Convertible laptops are one of the hottest sectors in mobile computing. Whether you’re using it as a slate, in tent mode for presentations, or just as a standard laptop, they offer a level of versatility that normal laptops lack. And yet it’s really just the fact they have special hinges and electronics that can detect which angle they’re at that enables these different modes. Asus’ new ZenBook Flip UX360UA is one of the latest convertibles to hit the market, with a price that sets it apart from the pack. Don’t let that $1500 price tag deter you – Asus has built a quality product that makes very few compromises in hitting such a reasonable cost.
This 13.3-inch convertible is built around the 1920 x 1080 screen, and obviously isn’t anywhere near as paper-thin as the UX390 reviewed last week. Yet at just 1.27kg it’s still a super-portable laptop, albeit not quite as thin. With a total depth of 13.9mm it’s still super slim, while it measures 321mm x 229mm. It’s built from solid aluminium, helping to keep weight down, while retaining a sturdy feel, and like other ZenBooks is carved from a single block of aluminium. Screen quality is above average, especially considering it’s a touch compatible, but it’s not quite the beauty of the UX390.
One of the main features that separates a quality convertible from a dodgy model is the quality of the hinges used. Those used here offer 360-degree rotation, and has been tested 20,000 times in the lab during an open/close cycle without failing. They certainly feel strong – many convertibles have bouncy screens when in laptop mode, making their touch screen a pain to use, but the hinges on this convertible hold the screen perfectly in place when the screen is touched. It’s also perfectly stable in tent mode, and the screen automatically flips upside down when it passes the 180-degree point. Interestingly, when switching to tablet mode, we weren’t prompted by Windows if we wanted to use tablet mode, which seems to be a common feature on other convertibles.
We’re not sure who Asus is getting to make its keyboards and touchpads for the latest Zenbooks are, but we love them. Unlike so many iffy touchpads, the one used here is isn’t overly sensitive, making it simple to hit just the right spot. The keyboard feels comfortable enough for all-day use, thanks to the 1.5mm key travel. Flip it into tablet mode, and both the keyboard and touchpad are automatically disabled – a nice touch. Once again Asus has used Harman Kardon speakers, and they’re definitely above average compared to usual laptops, but not good enough for all day media use. The larger size of the laptop has led to extra battery life, measuring a very impressive 333 minutes in our PCMark 8 battery test.
Thanks to the extra thickness of this laptop, there are plenty more I/O options than its slimline brethren. A single USB 3.0 Type-C is to be expected, which resides alongside the twin USB 3.0 Type-A connectors, single HDMI, combo audio jack and SD card reader. There’s no Ethernet port though, so you’ll have to rely upon the 802.11ac Wi-Fi, though Asus has been generous enough to include a USB-to-Ethernet adaptor. Residing within our review sample was a Core i5-6200U (twin-cores, HyperThreaded, 2.3GHz base, 2.8GHz Turbo frequency, along with 8GB of LPDDR3 memory (this can be doubled to 16GB), which explains the slightly lower PC Mark score of 3385.
If there is one major flaw, it’s storage – our sample came with a mere 256GB M.2 SSD, and we all know how quickly that will fill. Thankfully there’s also the option for a 512GB M.2 SSD, which would be much more sensible.
Asus has delivered a very well-built convertible with accurate screen, decent processing power and rock hard hinges for a very reasonable price. You’ll probably want to double the memory and SSD size if you do choose to buy it, boosting the price by a rather large amount, but there’s no denying that this is one of the better convertibles on the market.
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