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ASUS Flips out over ZenBooks (review)
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There is only one word for ASUS Zenbook’s Flip S, well maybe two – dead sexy!

Perhaps it is the Royal Blue spun metal finish, its impossibly thin design, or performance without compromise.

Yes, we are shallow, but hey, it is just the best-looking notebook today.

The ASUS ZenBook Flip S UX370AU (2018 model with Core i5/i7 8th generation core processor) is a 360° hinge design – the most functional of all laptop designs.

It is so thin at 10.9mm and light at 1.1kg that it really can be used as a 13.3” tablet. Its 13.3” FHD display is superb, crisp and colourful and the Intel 8th generation Core engine has plenty of power and offers vastly better battery life.

OK, adoration over but you can be assured that it is worthy of your attention. It is not entirely perfect – some notebooks have better pens with up to 4,096 pressure levels (this has 1,024), some have Thunderbolt 3 ports (this has USB-C, 3.1, 5Gb/s) and some have longer battery life (this is around 8) but you can safely overlook these minor blemishes.

As they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The whole Zen series reflects that.

  • ZenBook Pro (15.6” clamshell)
  • ZenBook 3 Deluxe (12.5 and 14” clamshell)
  • ZenBook Flip S (13.3” 360°)
  • ZenBook Classic (14 and 15.6” clamshell)

Within this range, there is a choice of 7 or 8th generation Intel Core i5 or i7, up to 1TB PCIe SSD, discrete NVIDIA graphics, FHD to 4K touch screens, and 8-16GB of RAM. The more you pay, the more you get.

Review unit: Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370AU

(Note that the website does not reflect the 2018, 8th generation Core update yet).

As reviewed UX370UA-C4198T made after November 2017 (please do not confuse this with earlier Flip S 7th generation Core unit – while the chassis and many features are similar, performance and battery life are very much increased)

  • 13.3” 1920 x 1080 touch screen (4K, 3840 x 2160 option)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U, 1.6/3.4GHz (i7-8550U option) and Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • 8GB LPDDR3 2133Mhz RAM (soldered onboard – option of 16GB on i7)
  • 256GB SATA3 M.2 SSD (option 512GB SATA3 and 1TB PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD)
  • Wi-Fi AC 2 x 2 MIMO up to 866Mb/s and BT 4.1
  • 2 x USB-C, 3.1, Gen 1 5Gb/s, fast charge power delivery, 4K video output compatible
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Keyboard/Touchpad (Precision for four finger gestures)
  • 4 x Harmon Kardon certified ASUS SonicMaster, down-firing speakers with icePower AudioWizard EQ app
  • 5mm audio combo jack
  • Dual array mic certified for Skype and Cortana
  • VGA 640 x 480 Web camera
  • Pen – 1024 pressure levels and 10-300g force
  • USB-C Adaptor – HDMI, USB-A 3.0 with USB-C power passthrough
  • 39Wh battery and 45W USB-C charger 5V/3A, 9V/3A, 15V/3A and 20V/2.25A
  • Size: 31.3 (w) x 21.8 (d) x 1.09cm (h) x 1.1kg
  • Leatherette sleeve
  • Windows 10 Home (Pro option) supports Windows Ink, Windows Hello and Cortana
  • Price as tested: A$1999 at JB Hi-Fi

What it does not have: NFC, Windows Hello facial recognition, Thunderbolt3, expansion ports are via USB-C dongle (supplied).

Setup

It comes preloaded with Windows 10, so we assume you know to turn off all the privacy traps – you can disable 100% of these and the system still works correctly.

It also comes with a boatload of bloatware. Now ASUS probably thinks it is doing you a favour – and you may find some useful – but my advice is to uninstall most and free up memory and disk space!

Uninstalling is simple in Windows 10 – either right-click on the item in the start bar or go to Control Panel, Programs and Features.

 Screen

It is remarkably clear with no sign of pixelation for an FHD 1920 x 1080, 16:9, IPS panel.

It has 1300:1 contrast ratio (deep, vibrant images) and brightness is 300 nits (fine for office lighting but will wash out in direct sunlight).

Gorilla Glass may be tough, but it tends to give it reflection and glare at the wrong angle. It is a fingerprint magnet – ASUS provide a glass cleaning cloth.

ASUS claim it provides 100% sRGB. Compared to other 100% sRGB panels it seems comparable.

It has both Intel Graphics settings and ASUS Splendid settings for Normal, Blue Light reduction and Vivid.

The screen to body ratio is 80% meaning noticeably narrower top and side bezels – it fits the screen into a unit marginally taller than an A4 sheet of paper.

Overall it is an excellent screen with typical ASUS colour over-saturation (which we all like). By the way, a 4K screen may look slightly better, but it drains the battery so much faster. You are better investing in a 4K external screen.

Speakers

It has four Harmon Kardon certified speakers under the base.  These are angled to provide coverage in tent, display and laptop modes.

I achieved 77dB at 100% volume with little noticeable distortion. That is plenty for personal use – movies and music.

Sound signature is Bright Vocal – bass recessed, mids/treble boosted (around 100Hz-166kHz) so it’s easy to listen to but lacks some bass punch.

The ICEpower AudioWizard has pre-sets for movie, music, game or speech but the tiny speakers just cannot push enough air out for thumping bass.

Frequency response to Bluetooth devices is good – 38Hz-18kHz.

Keyboard/trackpad/Pen

The keyboard has a standard layout (good), subtle three-level backlighting, well-spaced 16 x 16mm, 1.0mm throw keys. The feel is crisp and no bounce

The oversized glass trackpad is Precision certified offering up to four finger gestures. It will move the cursor from upper right to lower left of the screen in one swipe – very good.

The two button (erase/right click) pen is fine with 1024 pressure levels and 10g activation and up to 300g pressure (no tilt). It is great for annotation but not professional design use. Missing is a magnetic pen or any dock. ASUS claim 150 hours use from its replaceable AAAA battery.

It uses a Goodix Fingerprint driver as used by OPPO, ZTE, ASUS and Huawei on their mobile phones. It supports instant unlock and Windows Hello.  It rejects fake fingerprints via a mix of capacitive and optical sensors that identify blood flow and body heat as well as 360° scanning which is handy for this uses a side button.

Battery

ASUS claim up to 11.5 hours use – that is theoretical use.

In my tests at 50% screen brightness (acceptable for video use) playing a 1080p video loop, it lasted over 8 hours.

As it requires a USB-C 3.0 ‘power delivery’ charger (like the one supplied or a Belkin USB-C 45W charger – GadgetGuy review here) – it will not charge from a typical 5V/2A charger.

The advantage is that it has fast charge – 60% of the battery in under 50 minutes. This is achieved by pouring in 20V/15V first to get to 60% then it charges at 9V to about 80% and then 5V for the rest. Overall it can take around 2.5 hours to charge fully.

ASUS provides a battery health monitor app that can limit charging to 60% (maximum life), 80% balance and 100% battery mode. If you intend to use it on the charger most of the time, set it to maximum life.

Performance

It uses the 14nm Intel Core i5-8250U that is the best, most power efficient laptop processor to date – 15W compared to the previous Flip’s i5-7200U with a TPD of 45W. It also has four cores and eight threads and improves performance and battery life.

The only downside is that it cannot maintain all four cores and eight threads at 3.4GHz turbo speeds so while it is faster for general use, it can choke a little on higher CPU loads caused by gaming or video editing.

The PassMark CPU benchmark is 7640 – a comparable i7-8550U is about 30% faster.

Intel UHD Graphics 620 supports 4K at 60Hz, DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.4 and up to plus two external FHD or one UHD display.

USB-C 3.1 5Gb/s

It has two USB-C, 3.1, gen 1 ports each supporting 5Gb/s data transfer (that is 625MB/s) and the USB-C Power Delivery specifications of up to 45W upstream and 10W downstream.

USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 supports 40Gb/s data transfer (that is 5,000MB/s) if the cable is less than .5m. It quickly drops to 20Gb/s on longer cables unless you use very expensive active cables. It will support up to 100W upstream and 20W downstream.

Now external USB-C SSD (drives like the Samsung T3/T5) drives seldom achieve more than 350MB/s, so there is no bottleneck in data transfer in or out.

A [email protected] external screen requires about 30-40Mb/s – again significantly under the USB-C 3.1 limit.

Thunderbolt 3 is merely the next advance and with the ability to daisy chain up to six devices using the one cable. Unless you need external dual 4K monitors and say a NAS and other devices USB-C 3.1 is fine.

ASUS – what is in a name?

AsusTek Computer Inc was formed in Taiwan in April 1989. It is regarded as the third or fourth largest PC vendor in good company with HP, Lenovo and Dell. Unlike the others, it manufactures its own products giving it a slight edge in controlling its own supply chain.

ASUS also owns Pegatron which has become one of the largest OEM/ODM makers for many of the top brands (some models of iPad, iPhone, MacBook, and Surface).

I was a major shareholder in Techmart – one of Queensland’s largest computer superstores. We started selling ASUS motherboards and components in the early 90’s, and they were consistently the best performing, lowest failure rate componentry. Its laptops were equally reliable.

You can buy ASUS with confidence.

GadgetGuy’s take

Thin, almost anorexic, small and light premium convertible with powerful hardware, a good keyboard/trackpad, an excellent display with pen support, and good audio.

The Flip S 2018 it presents a more compelling, lighter, thinner and more cost-effective option to similar category products from other brands. Its only minor negative is that it does not have USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports – but few competitors do anyway.

I would buy one today except that I bought an  HP EliteBook x360 late last year before the ASUS Flip S 2018 was released. Do I use Thunderbolt 3? Not really!

Pros

  • Dead sexy – especially the Royal Blue model (smoke Gery is still fine).
  • Aerospace alloy for strength and beautifully made
  • Very light – almost a tablet weight
  • Great HD screen
  • Typists quality keyboard and trackpad
  • Love the x360 format
  • 2 x USB-C ports and supplied HDMI, USB-A 3.0 and charge dongle.
  • 8th Generation Intel Core means it runs cooler

Cons

  • Was hoping for ThunderBolt 3 ports with the 8th generation Core.

Ratings (as a USB-C device, not Thunderbolt 3)

  • Overall: 4.8 out of 5
  • Features: 5 out of 5 – it has all you need plus more
  • Value for money: 5 out of 5 – it is the thinnest and lightest
  • Performance: 4.5 out of 5 – i5/8GB/256GB is plenty for 99% of users
  • Ease of Use: 4.5 out of 5 – 360° hinge is the best
  • Design: 5 out of 5 – Stunning Royal Blue spun metal or Smoky Grey

Price:

A$1999 as tested

ASUS Flips out over ZenBooks (review)
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