If you’re experiencing a sense of deja vu, then worry not, there’s no glitch in the matrix here, just another relentless release schedule.
It wasn’t too long ago that Asus updated its ZenBook Flip S, only a few months ago in fact, but then Intel released some new Kaby Lake R 8th-generation processors and Asus felt the need to squeeze them into its product lines. And we’re glad it did, as the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370 is a machine that has plenty of performance to spare, while keeping the base frequency low until it’s needed.
Beyond the hardware thrashing away inside this machine, the externals are pretty much as we’ve already seen - which is no bad thing, as the ZenBook Flip S is a flexible joy to use.
If you’ve not had chance to play with a 2-in-1 convertible, then it’s certainly worth trying to get hands on with one, as what seems like a gimmick at first glance actually has some practical uses once you get used to it.
If you have to present any work, then they’re particularly deft at the task, as indeed they are at playing back movies without a keyboard glowing underneath the screen.
It’s a performance upgrade to a versatile machine then, but it also comes with a higher list price. In fact, the kind of money you’ll need to drop to get the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370 model that we have in for review is MacBook Pro territory, so should you be considering this over the popular fruity option? Time to find out.
Price and availability
This latest rendition of the ZenBook Flip S isn’t for the light of pocket. The latest components cost a premium, and this thing is packed with them. You’re looking at $1,600 for the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370 model we’ve reviewed, or roughly £1,450 in the UK and around AU$2,100 in Australia. Although the UK model only has 8GB of RAM, while the Australian version has 8GB and half the hard drive capacity for that price.
There’s a bit of a problem when it comes evaluating the Asus ZenBook Flip S, and it’s a problem that lots of modern laptops suffer from - the boon of so many models being available means that it’s a bit of a nightmare drilling down to the exact models. Options were much more straightforward in the UK and US than in Australia, although even here there are enough subtle things to watch out for: including the processor used, memory and the storage.
This latter point is particularly important when it comes to our recommendation, as it isn’t always clear what you’re getting. Essentially there are two different storage solutions on offer for the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370: a straight SATA SSD version and the much faster PCIe NVMe SSD. We’ll get on to the performance metrics shortly, but essentially you’re looking at six times the read performance with the latter, and three times the write performance, which makes for a much more responsive experience.
In terms of value for money, the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370 is an expensive machine, but it’s well designed using quality components, performs well, and feels like it’s sturdy enough to represent good value for money.
The standout feature of the Flip S is the hinge that brilliantly turns it from a standard laptop to a tablet, with various stages of usefulness in between. This hinge keeps the screen and keyboard tightly connected, while producing clean lines at any point in its rotation.
While we’re not convinced about some of the ways manufacturers want us to use convertibles, we’re still impressed by how they work when done well, and this is a great poster child for the genre.
The finish of this Royal Blue rendition (it’s also available in Smoky Grey) is initially beautiful, although it picks up fingerprints so alarmingly easily that we felt duty-bound to photograph it without wiping them off first. A few fingerprints here and there is one thing, but on this lush blue finish they really do stand out, and anyone even vaguely fastidious is going to have their work cut out trying to keep this looking shop-fresh.
And you will want to touch it. A lot. It’s beautiful to hold, in any of its orientations, but particularly as a tablet, where you can cradle it easily in one hand while tapping away with the other. At 2.42lbs it’s certainly light enough, and the inclusion of a slip case means that you can pop its svelte 13.3-inch form into any bag easily. Even the power brick is small enough to take along with you without much hassle.
Asus claims that the ZenBook Flip S is the world’s thinnest convertible, and at just 0.43-inches it certainly appears to be. There is a slight downside in the fact that there isn’t much room for ports, with only a pair of USB 3.1 Type-C slots present. There is a volume rocker on the side, next to the power button, which is useful when you’re using it in tablet mode. The other edge component of note is the fingerprint sensor, which is tiny, but works well.
We did fear that this super-sleek design would make for a particularly unpleasant keyboard experience, but this simply wasn’t the case. In use, we had no problem typing on it, and the majority of this review was written on it. Even more surprising is the fact that the touchpad was perfectly usable, so there’s no need to pack a mouse when out on the road. The fact that it also has a touch screen means you’re spoilt for choice here.
Updating the ZenBook Flip S to use Intel’s latest 8th-generation CPU is a welcome move, as it sees this svelte machine trade blows with much beefier options. The stock frequency of this quad-core, eight-thread chip may not excite at 1.8GHz, but it rarely operates at anything as low as that, instead heading up to 4GHz when required.
It can’t operate at that frequency for long periods, as the temperatures do rise. While it certainly gets warm to the touch, the fan does a good job of keeping the noise levels down while keeping things cool (more so than what we’ve seen with the Asus ZenBook 3 Deluxe).
As already hinted at, the processor is just half of the story here, though, and it’s the storage subsystem that really shines in day-to-day use. There will be naysayers that posit you don’t need a PCIe NVMe drive, and that a SATA SSD is good enough, but we’d recommend using this machine for half an hour to make them see the error of their ways. From simple file copying, to full software installations, this thing just flies, and it feels silky-smooth in Windows 10 because of it. Having plenty of RAM to play around with helps, but we’ve definitely added high-end storage to our want list for laptops and convertibles after our experiences here.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a gaming machine, as it relies on Intel’s integrated graphics to do the heavy lifting. You’ll be hitting single figure framerates in most modern games, and it’s rare that any amount of settings voodoo will turn things around. This isn’t really its intended usage, and we don’t hold it against the machine, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
If there’s one area where the ZenBook Flip S didn’t stun us, it’s on the battery stamina front. While certainly not awful, it doesn’t quite live up to the potential of its form factor. We could happily carry this around all day, but we’ll need to reach for a power socket at least once during that time. PCMark 8 managed just over three hours, which is fine, and something of a worst case scenario, but it’s not going to last a day’s hard graft without juice.
The movie playback test, that has us watching a Full HD movie, is a bit more impressive at over six hours. Speaking of which, the screen is a particularly vibrant panel, with punchy colours and great viewing angles. The sound is surprisingly good as well, with the Harman Kardon-certified speakers capable of producing a better than average audio experience for films and music.
Where the Asus ZenBook Flip S really delivers is in its core promise of a convertible machine that is easy enough to carry around, but powerful enough to deliver the goods.
It’s a joy to use, is well-designed using great components and looks great… if you’re prepared to carry the cleaning cloth with you at all times (it really does smudge so easily).
We would have liked a finish that didn’t smudge so easily, as it really does take the edge off a great looking device.
The battery life could do with a bit of work as well, although given how thin it is, we can see that such a request is not a trivial thing to solve. While we’re dreaming though, we would like this machine even more if its price tag was a bit lower.
While not perfect, the Asus ZenBook Flip S hits its core competency so brilliantly, that the few imperfections are rendered unimportant.
This is a versatile machine that handles serious work well, yet also providing plenty of scope for entertainment after a hard day in the office.
It looks good, sounds good, and feels good to use. Yes we’d like a bit more stamina, but even the power brick is compact enough to take with you.
- Check out our list of the best laptops of 2018