As the saying goes, imitation is the finest form of flattery. In crafting the hybrid Asus ZenBook Flip S, the 2-in-1 laptop maker has all but cribbed Apple’s 12-inch MacBook aesthetic to create a laptop that nigh captures that appeal but can do so much more.
Hopefully without being too reductive, this is essentially a 2-in-1 MacBook without the macOS and Thunderbolt 3 ports. Sure, it’s lacking the butterfly hinge keyboard and super-sharp display, but it also has twice as many USB-C ports, a fingerprint sensor and a touchscreen.
The Asus ZenBook Flip S, while not without its minor flaws, is among the best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy right now. That all starts with top-shelf design and components.
Here is the Asus ZenBook Flip S configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.5GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 16GB LPDDR3 (2,133 MHz)
Screen: 13.3-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED-backlit touchscreen (60Hz, 100% sRGB, 178-degree viewing angle, Corning Gorilla Glass)
Storage: 512GB SSD (SATA3)
Ports: 2 x USB-C 3.1, 3.5mm audio jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: 480p (VGA) webcam
Weight: 2.42 pounds (1.1kg)
Size: 12.32 x 8.58 x 0.43 inches (313 x 218 x 10.9mm; W x H x D)
Price and availability
While Microsoft sells the latest ZenBook Flip S with an 8th-generation Kaby Lake Intel Core processor, you can grab this version (listed right) from Asus directly for the same price: $1,399 (about £999, AU$1,819). Oddly enough, save for the more dated 7th-gen Intel Core i7 processor within the model we’ve reviewed here, all else is equal between editions – at least in the US.
Asus says that the machine can be outfitted with either 8GB or 16GB of memory as well as a 256GB, 512GB or 1TB (PCIe) solid-state drive (SSD) if you so choose, but doesn’t seem to offer those options in the states.
In the UK, however, Asus sells several ZenBook Flip S configurations, starting with one featuring a 7th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 512GB of storage and 8GB of RAM for £1,279. On the highest end, you’ll get a 7th-gen Core i7 chip inside with the same amounts of storage and memory.
Finally, Australia too sells just one ZenBook Flip S configuration, matching the one reviewed here spec-for-spec and calling for AU$2,199. All of these configurations include a USB-C hub dongle with USB-C, HDMI and USB 3.0, as well as an Asus Pen stylus with 1,024 levels of pressure, in the box.
Meanwhile, to get a 12-inch MacBook with similar hardware inside – a 1.4GHz 7th-gen Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD – would cost you $1,949 (£1,864, AU$2,909). Of course, you don’t get the dazzling, beyond-HD screen with the ZenBook Flip S, but conversely this laptop offers up touch control and a fingerprint sensor where the MacBook does not.
On a more level playing field, a comparably specced-out HP Spectre x360 (with slightly slower, 1,600MHz RAM and a much faster NVMe M.2 SSD) would cost you just another few dollars or quid more at $1,429 (£1,799, AU$3,099).
You can take just one look at the ZenBook Flip S and immediately notice it: Asus was heavily inspired by Apple’s 12-inch MacBook design. If it weren’t for the prominent Asus logo in gold on its lid and beneath its screen, we wouldn’t blame you for assuming Apple had gone and made a 2-in-1 MacBook, developing an affinity for blue and gold along the way.
Everything from the keyboard to the touchpad and the chamfered edges, this 2-in-1 laptop looks and feels incredible if not awfully iterative. At least Asus sells its laptop in two very unique color combinations: a Royal Blue and Smoky Gray primary color with gold and silver accents throughout, respectively. The former features Asus’s trademark spun aluminum, which is awfully susceptible to fingerprints, while the latter is an anodized finish.
Of course, you can’t really say it doesn’t work. Asus has nearly matched the MacBook in lightness at 2.42 to its 2.03 pounds and has surpassed it in thinness: 0.43 inches at its thickest point to the MacBook’s 0.53 inches. If this weren’t a 2-in-1 laptop, Asus may well could have beat out Apple’s best entirely in these departments. In this regard, the ZenBook Flip S edges out the HP Spectre x360 in both cases.
However, that thinness and weight only leaves so much room for connectivity, leaving the ZenBook Flip S with nothing but two USB-C 3.1 ports and an audio jack. While this is doubly as many ports as the MacBook, neither are Thunderbolt 3 – meanwhile the Spectre x360 beats them both with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB 3.1 port and a microSD card slot.
At any rate, the ZenBook Flip S looks absolutely gorgeous and feels fantastic both to hold and to use. The aluminum frame, spun on the lid and anodized on the keyboard, almost always feels cool to the touch.
As for that keyboard, it features sizable, well spaced chiclet keys that offer both surprisingly deep, 1.0mm travel and forceful feedback – a sublime combination. The backlighting on the keyboard is equally enticing, with golden key characters coming to life above the white backlight.
Meanwhile, the touchpad was built to Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad spec, and therefore serves up excellent palm rejection to suppress errant cursor movement while typing. The glass coating makes for gestures as smooth as they are on the included touchscreen.
Display and audio
Talk about taking 1080p to its limits, the ZenBook Flip S touchscreen looks and feels amazing. For one, it’s an incredibly vibrant screen, with its 100% sRGB color gamut making reds pop and blacks all but get lost in its 6.11mm-thin bezels. While not the thinnest bezels around, an 80% screen-to-body ratio ain’t half bad.
While Asus doesn’t reveal figures, this is a brightly backlit display as well, being more than legible or viewable at brightness levels well below 50%. Plus, 178-degree viewing angles help when sharing the screen.
Finally, touch response on the panel is snappy and accurate, though the included stylus could be a little more advanced (with more levels of pressure and tilt detection) for the price of the entire package.
As for the sound profile of this laptop, we find it to be just fine. Asus has done a lot of work to improve its audio on its thin-and-light laptops, giving the ZenBook Flip S four distinct speakers with capacity for surround sound, and it shows. However, with only so much room inside those speaker chambers, the audio is generally tinny at best – so, bring your headphones.