The Asus ZenBook Flip 14 is a touch-screen convertible that makes (almost) no compromises. Not only does the 8th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor in the $1,299 model we tested provide stellar speed, but this laptop also has a bright, beautiful screen; long battery life; and sweet audio. The Flip 14 also benefits from Nvidia graphics, helping this system outperform other laptops with integrated GPUs. We have some nitpicks, such as the awkward stylus, but overall, this is a fantastic luxury notebook (and one of the best Asus laptops) that's worth checking out.
As I ran my eyes over the aluminum Asus ZenBook Flip 14, I appreciated its smoky-gray lid, which features Asus' now-signature concentric-circles design. That matte lid is offset by a glossy Asus logo and the laptop's glossy hinges, while its deck offers a cool metallic surface for resting your wrists.
Measuring 0.5 inches thick and weighing 3.3 pounds, the 14-inch ZenBook Flip 14 is slim but a little on the heavy side. The 13.9-inch Lenovo Yoga 920 (3.1 pounds, 0.6 inches) and the 13.3-inch Samsung Notebook 9 Pen (2.2 pounds, 0.7 inches) are thicker but lighter, and the 13.3-inch HP Spectre x360 (2.9 pounds, 0.5 inches) is also lighter.
The left side of the ZenBook Flip features one of its two USB 3.0 ports, as well as buttons for power and volume. Over on the right side, you'll find a microSD card reader, a data-only USB Type-C port (which doesn't draw power), a headphone jack, the second USB 3.0 port, an HDMI output port and a power adapter port.
Considering the Flip's premium price, Asus should have included a Thunderbolt 3 port, which both the Spectre x360 and the Yoga 920 include, for connecting to high-speed docks and peripherals.
Biometric security on the Flip 14 is handled by its IR webcam and fingerprint reader, both of which work with Windows Hello. While the webcam is located in the middle of the top bezel (naturally), the fingerprint sensor is in the top-right corner of the touchpad, wasting space you could have used for navigating.
The ZenBook Flip 14's bright and vibrant full-HD (1920 x 1080) touch-screen display produces crisp images. While watching a trailer for the upcoming film Rampage on this panel, I noted a wide range of lush greens in the flora surrounding Dwayne Johnson and his crew, bright whites in the hair on the gorilla that greeted them and warm oranges in the fire blasts. And while watching a gorilla named George ravage a downtown metropolis, I noticed fine details, including individual hairs and rippling muscles.
According to our colorimeter, the ZenBook Flip's screen produces 115 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which beats the 110-percent average for premium notebooks (models priced above $800), the 109-percent rating from the HP Spectre x360 and the 105-percent score from the Lenovo Yoga 920. We saw a higher score from the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen (121 percent).
The ZenBook Flip 14 emits up to 274 nits of brightness, which is slightly below the 287-nit average for premium notebooks as well as the 284-nit Yoga 920 and the 289-nit Notebook 9 Pen. The 261-nit Spectre x360 is slightly dimmer. And while it's relatively bright, the ZenBook offers limited viewing angles, with color darkening (and getting obscured by reflections in its glossy screen) when we viewed the screen from greater than 30 degrees to the left or right.
The ZenBook Flip's touch screen accurately tracked my taps as I navigated the desktop and swiped in from the sides to open the Action Center menu.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Asus Pen
Though its keys are shallow, the Asus ZenBook Flip 14's keyboard offers a solid typing experience. When I used the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I hit a rate of 75 words per minute (not too far from my 80-wpm average), and the keys seemed to have more vertical travel than their mere 1.0 millimeter of movement would suggest. (We hope to see at least 1.5 mm.) The 70 grams of required actuation force (we look for at least 60 grams) may be what helps create this positive tactile sensation.
The ZenBook's 4.0 x 2.8-inch touchpad is a smooth, cool surface that offers accurate tracking. It also provided smooth two-finger scrolling and recognition for Windows 10 navigation gestures.
The included Asus Pen features 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, but its tip didn't feel secure as I -- and our art director, Jef Castro -- used the pen on the Windows Ink workspace. It rattled a bit. e also noticed that the pen didn't register input when we tried to draw finer lines, pressing the side of the pen against the screen. We saw better results when we put the front of the tip directly on the glass.
The harman/kardon-branded speakers in the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 provided enough power for Janelle Monáe's song "Make Me Feel' to fill a medium-size conference room. Not only did her sweet vocals sound perfect, but the synths hit accurately and bass bounced well.
The included AudioWizard sound-adjustment app offers presets based on different kinds of content, but it's not necessary. The speech and movie modes blew out vocals, while gaming mode dampened spoken words. I'd keep the default music option enabled, as turning off AudioWizard takes the bass out of the system.
The Intel Core i7-8550U processor and 16GB of memory in our configuration of the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 provide solid performance that enables extensive multitasking. I saw no lag as I split my screen between a 1080p YouTube video and 12 Chrome tabs, including Giphy, Google Docs and Slack.
The ZenBook Flip 14 netted a score of 12,799 on the Geekbench 4 general-performance benchmark, rising above the 9,627 average for premium notebooks. We saw similar scores of 13,306 from the Lenovo Yoga 920 (Intel Core i7-8550U, 8GB of RAM), 13,129 from the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen (Intel Core i7-8550U, 8GB of RAM) and 13,568 from the HP Spectre x360 (Intel Core i7-8550U, 16GB of RAM).
The ZenBook Flip 14's 512GB PCIe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 16 seconds, for a rate of 318.08 megabytes per second. That rate blows past the 268.32-MBps premium-notebook average, and exceeds the 299.9 MBps from the Yoga 920 (256GB NVMe PCIe SSD) and the 282.7 MBps from the Notebook 9 Pen (256GB SSD). The 512GB PCIe SSD in the Spectre x360 copied files at a much faster rate of 566 MBps.
The ZenBook Flip turned in a solid time of 1 minute and 40 seconds on our Excel spreadsheet test, which times how long it takes to match 65,000 names to addresses. That mark is 5 seconds less than the 1:45 average for premium notebooks but a little longer than the times from the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen (1:31) and the HP Spectre x360 (1:36).
The Flip's score on our HandBrake video editing test was just fair, as it took the notebook 25 minutes and 4 seconds to convert a video from 4K to 1080p, which is longer than the 22:23 category average. The Notebook 9 Pen and the Spectre x360 (both at 26:00) needed even more time.
The 2GB Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU in the ZenBook Flip 14 allowed the laptop to turn in an excellent score of 110,792 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics benchmark. That leaps over the 80,149 category average. We recorded lower scores of 85,269 from the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen; 86,267 from the Lenovo Yoga 920; and 79,528 from the HP Spectre x360. (All three sport integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620.)
The ZenBook Flip ran the low-end Dirt 3 racing game(set to medium graphics at 1920 x 1080) at a buttery-smooth 122 frames per second, which beats the 59-fps category average, as well as the rates from the Yoga 920 (35 fps), the Notebook 9 Pen (47 fps) and the Spectre x360 (56 fps).
The Asus ZenBook Flip 14 offers excellent battery life, lasting 9 hours and 27 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi. That's longer than the 8:28 premium-notebook average and the 6:16 from the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen. However, both the HP Spectre x360 (9:45) and the Lenovo Yoga 920 (10:14) endured even longer.
We find 0.9-megapixel webcams in most laptops we review to be subpar, and the ZenBook Flip's is just as borderline-acceptable as the rest.
Yes, the selfie I shot with it bears enough resemblance to my actual face, but the image is far from sharp, with large sections of hair looking as if they're strokes of brown paint.
The Asus ZenBook Flip 14 stays cool up top, but its underside can get toasty. After we streamed full-HD video on the laptop for 15 minutes, our heat gun picked up temperatures on its touchpad (87 degrees Fahrenheit) and keyboard (93 degrees) that fell below our 95-degree comfort threshold, while the heat from its underside (97 degrees) exceeded that limit.
Software and Warranty
Asus packed the ZenBook Flip 14 with a pretty standard set of software, including its own app store and special offers. Asus Live Update is a tool for downloading drivers and system updates directly from the company, while Asus Splendid Technology is a display-settings app that offers Eye Care mode, which filters out blue light; and Vivid mode, which tries to pop the colors but didn't offer a huge difference in my testing.
In addition to standard third-party apps (McAfee Security and Plex, Candy Crush Soda Saga 3, Bubble Witch 3 Saga and March of Empires) in the Start menu, the system contains tiles for other apps. If you've never tried Dropbox before, the Asus Hello app will offer you 25GB of space for a whole year (1TB costs $9.99 per month) before it downgrades you to the standard 2GB of free space.
The Asus Giftbox store offers you a 60-day free trial of the WPS Office suite (a Microsoft Office competitor), which costs $30 per year or $10 for three months thereafter. Giftbox also recommends other apps to download, though it only suggested I download the app for the Chinese microblogging site Weibo (their version of Tumblr).
The ZenBook Flip 14 comes with a one-year international warranty from Asus. Check out our annual Best & Worst Laptop Brands competition and Tech Support Showdown to see how Asus stacks up against other laptop-makers.
We tested the higher-end 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8550U edition of the ZenBook Flip 14, which costs $1,299 and includes 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a discrete GeForce MX150 graphics card with 2GB of memory.
Amazon also sells a more affordable $899 (opens in new tab) configuration, which features the same 1920 x 1080 display, fingerprint sensor and Asus pen, but bumps you down to a slower Core i5-8250 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, and removes the discrete graphics in favor of integrated graphics.
The all-aluminum Asus ZenBook Flip 14 is as attractive as it is speedy, giving you the performance you want in a design you'll want to flaunt. The only downsides are that it lacks Thunderbolt 3 ports and has a stylus that should feel better against its screen.
The competition is fierce in this category. A similarly configured HP Spectre x360 offers a much faster SSD, slightly longer battery life and a Thunderbolt 3 port for $50 less than the ZenBook Flip 14, though the Spectre x360 doesn't offer discrete graphics. The Lenovo Yoga 920 laptop also includes the Thunderbolt 3 port, and it offers even better battery life. However, it's slightly more expensive, at $1,399.
Overall, though, the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 is a nimble machine with an array of first-class features.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag