ASUS ExpertBook B9

This is the brand new ASUS VivoBook Flip. It’s a convertible, and ASUS managed to bring these types of exquisite devices with great build quality into a more reasonable price range. Let us take a look at the ASUS VivoBook Flip, with the specific model name known as the TP301UJ – the brand flipping new laptop in the flipping market!

As far as I’m told by ASUS Malaysia, the current model of the TP301UJ that I have here isn’t finalized, and the printing on the outside has changed, but the insides are the same. To avoid any confusion that I may cause, I will not be posting any pictures or mentions of the packaging on the outside.

Acer Nitro 5

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I’m not sure then did ASUS changed their laptop packaging style to have this clamshell design, but I like it so much. It’s so robust, yet elegant. There is a certain degree of engineering that went into where and how the cardboard is supposed to move when the box is opened too – a little like origami, but better.

A+ in packaging right here.

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Opening up the box, it straight up told me that they’re in search of incredible. Laptop is covered some cloth to prevent scratches and dust, yet it has a little tab to pull the laptop out with ease.

Opening up beneath the VivoBook Flip itself is a sleeve pouch for the VivoBook Flip itself – more on this later.

Digging even deeper into the box itself is where the quick start, user manual, a velcro cable tie, the charger, and a microfiber cloth are found. Pretty much a complete set of accessory by ASUS, and they’ve been including all of these for quite some time already actually. Here’s the summary of everything found inside.

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[nextpage title=”Design”]TP301UJ (7)

The VivoBook Flip is an elegant laptop for sure. Although it’s mostly made out of plastic with matte metal paint covered all over the device inside and out, I found out that ASUS used really high quality plastic and actually really rigid build quality.

There are little to no flex on the keyboard and body itself, and has only a very slight flex on the screen when twisted at the edges of the monitor.

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The VivoBook Flip has two double-hinge system, much like the Lenovo Yoga series of laptops have. It works completely fine, and the hinges are stable and doesn’t make the screen vibrate or outright collapse when tapped on it with a little more momentum. However this is a double-edged sword design, as it means the laptop screen cannot be opened with a single finger like the MacBook series of laptops.Is it a big deal? Absolutely not.

This is caused by ASUS’s inclusion of two big magnets at the corners near the trackpad, and I have to say that those magnets are really strong – it sucked my pen with quite a lot of force too. I was afraid that my pen scratched the laptop because of how brutal the magnets were reacting to my pen.

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Then comes the thinness of the VivoBook Flip. It’s a really thin laptop – so thin that ASUS neglected had to neglect two pieces of hardware to achieve this thinness, the optical disk drive and also the Ethernet port. Yes my friends, even the Ethernet port is neglected. ASUS however spiced things up with its input and output interfaces, which leads us to…

[nextpage title=”Connectivity and ports”]So with the Ethernet and optical disk drive gone, ASUS redeemed itself and threw in a slew of ports at both sides.

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On the left side of the VivoBook Flip, there’s a single USB 2.0 port, a SD card slot, volume rocker, and the power button. It’s a weird place to put the power button in the context of a conventional laptop, but remember – this is a convertible, or flip, laptop. It does need a lot of getting used to, as I did accidentally press it multiple times when I first started to use it, because I have to push the laptop a little to the right to readjust my position.

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At the right side is where the magic happens – ASUS included an array of the latest and greatest ports, with the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack, a USB Type-C port, double USB 3.0 ports, a single HDMI port, and the power jack. One small note here though – the picture below shows how much space the HDMI and USB ports actually take, and the VivoBook Flip itself isn’t that much thicker than those ports anyway.

Let’s not forget about one more thing – the speaker on the VivoBook Flip is relatively decent for a laptop speaker, and it offers quite a nice stereo sound too. Lacks bass like any other laptop speaker, volume is a little soft even at 50%, but produces real good sound for vocal range of frequency.

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I could give an A+ for connectivity right here and now, but then again the lack of a VGA port – or at least the lack of an included HDMI to VGA converter, makes the VivoBook Flip not suitable for university and office uses. You know, their projectors are still using VGA most of the time, right? Speaking of display, let’s move on to the next part.

[nextpage title=”Screen”]TP301UJ (17)

The particular model that I have on the VivoBook Flip here has a 13.3-inch screen with 1366×768 resolution. It’s definitely not the best monitor out there in the market today, and ASUS could have definitely improved on this segment of the VivoBook Flip. Seriously, colour shifts were everywhere and even while I’m looking at the screen at a straight angle, the colours were quite washed out.

Based on ASUS’s product page for the VivoBook Flip though, if you’re getting the 1920×1080 resolution display, it will have an IPS panel instead, which presumably have much better colour saturation with little to no colour shifts. For me, this is not something to be taken lightly, because you can flip the device, and I expect to use such a device in awkward positions. That will need me to look at it at a weird angle, so an IPS display is still important, man.

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The brightness of the screen however is fantastic no doubt. Outdoors or indoors – there is a super wide range of brightness for you to choose from. The only gripe that I have is still the colour. Oh, let’s not forget the touchscreen too.

[nextpage title=”Touchscreen, trackpad, and keyboard”]I couldn’t help but to say this – the touchscreen on the VivoBook Flip is fantastic. It has absolutely zero lag and the touchscreen is always accurate to the touch. Responsive too. I found myself always touching the screen for simple clicks and navigation, just because I’m too lazy, or maybe because of the trackpad’s only issue that I have.

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That’s the size of the trackpad itself. It’s not the smallest trackpad out there, but it’s tinier than that I would like it to be. My fingers can glide on it pretty smoothly and pleasantly, and that feels great indeed. The other minor complaint that I have about the trackpad is again related to the size, which made the left and right click buttons much closer together. Also, ASUS didn’t split both the buttons into separate clicks, which requires some getting used to in order to differentiate between the left and right clicks on the trackpad. Again, a minor issue for me, and can be adapted over some short period of time.

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Now, onto the keyboard. For me, the keyboard is one of the most important part of a laptop, and ASUS managed to make the necessary trade-offs while managed to ensure the typing experience of the VivoBook Flip to be fantastic. It’s an island-style keyboard with reasonable spacing between each key, and it’s the first criteria of a comfortable laptop keyboard. The next step is how the key switches are made, which ASUS opted to use the scissors style switch to achieve its thinness.

Although at first glance it gave me an impression that I’m going to hate the keyboard, I actually love that ASUS has did to the keyboard here.

kb switch

The scissors style switch here has quite a lot of travel distance – and thankfully, ASUS even highlighted and cleared the confusion around this issue in their product page by stating the travel distance of 1.6mm. It’s a decent travel distance – you can definitely feel the switch being pressed with its decent amount of tactile feedback too. Even so, I typed this entire review using the keyboard on the VivoBook Flip. Excellent! While typing this entire review, of course I took some breaks in between and played some games, which leads to the next section.

[nextpage title=”Performance”]Let’s not forget about its performance here. The TP301UJ that I have here comes with the latest Intel’s 6th-generation processor, specifically the Intel i5-6200U processor, 4GB of on-board DDR3L memory, paired with an Nvidia GeForce GT920M dedicated graphics with 2GB of DDR3L VRAM. ASUS even included a 1TB hard disk with 5400RPM in it for all your storage needs. I even opened up the back plate to have a look at the insides.

Of course, since you’re here reading this and looking at the picture, I might as well take the effort to explain what and where are the components inside.

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ASUS made some interesting choice here, and there’s no clear cut answer on whether it’s a good one or not. If you’re impatient, here’s the list. For those who wants reasoning and explanation on how it performs in real life, bear with me here.

specs

First off, it has a single RAM slot, and is occupied by a 4GB DDR3L stick. It’s okay for most people – even for me at certain times when I’m just working around on Google Docs (like I am now) and browsing the internet, doing my assignments, watching videos, listening to music, etc. I just hoped that ASUS would have included 8GB for a little more rainbow sprinkles on my ice-cream, as RAM these days are really getting devoured by browsers (looking at your, Chrome).

Secondly, the inclusion of the Nvidia GeForce GT920M graphics puts me at a confusion. It’s great the VivoBook Flip has its own GPU, but then again, it’s not exactly powerful at all. Actually, the VivoBook Flip ran Dota 2 with no issues – manages to score around 40FPS at 768p, highest settings with Vsync off and shadows at high. Very cool – and I meant the temperatures when running that particular Dota 2 test. It did run a little higher on Mirror’s Edge though, but that was tested on a bed instead.

dota 2 temps
Surprise surprise – I felt no heat on my lap too! That’s what a true LAPtop should be!

Thirdly – it’s really something that I was spoilt for – is my personal complaint of not including an SSD. It’s not entirely a big deal since SSDs are expensive to begin with anyway and including an M.2 or even mSATA for that matter, would be a great addition. I understand where ASUS is coming from – their engineers cramped up too many things on the motherboard already, and doesn’t really have any space left to accommodate for a potential upgrade by the user. So I’ll let that slide, and completely ignore SSHD since hybrid drives doesn’t offer much of an SSD experience overall to begin with.

I think overall, ASUS made a great combination of hardware, but could improve the GPU a little more to maybe an GT940M for that matter, and include an expansion slot for SSD, although that will never happen as there’s just not enough place on the motherboard. Also, ASUS manages to pack in a damn efficient cooler into this dense motherboard, and the included fan doesn’t whine like a little bitch. It did cool the laptop relatively quietly even when it’s running at max RPM, maintaining at about 70°C at all times too.

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Side note here – ASUS even made the VivoBook Flip’s internals to be totally accessible easily – remove the back plate and it reveals the fan, the copper heatpipe that connects both CPU and GPU, and all of the screws that holds the cooling system down. I find this particularly important, as laptops used for about a year tends to have a degradation in mainly its performance and battery life, due to dust built up inside of it. More information on this matter on the article that we did on cleaning laptops.

Speaking of the battery life, here comes the last and most important section.

[nextpage title=”Battery”]The VivoBook Flip’s battery life is crazy. ASUS claims it to have 10 hours of battery life, and I never once suffered a case oh-no-battery-is-dying on the VivoBook Flip at all. I intentionally tried to drain the battery once, and that’s when I found out the VivoBook Flip can run Dota 2 pretty smoothly (highlighted in detail at the performance segment). I watched my friend play Dota 2 at that time actually, and I wasted for over half an hour, and it drained only about 10% of the battery. That means if I am to play Dota 2 at lower settings on the VivoBook Flip, I can complete 2 games of Dota 2 on battery – and that’s accounting that each Dota 2 game takes about 40 to 50 minutes – and then potentially continue using it with some web browsing.

In truth, I actually gone through about 7 hours of battery life in high performance with constant heavy use, and I with enough juice to soldier through the day, although it takes quite a long time to completely charge up. If you’re someone who always forget to charge your laptop to prepare for the next day (like me), then you’re in luck.

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That’s the size of the VivoBook Flip’s 65 watt charger – it outputs 19V and 3.42A. It’s tiny. The size of it is just slightly larger than the Xiaomi 10,400 mAh power bank! The only thing I can nitpick about the charger here is ASUS for not including option to have the wall plug port directly on the power brick itself – something like what the ASUS ZenBook charger originally has.

[nextpage title=”Wrap up”]I’m going to be honest with the conclusion – the VivoBook Flip is definitely a very nice piece of laptop, and I can see it being the perfect laptop for students who aren’t going to do PC Master Race things and would like to enjoy Dota 2 and other casual games, do assignments, watch movies, etc. It’s even suitable for my family for that matter, since they don’t even use VGA port to begin with. Want to show some movies or pictures to the family? Plug it to the TV via HDMI – that works. ASUS even included a USB Type-C port for some futureproofing.

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Some rather confusing hardware that ASUS chose too, which caused me to question their decision at first, but got me realizing afterwards that it’s indeed a good mix. It offers great thinness and easy maintenance, but pays the price with its lack of upgradability.

Build quality is top-notch for a convertible 2-in-1 device, battery life is magnificent, keyboard is decent, performance is above my expectations, but the screen’s image quality itself could be improved a little bit more. Overall, it’s a really great laptop. Let’s not forget the sleeve too. It’s a little difficult to get the laptop in at first, but once I got the hang of it, it’s just really sleek.

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