Asus Zenbook Flip S review: Slick design but disappointing battery life
Quick verdict: The Asus Zenbook Flip S is a visually appealing ultrabook with plenty of performance potential. But it's let down badly by sub-par battery life.
- Gorgeous OLED display
- Light carrying weight
- Robust design
- Poor battery life
- No headphone jack
- 4K at 13.3 inches is overkill
Asus' Zenbook Flip S is a beautifully designed laptop with a superb display screen for an ultrabook, which would make it a great device for workers who needed a presentation machine that would wow potential clients.
However, you can get the same or better performance in other ultrabooks for less money, and they're far more likely to last the distance through a full day's workload. The last thing you'd want in your flashy presentation session would be to run out of power, but that's all too likely a scenario for the Asus Zenbook Flip S.
Asus Zenbook Flip S review: The design is seriously gorgeous
The Asus Zenbook Flip S ships in a single dark grey colour. Asus calls it "Jade Black" and like most ultrabooks, the focus is on delivering a thin and light system.
At 30.5x21.1x1.39 cm and 1.2kg, it's not the lightest in its class, but it's also not so hefty that you'll feel your arms dragging after a few hours of carrying it. While travel right now isn't high on my priority lists, I didn't find it uncomfortable to carry around for limited periods. I could easily see it being comfortable for longer ones, too.
We've seen quite a few sub-1kg ultrabooks through Finder's labs, but most of those manage those weight requirements using composite plastic frames. The Zenbook Flip S uses an aluminium alloy, giving it more of a luxury feel.
Open up the Zenbook Flip S and you'll be met with a very bright and colourful 13.3 inch 4K UHD OLED display. It's one of the Zenbook Flip S' best features, mostly because of OLED's better capabilities when it comes to full colour representation compared to LED LCD displays.
4K at this size is slightly overkill, because you're not really going to be looking at detail that will make as much of a difference in this size display. Although some graphic artists might appreciate that bigger pixel count for some of their work.
The screen is also touch compatible and stylus compatible, with a magnetically attaching full sized pen stylus in the box. I'm an awful digital artist, but I can see the appeal of this approach. 1 caveat here is that the pen only magnetically attaches to the folded down front of the laptop, and not all that well. It wouldn't take much to bump it off and lose it in a bag, or have it roll away across the floor when taking it out of a bag.
That's exactly what happened to me during the test period. For what it's worth, the Asus stylus can totally survive an impromptu roll down some stairs, but it's not a test I'd generally recommend.
The Asus Zenbook Flip S is named as such because it's a fully reversible ultrabook with a near 360 degree hinge that positions the display behind the keyboard as a large screen Windows tablet device. Here the aluminium build is a big plus, because it feels very sturdy when you're rotating it around into tablet form. It's also huge of course, but that's the nature of 13.3 inch tablets. Again, I'm not a digital artist, but I could comfortably imagine myself curling up in a chair to produce fancy artistic sketches with the Zenbook Flip S. If only I had any talent in that regard.
There's not much wasted space at all around the keyboard, which is responsive and well laid out for the most part. Like most ultrabooks the cursor keys are quite small, but I quickly got used to working around that limitation.
Ports are minimal, which again is in line with current ultrabook design trends. On the right hand side you'll find the power button and a single USB A type port, while the left hand side houses full size HDMI and 2 USB C Thunderbolt 4 compatible ports. The notably missing feature here is a headphone or microphone jack. For the latter, you could use the onboard microphone, which is passable but not exactly radio quality, but for the former you'll need to use a USB adaptor and give up a port in the process.
On the security front, there's no fingerprint sensor, but the inbuilt 720p capable camera supports Windows Hello for fast login purposes. If you're particularly concerned about webcam security, it's worth noting that there's no physical or specific software shutter feature for the Zenbook Flip S. Asus wouldn't recommend it, but this kind of scenario is precisely what duct tape is made for.
Asus Zenbook Flip S review: 11th Generation Intel produces predictable performance results
The Asus Zenbook Flip S ships with an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1165G7, putting it in the company of laptops such as the Dynabook Tecra A40-J or the Acer Swift 5. 16GB of RAM is standard and your only option for the Zenbook Flip S. Like most ultrabooks, you're limited onboard to Intel's integrated graphics du jour. Which in this case is the Intel Iris Xe platform.
The commonality of Intel processors in this class means that there's typically not much between them in performance terms when benchmarked. That's absolutely the case for the Asus Zenbook Flip S. Here's how it compares using PCMark 10's general performance benchmark:
And here's how that Intel Iris Xe GPU compares:
The practical takeaway from all of that isn't surprising either. If you need a very portable convertible laptop that will flip around into tablet configuration for presentations, office work or essential computing, the Asus Zenbook Flip S has power to spare. If you need to edit 8K video, want a gaming rig or fancy a laptop that will spend its off hours mining for bitcoin – less so.
The model supplied for review shipped with Windows 10 Home preinstalled, but there's nothing at a hardware level that should stop it from being capable of upgrading to Windows 11. The model you buy may indeed already have it pre-installed.
Asus Zenbook Flip S review: The battery doesn't live up to the hype
All ultrabooks or ultra portable laptops have the same challenge. Consumers want very light systems, because that makes sense when you have a laptop you have to carry around all day.
However, consumers also want laptops with batteries that will last all day long. Batteries are heavy, especially in higher capacities, and we've seen some pretty bold claims from laptop makers of late as to how long their laptops will last.
Here, Asus plays it conservative, claiming that the Asus Zenbook Flip S is capable of up to 10 hours of battery life, which is well below the claims of many of its competitors.
The problem here is that it's seemingly done that to soften the blow of the Asus Zenbook Flip S' actual battery life, which can only be described as disappointing.
Battery life is always dependent on what you're using a laptop for. To test that, I ran the Zenbook Flip S through Finder's 2 standard battery life tests.
Here's how the Asus Zenbook Flip S compared on the light usage battery life test:
Getting just under 7 hours battery life for video streaming is not encouraging, even if it is 70% of Asus' claimed battery life.
The news doesn't get better when you put the Zenbook Flip S under heavier battery strain, either. It's not a gaming laptop, but here I used PCMark's gaming battery benchmark to get an indicative figure of heavy use battery life.
Here's how it compared using that test against similar laptops:
It's at least very easy to recharge the Asus Zenbook Flip S through its USB C ports. The supplied 45W charger will speedily top up its power pack on demand, and it's nicely portable too as a small charging square. If you've got a Power Delivery (PD) compliant charger, that should work too.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you want a luxury ultrabook with a really nice screen.
- Don't buy it if you need an ultrabook with good battery life.
The Asus Zenbook Flip S gets a lot of the core parts of a convertible ultrabook dead right. It feels good and robust in the hand without being heavy. It's got more than enough processing power for most laptop users in this category, although it's not really a performance leader in this space. Its OLED display is gorgeous. I'm not even going to try to pretend I didn't spend some time using it as a gaming rig – albeit mostly through Xbox Cloud gaming rather than utilising that onboard Iris XE GPU.
However, all of that usage is absolutely predicated on it staying plugged in more often than not, because it compares poorly for battery life in real world usage scenarios. If you need an ultrabook to last the distance while you're out and about, this isn't it.
Asus Zenbook Flip S review: Pricing and availability
8GB LPDDR4X on board, Memory Max Up to:16GB
How we tested
I tested the Asus Zenbook Flip S over a 3 week period with intensive benchmarking and real world usage scenarios that included keyboard testing, screen evaluation and battery life testing. I've been working as a technology journalist reviewing laptops for more than 23 years, so I have extensive experience with what to look for in laptops of all types. The Asus Zenbook Flip S was supplied by Asus for the purposes of review.
Images: Alex Kidman
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