[Review] Bless Your Eyes with this Convertible: The ASUS ZenBook Flip S OLED (UX371)
ASUS ZenBook Flip S OLED (UX371)
The ASUS ZenBook Flip S OLED is admittedly my first brush with convertible laptops, although I have seen many of them over the years.
On one hand, it offers amazing versatility with a delightfully vibrant 4K OLED screen; on the other hand, it does have some minor drawbacks, though these might be in the nature of convertible devices and not exclusive to the ZenBook Flip S itself.
Without further ado, let's take a look at this sleek little device.
Intel Evo certified
First of all, the ZenBook Flip S OLED is an Intel Evo certified laptop, which means it meets the minimum requirements set by Intel to be considered a premium device that serves the needs of a fast-paced lifestyle.
Among the features you can expect are an 11th Gen Intel Core processor, Intel Iris Xe graphics, Wi-Fi 6 support, Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, 9+ hours of battery life on a FHD screen, and sleep-to-wake under 1 second.
Needless to say, the Intel Evo badge provides assurance that you'll be getting a solid performer for everyday tasks.
Design and build
Designed for portability, the laptop weighs a mere 1.2kg and measures just 1.39cm thick. The aluminium alloy exterior is clad in a Jade Black finish featuring the ZenBook family's signature concentric circles, and accented with Copper Red diamond-cut bevels and logo.
The hinge allows for a full 360° swivel, so you can use the laptop in both tablet and tent mode, which is handy if you want to do some sketching or simply prop it up to watch videos. So far, the hinge feels very sturdy, balancing smooth operation with a decent amount of resistance so it stays open at whichever angle you set it. ASUS claims that it has been tested and certified for 20,000 open/close cycles, so it should last you quite a bit.
ASUS' Ergolift design is present, but the gap from the lift is noticeably smaller than on other laptops, though it's understandable since it has a 360° rotation to contend with. You still get a small amount of ergonomic improvement with the tilted keyboard, as well as a minute amount of space for better ventilation in laptop mode.
Overall, the build quality feels great, although it is undeniably a fingerprint magnet, which is a bummer for a premium device. You'll be spending quite a bit of time wiping the exterior down, along with the glossy display if you're using it in tablet mode often.
As for the power button, it's located on the edge of the chassis instead of next to the keyboard deck, which makes sense if you want to use it in tablet mode. However, the button is really soft and shallow, and makes you second guess if you've actually pressed it or not. Hopefully on the next iteration of their convertibles, ASUS will raise the button and add more tactile feedback.
Also, the power button is where the MicroSD card reader used to be on other ZenBook models, so it's a bit of a bummer if you need that feature. Personally I don't find a need for it so I didn't mind.
The display is undoubtedly one of the key highlights of this laptop. The 13.3" OLED panel boasts a 4K resolution with a Pantone validated 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut, a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 and VESA certified DisplayHDR True Black.
By nature, OLED panels provide a much richer viewing experience, thanks to their ability to "switch off" pixels when not in use, producing a true black. Due to this unique quality, OLEDs also consume less battery power overall, especially when viewing darker content - this probably also explains why the ZenBook Flip S OLED ships with a dark theme out of the box.
Some may say that a 4K resolution is crazy overkill for a tiny 13.3" panel, but the more I used it, the more I enjoyed the crispness of the image. The extra power consumption from the high resolution is also somewhat balanced out by the OLED panel, so I'm not complaining. That said, I think a 1080p or 1440p display should suffice for most people, but the 4K display is truly a treat for those who enjoy watching movies or doing creative work.
The display is also TUV Rheinland certified, and emits up to 70% less blue light so your eyes will tire less easily. One thing to note is that the display is glossy due to its secondary function as a touchscreen, so you'll have to fight off glare if you're working in a brightly lit environment.
As for the audio, it is surprisingly good for a laptop albeit quite soft. I almost always expect shitty audio, especially from smaller devices, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the ZenBook Flip S offered rich, well-rounded audio that performs well for both music and movies.
One caveat however, is the aforementioned low volume. It is unusually soft, even for a laptop. The best way to enjoy it would be in a closed space with minimal noise pollution; while earbuds are always an option, ASUS has sadly left out the headphone jack again (:
Sure, more of us are migrating slowly to TWS solutions, which will work well for casual music listening, but for movies and videos, the latency is extremely noticeable at best, and intolerable at the worst. And yes, ASUS has included a 3.5mm dongle in the package, but if you lose it or forget to bring it out with you, then you're shit out of luck.
For conference calls, there is a built-in 720p webcam, which isn't the best but does the job. One thing it IS good at however, is facial recognition. It is extremely fast (<1s) and performs well even in low light (unlike my traitorous phone which only recognises me half the time).
Unfortunately, this is the only form of biometric recognitions that we get - there is no fingerprint reader, which would have been nice considering how facial recognition is not feasible in tablet mode due to the position of the webcam, and becomes much more unreliable in tented mode
The keyboard is not super tactile, but does have a decent travel distance for an ultra-slim laptop. The keys are backlit with white LEDs which is good for dark environments, but it must be noted that the light spill from the edges of the keycaps are brighter than the illumination of the alphabets themselves.
Layout-wise, it is the same as recent ZenBook models. It has a function row on top, a simplified home cluster running down the right side, and a discrete arrow cluster. Although the arrow keys are much smaller, I personally prefer sacrificing size just to not have them nested into the main keyboard cluster - this way, it's easier to recognise from feel alone, as opposed to nested layouts which often forces me to look at the keyboard instead.
While it doesn't have a numberpad (not at this size), it does feature ASUS Numpad 2.0 which is definitely a plus for those who uses the numberpad often. You can activate it by touching and holding the icon in the top right corner of the touchpad, and toggle between two brightness levels with the icon on the top left corner. Swiping the top left account will also open up the Calculator app, which is convenieint.
As with all previous iterations, the ASUS Numpad 2.0 does an excellent job of differentiating swiping gesture from numerical inputs, so you can still use the touchpad to navigate even when the numpad is activated.
As for the touchscreen, browsing with your fingers is a pleasure. The smooth glass surface is enjoyable to touch, and it is also responsive and snappy. Meanwhile using it with the including ASUS Pen is just slightly less so. Notably, palm rejection isn't the greatest - sometimes the screen picks up the side of my hand as an input when I'm trying to draw with the pen. However, it's not all the time and only happens at certain angles, so it can be easily forgiven.
Either way, I'm happy that one was included in the box and not as a separate purchase (might not be true for all regions). While there isn't a dedicated slot to slide the pen in for storage, it does adhere magnetically to the top of the screen, albeit not very tightly, so if you're going to be carrying it around without a bag, do remember to stow the pen away separately.
Apart from the glaring lack of a headphone jack, the port selection on the ZenBook Flip S is great for its size. You'll be getting two USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 4.0 and double as the charging port, 1 full-sized HDMI port, as well as 1 USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port.
The layout is confined to the top-end of each side, and won't interfere with mouse movement if you choose to plug one in. One minor suggestion (which may or may not be practical for everyone) is perhaps to put one USB-C port on each side, so we can have more versatility when plugging in the charging cable.
Our model of the ZenBook Flip S is equipped with an Intel i7-1165G7 processor, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of LPDDR4X-4266 RAM, and a generous 1TB of high-speed SSD storage.
SSD speeds were excellent, making it a breeze to open programs and start up the laptop (it's so fast that I missed the timeframe to enter the BIOS multiple times, though it might just be my slow hands).
Although it boasts the same processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics as the ZenBook UX425 model that we reviewed recently, interestingly enough it scored lower. In fact, its PCMark10 scores were neck and neck with the ASUS Vivobook 15, which is equipped with an older Intel i5-1135G7 processor, albeit with a comparable MX350 discrete graphics chip.
In any case, you'll still find this laptop more than sufficient for general productivity tasks. Its Intel Iris Xe graphics are no slouch for light gaming either; I managed to slay a Geovishap or two in Genshin Impact without much issue on the lowest settings at 1080p. While you're not going to get a buttery smooth 60FPS any time soon, it is still extremely playable and will serve you well if you need to clear some stockpiled resin.
In terms of battery life, it lasted me around 9 hours of general usage and video playback on 4K resolution, which is an impressive amount of time. While I didn't test it out on FHD resolution, ASUS claims that it should last you around 15 hours on this resolution.
The ASUS ZenBook Flip S OLED was a pleasure to use, although I used it mostly in laptop mode out of habit. I spent some time with it on tent mode while watching videos, but couldn't find a significant advantage of using that over laptop mode apart from taking up less space. In fact, I felt rather insecure about me accidentally toppling it and / or scratching the edges.
As for tablet mode, it's a bonus if you use it for sketching and similar tasks with the included pen. However, as the screen bezel is slimmer than most standalone tablets, this means that I tended to fat finger my way up and down the scrollbar at the side of the page when I picked up the device, which is extremely annoying. Also, your keyboard and touchpad will be resting on the table or whatever surface you put it on, so you'll have to take extra care not to scuff it.
All in all, this is an excellent convertible for productivity. While it benched a bit lower than some of its siblings with comparable specs, it still performed well for what it set out to do. I was also spoiled for the breathtaking 4K OLED screen - the details and crispness are just beautiful, whether you think it necessary on such a small form factor device or not.
Paired with the ASUS Pen and tablet mode, it is also heaven-sent for creators who are looking to do some art on the go.
Priced at RM6,799, it certainly isn't cheap, but for the slim and lightweight form factor, versatility, and amazing screen, it's definitely worth forking out for if you need a portable workstation.
For more information, head on over to the official product page here.