Here we have the brand new ASUS ZenBook Flip S – an ultrabook that’s rather unique. It has the ability to convert into a tablet, and it also supports stylus input. It’s not a Surface-style device – so what is it, actually? This makes it the perfect device for artists, doodlers, or even those who want to take quick notes or draw notes, no?
Let’s take a deep dive into the ASUS ZenBook Flip S – specifically the UX370UAF – and see what it offers.
The ZenBook Flip S comes in a rather familiar packaging design. Remember the ZenBook 3 Deluxe? Technically, ASUS just reused the same packaging design for the ZenBook Flip S. Even the contents are pretty much the same.
However, the ZenBook Flip S does come with a few extras. Like the ASUS Pen and also a USB-C dongle that splits into a USB-C charging port, HDMI, and another USB-A port. I’m happy that ASUS is so considerate and elevate the pain of finding aftermarket dongles.
There’s also a PU leather pouch that comes in the box itself – but it has a special little twist compared to other the PU leather pouch that is found on other ZenBooks. We’ll talk more about that in the next section.
[nextpage title=”Design & Ports”]
Let’s take a look at the ZenBook Flip S’s pouch first. It might look the same as before – but opening it up reveals a special little design – a built-in pen holder and a little pouch behind it. The pen holder is obviously for you to stash the ASUS Pen, whereas the pouch is for you to put the dongle there.
Though, the little pouch to fit in the dongle seems to be an afterthought, as it will create a bulge behind the laptop sleeve. Though, ASUS Pen can be fitted into the pouch naturally.
The ZenBook Flip S is actually looking pretty sleek, too. It’s impossibly thin. It’s so thin that it can’t even fit in any USB-A ports, as those ports are thicker than the laptop itself. ASUS makes up for this by having a total of two USB-C ports. They’re not Thunderbolt 3 ports, unfortunately. There’s no possible way to hook up an external graphics card.
Other than that, there’s a headphone/microphone combo jack, a fingerprint scanner, volume rocker, and power button.
As the ZenBook Flip S is a convertible laptop, you can flip it and use it at whichever angle you choose. The hinge is nothing new if you’ve seen other ASUS convertible laptops before. If it works, then there’s no reason to fix it.
The screen itself is actually highly reflective as ASUS opted for a glossy finish instead. That is to be expected, as the ZenBook Flip S has a touch-screen. With that said, the ASUS also included its beautiful NanoEdge technology into the ZenBook Flip S – hence having super tiny bezels around the screen itself.
The 13.3-inch 1080p IPS screen looks absolutely fantastic, as its colors are calibrated nicely. ASUS claims that it has a 100% sRGB color gamut, too. The colors reproduced are fantastic.
The screen itself is sturdy enough to withstand most daily usages, but it does wobble quite a lot when the touch screen is used. As for typing, the screen can hold up pretty steadily. Though, the lid can’t be lifted with just one finger. The body will be lifted up together.
To use the ZenBook Flip S is not really an issue, as the display can go really bright to counter the sunlight – but at a heavy cost of battery life. More on that later.
[nextpage title=”Trackpad, keyboard, touchscreen, ASUS Pen”]
Now I realized how many input methods does the ASUS ZenBook Flip S has. There’s the usual trackpad and keyboard, then there’s the touchscreen and also the stylus input with the ASUS Pen. That’s a total of 4 different input methods!
Starting off with the trackpad. It has a smooth finish, and it feels great with my fingertips. Though the experience is rather fine for a Windows-based trackpad, it’s still far from what Apple has done with their trackpad. At medium sensitivity, I find too sensitive for me. I had to tune it to the lowest sensitivity to use it properly. As for the clickers, they’re alright.
The keyboard offers a rather interesting experience. Even though the ZenBook Flip S is stupidly thin, the keyboard still maintains a rather decent amount of travel. With that said, ASUS made the keyboard switch a bit stiffer. The keys collapse and instantly bottom out the keys when a certain amount of force is placed. It’s quite tiring to type on this keyboard, to be honest.And oh – the keyboard is brightly lit in white, too. The one and only complaint I have is how frustrating it is to use the arrow keys on the ZenBook Flip S.
As the entire keyboard is sunken into the frame itself, it causes the down arrow key even more difficult to press.
The ASUS ZenBook Flip S’s touchscreen experience is another one that’s worth mentioning. Finger swiping and gliding on the ZenBook Flip S is alright as there seem to be an oleophobic coating on the display itself – just like most smartphone screens have. The screen wobble is at an acceptable degree, but ASUS should strive for a better hinge to mitigate this issue even further.
Lastly, the ASUS Pen. Surprisingly, the pen itself is quite okay. It can track my pen movements accurately and with minimal input lag. However, there are a few complaints that I have. The placement of the pen’s buttons are a bit… uncomfortable to reach. Another complaint is liftoff distance of the pen. I find it a bit annoying that the liftoff distance is about 2cm, and with my writing style, it’ll have some weird touch input and ruin whatever I’m writing or drawing.
These might be a personal preference, and your mileage may vary. The ASUS Pen uses a single AAAA battery and can be changed easily by unscrewing the body.
[nextpage title=”Performance & Upgradeability”]
First of all, don’t expect the ASUS ZenBook Flip S to be gaming-grade. It doesn’t even have a Thunderbolt 3 port for external graphics! Other than that, the ZenBook Flip S’s specs seems to be okay for an ultrabook.
- Intel Core i7-7500U (2C/4T)
- Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620
- 13.3-inch 1080p IPS display
- 8GB LPDDR3 RAM
- 512GB NVMe PCIe Gen. 3 x4 M.2 2280 SSD
The use case scenario of this laptop isn’t going to be as intense as gaming-grade laptops, anyway. Though, when it comes to web browsing and video watching, the ASUS ZenBook Flip S can actually perform very well. It doesn’t lag, and when memory swap does happen – it does so pretty quickly thanks to the speedy PCIe Gen. 3 x4 NVMe SSD. That SSD alone is from Samsung, and it achieve crazy bonkers speed.
Throughout our test, we found out that the included Samsung NVMe SSD can actually achieve up to 245,618.2 IOPS. That’s certainly impressive.
Upgradeability and maintenance
The ASUS ZenBook Flip S is not the easiest when it comes to maintenance. The backplate is held by Torx screws. After removing them, the backplate can be lifted out pretty easily.
At first look, there were two things that immediately caught my attention – firstly the humongous battery. Seriously, the battery is huge, and it takes up a majority of the space available in the ZenBook Flip S itself.
Secondly is the bright orange-colored sheet. Upon further inspection, I found out that the bright orange sheet is actually a sheet of copper, acting as a heatsink. The numbers beside the screws are the screw/unscrew sequence. Beneath that square of screws is the CPU die itself. Maintenance is pretty simple.
The sheet of copper spans the entire area, reaching to the fan itself. This is a clever design as any air intake will come in contact with the copper sheet and the components on the PCB itself before exhausting out from the vents on the left side.
However, the only component that can be upgraded is the M.2 2280 NVMe SSD itself. It comes with a high-end Samsung NVMe SSD – so I don’t really see a point in upgrading it in the first place.
Also, ASUS included a piece of what seems to be an aluminium heatspreader onto the NVMe SSD itself, and another slab of thermal pad on top. This thermal pad then makes contact with the aluminium backplate of the ZenBook Flip S, hence passively cooling the NVMe SSD. Smart.
[nextpage title=”Battery & Charger”]
When it comes to battery, for all I can say is that the ASUS ZenBook Flip S can last you about 5 hours or so on web browsing with some music and social media sites running together while running on semi-better performance. As we saw earlier, the battery itself might look huge – but it’s rather thin. The total volume of the battery is rather small, hence the battery is only rated at 39Wh.
However, ASUS decides to take away control of the power plan from the user. There’s only one power plan available – and that’s Balanced. ASUS then offers a slider on the battery menu itself, asking if you’ll like more performance, or longer battery life.
The slightly altered power plan option can be seen when the AC jack is connected. I find it rather… bizarre that ASUS used the word “best battery life” while plugged in. I’m pretty sure ASUS wants to convey the message where using the “power saving” mode when plugged in means it can charge faster, but they labelled it as “best battery life” instead.
I’m not sure if using such gauge is a good idea. ASUS hid the details and differences between all the modes, but through a simple Cinebench benchmark, it seems like, on Best Battery mode, it scored 224CB and the processor is mostly hovering at about 1.9GHz most of the time. On Best Performance mode, it scored 290C and the clock speed is maintained at 2.9GHz most of the time.
On whatever power plan that it’s on, it doesn’t affect the NVMe SSD’s speed either.
The charger, on the other hand, is a tiny one.
It has a few output wattages – either 65W which is the maximum, or 45W, 27W, or 15W. This power brick design is seen in many other ASUS laptops too – like the ZenBook 3 Deluxe that we saw here.
[nextpage title=”Wrapping up the ASUS ZenBook Flip S review”]
ASUS has made a lot of amazing laptops and the ZenBook Flip S is definitely an interesting one. ASUS crafted the ZenBook Flip S to be extremely thin while focusing on the ASUS Pen. For this use case, they’ve done extremely well as the ZenBook Flip S is powerful yet speedy. With a gorgeous screen and a lightweight body, the ZenBook Flip S is a great choice for those who seek a laptop to draw with.
Though, when it comes to the keyboard, I still find it tiring. The MacBook Air’s keyboard is good, though a little thicker than what the ZenBook Flip S is currently using. Plus, the ASUS ZenBook Flip S’s arrow keys are just terrible – especially the down arrow key.
For the price of RM6,699, it’s indeed a laptop that targets a niche market – but out of reach for most consumers. I doubt that the enterprise of SMBs would ever consider getting this laptop, too. Yet many in many consumer’s minds, they’ll be thinking something along the lines of “if I’m paying RM6.7k for a laptop, might as well get a MacBook”.
The bottom line is this – the ASUS ZenBook Flip S sure has a lot of bells and whistles built-in – but will you actually use it? Will you actually pay for them? That’s the question.
- ASUS Pen is surprisingly good
- Great touch-screen
- Narrow bezels with a bright display
- Thin convertible form factor
- Very costly
- Arrow keys are mushed too closely