How does the $1,299 Asus ZenBook Flip 14 (UX461UN) stand out in a crowd of 13.3-inch convertible laptops? First, it doesn’t have a 13.3-inch screen—the Flip’s chassis is barely bigger than its rivals, but its full HD panel measures 14 inches diagonally. Second, Asus says it’s the world’s thinnest 2-in-1 with discrete graphics—instead of the Intel integrated graphics of most convertibles. The system has an Nvidia GeForce MX150 card that proved about twice as fast on our gaming benchmarks. We’ll temper your expectations right up front, though: It’s not fast enough to play the latest games at their highest image-quality settings.
The ZenBook Flip 14 also comes in at $30 less than its closest rival, the 13.9-inch Lenovo Yoga 920, our top pick. While outstanding battery life, Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a more comfortable keyboard help the Lenovo Yoga 920 retain its Editors’ Choice crown, the Flip is an impressive value that’s well worth a look.
Circles Within Circles
The ZenBook Flip 14 we tested is model UX461UN-DS74T, which features an eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). For $400 less, the model UX461UA-DS51T downshifts to an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and integrated graphics.
Whichever model you choose, you’ll get a gray aluminum unibody with Asus’s trademark ZenBook finish of concentric circles radiating outward from a chrome Asus logo on the lid. At 0.55 by 12.9 by 8.9 inches (HWD), the Flip is fractionally bigger than the Lenovo Yoga 920 (0.5 by 12.7 by 8.8 inches), but about the same size as the largest 13.3-inch convertibles, such as the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 (5379), which comes in at 0.77 by 12.8 by 8.9 inches.
At 3.31 pounds, the ZenBook Flip 14 weighs less than the Dell Inspiron 5379 (3.56 pounds), but more than the Lenovo Yoga 920 (3.02 pounds). Like most convertibles, it’s a tad heavy to hold in midair in Tablet mode, but perfectly comfortable on your lap. Its dual hinges not only let the screen pivot through the usual four positions—Laptop mode, Tablet mode, easel-like Stand mode, and inverted-V Tent mode—but also lets you lift or tilt the back of the keyboard to a handy typing angle in Laptop mode. (That last feature works better on a desk than on your lap, where the bottom of the lid can dig into your knees.)
There’s a tiny amount of flex in the lid and the keyboard deck, but the ZenBook Flip 14 feels solidly built overall. The power button, a volume rocker, and a USB 3.0 port are on the laptop’s left side. Another USB 3.0 port, plus a USB-C port, an HDMI port, an audio jack, a microSD card slot, and the connector for the compact AC adapter are on the right edge.
High Fidelity, Moderate Volume
Even cranked to 100 percent, the ZenBook Flip’s audio doesn’t get very loud, but the Harmon/Kardon-tuned speakers on the system’s bottom produce above-average sound, with rich tones (albeit not a lot of bass) and no distortion. The webcam above the screen is above average, too, capturing detailed selfies even in mediocre light.
The 1,920-by-1,080-resolution display offers wide viewing angles, somewhat obscured by reflections on its glossy surface. Brightness is merely adequate—I kept the backlight at its top couple of settings for most of my work sessions—but colors are good, with saturated hues and deep contrast.
Touch-screen operations are smooth and accurate. There’s no cubbyhole or place in the laptop to store it, but the ZenBook Flip 14 comes with a handsome, battery-powered stylus that responds to 1,024 levels of pressure. It kept up with my swipes and scribbles, but I suffered a few stray marks where palm rejection faltered.
The keyboard lacks dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys (they’re teamed with the Fn key and cursor arrows), but is otherwise well laid out. Its 1.4mm of travel gives it a pliant, if plasticky, typing feel—not as pleasing as that of the Lenovo convertible, but more than sufficient for cruising at a good clip, with minimal mistakes right out of the box. The chrome-trimmed touchpad takes just the right amount of pressure to produce a click; it has a Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader in its upper-right corner.
That’s GeForce MX150, Not GTX 1050
The ZenBook Flip 14 we tested boasts a 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB NVMe SSD. The combination was good enough for first place among a collection of convertible and clamshell peers in our PCMark 8 office productivity test, with a stellar score of 3,603 (anything above 2,500 is fine for Microsoft Office and Google Docs).
The system also topped its Lenovo Yoga 920 rival in our processor-intensive Cinebench test, as well as Handbrake video-editing exercise (with 1:09 versus 1:21 for the latter), though it was a few seconds off the pace in our Adobe Photoshop image-editing workload. Nor could it match the Lenovo Yoga’s remarkable battery life of more than 22 hours in our video playback loop, though its time of close to 12 hours is more than enough to get you through a workday, plus some after-hours Netflix or light gaming.
But it’s the gaming benchmark scores that you want to know about, and that’s where the unit’s Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card showed its worth: The ZenBook Flip 14’s score of 1,280 in the demanding 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme test was nearly triple that of systems with the same CPU’s integrated graphics. And it easily cleared the 30 frames-per-second (fps) hurdle for smooth gameplay in Valley and Heaven at medium-quality settings and resolution.
Yet the Nvidia MX150 card is built for light to moderate, not full-bore, gaming. The ZenBook Flip 14 fell short of 30fps at its full 1080p resolution at Heaven’s and Valley’s top-quality settings. And when we loaded a favorite Steam game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, at 1080p, we had to choose the Low preset to average 30.7fps in the game’s built-in benchmark test. (Its scores in Medium and High modes were 24.6fps and 21.7fps, respectively.) Anyone confusing Nvidia’s MX150 with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs is in for a disappointment.
That’s Entertainment (and Productivity)
Still, there’s nothing wrong with having a versatile office and on-the-road machine that can provide peppy performance in casual gaming. With a slightly brighter display and a Thunderbolt 3 port for up-to-date docking solutions and peripherals, or maybe just one of those things, we’d be looking at an Editors’ Choice contender. As such, we prefer the Lenovo Yoga 920 for its lighter weight, faultless keyboard, Thunderbolt 3 port, and the extra show-off value of its design (we’re thinking of the Lenovo 920’s famous “watchband” hinge). However, the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 (UX461UN) is a good buy and a solid performer; it’s worth showing off in its own right.