Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371
"The ZenBook Flip S UX371 is one of the first Tiger Lake laptops, but it does not make optimal use of Intel's new processor technology."
Very solid build quality
Excellent keyboard and useful NumberPad touchpad
Very good port selection
Disappointing processor performance
The gaming falls short of expectations
Intel has released its latest architecture, Tiger Lake, which promises higher performance for both the CPU and the GPU. We've already looked at an Intel Tiger Lake prototype and were impressed with the performance of the platform. Now we had time with our first full Tiger Lake system, the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371.
This 2-in-1 laptop is priced at $ 1,500 and comes with an 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe solid state drive (SSD), and a 4K OLED display. It looks strong on paper, but does it meet our high expectations?
It is risky to be one of the first companies to bring out a laptop based on a brand new platform. Asus may have run counter to this risk with the ZenBook Flip S, as its benchmark results don't live up to Tiger Lake's promise. I blame the CPU's overly conservative vote. During all of my CPU tests, the fans barely spun even under the heaviest loads. I had to listen carefully to the bottom of the case to hear they were running at all. That tells me the laptop isn't working hard enough to keep the fans busy. I tried setting the Asus fan speed utility to performance mode but it made no difference.
In Geekbench 5, the ZenBook Flip S was faster than laptops with the 10th generation Core i7-1065G7, but not by much, mostly in single-core mode. It scored 1,535 single-core and 4,913 in multi-core mode. Compare this to the Microsoft Surface Book 3 13, which runs the Core i7-1065G7 at 1,316 and 4,825 points. The Samsung Galaxy Flex with the same 10th generation CPU scored 1,264 and 4,583 points. We didn't expect that from Tiger Lake.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
In our handbrake test, which converts a 420MB video to H.265, the ZenBook Flip S lasted one second less than four minutes, identical to the Surface Book 3 13. In the older version of the same test, the ZenBook Flip S lasted two seconds under four minutes and hit the Galaxy Flex by just 16 seconds. Again, this is not the expected performance.
I ran Cinebench 20 and the results were even worse. The ZenBook Flip S achieved 482 points in single-core mode and 1,254 points in multi-core mode. The surface book 3 13 managed scores of 429 and 1,433.
The benchmark results don't live up to Tiger Lake's promise.
Note that the Intel Tiger Lake reference laptop we tested with a Core i7-1185G7 performed much better on all of these benchmarks – even better than the clock speed increase would indicate. Geekbench 5 scored 1,563 and 5,995 points, respectively, and completed the handbrake test in less than three minutes. The Cinebench 20 scores were 463 and 2092. These scores (with the exception of the single-core Cinebench score) represent bigger differences than I would have expected between the two Tiger Lake CPUs.
I contacted Asus and I am confident that they will run their own tests and set the thermal profile to allow the laptop to reach its full potential. If I get better results with a firmware update, I will revise this review accordingly.
It's hard to tell if the ZenBook Flip S is realizing its gaming potential as we don't have any other laptops with the exact same CPU and GPU combo. The closest is the Intel reference notebook. So here I am primarily comparing it, although we have to consider the CPU differential.
The ZenBook Flip S scored 3,947 points in Fire Strike, while the Intel reference laptop scored 5,181 points. The Asus performed much better than the older Acer Swift 5 with Intel Iris Plus graphics, resulting in a score of 2,120. However, I can't help but think that, given the reference laptop's score, there should be a bigger difference.
Next, I ran Civilization VI, where the ZenBook Flip S reached 31 frames per second (fps) at 1080p and medium graphics. That is much less than the 45 fps of the Intel reference laptop. The Asus switched to ultra graphics and managed 17 fps, while the Intel reference laptop ran at 26 fps. The Asus also seems to underperform here. Note that the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 with the integrated Radeon graphics from Ryzen 4000 achieves 45 fps in 1080p at medium details.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
Next, I tested Assassin's Creed Odyssey. The ZenBook Flip S has a 4K display, but I've limited my testing to 1080p for reasons that will become immediately apparent. The ZenBook Flip S managed 11 fps in 1080p with the high graphics preset. While this title is well beyond the capabilities of the GPU, it's disappointing that the HP Specter x360 13 with Intel Iris Plus graphics, which averaged 12 fps, essentially tied the ZenBook powered by Tiger Lake
In Fortnite, the ZenBook Flip S only managed 13 fps in 1080p and high graphics. The Intel reference laptop achieved 34 fps and the Specter x360 13 with Intel Iris Plus ran at 12 fps. Again, this is not what I expected.
That's all of the gaming benchmarks I've run given the disappointing results. As with the CPU test, if I get a firmware upgrade that affects these results, I'll get back to me.
The ZenBook Flip S has a battery capacity of 67 watt hours in its thin and light frame, which is impressive for a laptop of this size. At the same time there is the power-hungry 4K OLED display and a new generation of Core i7, which I have not yet passed through our official battery tests. I wasn't sure what to expect.
Unfortunately, the ZenBook Flip S decided to throw us a curveball again. Our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, which is supposed to show how long the laptop lasted when you hit the CPU and GPU, wouldn't end its test loop. I've tried several times and been unsuccessful. Unfortunately, this means that I cannot report on the longevity under load.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
The ZenBook Flip S lasted almost seven hours in our web browsing test, which gives a good idea of life in moderate everyday life. Given the 4K OLED display, this isn't a terrible score, although it is pretty weak compared to the Full HD-equipped Dell XPS 13 that lasted for around 12 hours. Note that the ZenBook Flip S lasted more than an hour longer than the HP Specter x360 13, another popular notebook with an OLED display. Even so, you will likely struggle to work a full day without joining.
In our video test of a Full HD Avengers trailer, the ZenBook Flip S lasted 12.25 hours, which is almost three hours longer than the Specter x360 13. I would have expected this test to be most affected by the display. but the ZenBook Flip S did pretty well. The XPS 13 lasted two hours longer, but that's less of a difference than I expected.
Overall, the ZenBook Flip S offers good battery life for a laptop with a 4K OLED screen. If you plan to be out of the office for eight hours or more, consider taking your charger with you, but the battery will last long enough that you don't need to bring a charger for everyone but the longest of meetings.
The ZenBook Flip S is a good-looking laptop with a black aluminum case that is complemented by diamond-cut edges made of red copper (Asus). The usual Asus concentric vortices decorate the lid. It all adds up to an elegant design that works in both a coffee house and a conference room.
The laptop is built robustly. The lid, the keyboard deck or the bottom of the case are not bent, bent or twisted. The 2-in-1 hinge is a little too stiff to open with one hand, but it does an excellent job of holding the display in place in clamshell, tent, media, and tablet modes. It's at least as big as laptops like the HP Specter x360 13 and Dell XPS 13, which makes sense given the premium price.
The ZenBook Flip S doesn't have the thinnest bezels, which is a departure from other newer ZenBook models. The side bezels are thin and the top bezel is adequate, but the lower chin is quite large, adding to the overall footprint that is required. The Specter x360 13 is about the same size, but significantly less deep. However, the ZenBook Flip S is thin at 0.54 inches and light at 2.65 pounds. This is comparable to the Specter x360 13, which weighs 0.67 inches and 2.88 pounds. With thinner bezels, the Asus is more convenient to transport.
Connectivity is strong for a laptop this thin and light with two exceptions. On the left is a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 ports. There is a USB-A 3.1 port on the right. Unfortunately, there is no SD card reader, which is a disappointment, and Asus made the strange decision to ditch the 3.5mm audio jack and switch to an included USB-C to 3.5mm dongle instead use.
Apparently, Asus customers preferred the HDMI port, so the company decided to remove the 3.5mm jack instead – which is an unfortunate choice as you now have to forego a USB-C port to get some Connect headphones. Wireless connectivity is through the latest features available, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, and I saw excellent performance during my review tests.
The ZenBook Flip S is one of a growing number of laptops that come with OLED displays, which I find very good. The other OLED laptops we tested consistently deliver great viewing experiences, and I was excited to see if Asus picked a panel as good as other manufacturers.
As I found out when I tested the display with my colorimeter, Asus opted for a spectacular display that has practically no weaknesses.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
First, it's incredibly bright at 492 nits, more than most of the OLED panels we tested. For example, the version of the HP Specter x360 13 has 405 nits, which is still very bright but is not in the same stadium. As usual with OLED, the contrast of the ZenBook Flip S display is extraordinarily high at 491,630: 1 (the Specter x360 13 at 405,210: 1). Compare that to the excellent IPS display on the Dell XPS 15 (1480: 1), which is tall for an IPS display but nowhere near as jet black as the Asus. These numbers exaggerate the difference in the real world, but OLED's contrast offers an obvious advantage in movies, games, and high-resolution photos.
The color gamut with 100% sRGB and 99% AdobeRGB is another strength of the ZenBook Flip S display. The XPS 15 barely beats either of them at 100%, but few displays we've tested recently come this close to maximizing both color spaces. And the ZenBook Flip S is also color-accurate with 0.88 – anything below 1.0 cannot be seen by the human eye and is considered excellent. The Specter x360 13 was less accurate at 1.29. The gamma of the ZenBook Flip S display was also spot on with the ideal gamma curve of 2.2.
Asus opted for a spectacular display that has practically no weaknesses.
Put simply, this is a bright, high-contrast display. I love it as a writer because black stands out against white backgrounds and incredibly wide and precise colors. This is a display that would make any creative professional happy. Whether you're looking at it objectively through a colorimeter or subjectively for any task you want – including bingeing video, which is a real treat – this is a superior display.
The sound from the two downward facing speakers was clear with little distortion at the highest volume. The speakers could get pretty loud with nice highs and mids even though the bass was missing (not surprisingly). You want to use headphones for music and serious seizures, but the sound is more than good enough for the occasional YouTube and Netflix.
Keyboard and touchpad
The ZenBook Flip S inherits the same keyboard as Asus in the ZenBook 14 UX425 and is a good choice. There is a lot of spring travel, a lot of key spacing and size, and a lighting mechanism with a floor effect that is clear and precise. My favorite keyboards remain the Magic keyboard on the MacBook and the ones that HP uses in the Specter lineup (and the latest Envy 15), but the ZenBook Flip S comes close.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
The touchpad is large and wide and contains Asus' NumberPad 2.0, which transforms the touchpad into an LED-illuminated numeric keypad. You turn it on with a long press of a button in the right corner and change the brightness with a button in the left corner. It works fine, and turning on the NumberPad doesn't affect the use of the touchpad as a touchpad. If you enter a lot of numbers, you will appreciate the function.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends
The touch display is responsive and an active pen that supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity is in the box when the laptop ships. However, one didn't come in my box so I couldn't test the pen.
Finally, Windows 10 Hello support is provided by an infrared camera and facial recognition. It was quick and accurate during my tests, and while I prefer a fingerprint reader, it offers an easy sign-in option.
At $ 1,500, the ZenBook Flip S is firmly in the premium segment. And part of what might justify that price tag – on top of the exquisite OLED display – is that it's one of the first laptops to come with Intel's Tiger Lake platform. Unfortunately, Asus has some work to do in order to take advantage of the new platform. The ZenBook Flip S behaves more like a last-generation laptop. This directly reflects how Asus has optimized the laptop's performance.
Otherwise, the ZenBook Flip S is a well-built and attractive 2-in-1 device that can hold its own against other laptops with similar prices and features. It's just such a disappointment that we didn't see Tiger Lake at its best.
Is there a better alternative?
The main competitor of the ZenBook Flip S is probably the HP Specter X360 13, which still runs 10th generation CPUs. It has an equally beautiful OLED display, is a bit smaller, and works just as well. You also spend a few hundred dollars less to configure a similar computer.
If you don't need a 2-in-1, the Dell XPS 13 is a very compelling option. It was recently announced that it is joining the Tiger Lake Club. Once it does, I'm sure it will perform well. It's the best 13-inch clamshell notebook on the market, making it a viable competitor to almost every other 13-inch machine.
How long it will take?
The ZenBook Flip S is a rugged laptop that will last forever. It's well built and configured with the latest technology so you can be productive for years. As always, we'd love to see more than a year warranty, but Asus offers one year accident protection.
Should you buy it?
No not yet. When Asus fixes the performance issues, suddenly the ZenBook Flip S becomes a very compelling 2-in-1 device. Until then, I would hold back.