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The Asus ZenBook Flip 15 UX563FD is a stylish 360-degree convertible laptop. Its 15-inch screen makes it a little large for carrying around on a daily basis, but it could be ideal for those who work mainly in one location, making the occasional journey. Attractive features include discrete graphics, a touch screen and the Asus ScreenPad -- a second mini screen built into the touchpad.
The ZenBook Flip 15 UX563FD is big and relatively heavy, measuring 356mm wide by 229mm deep by 19.9 mm thick and weighing 1.9kg. That's getting on for twice the weight of the smallest, lightest ultraportable laptops. But you get a lot more here in terms of screen real estate, and there's even room for a separate number pad on the keyboard.
The build is robust. I was unable to flex the lid at all in my hands, and could only depress the wrist rest minimally. This is more reminiscent of Lenovo's approach to its ThinkPad and Yoga lines than it is of many other laptop makers, and the tough chassis is very nice to see. Inevitably, though, there is a trade-off in terms of extra weight.
The black and silver chassis design is unobtrusive, although there is some interesting design when you open the laptop up. As usual the keyboard is recessed, but Asus has taken a rather more overtly designed approach here.
A silver strip separates the keyboard from the wrist rest and ScreenPad, and is the starting point for a short, steep downward curve. That same curve appears at the upper long edge, but this time there's no horizontal strip. A shallower fall to the keyboard is found on the short edges, courtesy of the 20mm gap between the end of the keys and the edge of the chassis. The upshot is that Asus has tried to design the keyboard recess with some elegance, and it works well.
As a 360-degree rotating laptop, the ZenBook Flip 15 UX563FD needs good screen hinges. They are quite tight, to the extent that it's not possible to open the lid one-handed, but that does mean they hold the lid firm in every orientation.
Asus uses its ErgoLift system to create a comfortable typing angle in laptop mode. When the screen passes 135 degrees from flat, the lid section presses into the surface it's sitting on, raising the keyboard slightly. I'm not convinced this is a great deal to shout about, but Asus highlights it as a feature.
The 15-inch screen has 4.5mm bezels on the short edges. The upper bezel is slightly deeper at 9mm to accommodate the camera, which caters for Windows Hello authentication and video calling. It's a pity the camera doesn't have a slidable privacy cover. The bottom bezel is deeper again, but at 13mm still impressively shallow. Asus calls this minimal-bezel arrangement NanoEdge.
The screen itself is a stunningly clear and sharp 4k (3,840 x 2,160) panel. Viewing angles are superb at 178 degrees, which is important for a laptop that will be set in various viewing orientations, and whose content might be shared by several people. There's enough brightness for working outdoors in the sun, while inside in my office I found 50% brightness was perfectly fine. The screen's reflectivity can be irritating, though.
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Harman Kardon stereo speakers deliver audio with what Asus describes as "surround-sound effects that envelop you with cinema-quality audio". The Asus website also claims that "a special amplifier ensures maximum volume with minimum distortion for powerful, clear sound".
I found the sound quality to be very good. At top volume there was no distortion, although bass tones could be fuller throughout the volume range and trebles a little less 'tinny'. As for cinematic quality, Asus has perhaps over-claimed there. The speakers are certainly good enough for work-based presentations and some after-hours TV and movie watching, but they're not exceptional.
The screen is touch responsive, and Asus provides its active Asus Pen stylus. This is thick enough to feel comfortable in the hand and very well weighted. There's no housing for the stylus on the laptop, which makes it more likely to be left at home or in the office, or mislaid on your travels. The lack of on-board housing for the stylus rules out rechargeability, so it's powered by a single AAAA battery.
The backlit keyboard is comfortable to use, with a light touch and springy return. I had no trouble touch-typing at my normal speed, for the most part. The issue that can crop up on a laptop with a separate number pad is difficulty finding the Enter key, which many people do on autopilot. It took me a while to stop reaching out to the far right edge of the keyboard and stabbing a number key by mistake. I had similar but less frequent issues with Backspace and right Shift keys.
To be fair to Asus, the potential for a design solution is limited, so you'll just have to go through the learning curve.
The space that's usually occupied by a touchpad is given over to Asus's ScreenPad 2.0, a 5.65-inch LCD touch screen that's larger than a regular touchpad and larger than some smartphone screens. It has a default resolution of 1000 by 500, rising to 2,160 by 1,080 if you make a tweak in its settings. The ScreenPad can be used as a touchpad in the normal way, but it has a number of additional functions.
Some of these feel rather redundant. There is a handwriting-recognition tool, a secondary number pad (but remember, there's one in the keyboard), a function bar for when you're using PowerPoint, Excel or Word (for easy, fast access to formatting and other options), and configurable functions to complete frequently-used tasks such as making a screengrab (even though screen snipping sits happily on the F11 key).
There are more interesting uses. You can move an app to the ScreenPad by dragging it down there. You could keep an eye on a media feed while using the whole screen for another task, for example. Because the two screens have different resolutions you have to maximise the view into the ScreenPad, and then, if you want to look at text, maybe pinch and zoom-in to increase its size. It can be a bit of a hassle, but I can see potential uses. In tablet mode, with the screen fully rotated and the keyboard section facing away from you, the ScreenPad has nothing to offer.
Asus has been developing the ScreenPad concept for a while now, and it's found in a number of laptops. I last saw it in my review of the smaller, non-convertible ZenBook 14 UX434FL. If you want to see an even more intriguing take on a second screen, see what I thought of the ZenBook Pro Duo UX581.
ZDNet's ZenBook Flip 15 UX563FD review sample is powered by a 10th-generation Intel Core i7-10510C processor with 16GB of RAM and discrete graphics courtesy of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 4GB of dedicated video memory. It runs Windows 10 Professional, and there is 512GB of solid-state storage plus integrated Wi-Fi 6. This model costs £1,299.99 (inc. VAT; £1,083.32 ex. VAT).
The Flip 15's large chassis means there is potential for lots of connectivity, and Asus has taken advantage. On the right edge there is an SD card reader, USB-C and USB 3.1 ports, a full-size HDMI port and a dedicated round-pin power connector. Because you might have ended a previous session in tablet mode and folded the screen away, the power switch is on the right edge of the chassis rather than occupying a space near the keyboard.
Cooling vents occupy a good deal of the left edge, but there is still room for a second USB 3.1 port and a 3.5mm headset jack.
Asus says the 8-cell 71Wh battery will deliver up to 16 hours of life, which is impressive. However, I'm sceptical that this will be widely achievable in real-world scenarios. During testing I set the screen to remain on, and worked into web apps with numerous tabs open at once, additionally streaming audio and video. I set the screen brightness at 50% -- slightly lower than the recommended level for battery operation -- and left the ScreenPad on, making use of it intermittently. Under this regime, six hours of use depleted a full battery to 34%, suggesting a runtime of around nine hours.
The ZenBook Flip 15 UX563FD is a stylish and durable laptop with a minimal-bezel design that keeps the chassis as compact as the 15-inch screen allows. A high-quality 4k touch screen and good speakers make this 360-degree convertible equally good for work and after-hours usage. The bundled stylus lends itself to creative uses, which are also enabled by the discrete Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics.
Whether the ScreenPad is a battery-draining gimmick or a genuinely useful feature is for individuals to decide, depending on how they use their laptops and how open they are to new ideas. I can see the potential, but it's a little fiddly to work with, and probably needs further development to make it really compelling.
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