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 ($562 at Amazon). 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 with similar specs for around the same price, and it even includes a stylus and sleeve (but no USB-C hub).
Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370U
|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)|
Hot and bothered
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.