-rejection and Precision Touchpad (PTP) technology that supports up to four-finger smart gestures. You can swipe the cursor from top right to bottom left in one movement – no need for a mouse.
The supplied active pen/stylus appears to be a more generic HID device that a digitiser device. It supports 1024 levels of pressure and 10-300g pressure at up to a 45° angle. The two buttons are eraser and right-click function. Battery life from an AAAA is about ten months.
The power-efficient Intel Core i7-8550U, 1.8/4Ghz (option i5-8250U 1.6/3.4GHz) has a PassMark of 8332 (7658). What this means is that you don’t lose much if you buy an i5 version.
The Intel UHD Graphics 620 chip supports three displays up to 4096 x 2304 on HDMI and DisplayPort. In other words, two external panels. It is similar in performance to a GeForce 920M. It’s not a gamer’s GPU but does fine for any web-based games.
Wi-Fi AC, 2×2, MU-MIMO from Intel’s 8265 chip achieves the maximum of 867Mb/s from a D-Link A5300 router 2 metres away. It also has some other ASUS smarts to maintain Wi-Fi connectivity.