The Zenbook S I tested came with an eighth-generation Intel Core i7 processor (the 8550-U, for those keeping track), along with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. That was plenty enough for my normal workflow, which typically includes tons of Chrome tabs, relatively lightweight apps like Spotify, Trello, Todoist and Slack, and the occasional dabbling in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. For most people out there, the ZenBook S should get the job done.
If you’re a gamer, it’s another story: The integrated Intel HD 620 graphics chip isn’t going to cut it for modern Windows gaming. Of course, you’re probably not looking at a thin and light computer like the ZenBook S if you’re hoping to play Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Otherwise, the ZenBook is a capable performer that should meet most people’s needs.
Despite its thin frame, ASUS says the ZenBook S can get up to 13.5 hours of battery life. Indeed, the laptop achieved 12 hours of video playback in our battery test, which is pretty good. Unfortunately, there’s a significant gap between that and what I got when using the computer for my normal work routine. I usually got between six and seven hours of mixed use, which is rather mediocre and falls far short of ASUS’s estimate.
That said, my laptop has that Core i7 processor, rather than the i5 that ASUS used in its battery tests, and the extra power can come at a cost. Still, I wasn’t able to get a full eight-hour workday from the ZenBook S. If I was doing more intense work, like using Lightroom or taking video calls over Hangouts, I often wouldn’t even get to six hours. If you opt for the ZenBook S with a 4K screen, expect the battery life to drop even further.
As I noted earlier, there are dozens of traditional Windows laptops on the market, but the ZenBook S plays in a smaller space. You’re paying for a combo of small size and decent specs that make it a good all-purpose computer. It’s impossible to think about general-use laptops without mentioning Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop 2, which starts at $999. The latest model includes Intel’s eighth-generation Core i5 or i7 processor, and while it’s not as thin as the ZenBook S, it offers a wonderful screen. We’re not done testing the Surface Laptop 2 yet, but we can say that last year’s model also delivered excellent battery life.
Dell’s outstanding XPS 13 is another solid alternative. The current model has essentially identical specs to the ZenBook S model I tested, and right now it starts at $999. You’re stuck with a terribly placed webcam, but it does basically everything else well.
And if you’re interested in macOS, the brand-new MacBook Air ($1,199 and up) is another jack-of-all-trades laptop with a slim body and a more pixel-dense display than the ZenBook S (unless you opt for the 4K screen). That said, the MacBook Air only has a dual-core Intel Core i5 chip inside, as compared with the quad-core processor in the ZenBook S. That means it might last significantly longer on a charge, but the performance might not be up to snuff, depending on your workload.
Of course, ASUS itself has an extremely crowded product lineup of its own, with dozens of laptops at various price points and form factors, including at least a few that are close enough in price, size and specs to be worth considering. The ZenBook S is thinner and lighter than most, but if you don’t need the smallest laptop possible, ASUS has plenty of other options to consider.