We recently put the ASUS ZenBook UX305 through its paces and found that it hit many -- but not all -- of the ultrabook sweetspots. Now the larger, but still thin and light, 13.3-inch ZenBook UX360CA has landed.
The ZenBook UX305CA is a 360-degree flip-screen laptop/tablet hybrid. It's light enough at 1.3kg to hold in the hands for short periods in tablet mode, and its hinges are rigid enough to support the whole thing in 'tent' mode. The 13.3-inch touchscreen is responsive, and viewing angles are good. Its full-HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (166ppi) delivers enough detail for comfortable movie-watching.
However, the screen isn't perfect. It's quite reflective, and colours aren't as vibrant as I'd like. It's fine for most work purposes, but anyone who is a stickler for high-quality visuals at work or off-duty might want to check the screen out before buying.
Media fans may also want to consider the speakers, which sit on the back of the chassis. They're kept off the desk thanks to four rubber feet that lift up the base a few millimetres. The feet also provide a small air gap between lid and base when in tablet configuration, and this again means sound can escape. Sound quality is fine and volume loud enough, but I found when working with the ZenBook Flip UX360CA on my lap that my clothing muffled the speakers.
Those rubber feet are a bit of a design faux pas too. The chassis of my review sample was silver aluminium with the characteristic circular brushed pattern on the lid that's typical of ASUS' style. Against this neatness the feet look incongruous. My review sample had been through other hands before it got to me, and the white feet were beginning to discolour from use.
That aluminium shell doesn't provide quite the protection I had expected to see. There is some flex in the lid, and when I tried to bow the base there was a distinct gentle 'popping' sound around the trackpad. This may not be a serious issue, but I think a protective case in transit would be a very good idea. That will make the ZenBook Flip UX360CA slightly larger to tote, but at 323mm wide by 220mm deep by 13.9mm thick it's hardly vast to start with.
The keyboard has quite a lot of flex, even under my light touch. This didn't affect its usability, and I found the keyboard responsive and light under the fingers, with plenty of key travel. There's no backlight, and the keys don't lock rigid when in tablet mode, and so are vulnerable to pressure from gripping.
The trackpad is responsive and large, making it easy to navigate the screen and use gestures. A FN key combination disables it for times when the touchscreen alone is enough, which may prove useful when you're working in tablet mode. There's no reminder light when the trackpad is out of action though.
The configuration I was sent is currently available from Currys UK at £849.99 (inc. VAT), and is in the middle of the range. Its Intel Core M5-6Y54 processor is replaced by a Core M3-6Y30 in a less expensive £749.99 (inc VAT) model, while its 256GB SSD is replaced by a 512GB SSD in the more expensive £949.99 (inc. VAT) model. Other key specifications include 8GB of RAM, a 720p camera, and 8012.11ac wi-fi. The operating system is Windows 10 Home.
Battery life is surprisingly good: ASUS says it will last up to 12 hours between charges, and depending on the daily usage pattern it may well get you through a working day without a recharge. The Core M processor selection helps enormously here, but does mean this laptop isn't up to hugely intensive workloads. Document creation and editing, web browsing and other mainstream office tasks shouldn't trouble it, though.
The connectivity options run to a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C connector, a Micro-HDMI connector (ASUS provides a converter to full-size HDMI), a 3.5mm headset jack and an SD card slot. There's a volume rocker on the chassis, providing a third way to control sound (after the touchscreen volume controls and FN keys).
ASUS has come up with a lightweight convertible laptop here, which has a lot going for it. But try the screen and test the keyboard before buying to make sure they meet your requirements.
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