Asus ZenBook 13 OLED UM325 Review: AMD Laptop Perfection?
"The Asus ZenBook 13 OLED is an indispensable laptop as long as you don't need a headphone jack."
Awesome OLED screen
Excellent touchpad and keyboard
The battery life is spectacular
Very thin and light
I may have found the perfect laptop. Or at least something that comes very close.
It's not made by Apple, Microsoft, or even Dell. From the outside, it doesn't even look particularly remarkable. When I pulled the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED out of the box, I fully expected it to be another solid mid-range laptop.
Then I tested the 1080p OLED screen. And benchmarking the AMD Ryzen 7 5800U processor inside. And then he noticed how long it took on a single charge.
The Asus ZenBook 13 OLED has it all. Nearly. Despite a few flaws, the ZenBook 13 OLED (UM325) is a laptop that all potential buyers should consider when it goes to general availability in May.
The appearance of the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED is the least noticeable feature. It's by no means a bad looking laptop – but if you've seen a ZenBook, you've seen this one. I'm not a big fan of the concentric circle on the lid or the plastered logo on the front, but it's one of the prettier laptops Asus made recently.
This is especially true when you open the lid and see what the laptop has to offer inside. Everything is beautifully laid out, including the oversized touchpad and new keyboard. The layout and keycaps are reminiscent of HP's Specter laptops – but that's not a bad thing. The extra column of buttons under the power button provides additional functionality, and the font with the keycap feels modern and clean.
At 0.55 inches and 2.5 pounds thick, the ZenBook 13 OLED is both thinner and lighter than most of its competitors, including the Dell XPS 13, HP Specter x360 13, Surface Laptop 3 13, Razer Book 13, and MacBook Pro 13 in. This makes a very portable laptop that is great for on the go. Even if it just moves from room to room, the small footprint comes in handy.
Despite its size, the chassis is robust. You may feel some flexing when applying extra force, but it's not something you will notice in daily use. The hinge opens with one finger and is lifted off the table when it is opened, creating a slight ramp for comfortable typing. I usually don't like these kind of raised hinges, but Asus pulled them off in a way that isn't distracting or ugly.
The aspect ratio of the screen is the main disadvantage of the ZenBook 13 OLED's design. It uses 16: 9, which went out of style in 2021 in favor of larger, more productive sizes like 16:10 or 3: 2. When you go back to 16: 9, the screen feels stocky. More importantly, because of the size, the screen has a chubby chin bezel at the bottom. It's not a thorn in the side, it's just not quite as modern as the Dell XPS 13 or the Razer Book 13.
Asus decided that you don't need a headphone jack on your laptop.
My final complaint with the design of the ZenBook 13 OLED is ports. For some reason, Asus decided that you don't need a headphone jack on your laptop. If Asus were going for a more minimalist setup, that would probably make sense. However, the ZenBook 13 OLED has HDMI and USB-A. Yes, it's an odd choice that is likely to piss people off who didn't realize there wasn't a headphone jack until they needed it.
Fortunately, Asus includes an adapter in the box, but it allows you to close either of your two available USB-C ports.
Display and speakers
The Asus ZenBook 13 isn't the first 13-inch notebook with an OLED screen – it was the HP Specter x360. However, this laptop is the first to implement a 13-inch 1080p OLED screen. That's a big deal as OLED panels keep getting cheaper – and hopefully reach more people.
It's not that the ZenBook 13 OLED is super cheap, but compared to the 4K models that OLED is exclusive to. What's the big deal with OLED? Well you will tell the difference when you see it in person. With OLED, pixels are rented out individually, which means that black levels and contrast ratio blow conventional LEDs out of the water. It's not even close, especially on a glossy screen like this one.
The OLED panel feels like the future of laptop displays.
397 nits are bright enough to prevent reflections, but it's the colors that really make this display pop. 100% sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces are unknown on a 1080p screen, and the color accuracy is among the best I've ever tested with a Delta E of 0.49. Photographers may complain about the lack of a 4K option, but they definitely won't complain about the colors.
The display is non-touchable, as is common with 1080p screens.
When it comes to panels and calibration, the ZenBook 13 OLED is the future of laptop displays.
The same is not true of the speakers. The chintzy audio comes from below the laptop and points directly at your table or lap. The sound is messed up, especially when compared to the MacBooks. With speakers in this location, this will always be a problem.
Keyboard and touchpad
I am very happy with the inputs on the ZenBook 13 OLED. I've already mentioned the keyboard's appearance, but it's also very precise and comfortable to type. The layout is comfortable and the 1.4mm key travel feels heavenly compared to many of the 1mm keyboards.
The keyboard does not contain a fingerprint reader. This is an odd feature that a premium device left out.
My only problem was the backlight. There are three levels of backlight brightness, but there are some noticeable uneven spots. It's quite light over the middle zone while others are darker. This is a pity.
The touchpad is similarly successful. It's extra wide, but great for rejecting palms when typing. Tracking is smooth, as are gestures. My only sucker? The click is a little louder than I like. This is especially noticeable if you're coming from a MacBook.
The laptop has a sloppy 720p webcam over the display. It's no surprise how bad it is, but this should be reserved for emergencies only. However, it does include a built-in IR camera for Windows Hello facial recognition.
Thanks to the new Ryzen processors from AMD, the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED offers remarkable performance for a laptop of this size. My device came with the Ryzen 7 5800U, an eight-core processor with a base clock of 1.9 GHz. When you add 16 GB of RAM and one TB of SSD storage, you have a pretty powerful little computer.
This is the first laptop I tested with this chip and I was disappointed. This is a significant improvement over last year's Ryzen 4000 processors and a clear head start over what Intel offers. This is especially true of multi-core performance, of course, thanks to the additional cores and threads that AMD's 7nm chips offer.
|Geekbench (single / multi)||Cinbench R23 (single / multi)||PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|Asus ZenBook 13 OLED||1423/6758||1171/7824||6034||1342|
|Dell XPS 13 (Core i7-1185G7)||1549/5431||1399/4585||n / A||1380|
|HP Specter x360 14 (Core i7-1165G7)||1214/4117||1389/3941||4728||1457|
|Razor Book 13 (Core i7-1165G7)||1548/5374||1508/4519||4878||1776|
|MacBook Pro 13 (M1)||1707/7377||1487/7547||n / A||n / A|
|Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 (Core i7-1185G7)||1532/5415||1435/4409||4800||1648|
What use is that for real performance? All of the laptops listed above are great for daily work activities such as multitasking, web browsing, office applications, and video conferencing. That is to be assumed.
The reason the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED beats its competitors in PCMark 10 is mainly because of its excellent content creation performance. If you want to run some creative applications like Photoshop or Lightroom on the side, the ZenBook 13 OLED will surprise you how fast it is with these heavier tasks.
The ZenBook 13 OLED remains an undeniable argument for AMD in 2021.
It's even a decent video production machine. It's 41% faster than the Razer Book 13 in H.265 video encoding in Handbrake, which shows the big difference those additional cores make. In Handbrake it is even 7% faster than in the Ryzen 7 4800U from last year when I tested it in the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7.
Now the ZenBook 13 OLED can obviously never be compared with a 15-inch laptop with a discrete graphics card in real video editing. Even a modest 15-inch laptop like the HP Specter x360 15 (Core i7-10750H / GTX 1650 Ti) was 45% faster in PugetBench's Adobe Premiere Pro benchmark. This is also where the incredible performance of the MacBook Pro M1 exudes, which is just as fast as that of the Specter x360 15 in the same test.
That said, the ZenBook 13 OLED is still an undeniable reason for AMD to launch in 2021, especially if you're not interested in a move to macOS.
Battery life is the last trick up the ZenBook 13 OLED's sleeve. It took an amazing 15 hours and 46 minutes on our web browser test, which is as good as it gets for a laptop of this type. That was true for last year's AMD laptops, and so is this year. It beat the HP Specter x360 14 by nearly 9 hours and the XPS 13 by 7.5 hours. In fact, it only takes 19 minutes to keep up with the MacBook Pro!
The ZenBook 13 OLED's lower resolution explains some of this, but even when compared to other 1080p laptops, the ZenBook 13 OLED is way ahead of the competition.
Meanwhile, the ZenBook also lasted 15.5 hours while the video was looping. This is another test in which the MacBook Pro M1 dominates and it lasts over 21 hours. But here, too, the ZenBook 13 OLED is at least 3 or 4 hours ahead of many of the best Intel laptops.
Of course, your mileage can vary depending on how hard you push the system. With the ZenBook 13 OLED as my daily driver for almost a full week, I found it easy to get through a work day without a charge, and there was enough juice left to handle a couple of hours the next morning.
The Asus ZenBook 13 OLED is way ahead of the competition in almost every important category. The OLED screen is a standout feature, as is AMD performance and fantastic battery life. Do I wish it had a headphone jack and a 16:10 screen? Naturally. But the strengths more than make up for these mistakes.
The only caveat is pricing, which is still ongoing. Some international prices suggest the base configuration will be around $ 1,000, while our pimped up model will likely cost a few hundred more.
The best choice is the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 chip. It's cheaper, faster, and has a higher resolution screen. Of course, it has neither an OLED screen nor a USB-A and HDMI connection.
However, if you don't want to upgrade to a Mac, the Dell XPS 13, HP Specter x360 14, and Razer Book 13 offer a competitive package. The XPS 13 is still the prettiest of the range and would still be my pick of the four laptops.
How long it will take?
The Asus ZenBook 13 OLED should last at least four or five years. The 16: 9 aspect ratio will continue to be a bit dated in the future, but the chassis and components are all sturdy and future-proof.
Should you buy it?
Yes. It's one of the most exciting laptops of recent times, especially if you're looking for an AMD device in 2021.