Asus ZenBook Flip 13: A beautiful laptop with one thing missing
PCWorld|December 2020
Good-bye headset jack, we hardly knew ye.
GORDON MAH UNG

The Asus ZenBook Flip 13 is a beautiful laptop that offers decent battery life, very good graphics, and a lot of pep for most of what you’d do on a small 13-inch convertible laptop.

Unfortunately, you probably won’t remember it for its impressive 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 chip, nor its drop-dead-gorgeous OLED screen. Nope, instead you’ll fixate on something it doesn’t have: a 3.5mm analog audio jack.

COURAGE OR COST-CUTTING?

Yes, the same move that Apple claimed as “courageous” on the iPhone 7, Asus has now done to a laptop. And just as other smartphones followed Apple’s lead, we expect other PC vendors are watching closely to see how users react to this eviction.

We have no idea why Asus did this. While Apple did it to save a nickel in production costs on a $1,000 phone and said it was to “save space,” Asus has plenty of space on the ZenBook Flip 13. In fact, alongside the pair of USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports the ZenBook Flip 13 has, Asus fits in a full-size HDMI port as well as a square USB-A port. Maybe if we had to choose we’d prioritize those over an analog jack, but why make us choose at all, Asus?

To make up for it, Asus does include a 3.5mm analog to USB-C dongle that uses a 24-bit ESS DAC. It should yield cleaner audio than an analog circuit in a laptop, which is open to picking up interference. It’s a pure digital dongle, so it’ll work on your Android phone as well.

FEATURES AND SPECS

With that bile cleared, we can now talk about just how impressive the ZenBook Flip 13 is. Featuring beveled edges with gold accents, the ZenBook Flip 13 feels and looks like a premium laptop that can run with the best of them. Here are the primary specs:

CPU: Intel 11th-gen quad-core Core i7-1165G7

GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Xe

RAM: 16GB LPDDR4x/4267

Storage: 512GB SK Hynix NVMe PCI Gen 3 SSD

Display: UHD 4K Samsung OLED display with touch and pen support (pen not included)

Battery: 67 Watt-hour

Dimensions: 12 x 8.3 x 0.55 inches (14mm) thick.

Weight: 2.7 pounds. Add another 8ounces for the power brick.

Ports: Rather than talk about the ports and trigger everyone, we’ll let the pictures tell the story. The left side includes two Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.0.

The right side features a power button and a square USB-A 5Gbps port. And no, there’s no headset jack on the back or front. It’s really gone.

Photographs on a webpage do not do justice to the ZenBook Flip 13’s OLED. We have yet to find such a display that didn’t have us swooning. While a 4K-resolution screen on a 13-inch laptop is probably excessive pixel density, it’s simply beautiful. Unlike conventional backlit LCDs, OLEDs turn off pixels when not in use, creating deeper blacks and, incidentally, saving power. On the other hand, moving to a bright-white background uses more power. OLED is expensive, but it’s nice if you can get it.

KEYBOARD & TRACKPAD: AN UNEXPECTED BONUS

Keyboard and trackpad discussions aren’t usually very exciting, but the ZenBook Flip 13 carries something very special. Smaller laptops can’t squeeze in a 10-key numeric keypad, so Asus offers a virtual grid that lights up with a long press on the upper-right hand corner of the trackpad. Some will say it’s pure gimmick, while others will say it’s better than nothing. It’s a very individual choice.

The trackpad is compliant with Microsoft’s Precision touchpad requirements for expanded Windows gestures. It’s a larger trackpad, but we had no issues with palm strikes.

The keyboard is a little mushy compared to its thin-and-light competition, but we’re still talking subjective taste at this point. The keyboard button assignments are good, with a dedicated button to switch off the camera.

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