From macOS to Windows: experience of using ASUS Zenbook S 13 OLED
The Zenbook S 13 OLED is a very compact 13-inch Windows 11 laptop that I first managed to test this spring, and then I remembered the model as a rather interesting alternative to the MacBook Air. So I decided to try it out in this role: to switch to the ASUS Zenbook S 13 OLED from the basic MacBook Air M2, customize it for my work tasks, and see how efficiently I can perform them. In this article, I’ll share my experience of switching from macOS to Windows and how convenient it is to do everyday tasks on the Zenbook S 13 OLED.
Typical working setup
My workstation is equipped with a 27-inch 4K ASUS ProArt 279CV monitor: if you work at the computer for a long time, the large screen helps your eyes to get less tired. The laptop is connected to the monitor with a single USB-C cable that provides power and transmits video. For typical tasks, I don’t need two screens at once, so the laptop is on the side.
For work, I now use a Logitech MX Master 3 wireless mouse, which is 4 years old but still works well, although it’s pretty worn out, as well as a low-profile mechanical Keychron K1 SE keyboard with red Gateron switches. I decided to try it out because it was interesting to work on this type of mechanics after using MX Keys Mini for Mac for quite a long time and HATOR Skyfall TKL Pro Wireless. In this regard, the K1 SE is more versatile, as it comes with interchangeable keycaps for both macOS and Windows, so it’s easy enough to switch from one system to the other.
The ASUS Zenbook S 13 OLED fits perfectly into this work setup. This model, despite its small thickness, has a good set of ports, which includes one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, one HDMI 2.1, and, most importantly for me, two Thunderbolt 4 with DisplayPort and PD. It is through one of them that the laptop transmits the picture to the monitor and also charges. The 65 watts provided by ASUS ProArt 279CV is just enough for the Zenbook S 13 OLED to work at full capacity.
The only difference between using this setup and the MacBook Air M2 is that it has a passive cooling system and can be kept closed when connected to a monitor. The Zenbook S 13 OLED uses two ultra-thin fans that draw air from the bottom and blow it out to the back, so it’s better to keep the display lid open. This does not interfere in any way, on the contrary, it is convenient that you can log in through the face recognition function.
Most of the time on the computer, I work with a browser, email, messengers, and documents and photos. I’ll tell you more about my set of programs later. I’ll just say that such tasks don’t put too much strain on the system, but even with intensive use of all the programs I need, I hardly hear the fans working, they are really very quiet.
Given the setup, one might ask the question: why is there a laptop here at all? You could use a small PC or even a monoblock. However, I should note that a large part of my work involves meetings, so a laptop that you can simply disconnect from the monitor and take with you is just very convenient. Besides, it’s nice to be able to change the working environment and go to a park or cafe to work. Also, the past winter with the power outage schedules showed that a laptop with good battery life is a very big advantage.
Laptop capabilities and usability
If we put aside the use of a monitor, separate keyboard and mouse, the transition from a 13.6-inch laptop to a 13.3-inch laptop does not cause any discomfort, and in the case of Zenbook S 13 OLED, it’s even the opposite, because the OLED matrix has better color reproduction and a higher resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels.
What you immediately feel is the lighter weight of the ASUS laptop, which is only 1 kg, with a thickness of just over 1 cm. The plasma-ceramic display unit cover is pleasant to the touch, but rather branded (something I didn’t notice during the review). However, the main thing is that it is sturdy enough not to be pushed through.
The light weight and size make the Zenbook S 13 OLED a great companion when traveling: the last time I was as happy to take a laptop with me was when I was using a 12-inch MacBook in 2015. While the Air M2 can’t be called very heavy either, it is somehow less conducive to mobile use.
When working with Zenbook S 13 OLED during the day outside, you should find a place in the shade. The maximum brightness of 550 nits, while good for a laptop screen, is still much less than what modern smartphones offer.
In addition, the glossy finish of the display will catch glare, but the ability to open the lid 180 degrees allows you to choose the right angle. In this regard, the MacBook Air M2 is more difficult, because its opening angle is limited.
Another thing I like about Zenbook S 13 OLED is the keyboard. Despite the fact that I often write texts from a mechanical keyboard, switching to laptop keys does not require any long adaptation or getting used to. The short, soft stroke of the buttons with a tangible pressure allows you to comfortably type large amounts of text.
The laptop’s touchpad is large and comfortable, but the first thing I do in all Windows models is turn off the right-click simulation when I click on the lower right half of the touchpad, as well as the three-finger swipe gesture. Both of these options are not recognized very reliably in Windows. At the same time, the right mouse button works perfectly when you touch the touch surface with two fingers at the same time.
As for the laptop’s performance, the combination of Intel Core i7-1355U, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16 GB of LPDDR5 5200 MHz RAM and a 1 TB NVMe M.2 SSD is more than enough for office needs and photo editing. In synthetic tests, the Air M2 is faster, but I can’t say that in real tasks I lack the power of the Zenbook S 13 OLED. I also like the large size of the built-in storage in the ASUS laptop. The Air with a 1 TB SSD still costs quite a bit of money.
Everyday tasks and software
Just the other day, a major Windows 11 update was released, and on the same day, Apple released its next macOS, which traditionally was named after one of California’s natural attractions, this time the Sonoma Valley. These releases, and on the same day, are, in my opinion, an excellent indicator of the direction of development of Apple and Microsoft operating systems.
I’ve already installed the Windows 11 update with the new Copilot AI assistant and managed to try out macOS Sonoma for a while, and while Microsoft is daring to experiment and really believes in the future of artificial intelligence, Apple is still just trying to bind the user to its ecosystem. I think that if it weren’t for the new screensavers in macOS Sonoma, few users would have noticed the OS version change at all.
At the same time, I cannot say that one approach is more correct than the other. For example, with the latest Windows 11 update that I found on the Zenbook S 13 OLED, I couldn’t help but feel like I was a beta tester to some extent, given the big preview icon on the Copilot icon and Microsoft’s attempts to get me to beta Outlook, which is not very happy with my work email. Overall, though, I like the direction Windows is going in. Microsoft is trying to make the operating system as attractive as possible to different user groups.
Even if you have an iPhone, Windows 11 can pull your photo gallery from iCloud through the standard Photos app (you need to install the iCloud for Windows utility), listen to music through the Apple Music client, and watch TV shows on Apple TV+. Of course, this doesn’t always work as well as in Apple’s closed system, but it’s a choice, and it’s really great. So, despite all the features and shortcomings of Windows, especially with Microsoft’s approach of taking away and then putting back some features, I like this OS overall. And it’s very interesting to see how its development will be affected by the addition of artificial intelligence features.
Well, after this lyrical digression, I’ll return to the main topic of the article and note that in general, switching from macOS to Windows is not something difficult, in fact, I do it all the time when I test new laptops. My daily set of tasks is related to writing materials for the website, the work of the editorial office, and interaction with partners. That’s why one of the main programs for me is a browser, and I stopped using Chrome quite a while ago, switching completely to the built-in Edge.
This is partly a manifestation of my laziness, but also a compliment to the developers of Microsoft’s browser, because it is as fast as Chrome, but has more settings that allow me to turn off everything I don’t need, and these settings are synchronized across devices.
Another browser I have on my system is Firefox, which I need from time to time to check if everything on the site is working as it should, and I want to support the developers with additional downloads.
After trying a lot of email clients, I settled on the official Microsoft Outlook, because the editorial office mail runs on Microsoft 365, and it turned out to be the easiest and most convenient way to use the workbox. I would also like to praise Microsoft for its user-friendly Android and iOS apps.
I have been using Microsoft To Do for quite some time now, back when it was a startup called Wunderlist. Now it has been integrated into various Microsoft services, and Outlook allows you to create tasks with reminders from an email, which is very convenient for me.
But probably the most important tool for me right now is Notion, whose flexibility allows me to use it for several tasks at once. For example, to keep an editorial plan (actually, Oleg Danilov keeps it, but I keep forgetting, sorry, Oleg!), collect topics for podcasts, create a knowledge base for new authors, how to work with the site, and much more. The flexibility of the program and the availability of a huge number of different templates allow Notion to cover the need for several separate programs.
I could consider Microsoft Loop as a replacement for Notion, but so far it seems that this project hasn’t taken off and is not developing very much.
For writing materials, my standard program is Word, but on macOS I use iA Writer more often, and one day I will buy it for Windows. So far, the Word + Google Docs bundle + the LanguageTool plugin have made it easy to work with texts in Microsoft, but iA Writer is still more familiar.
For photo processing, I use the first version of Affinity Photo, which works fine so far, although I may have to pay for the second version at some point. It’s a generally good photo editor, but it’s far inferior to Pixelmator, which I use on macOS. Unfortunately, its developers have not yet thought of creating a version for Windows. And this is one of the biggest inconveniences when switching from system to system.
When I need to resize a large number of photos and add a Borders watermark for review, I use the free FastStone Photo Resizer.
In fact, this is my basic set of work programs. I would be happy to have a wider choice of software on Windows, but unfortunately, it is still limited compared to macOS, which has added iOS/iPadOS apps over the past few years. I hope that Microsoft will be able to attract more developers. For example, I really miss an alternative app store like MacPaw’s Setapp, where you can get access to hundreds of apps with a subscription.
As for entertainment, the Zenbook S 13 OLED is not a gaming system, so you can’t play Starfield on it comfortably, but I frankly don’t have enough time to play games.
So all the entertainment on my computer comes down to listening to Spotify and sometimes watching TV shows on Netflix and Apple TV+. I watch the latter more often now, as they’ve started to release some really interesting series.
As I wrote above, the Zenbook S 13 OLED handles this usage model without any problems, so I hope that my experience will be useful for those who are looking for a thin and light Windows laptop. I’m also looking forward to hearing from you in the comments about what interesting programs you use and what I could replace in my standard Windows software kid in the future.