Hands on: Asus Zenbook S 16: much more than just a refresh

The Asus Zenbook S 16 has been revamped inside and out

What is a hands on review?
light silver laptop on table
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

If you want a truly unique Ultrabook that's worth the cost of entry, the Asus Zenbook S 16 is shaping up to be a worthy investment. It's been rebuilt with an all-new material that blends lightweight and sturdy, the touchpad comes with Smart Gesture, it has a great display, and the port selection is solid. It also features an AI processor, though we don't know its full potential as of now.


  • +

    Gorgeous, lightweight chassis

  • +

    Excellent display

  • +

    New ventilation system

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    Smart Gesture touchpad


  • -

    No ethernet port

  • -

    A bit pricey

  • -

    No word yet on performance

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Laptops from Asus's Zenbook series are always impressive-looking Ultrabooks, with a unique design that sets them apart from nearly every other laptop in the market. The Asus Zenbook S 16 is no exception, sporting the iconic lined look and benefitting from a lovely thin and light chassis.

But this year's refresh has two key updates: the first being the addition of the AI processor and the second being the newly developed material it's made of. It's clear that this year Asus isn't content to sit on its laurels but instead is breathing new life into the Zenbook series.

Asus Zenbook S 16: price and availability

The Asus Zenbook S 16 is available in the US and UK, price starting at $1,699.99 / £1,599.99 (around AU$2,550). Meanwhile, Australia has other versions of the laptop (mainly the S 13) but not the 16-inch laptop.

For an Ultrabook, the retail price isn't too shabby, even bordering on reasonable. And now that it has an AI processor, that value has increased tremendously.

Asus Zenbook S 16: specs

Here are the specs for the Asus Zenbook S 16 at a glance. 

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Asus Zenbook S 16 specs
Display16-inch Lumina OLED, 3K, 120Hz
CPUUp to AMD Ryzen AI 9
GraphicsAMD Radeon
StorageUp to 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
Port selection2x USB Type-C ports, 1x USB Type-A port, 1x combo jack, 1x SD reader, 1x HDMI 2.1 port
Weight1.50kg (3.31lbs)
Dimensions13.92 x 9.57 x 0.47 inches; 35.36 x 24.30 x 1.19cm (WxDxH)

Asus Zenbook S 16: design

Zenbook design is always impeccable, with those distinctive etched-in marks and unique texture that sets it apart from some of the other best Ultrabooks you can buy. And this year's Asus Zenbook S 16 is no slouch in that regard, especially when that design is paired with the white color variant. But the darker version makes the etched lines stand out more, so both versions are distinctive in their own way.

One of the biggest talking points is the new material that the Zenbook S 16 is made from, called Ceraluminum. Through a complex chemical process, aluminum oxide (essentially rust) is transformed from a brittle material into something strong, lightweight, and sturdy. And when I tried out the laptop myself, I could feel the difference in the material. It was much lighter but felt just as tough as previous models.

It features a 3K resolution display with a 120Hz refresh rate, surprisingly high for a non-gaming laptop. It also comes with Lumina OLED, giving it a beautifully clear and crisp image that's perfect for creative and editing projects.

The keyboard is solid, with well-sized keys for any finger size and type, and a snappy feedback. But what really sells this laptop is its glass touchpad, which not only feels ultra smooth and responsive but has a feature called Smart Gesture. This means you can set up shortcuts for the top and sides of the pad to control various tasks like volume, video controls, and more.

Port selection isn't too shabby, with two USB Type-C ports, one USB Type-A port, a combo jack, and an HDMI port. No ethernet port, unfortunately - disappointing when we're dealing with an Ultrabook that should be premium in every way.

Asus Zenbook S 16: performance

I wasn't able to properly test out the Asus Zenbook S 16 during my hands-on period, so unfortunately its true performance levels aren't known to me at this time. However, if we're going by the potential of AI processors then it's possible that this laptop could have some exceptional benchmark scores.

The ventilation system has also been revamped, potentially lending itself to longer periods of use without overheating. It's called Airvent and it improves airflow while keeping moisture and dust out. You can see the unique design of the vent above the keyboard.

Asus Zenbook S 16: early verdict

light silver laptop on table

(Image credit: Future)

The Asus Zenbook S 16 is probably the biggest change out of all the laptops Asus showcased so far. Not only does it have the AI processor upgrade but Asus invented a whole new material just to build the laptop with. 

Coupled with useful features like the touchpad's Smart Gesture and a brand-new ventilation system, and you have an Ultrabook that could very well be one of the best laptops in the market. I look forward to test-driving the Zenbook S 16 once it releases - and very few laptops have made me feel that way this year.

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.