Convertible to better conventional laptop

It is no secret that Asus is focusing on its efforts to sell more AMD-powered devices in India. The Taiwanese electronics maker has equipped its 2019 laptop with at least half a dozen AMD Ryzen processors. One of the latest devices to receive this treatment is the ZenBook 14 (UM431), which we reviewed shortly before its official launch. You can read our review of that model here. We thought it was a delicate laptop with solid build and stunning design for everyday use. It looked especially good on the new Utopia Blue Colorway.

Launched with the ZenBook 14 (UM431) in November last year, the ZenBook Flip 14 (UM462) is basically a hybrid equivalent with an optional processor upgrade. Instead of the ZenBook 14’s AMD Ryzen 5 3500U, you can get the AMD Ryzen 7 3700U chip with boosted clock speeds up to 4.0GHz while maintaining the same four-core eight-thread setup. In India, the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 starts at Rs 64,990, which means it competes directly with the Lenovo IdeaPad C340. If you want, you can read our changeable review before you visit ZenBook.

Performance

Our ZenBook Flip 14 review unit achieved average scores on our synthetic benchmark tests. In PCMark 8’s Accelerated Creative Test, the review unit scored 3350 points, which is quite impressive, a few hundred points lower than the Lenovo IdeaPad C340’s score. For your information, the IdeaPad C340 we tested used an Intel 8th Gen Core i5 CPU with 8GB RAM and a 512GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive and an Nvidia GeForce MX230 GPU. At 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Cloud Gate, the ZenBook Flip 14 managed 2340 and 13114 points, respectively. The next score is actually significantly better than the one run by the IdeaPad C340, which actually plays a dedicated graphics card.

The Ryzen-5 powered ZenBook 14 (UM431) did very well in our daily performance tests and is no different from the Ryzen 7-powered ZenBook Flip 14. Our review unit manages multitasking across countless applications across many virtual desktops without any backlash or stuttering symptoms. WhatsApp for everyday apps like Outlook, Word, Excel, Chrome, Photos, OneNote, File Explorer, and PC is opened and restored on a regular working day without any interruptions. In addition, I did not notice any stuttering in the animation when switching to Windows or desktop. Playing background music and videos on various websites also happened without any hiccups. In short, the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 is a fine machine for everyday computing work.

The ZenBook Flip 14 is ahead of the IdeaPad C340 in Cloud Gate, even without a separate GPU.

Battery

Asus claims that the removable 42Wh three-cell prismatic battery of the ZenBook Flip 14 can directly power a laptop for up to 9 hours. In our experiments, things were a little different. Our review unit received an acceptable score on our standard battery benchmark test. It survived 3 hours, 54 minutes on a single full charge, which is better than the IdeaPad C340 score of 3 hours, 38 minutes on the same test with the same parameters. In our day to day testing, things have gotten worse for Asus Convertible.

In one test, the battery level in the review unit reached 97 percent to 30 percent in a short period of two and a half hours. When running, both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were turned on and the screen brightness was set to 70 percent. The laptop was given the responsibility of heavy browsing. In another run with similar parameters, the laptop battery level drops to 30 percent from full charge in three hours, thirteen minutes. I noticed that the battery drain rate of the laptop increased sharply when I enabled keyboard backlighting. In short, expect about four hours of continuous use on the ZenBook Flip 14, which is honestly down to the bottom for any convertible laptop.

Display, tablet performance, audio and IoT

The ZenBook Flip 14 has, as you can imagine, a 14-inch touchscreen display with full HD resolution. According to Asus, the display is capable of 100 percent color reproduction in sRGB color space and provides a maximum viewing angle of 178 degrees. In my experience, the display is both bright and colorful for everyday use. The colors look natural without any sign of unnecessary saturation, while the brightness of the panel is sufficient for daylight use. If anything, the glossy finish of the panel becomes a hindrance when viewing the content under the bright overhead lights. All in all, it’s a fine display for viewing documents, web pages, spreadsheets and videos.

Bright, colorful display

As a variable, the ZenBook Flip 14 plays a glossy touchscreen panel that can be switched back to tablet mode. Although the touch accuracy of the panel is spot on, the bundled stylus is not suitable for drawing. In my experience, Stylus doesn’t always register input in supported apps like OneNote and Paint 3D for the first time, thus claiming multiple strokes. Pressure sensitivity, too, slightly below the 1024 level. That said, it works fine for light scribbling work. You will be able to take notes and annotate documents without much effort. I hope the laptop comes with a dedicated storage silo for Stylus. This will give the ZenBook Flip 14 a stiff edge over the IdeaPad C340.

The two down-firing speakers found near the chin of the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 laptop’s base panel emit sound through the grille. The sound of this Herman Cardon-certified driver is positively hollow, which means you get the feeling of playing laptop music from inside a well or cave. The high and the middle escape from the grills with some noticeable clarity but the same cannot be said in the lower case. On the plus side, the speakers display a distinct layer of stereo separation. Nonetheless, this pairing is best used for speech and casual music playback and not for complete entertainment. If you want to get quality audio, invest in a good pair of headphones.

Unlike previous GenBook Flip models — here, the GenBook Flip 14 comes with lots of mainstream connectivity options. On the left side of its body, we see a round-pin power port, a full-size HDMI port, a USB-A 3.1 port and a USB-C 3.1 port. On the right, we see a microSD card slot, a USB-A 2.0 port, and a 3.5mm audio jack for the headset. We also see a few status indicators and a small power button on the right, which is difficult to detect without looking at the device. Also, it does not help that the button sits flush with the frame and does not respond.

Port on the left

Port on the right

The tiny power button lacks feedback and is hard to find

The ZenBook Flip 14 lacks fingerprint-based authentication for face recognition via the built-in IR webcam. It works closely with Windows Hello to sign in. Sadly, the concept of Face Unlock doesn’t always work, at least not as fast as fingerprint scanning. For example, if you try to sign in to Windows with your face in an odd corner, or wearing your backup pair of glasses, Windows will drop Hello a few seconds later and ask you to enter your password instead. Although the ZenBook Flip 14 feature gets points for staying.

No fingerprint scanner; IR-based face unlock only

Keyboard and touchpad

The ZenBook Flip 14 keyboard is the most comfortable I’ve ever seen on a convertible laptop. The large three-stage-backlit keys have ample travel and a sufficient amount of resistance. The result is a beautiful, comfortable typing experience suitable for long emails and documents That said, I wish the arrow keys were a little bigger for extra comfort. I also hope that Asus chose a darker tone for the keycaps because it is impossible to read the letters of the silver keys if the backlighting is enabled. Still, it’s a great keyboard for heavy typing.

Good keyboard setup

The ZenBook Flip 14’s touchpad is a state-of-the-art precision unit, which means it supports multi-finger taps and swipes in Windows 10 without the need for a third-party driver or utility. The Mylar-covered touchpad surface is smooth and suitable for multiple finger gestures. Two click keys at the bottom of the surface, easy to press. After all, it’s a fine input device to use when browsing, editing spreadsheets, and moving files in File Explorer.

You can’t tell from the picture but there is a thin chrome lining around the touchpad

Construction and design

Like the ZenBook 14 (UM431), the construction of the ZenBook Flip 14 uses metal with the top cover made of aluminum and the base panel made of magnesium alloy. The result is a strong, sleek laptop body that is easy to hold and good looking. In its one and only light gray color, the laptop looks neat and professional but not particularly exciting. The back edges and hinges get a bold chrome finish, which I imagine would be a hit or miss to today’s users. What it doesn’t get though is the ‘Zen-inspired’ span-metal finish on the top cover. It doesn’t even get the company’s new offset Asus logo. But everything is understandable because it is very well made, and that’s important.

The top cover does not get the iconic span-metal design of Asus

Open the lid of the ZenBook Flip 14, which features a two-handed operation, a glossy touchscreen panel with a medium thick black bezel on all four sides. Asus claims that it has achieved a 90-percent screen-to-body ratio with the 4.37-mm ‘NanoEdge’ bezel. At 1.6 kilograms, the laptop is on the heavy side. This is evident when the device is used as a tablet On the bright side, it looks a bit lighter on the hands compared to the Lenovo IdeaPad C340. I really hope Asus would lose more weight from the device and throw in a storage silo for the bundled stylus as it would make the ZenBook Flip 14 a more attractive package for heavy users of tablet mode.

Chrome Beat is a hit or miss with buyers

The last row

The Asus ZenBook Flip 14 is as great as a conventional laptop in that it packs a modern AMD processor with 8GB of RAM and ample solid-state storage. What’s more, it has a great keyboard and touchpad setup with a bright and colorful screen. But it fails to be a great tablet at sufficient intervals. And that’s because it’s got a disappointingly short battery life and a heavy frame. Also, its bundled stylus can do with drawing and better on-screen response for on-board storage space.

Even if the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 does not surpass the Lenovo IdeaPad C340, it does not fall below it. With no isolated graphics options and a slightly heavier price tag of Rs 64,990, the ZenBook Flip 14 can be seen as an AMD-powered alternative to the Intel-powered IdeaPad C340. The ZenBook Flip 14 is a sleek device for users who initially want a conventional laptop but want to get their feet wet on convertible computing. However, for those users who are confident enough that they do not want a hybrid device, the ZenBook 14 (UM431) is a good choice. Check it out in more detail here.

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