The very thin Asus ZenBook Flip S smartly includes a stylus, USB-C hub and carrying sleeve right in the box.
Anyone shopping for a slim 13-inch laptop or hybrid has a lot of choices. Dell's XPS 13, Razer's Blade Stealth, HP's Spectre x360, or even Microsoft's Surface Laptop all fit the bill. All offer some variation on the idea of a highly portable Windows laptop with a touch screen (some as a clamshell, others as a 360-degree hybrid), solid state storage, recent Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, an HD or better display, and support for a stylus, sometimes included, sometimes sold separately.
The ZenBook Flip S from Asus would normally slide nonchalantly into this sizable parade of similar systems, just another option among many based on the same handful of popular current components. Asus claims it's one of the thinnest 13-inch 360-degree hybrid laptops , at 10.9mm thick, but that's not as much of a point of differentiation as it used to be.
But while you can configure most of the laptops mentioned above with different specs and accessories to hit your preferred budget, I was impressed by the generous selection of accessories included in the ZenBook's box.
Alongside the laptop itself was an active stylus pen, a USB-C hub with HDMI, USB-A and USB-C ports, and a slim carrying sleeve. Of those, the hub is probably the most useful, as the ZenBook has only two USB-C ports for data and power. Many similar systems force you to buy any or all of these separately, including Microsoft's Surface Pro and Surface Laptop . Apple 's USB-C-only laptops are another example where you're likely going to need to shell out extra for a hub of some kind.
The configuration reviewed here is one specifically available at the Microsoft Store. It includes a 7th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, plus the stylus, USB-C hub and sleeve, for $1,399. This exact Microsoft Store configuration isn't available in other regions, but I found similar configurations on Amazon UK for £1,399 and directly from Asus in Australia for AU$2,699.
Configuring a Dell XPS 13 or Razer Blade Stealth similarly will cost hundreds more (largely because of the big SSD hard drive), but I found a version of HP's excellent Spectre x360 with similar specs for around the same price, and it even includes a stylus and sleeve (but no USB-C hub).
|Price as reviewed||$1,399|
|Display size/resolution||13-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch display|
|PC CPU||2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U|
|PC Memory||16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz|
|Graphics||128MB Intel HD Graphics 620|
|Networking||802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)|
One thing I noticed about the Flip S after a few hours -- it gets hot. I pulled out my handy temperature gun and saw that the bottom surface temperature got into the very high 90s (fahrenheit) even under modest websurfing use. On one hand, it's running a robust Core i7 CPU, on the other hand, this is not one of the new generation of fanless designs out there, so it should have decent fan cooling. It definitely felt uncomfortable after a few hours directly on my lap.
Ports and extras are packed onto the slim edges of the chassis. A tiny sliver of a Windows Hello fingerprint reader worked well, when your finger happens to land in the right place. I always spent at least a few extra seconds feeling around for it on the right side edge of the system, getting some angry rejection notes from Windows along the way for not placing my finger on the reader properly. But, when I did get my finger over it, login was nearly instantaneous.
The fingerprint reader is also located just up from the power button. Like many skinny power buttons located on the side edge of a laptop, I invariably clicked on it accidentally when picking the system up to reposition it on my desk, putting the entire thing to sleep. The edge is a terrible place for a power button, yet designers of super-slim laptops keep putting them there.
In previous years, the keyboard here would be described as shallow, but compared to the latest MacBooks from Apple, it's actually quite reasonable. One knock, Function key commands are not reversed -- meaning you have to hold down the Fn key plus the corresponding function key in order to adjust the brightness, volume and other system functions -- which is the opposite of what most consumer laptops are (wisely) doing these days.
The screen is very bright despite an average 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. It has good off-axis viewing, so the image doesn't fade when viewed from the side. The speakers, however, sound thin and are mounted under the front lip, which doesn't make for a great experience, especially when sharing online video with friends.
Included in the box is an Asus-branded active stylus, powered by AAA batteries. It's fine for basic note taking and sketching, but doesn't come close to the responsiveness or ink-on-paper feel you'd get from the Surface line or with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. If you're a pro-level artist looking for a primary drawing or sketching tool, this isn't it.
Overall performance was excellent, as expected from a laptop with a recent Intel Core i7 CPU inside. Newer 8th-gen CPUs are just starting to filter out, but the 7th-gen one here is just fine. You can find other laptops with the same processing power for about the same price, but in most cases, adding a big 512GB SSD will drive up the price.
Battery life is on the lower side of acceptable. The ZenBook Flip ran for 8:45 on our streaming video battery test, which is about 90 minutes less than Microsoft's Surface Laptop and almost three hours less than a 13-inch MacBook Pro. However, a couple of more closely matched systems from HP and Razer ran for a bit less, about 8 hours, so this is in the middle of the pack. Real world use, depending on workload, should run a little shorter than our test estimate.
The Asus ZenBook Flip S doesn't do anything extraordinary that other slim laptops or convertibles doesn't. The battery life is merely OK, the screen resolution could be higher, and audio is mostly meh.
But it is a hair thinner than most of the 360-degree competition, at just under 11mm. And the price feels like a bargain when you add in the big 512GB SSD, the packed-in stylus (Microsoft would charge you $100 for that) and the USB-C hub (Apple will happily sell you one for $70).
In a world where the little things we used to take for granted, from checked airline baggage to tablet styluses, are more often than not sold separately as an extra cash grab, it's nice to see a laptop box that includes more than the bare minimum.
|Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370U||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Razer Blade Stealth (13-inch, 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016)||Apple macOS Sierra 10.12.1; 2GHz Intel Core i5-6360U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 1,536MB Intel Iris Graphics 540; 256GB SSD|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|
|HP Spectre x360||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|