“All That Glitters Is Not Gold”
Convertible notebooks are an amazing concept, for a given price you can get a portable laptop as well as a tablet, bundled together, with just 180 degrees away from each other. These convertible notebooks are promised to offer the convenience and versatility of a 360°-rotatable display. Looking at the photos of some convertible laptops would definitely make you drool, especially if you haven’t used one. I too belonged to that category before getting my hands on the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA.
The Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA is one such convertible laptop and the company’s second addition to its ZenBook Flip 2-in-1 laptop series. As you would expect, this one is also claimed to be “a stylish laptop, a handy tablet, or anything in between” How much of this is true? We find out.
Design & Build:
The moment you unbox the ZenBook Flip UX360CA, immediately your heart misses a beat. With an aluminium shell, a brushed lid with concentric circles and the company’s logo sitting in the middle, the UX360CA has stunning looks. Our review unit has a dark grey colour with an inkling of purple, which the company likes to call ‘mineral grey’.
With a thickness of just 13.9mm and weight of 1.3Kg, the UX360CA completely justifies the tag of an ‘Ultra thin’ and portable 2-in-1 laptop. The given measurements are great for a laptop, but for a tablet? Well, let’s just say that changes the whole story altogether.
Once you open the lid, there sits a 13.3 inches Full HD display on the back and a keyboard and spacious touchpad on the base. Supporting the lid and base lies two 360 degrees hinges – the main highlight of the laptop. The hinges feel sturdy and even capable of supporting the laptop stand in ‘tent mode’. Switching between the laptop and tablet mode is a seamless experience.
Overall, we have nothing to complain about the laptop in terms of design. With a premium looking design and sturdy build, it takes your heart in the first glance. If you’re using the ZenBook Flip UX360CS at a public place, don’t be surprised if it turns some heads.
Display & Sound:
The UX360CA puts on a 13.3 inches Full HD touch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The IPS panel offers rich colours and good viewing angles too. The touchscreen is responsive and supports up to 10 touch points. The display, however, is not that bright and a bit reflective too. It is a fingerprint magnet and being a touch display makes it even worse. It’s a tough job to keep it off the smudges. We also noticed some LED bleeding from the bottom left corner of the display. Although, it is hard to notice while surfing the web, but you surely will come across while watching a video in a dark room.
Overall, the ZenBook Flip has a pin-sharp display and offers vibrant output. Apart from the reflective panel, we didn’t come across any major issues. Even the reflective panel is not a huge problem and certainly won’t change my mind about the device.
Talking about the sound, the Flip UX360CA houses two Bang & Olufsen 1.6W stereo speakers located underside. The audio output is loud enough and crispy clear. The loudness of the speakers really surprised us, and we didn’t notice shrill even at high volume.
P.S: Watching a Game of Thrones episode on the Flip UX360CA with Full HD display and Bang & Olufsen stereo speakers is a bliss 🙂
Keyboard, Touchpad & Ports:
The Flip UX360CA features a spacious touchpad and an island-style keyboard. The keyboard is a real treat to use with a decent travelling distance offered by the keys. Apart from the arrow keys, all other keys are placed well and are of suitable size. However, disappointing as it gets, the keyboard is not backlit. Considering the budget of the laptop, it came as a complete shock to us. The keyboard chassis is not well built either. It feels a bit flimsy and tends to bend in.
Overall, the keyboard is pleasant to use, and it would be a delight for writers. Keeping the lack of backlit aside, I would prefer the Flip UX360CA over the ZenBook 3 (review) for the keyboard.
The touchpad is also decently made and placed right where you would expect it. It is easy to access, and the touchpad accuracy is spot on. It also responds well to Windows 10 multi-touch gestures. Overall, we have nothing to complain about the touchpad.
Even being very thin ultrabook, the Flip UX360CA offers enough ports to connect the accessories so that you don’t have to live a dongle life. The laptop features two USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port, and an SD card reader. Brownie points to Asus for that. You’ll also get a micro HDMI and a headphone jack. Although it misses out on the Ethernet port, but it ships with an HDMI-to-Micro adapter included in the box. So, that’s not a problem either.
On the left side, you’ll be greeted with a power button and volume rockers. The placement of the same, however, feels little awkward to me. They’re not easy to access and are prone to accidental press all the time. Every time you’ll adjust the Flip on your lap, you’ll end up pressing the power button.
For connectivity, the Flip UX360CA features Bluetooth V4.1 and Wi-Fi 802.11 ac (dual bands). Both of these works flawlessly and we didn’t come across any issue here.
Software & Performance:
The performance of any laptop is one such criteria which has the potential to undermine all the other aspects. If a laptop performs well, we can cut some slack for its other facets. And of course, vice versa. If a laptop has a mediocre performance, it doesn’t matter how good all the other features are. Unfortunately, in the case of Flip UX360CA, the latter scenario stands true.
If you pick any random laptop user from the crowd and ask the person, “what do you do most on your laptop?” The answer you will get is of course, “browsing the web.” Even if you ask the same question to yourself, you’ll get the same answer. Now, would you buy a laptop which works smooth as butter for all other aspects but browsing? Asus, are you listening?
Coming back to the Flip UX360CA, the laptop works like a charm and runs seamlessly for anything you throw at it. Thanks to the 512GB SSD, it boots up within seconds and copies data at the speed of light (not really).
It comes with a fan-less design which dissipates less heat and doesn’t make any noise either, thanks to the 6th Generation Intel® Core™ m3 processor. It’s the same processor which also powered the first fanless MacBook and is built on top of Intel’s next-generation 14nm Skylake architecture. A smaller die size (14nm) means that Intel can fit more transistors into a smaller space, using less power, generating less heat and taking up less space in the chassis. The Core M processor operated at just 4.5 watts of TDP (Thermal Design Power). Lower TDP means not only longer battery life, but less heat to dissipate.
Thus, the Flip UX360 offers a magnificent 6-7 hours of battery life and superb performance. Everythings seems right with the laptop so far, isn’t it? Well, it isn’t. For multitasking, the Flip UX360CA features 4GB of RAM, and that is the root of all problem with the laptop. As I said, it performs well for everything, except when it comes to browsing.
The browsing experience on this laptop is just plain horrible. It keeps suspending the Chrome tabs, and they reload every time you switch. It completely ruins your whole browsing experience and just irritates you to the core. Apart from that, we also came across some other mishaps in relation to Chrome. The chrome application keeps automatically closing down when you close the lid. It is very strange to see and at times even ruined my unsaved work.
The laptop came with Windows 10 Home out-of-the-box and works as fluent as you would expect it to. Well, that’s the case with laptop mode only. The moment you turn the laptop by 360 degrees, it prompts a pop up asking you switch to ‘Tablet Mode’. I really liked this feature, but everything after that just doesn’t feel right. I personally feel Windows is not yet matured to be used as a stable Operating System for tablets. Android, in comparison, offers much better versatility and a better user interface. Apart from flaunting the tablet mode in front of my colleagues, I never really got acquainted with the tablet mode. I just liked the laptop mode more and made peace with it.
The Asus ZenBook Flip UX360CA is a mixed bag. It’s an adventure using such a device. Starting from falling in love with the first glance, even more, while using the keyboard and finally ending up being frustrated with the horrible browsing experience. Keeping the browsing experience aside, it’s a great device with a portable and sturdy build as well as a stunning design. But the browsing experience only would surely keep the device off my buying list. What do YOU think? Tell us in the comments.
Update: On discussing the issue with Asus, we came to realise that our reviewing unit had some problems, hence the browsing issue. We formatted the device and the browsing experience improved drastically. Although it still tends to suspend the tab if left unattended for a long time. So, it’s not perfect but I wouldn’t call it horrible either. Upon further investigating the matter, we came to know that earlier only 2.09GB out of 4GB RAM was available for the user. The same changed to 3.96GB after formatting the device. What made it happen? We’re still not sure.