The build and feature set are strong (we bemoan the missing headphone jack, though a dongle is included), and the overall performance is good. But this laptop falls short of the two other “Tiger Lake” systems we’ve tested so far, including one with the same CPU. We didn’t see big gains in general speed or integrated graphics, and since we know other designs are capable of more, we have to dock the ZenBook Flip S. If you’re less concerned with margins of power, though, you’ll find this an attractive convertible at a fair price. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is still our top pick.
LUXE LOOKS AND A LIGHTWEIGHT BUILD
Considering its price tag and design, the ZenBook Flip S is certainly a premium laptop. You can find more expensive ultraportables and 2-in-1s, but many have a lower starting price and scale up higher depending on configuration. This model (UX371) is the only configuration for this laptop, so it sits above the starting prices of many competitors, but it’s also nicer than average. The more popular configurations of those machines—systems like the aforementioned Dell, the HP Spectre x360 13, and the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro—will ring up close in price to the ZenBook Flip S.
To outline what you’re getting for $1,449, this laptop is equipped with a Tiger Lake Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of memory, a 1TB M.2 SSD for storage, and a 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) OLED touch screen. It also qualifies as an Intel Evo (the replacement for Project Athena) system, meeting a list of requirements for thin-and-light laptops that ensure portability and usability with the new generation of Intel processors. As a result, it bears an Evo sticker on the keyboard deck.
As mentioned, the processor in the Flip S is one of Intel’s latest 11th Generation parts (complete with improved Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics), and this is one of the first we’re getting our hands on. So the performance section later on is of special interest.
But first, a bit about the body. The premium feel comes across in the look and construction, as well as in the components. Stylistically, the grey-and-copper color scheme looks luxurious, similar to that of HP’s Spectre laptops. The body is made of an aluminum alloy, which makes it feel higher-quality than plastic alternatives while keeping it lighter than a fully aluminum chassis. That said, a fully aluminum chassis signals “metal” better than this alloy does—I could see someone mistaking this shell for plastic. The lid, especially, is not quite up to par with machined aluminum builds.
Here’s where the alloy pays off, though: The ZenBook Flip S measures just 0.54 by 12 by 8.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.65 pounds. This is admirably thin and light, even in this category. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is a touch thicker and weighs 3.1 pounds, while the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is slightly thinner but weighs 2.9 pounds. (The non-convertible Dell XPS 13 is also heavier at 2.8 pounds.) This, in addition to its convertibility, makes the Flip S one of the most portable high-end laptops around.
Asus ZenBook Flip S (UX371)
Luxe design, with aluminum alloy build. Very thin and light at 2.65 pounds. Brilliant 4K OLED touch display. USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, plus a USB Type-A port.
Thin design likely cramping CPU performance. Keyboard layout is a bit tight. No dedicated headphone jack (USB-to-3.5mm adapter is included).
The Asus ZenBook Flip S is a super-slick, super-portable 2-in-1 with a stunner of a 4K OLED touch display, but its design puts a damper on the performance of its Intel “Tiger Lake” CPU.
THE OLED ADVANTAGE
I’ll touch on the screen convertibility in a moment, but I would be remiss to not focus on this laptop’s display. The screen will be one of the top draws to this laptop, as it’s a 13.3-inch 4K OLED panel with touch capability. That’s about as good as it gets on any laptop, let alone at this screen size.
Now, granted, you probably don’t need 4K resolution at 13 inches. But Windows 10’s scaling options make the text legible and the overall UI plenty usable. OLED technology is currently tied to 4K panels, so if Asus felt strongly about the former, the latter is part of the package. The first wave of OLED laptops impressed us last year, even though the screen option was almost exclusively tied to the highest configurations of laptops that offered it. (Key examples include the Razer Blade 15 OLED and the 2019 Alienware m15.)
To make a long story short, OLED panels generally blow away IPS and other screen technologies in terms of vibrancy and brightness, while using less power. The ZenBook Flip S is no exception: The screen is brilliant, a clear notch above non-OLED screens in terms of brightness, color, and contrast. It’s immediately noticeable at first glance, and OLED remains a feast for your eyes in comparison to traditional displays. There’s a reason this technology has been gaining traction with television sets, and the evolution is slowly starting in laptops. The fact that, at the moment, it’s a more expensive technology, tied to 4K resolution, means OLED screens will show up only in pricier laptops like this one for the time being. But hopefully, wider adoption isn’t too far off.
That brilliant display will be your portal to the digital world as you flip, rotate, and tap away on this convertible machine. Convertible 2-in-1 laptops are nothing new to the PC market, but they are still less common than traditional clamshell designs. The hinges feel high-quality and rotate easily when held in two hands. But the Asus doesn’t quite pass the one-finger test (trying to open the lid with one finger without holding the laptop in place with your other hand.) I suspect the hinges are a bit tighter than normal so the screen doesn’t flop around as you transform between modes or carry the laptop.
The ability to turn the ZenBook Flip S into a tablet helps for both showing off some data to colleagues as you walk around the office (if and when we return to offices, that is) and making travel easier. The fact that the screen will look so nice when you pull the device out of your bag to use in tablet mode or to watch a movie with the screen folded toward you is a big plus.
KEYBOARD, PORTS, AND EXTRAS
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