One of the big choices to be made these days when choosing a laptop, is whether to go with a traditional clamshell form factor, or a 2-in-1 that offers more flexibility. There used to be some significant tradeoffs with many convertible laptops, but the latest generation of Intel mobile CPUs has helped to really level the playing field. There’s now more power than ever, better graphics performance and greater energy efficiency possible in small form factors. A great example of what’s now available is the ASUS ZenBook Flip 14-inch 2-in-1 laptop, powered by an 8th generation Intel Core i5 CPU. It’s not just a super flexible device, it’s also a solid laptop that won’t make you feel like that you’re paying a performance penalty.
Thin and light, but not short on style or power
The 14-inch ASUS Zenbook Flip is an attractive laptop, whether you pick the gold or grey version. Both are slim and stylish. They have an all aluminum body with “spun metal” finish that offers a premium look. Its Full HD touch NanoEdge display has minimal bezels, so the ZenBook Flip is actually closer to the physical dimensions of many 13-inch laptops. And it weighs only 1.4kg (just over 3 pounds).
That display is far from basic. It features 178° wide-view technology, 100% sRGB colour gamut, ASUS Eye Care technology, ASUS Tru2Life Video technology and TruVivid technology (to increase contrast). In other words, it looks good and minimizes eye fatigue. Video is complemented by stereo speakers with Harman Kardon-tuned audio.
There’s a responsive, full-sized chiclet keyboard with backlighting (always a must-have feature in my books), and its oversized, glass trackpad has an integrated fingerprint reader for Windows Hello biometric security. Inside is an 8th generation Intel Core i5 CPU, which brings quad-core performance. 8GB of RAM is more than enough to smoothly run Windows 10 and most productivity applications. A 256GB SSD offers considerable storage, with the snappy responsiveness of solid state operation.
One of the nice things about this laptop is that being thin and light doesn’t mean you’re left short of ports. The 14-inch Zenbook Flip has dual USB 3.0 ports (for all your legacy accessories), USB-C (for the new ones), HDMI and an SD card slot.
ASUS ZenBook Flip (UX461U) key specs, as tested:
Pick your form factor
As a laptop, the 14-inch ASUS ZenBook Flip has considerable appeal, with plenty of style and decent performance for the price. But what takes the Flip to the next level is its namesake feature: the ability to “flip” that display, transforming this laptop into multiple different configurations.
The laptop is equipped with what ASUS calls an ErgoLift hinge, which allows you to rotate the display a full 360-degrees. I found that it worked very smoothly, yet held the display securely in place at whatever angle or position I chose. ASUS says the ErgoLift hinge has been “torture tested” to 20,000 cycles, so that precision should last.
Why would you want to be able to flip the display around? There are all sorts of applications.
Being in laptop mode is obvious, as is a full 360-degree rotation, which gives you a sizeable tablet (which is very handy when used with Windows Ink, by the way). In between are various configurations that put the display out front and hide the keyboard. This comes in handy for tasks like presentations, when you don’t want someone to start pushing buttons. In a tent mode, the ZenBook Flip transforms into a stable viewing screen that’s ideal for streaming videos.
Hands on with the 14-inch ASUS ZenBook Flip
I found the 14-inch ASUS Zenbook Flip was a satisfying laptop to work on. It feels solid, with no flex. Its keyboard had a little more space between keys than I’m accustomed to, so typing took a slight adjustment, but that wasn’t a big deal. I was happy to see backlighting on the keyboard, which isn’t always something you can take for granted at this price range.
Performance is pretty zippy for tasks like web browsing or editing a Word document, although the Core i5 and integrated graphics are obviously not intended to take on gaming. The display was crisp and bright and responsive when used in touch mode. This laptop makes for a big tablet (that’s a 14-inch, three pound tablet!), but that form factor can actually be pretty useful if you want to take notes or draw up the screen with your finger or a stylus and Windows Ink. All the components really came together when I flipped the display into tent mode and used it to watch streaming video. The 2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi got the content there quickly and without buffering, the wide-angle Full HD display looked great and is big enough to enjoy from a few feet away, the speakers do a decent enough job on audio, and the hinge keep everything stable.
ASUS claims up to 13 hours of battery life, but I found that 8-10 hours was more realistic. It will be lower if you maximize performance, and you may be able to do a bit better by optimizing the power saving, but in my books, even 8-10 hours is solid performance for a laptop. That’s all-day and then some for most people.
I liked the ZenBook Flip. And I think it would make a very solid student laptop, in particular. It’s affordable, it has decent performance (that 8th gen Intel quad-core Core i5 and SSD combo make things quite snappy), and it has the flexibility to convert into an all-display video streamer in place of a TV.
Based on the customer reviews on Best Buy, I’m not the only one who was impressed by this laptop.
If a 2-in-1 isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t worry, Best Buy has you covered with hundreds of the latest laptops in every form factor imaginable.