Tom's Guide Verdict
The Asus ZenBook Flip S is a beautiful convertible with performance that doesn't match the Tiger Lake hype.
Gorgeous thin and light design
Beautiful 4K OLED display
NumberPad touchpad is really neat
11th Gen performance does not wow
No headphone jack
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i7-1165G7 (Intel Evo)
Graphics: Intel Xe graphics
Display: 13.3-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) OLED screen
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, 1x USB 3.2 Type-A, HDMI
Size: 12 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds
The Asus ZenBook Flip S is the kind of PC laptop that even Apple users (like myself) will get a tinge of jealousy upon seeing. Not only is its Jade Black chassis, with Red Copper highlights, beautiful, but it packs a 4K OLED screen that's going to make you upgrade your Netflix to the Premium UHD plan.
Yes, since you're paying $1,499, you're expecting to get a fair deal, and Asus is willing to meet you there, with 1TB of fast SSD storage and the brand new Intel Tiger Lake 11th Gen CPU. The expectations are high for this Intel Evo-certified laptop, so let's jump right in to this Asus ZenBook Flip S review to see why it's one of the latest entrants to our best laptops list.
But that new chip didn't exactly impress us in testing, making us wonder how hyped we should be for this new generation of processors (and how the AMD Ryzen 4000 series will compare.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Release date and price
The ZenBook Flip S costs $1,449 as tested, and it will be available in mid-October.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Design
The Jade Black ZenBook Flip S is a thing of beauty, to the point where I could imagine Indiana Jones pilfering it from a lab. Its chassis' not-black tone is distinct enough to draw some eyes, and its red copper highlights, found on its diamond cut edge and the glossy Asus logo on the lid, will make the rest of the folks around you wonder where they can order one.
Weighing 2.7 pounds and measuring 0.6 inches thick, the ZenBook Flip S is lighter than the Dell XPS 13 (2.8 pounds, 0.6 inches) and the 13-inch MacBook Pro (3.1 pounds, 0.6 inches) and a hair thinner than the 13-inch HP Spectre x360 (2.7 pounds, 0.7 inches).
There's also a slight incline created when you rotate the display further back, thanks to the Asus ErgoLift hinge. It's there to optimize the cooling system of the laptop and improve your typing ergonomics, as small margins make a huge difference.
And since the ZenBook Flip S is a 2-in-1, you can rotate it to Tablet and Tent modes.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Ports
It looks like Asus has been drinking from Apple’s fountain of 'courage.' The ZenBook Flip S packs most of the ports we're looking for — with two of the brand-new Thunderbolt 4 USB-C inputs, a USB 3.2 Type-A port and HDMI — but it's lacking a headphone jack.
For some, who have moved onto Bluetooth for all their headphones, that's OK. But for others, myself included, that's a mistake. Asus does include a USB-C to headphone jack adapter, but it's small and I bet it will be misplaced or lost by many.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Display
Watching 4K nature videos on the Asus ZenBook Flip S' 13.3-inch OLED 4K (3840 x 2160) screen, I was simply blown away. I could see so much texture in a black and white butterfly's wings, I thought it had to be made of fabric, until it fluttered away. The green leaf it perched on came out so vibrant, and some of its darker spots were inky black. There's also a hidden HDR panel setting in Settings > Display > Windows HD Color settings, if you have HDR-compatible content you want to view at its best.
The joy for my eyes continued as I watched a behind the scenes documentary video for James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. Not only did Harley Quinn's red dress pop off the screen, but a rainbow floating over Peacemaker's head as he dissected soldiers with a baton rendered brilliantly, just like the antihero's blue leather gear.
Our Klein K10-A colorimeter rates the ZenBook Flip S as producing 160% of the sRGB gamut, which is above the 120% premium laptop average. It's also more colorful than the XPS 13 (115%), Spectre x360 (109%) and MacBook Pro 13-inch (114%).
In terms of brightness, our colorimeter rates the ZenBook Flip S UX371 as producing 375 nits of brightness, which is near the 382-nit category average. The Dell XPS 13 (417 nits) and MacBook Pro 13-inch (485 nits), while the HP Spectre x360 (369 nits) is closer to the ZenBook.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Audio
I bobbed my head back and forth as I listened to The Clipse song "When the Last Time" bump from the ZenBook Flip S' harman/kardon certified speakers. Not only did the Thornton brothers sound clear and correct, but bass kicked and the backing track's high pitched sounds whirred and whistled accurately. Likewise, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' "Hand Covers Bruise" instrumental enabled me to clearly hear the string of The Social Network's score.
There's a DTS Audio Processing utility, and I'd ignore it. The default settings (enabled and set to the Music preset) sounded best for music and movie clips alike.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Performance
The ZenBook Flip S's 11th Gen Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 processor (with 16GB of RAM) is fast, but it didn't really show off a generational leap forward in our testing. But when I put it through the basic multi-tasking tests, splitting the screen between 12 Chrome tabs (including Google Docs and Giphy) and a 1080p YouTube video, with Spotify, Calendar, and multiple other utilities open in the background, I saw no slowdown.
This is also an Intel Evo-certified laptop, one of the first of its kind. During my testing, I found that it met the two measures for Evo laptops that aren't Full HD: consistent responsiveness on battery (performance was smooth as heck) and waking from sleep in less than 1 second (I was not fast enough with my digital stopwatch). Evo laptops are also supposed to allow cloud-based programs such as Spotify to thrive in the background, which I noticed for that application.
On the Geekbench 5.0 general performance benchmark, the ZenBook Flip S UX371 posted a 3,880, which fails to even meet the premium laptop average of 4,030. We saw scores of 4,648 Dell XPS 13 (Intel Core i7-1065G7, 16GB of RAM), 4,074 from the HP Spectre x360 (Intel Core i7-1065G7, 16GB of RAM) and the 4,399 from the MacBook Pro 13-inch (Intel Core i5-1038NG7, 16GB of RAM).
On our hard drive speed test, where we duplicate 5GB of multimedia files, the ZenBook Flip S's 1TB M.2 PCIe 3.0 SSD posted a blisteringly fast time of 1,296.2 MBps, walloping the 726.37MBps premium laptop average and the speeds of the SSDs in the XPS 13 (642.5 MBps) and Spectre x360 (312.2 MBps).
Another disappointing score, however, came from the ZenBook Flip S on our Handbrake test, where it took 22 minutes and 5 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p. The XPS 13 (15:40) and MacBook Pro (12:43) finished in much shorter times, closer to the 18:47 category average. The HP Spectre x360 came in closer to the ZenBook Flip, at 21:13.
But how did the Intel Xe Graphics — which have been vaunted and said to offer 2x gaming gains versus previous generations — in the ZenBook Flip S turn out? Well, on the 3DMark Fire Strike test, they did rather well, pushing the Flip S to a score of 3,351, beating the Intel Iris Plus-based XPS 13 (2,837) and Spectre x360 (2,615).
However, it played Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (at 1080p) at only 16 frames per second, which is far from the 30fps rate we're looking for, and below the 26fps category average. The XPS 13 (19 fps) and MacBook Pro (18 fps) didn't do that much better.
Similarly, Control (at 1080p) ran at 17 fps, with more motion blur than we'd like, but was still more or less playable (though we'd rather it run faster). The less-demanding Hades (also at 1080p) hit a more acceptable 32 fps.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Keyboard and NumberPad touchpad
While the ZenBook Flip S' keys were a little smaller than I'm accustomed to, I found typing to be a breeze once I got used to them. Testing the keyboard out on the 10fastfingers typing test, I hit 76 words per minute, pretty close to my 80wpm average.
My issue with the keys is their height, as they're wider than they are tall, and I'm used to keys that are as tall as these are wide. That being said, I got over this with a little time, and I'm sure you could too. Asus rates its keys for 1.4 millimeters of key travel, which is pretty deep (a good thing).
Part of the reason why I adapted to the keyboard so quickly is that these keys offer a pleasing feeling to each click. I'll also give Asus points for its right column of Home, Page Up, Page Down and End keys, which don't require you hitting a modifier to access them.
The Asus NumberPad touchpad is more than just your average touchpad. With a click of the calculator icon in its top right corner, the 5 x 3-inch surface illuminates with the number-pad that number crunchers wish could fit into a 13-inch laptop.
And after I enabled the NumberPad mode, the touchpad continued to work as it should, tracking my input accurately and responding to Windows 10 navigation gestures speedily, but it also works as an actual num pad when you're typing in a field.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Battery life
The price of a beautiful 4K OLED display is often found not just at checkout but when it comes to battery life. The Asus ZenBook Flip S lasted 8 hours and 7 minutes on the Tom's Guide battery test (based on web surfing at 150 nits of brightness), a time that's almost 2 hours less than the 10:01 premium laptop average.
The XPS 13 (12:39), Spectre x360 (13:19) and MacBook Pro (10:21) all lasted longer, though none of these laptops have 4K OLED panels. Last year's OLED Spectre x360 lasted even less time: 6 hours and 31 minutes.
And while Intel Evo laptops are supposed to last 9 hours on a single charge, that's only for Full HD laptops, and the ZenBook Flip S sports a more power-hungry 4K screen.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Heat
The ZenBook Flip S gets a little warm down below. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the laptop, our heat gun picked up a reading of 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the underside of the ZenBook Flip S, which is 5 degrees higher than our 95 degree comfort threshold.
Its touchpad (83 degrees) and keyboard (92 degrees) stayed cool.
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Webcam
The 0.9-megapixel webcam built into the ZenBook Flip S is unimpressive low-res, but this laptop still packs tricks for your next Zoom meeting. So, while I did look a bit grainy and blurry on a Google Meet call, my boss could not hear the TV I had on in the adjacent room.
That's because I enabled the Single Presenter call mode in the MyASUS app, which is meant to help presenters dampen background sounds (now that we all work from home).
Asus ZenBook Flip S review: Verdict
When I started this ZenBook Flip S review, I was seriously impressed by its design and display, both of which I hope Apple learns from for its Apple Silicon MacBook Pro. But the more I tested the Flip S, I was underwhelmed by its performance, and wondered if Asus plans an AMD version in the near future.
The Dell XPS 13, still the best laptop, is faster and lasts longer on a single charge, but it's got half as much storage and its screen isn't as vibrant. For those looking for a super-stylish convertible, you need to see the ZenBook Flip S for yourself.
Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.