ASUS ZenBook Flip S (UX371) Review: A lightweight 2-in-1 laptop that’s all about visuals
The ZenBook Flip S by ASUS launched late last year as one of the most premium consumer laptop offerings from the company. Featuring a 4K OLED panel, the 2-in-1 laptop seeks to compete with the likes of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 as well as the HP Spectre x360. In fact, the ZenBook Flip S seems to look a lot like HP’s Spectre series what with its dark finish complemented by shiny accents around the edges. It’s also one of the first laptops to come with Intel’s new 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors with Iris Xe graphics, is Intel EVO certified, and has features like Instant Wake, fast charging, Wi-Fi 6, and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, all in a slim ultra-light form factor.
Here is a deep look at the ASUS ZenBook Flip S to see if ASUS has managed to earn our recommendation in the premium 2-in-1 laptop category.
ASUS ZenBook Flip S (UX371): Specifications
ASUS is offering the laptop in a single configuration (at least in India), which also means that you can’t really upgrade it on your own apart from the SSD. Here’s how the ZenBook Flip S looks like on paper:
|Specification||ASUS ZenBook Flip S UX371|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charger|
About this review: Thanks to Intel India for sending us the ASUS ZenBook Flips S for review. This review has been written after about 20 days of regular use. Neither ASUS nor Intel had any inputs into the contents of this review.
Design and Build
The first thing you notice about the ASUS ZenBook Flip S is how compact this machine is. Weighing just 1.2kgs and coming in at a thickness of about 14mm, the laptop is easy to carry around especially if you are traveling. ASUS also offers a free carrying pouch in the box, which keeps the laptop safe when you throw it in a backpack.Making use of aluminum alloy for the chassis, the ZenBook Flip S looks and feels better than the usual plastic-like metal alternatives that the company uses on its more affordable models. In fact, it also comes with MIL-STD 810G military-grade certification so it can take some bumps here and there. Also, while the use of an alloy keeps the overall weight in check, it is no match when compared to a pure aluminum casing. Also, it easily catches smudges and fingerprints, so you might need to keep a cleaning cloth handy.
I’ve already mentioned how the ZenBook Flip S looks similar to the HP Spectre x360 with its ‘Jade Black’ finish paired with shiny copper accents that extend to the ASUS logo on the lid. Speaking of which, the lid on the ZenBook Flip S features the company’s distinct spun-metal finish with concentric circles. It is a 2-in-1 laptop, and while I am not a huge fan, you do get the option of using it as a tablet or prop it up in tent mode while watching movies or videos. The dual-hinge system is perfectly solid, although I did feel the lid wobble a bit while using it in my lap. The laptop also comes with the Ergo-Lift design seen on a variety of ASUS machines, and this slightly raises the keyboard deck at an angle when you open the lid. This also helps the laptop have better access to fresh air from the bottom, and according to ASUS, brings up the keyboard at a better position.Coming down to the I/O options, the laptop comes with two Thunderbolt 4 ports offering high-speed data transfer, a full-sized HDMI port to quickly plug an external display, and even a USB Type-A port so you can use external peripherals like a mouse or keyboard. There is also a tiny dedicated LED for the battery on the left side. The notebook skips out on an audio jack, which is a rare exclusion and a rather disappointing one because clearly, it doesn’t seem like there was any lack of space. You do get a USB-C dongle in the box, but that’s not really convenient to use all the time.
I wasn’t pleased with the company’s decision of placing the power button on the right side either. Sure, it might be more convenient to reach when using the PC in tablet mode, but the mushy key offers almost zero feedback, which led me to press it multiple times before the notebook finally powered up. In fact, this should be a note to all laptop manufacturers: Unless you are making a detachable 2-in-1, just place the power button above the keyboard, right where it should be!
I wanted to get access to the internals, but the bottom cover does not come with a standard set of screws—instead, you get Torx or star screws. I was able to remove some of them, but more than half of the screws were bolstered tightly.
Overall, I really appreciate the ergonomics on the ASUS ZenBook Flip S. It feels very handy, lightweight, and despite not having a proper aluminum finish, very sturdy. The laptop definitely gives off a premium vibe and is one of the most portable 13-inch 2-in-1 laptops competing with the likes of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 9310. It does have a few quirks here and there, which may or may not hamper your experience.
The highlight feature of the ASUS ZenBook Flip S is its vivid 13.3-inch OLED touchscreen display. We all know that OLED panels are generally superior compared to IPS or TN panels when it comes to color reproduction, contrast, and even power consumption, and that is exactly what we get here. The display looks punchy and bright with rich colors and a wide dynamic range. The panel comes with a 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution which makes it pretty sharp and yes, while that is a lot of pixels on a small screen, with a bit of tinkering with scaling settings on Windows, the experience was pretty flawless.
The panel is Vesa DisplayHDR 500-certified which means you can enjoy great HDR content, covers over 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, features Delta-E < 2 color accuracy, and to top it off, is Pantone validated. This makes the ZenBook Flip S perfect for someone who is looking for accurate colors while editing pictures and videos. ASUS also claims a peak brightness of 500-nits, and it sure felt bright enough, even under direct sunlight, although the glossy finish means you get more reflections compared to a matte finish. With the TÜV Rheinland-certified eye care, the built-in blue-light filter helps in reducing stress on your eyes.
The bezels around the display aren’t what one would call slim, but ASUS claims an 80% screen-to-body ratio which isn’t all that bad. Hopefully, the next iteration of this laptop will offer a wider 16:10 aspect ratio as seen on the variety of laptops that were announced at CES 2021. Right above the display is a 720p webcam with IR to offer Windows Hello authentication. While the quality of the camera itself is just about average, the face recognition system is pretty solid and surprisingly fast. The display also offers support for an active stylus with 4096-pressure points which means you can jot down notes or show your artistic side.
ASUS has crammed in a lot of display tech into the ZenBook Flip S, and it shows. Whether you are watching a movie or just working on your presentations, the color levels and the contrast are right up there.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ZenBook Flip S’s keyboard is spread edge-to-edge across the deck, though during the first few days of use, I found it to be a little cramped as the keys are small and not very well spaced out. The keys themselves are comfortable, though, offering 1.35mm of travel, and once you get used to the layout, you should be able to type faster and more accurately. There is an extra row of keys at the end to fit in the Home, Page-Up, Page-Down, and End keys, and for those who need a number-pad, ASUS has added one to the touchpad. With NumberPad 2.0, you can just tap on the top right corner of the touchpad for a couple of seconds to enable a backlit number-pad. Additionally, swiping right from the top left corner fires up the Calculator app. I personally found these features to be useless, although this could be neat for someone who deals with inputting a lot of numbers.
Coming to the touchpad on the ZenBook Flip S, it is very responsive, and the glass finish brings a smooth experience. All Windows gestures work flawlessly, and I hardly had any complaints with them. Of course, you do need to be careful about those corners as you are bound to accidentally enable the virtual Numpad, especially while resting your fingers on the touchpad.
One of the first laptops to rock the latest Intel Tiger Lake chipset, the ASUS ZenBook Flip S features the quad-core Core i7-1165G7 processor with Iris Xe integrated graphics. The base clock on the CPU is rated at 2.8GHz, and it can go up to 4.7GHz on a single-core and up to 4.1GHz on all four cores simultaneously. There is 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM and a speedy 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD which makes for a solid package. The new 11th-gen CPU is based on the 10nm architecture, and while it should theoretically offer a bump in performance, the overall power rating is limited specifically on the ZenBook Flip S. Essentially what that means is, if you compare this laptop with another running on the same Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, you will not get similar results due to the lower TDP (thermal design power). The ZenBook Flips S performs great when it comes to single-core tasks but falls behind in multi-core and graphics-intensive tasks, which was evident during my testing.The ZenBook Flip S comes with three performance modes that tune the CPU power and fan speeds accordingly. Hence, we have two sets of benchmarks below denoting the numbers in both Performance and Standard modes. There is also a ‘Whisper mode’ for when you don’t need a lot of power or just want the fans to run quietly (more on this later). The problem is that ASUS has compromised on the true capability of the CPU by cramming it into a very small machine. Hence, when you want peak performance, you only get that in short bursts.
In 3DMark, the CPU would go up to the rated clock speeds and try to maintain over 3GHz, but after a period of time, it just throttles down to between 1.5GHz to 2Ghz. Similarly, in PCMark 10, the CPU had a hard time sustaining higher clock speeds. Cramming a lot of power into a laptop requires a lot of cooling, but that is not easy to do in an ultra-portable form factor. The CPU went on to hit peak temperatures of 95°C when under stress, thereby leading to throttling.
Of course, you don’t need to worry about throttling and high-temperatures unless you are stressing the ZenBook Flip S all the time. ASUS lets you switch between three performance modes by going to the MyASUS app that is preloaded on the machine. Along with that, the app includes a bunch of useful tools such as ones to tune the display profiles, battery profiles, warranty and service information, hardware diagnostics, error checking, and more. It also features a unique AI-based noise cancellation system for the microphone in case you make a lot of video calls.
On the plus side, the M.2 SSD lives up to the claims. The ZenBook Flip S that was sent to me included a Western Digital NVMe drive that was able to hit peak read speeds of over 3,100MBps and peak write speeds of about 3,000MBps in my testing. While this isn’t as fast as a PCIe Gen4 SSD, this is probably the best that you can get at the moment since we have yet to see laptops with faster SSDs.
Unless you are a power-user, the ASUS ZenBook Flip S is a quite capable machine. I had no issues opening over 20 tabs in Google Chrome, editing photos in Adobe Photoshop, and listening to music all at the same time. Other notable performance parameters including wireless connectivity were pretty much as expected, and I hardly faced any issues with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The bottom-firing speakers are good, and while they aren’t very loud, they do offer a little bit of bass which was nice to hear.
The ASUS ZenBook Flip S packs a 67Whr battery unit, and ASUS claims up to 15-hours of battery life while playing 1080p videos. To test these claims, I ran a 1080p video in a loop only to get eight hours of battery at about 40% brightness. The number fell further as I got close to six hours worth of juice while using the notebook at a stretch which included a bit of writing, about 10 odd tabs open in Chrome, and a mix of music and video streaming. You may be able to squeeze in a couple of more hours if you lower the screen resolution to 1080p, but make sure you carry the charging adapter if you want to use this laptop all day. Speaking of which, the laptop comes with a 65W adapter which is fairly small and has a USB Type-C connector. You can also use almost any third-party USB-PD charger with similar charging specifications.
If you are looking for a 2-in-1 laptop with a thin chassis and premium looks, then the ASUS ZenBook Flip S will not disappoint. It is lighter than most 13-inch 2-in-1 laptops, despite being quite sturdy, and to top it all off, you get one of the best looking OLED displays in its class, suitable for most users. I would only recommend this laptop if you don’t really have the need for high-end performance. It isn’t the perfect machine as it does come with its own set of issues such as the lack of a headphone jack, which in my opinion is a big miss, apart from the above-average battery life. You do, however, get the latest 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 which should serve you well for a multitude of tasks, although you can’t really rely on this machine for hardcore workloads like video editing or gaming.
The ASUS ZenBook Flip S is more of a premium machine that you can show off and at the same time carry around with ease. It currently sells at ₹1,49,990 in India and $1,449 in the US. At that price, you should also consider other options in the market such as the Dell XPS 13 9310 2-in-1.