Asus' new Zenbook Pro 16X OLED has a Supernova inside

Asus Zenbook Pro 16X OLED (2023) on a desk
(Image credit: Sherri L. Smith, Laptop Mag)

CES 2023 is in full swing, and most every major laptop company is in Las Vegas showing off the new hardware it hopes to bring to market this year.

Today (January 4) Asus took the wraps off a slew of new and updated laptop designs and one of the most powerful, the refreshed Zenbook Pro 16X OLED, has an intriguing bespoke CPU inside that the company claims will deliver "ultra-powerful" performance.

We've heard that before, but what I've never heard of is a laptop vendor working with Intel to redesign the way the CPU fits into the motherboard. But that's what Asus claims to have done with the new Zenbook Pro 16X OLED, which packs a modern Intel CPU that's been redesigned to be smaller, which Asus claims allows for better cooling.

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED: Price and release date

Asus hasn't yet revealed much about when we should expect the Zenbook Pro 16X OLED (2023) or how much we should expect to pay. All we know so far is that the company plans to release the laptop in the 2nd quarter of 2023.

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED: Design

On the outside, the 2023 model of the Asus Zenbook Pro 16X OLED looks a lot like last year's model, which weighed just over 5 pounds and measures roughly 13.98 x 9.88 x 0.67 inches. The 2023 refresh sports a 16-inch 16:10 display with thin bezels, and a unique keyboard configuration that sets it apart from the crowd.

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED raised keyboard in action

(Image credit: Future)

Instead of a traditional flat keyboard with a touchpad beneath, the Zenbook Pro 16X OLED has a shorter keyboard that takes up only the top half of the laptop's deck. The keyboard is mounted on a plate that can raise up thanks to what Asus calls its "Active Aerodynamic System Ultra (AAS Ultra) mechanism", which basically tilts the keyboard up at an angle. Asus claims this helps with cooling, and it also offers a potentially more ergonomic typing experience. Plus, it has some cool RGB underlighting onboard.

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED

(Image credit: Future)

Below the keyboard you'll find a dial on the lefthand side, which you can use to control the PC and interact with apps (like those in Adobe's catalog) in a relatively unique way. To the right of the dial is a haptic touchpad, centered in the lower half of the deck, which also doubles as a number pad if you enable the ASUS NumberPad functionality. 

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED: Display

The Zenbook Pro 16X OLED, as the name suggests, sports a 16-inch 3.2K OLED touchscreen with a refresh rate of 120Hz. That's a pretty luxurious display for a laptop, though of course we'll have to get one in for testing before we can say for sure how bright and vivid it looks.

Asus Zenbook Pro 16X OLED with screen close-up

(Image credit: Sherri L. Smith)

However, in my experience testing laptops and monitors here at Tom's Guide I've found that OLED displays nearly always look better than more common IPS screens, with brighter brights, deeper blacks and sharper contrasts.

We don't yet have a firm count of how many ports the new Zenbook Pro 16X OLED offers, but we do know it will offer support for Thunderbolt 4.

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED: Performance

The most potentially exciting new thing about the 2023 refresh of the Zenbook Pro 16X OLED is that its internals have been redesigned, in partnership with Intel, to shrink the CPU and create more room on the motherboard for cooling and power components for the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4000 series GPU inside. 

Asus Zenbook Pro 16X OLED with motherboard on table

Asus claims the Zenbook Pro 16X OLED's unique Supernova SoM design allows it to shrink the CPU by nearly 40%. (Image credit: Sherri L. Smith)

Asus claims the unique Intel CPU onboard (likely a modified 13th Gen Raptor Lake laptop chip) is designed with Asus' new Supernova SoM (System-on-Module) design. The end result shrinks the motherboard by roughly 38%, and that space is used to bolster performance in a way that's hopefully noticeable to owners. Asus also says its switched to a liquid metal compound for cooling the laptop's key internals, and it claims this switch has allowed the laptop to run cooler at max load and achieve better performance.

Couple these improvements with the fact that you can configure the Zenbook Pro 16X OLED with up to 32GB of LPDDR5X DRAM, and Asus' claim that this is "the most powerful Zenbook yet" starts to make sense.

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED: Outlook

While there's still a lot we don't know about the new Zenbook Pro 16X OLED, including how much it will cost and when it will launch, the details Asus revealed at CES 2023 have me feeling cautiously excited about this odd-looking laptop.

While I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of the raised keyboard design and dial, I know I've not been a huge fan of Asus' touchpads (and their togglable NumberPad overlays) in the past. But after all the claims Asus has made about the power of the Zenbook Pro 16X OLED (2023), I can't help but be intrigued. 

While pitched more as a laptop for creators than game fans, the potential power of the Zenbook Pro 16X OLED when kitted out with a high-end Intel CPU, a beefy Nvidia GPU and 32GB of RAM makes it seem like a great gaming laptop in disguise. Factor in the luminous 3.2K OLED touchscreen and you start to see why this is worth getting excited about.

We'll have more on the laptop as we hear it, including (hopefully) a chance to go hands-on with one at CES 2023, so stay tuned!

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.