- Sturdy yet attractive slimline design
- Competitive price for an ultraportable
- Desktop-replacement performance
- Mini-dock, stylus and sleeve included
- Modest battery life
- Moderate (1,920x1,080) display resolution
- Poor upgradeability
We've often commented on Asus's apparently slavish devotion to mimicking the designs of Apple's MacBook range. But every now and then, the company manages to go that extra yard and actually beat Apple at its own game.
That's very much the case with the new ZenBook Flip S, which Asus claims is "the world's thinnest convertible laptop". The 10.9mm-thick Flip S isn't perfect, but it does provide an attractive ultraportable design to rival the 12-inch Apple MacBook, while also offering performance and features with which the MacBook can't compete.
Design and features
The design of the Flip S is certainly impressive. Its slimline aluminium casing measures just 10.9mm thick, but still feels sturdy enough to cope with life on the road (even without the protective sleeve that Asus includes for free).
A weight of 1.1kg means the Flip S is a little heavier than the MacBook (0.92kg), but that's mainly because Asus has opted for a larger 13.3-inch display, and there's no doubt that the Flip is one of the sleekest and most portable 13-inch laptops we've seen so far.
The display of the Flip S has other advantages too, being both touch-sensitive and reversible/convertible. You can fold it halfway back and use the keyboard as a stand if you want to sit back and give an impromptu presentation, or fold it all the way back and use it as a tablet for browsing the web or watching some streaming video.
We also liked the keyboard, which felt firm and responsive, despite the very thin keyboard panel. And one final bonus is the inclusion of a pressure-sensitive stylus that you can use in tablet mode.
We were a little disappointed that our review unit, priced at £1,299.95 inc. VAT; £1,083.29 ex. VAT, or $1,099, only had a full-HD (1,920x1,080) display, but the image is still very bright and colourful -- so much so that we were able to lower the brightness to just 40 percent during our battery tests, while still being able to view video on the BBC iPlayer perfectly well. Asus is also planning a model with a 4K display, although no price has been announced yet.
Connectivity is limited to a pair of USB-C ports, but Asus includes a 'mini-dock' adapter in the box that provides HDMI and USB-A interfaces, along with a USB-C pass-through connector so that you can continue to charge the laptop. It's a shame, though, that the adapter doesn't provide Ethernet for connecting to wired networks in the office. And, like its Apple counterpart, the Flip S is resolutely un-upgradeable. There are no direct sales via the Asus website either, so you can't choose any build-to-order upgrades at the time of purchase.
Price and performance
The main webpage for the Flip S notes that the laptop is available with either HD or 4K displays, and states that the Flip S is based on an Intel Core i7 processor with a TurboBoost frequency of 3.5GHz. However, our £1,299.99 (inc. VAT) review unit was actually based on a more modest Core i5-7200U running at 2.5GHz (or up to 3.1GHz with TurboBoost), along with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. In fact, Asus tells us that there are currently three configurations available in the UK, with the top-end Core i7-7500U option bringing the total price to £1,378.62 inc. VAT; £1,148.85 ex. VAT, US pricing TBC). Make sure you confirm the pricing and specification of the Flip S before buying.
Still, the Core i5 version of the Flip S performs well, producing single- and multi-processor scores of 3833 and 7343 with the Geekbench processor tests. And its score of 45.5fps with the Cinebench R15 OpenGL test is twice that of the Core M3-based MacBook. The solid-state drive performs well too, delivering write and read speeds of 1,590MB/s and 2,010MB/s respectively.
Our main concern is with battery life. claims 'up to 11.5 hours' from the Flip S's 39Wh two-cell lithium-polymer battery. But even with the display turned down to 40 percent brightness, we only got six hours 20 minutes of streaming video from the BBC iPlayer. Less intensive use would probably allow it to last through a full day at work, but note that we had a Core i5/HD configuration: a Core i7/4K model would place more demand on the battery.
There's much to admire about the Asus ZenBook Flip S. It's a light, slimline convertible laptop that will appeal to anyone who travels a lot, and proves that Asus can do more than simply cloning its rivals' designs. The price is comparable to that of rival ultraportables, while the bundled stylus and other accessories provide good value for money. With an attractive 13-inch display and desktop-level performance, the Flip S will make a good workhorse laptop for running Microsoft Office and other business software. If you're planning to run demanding workloads though, beware that battery life may suffer.
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