With the Zenbook Flip UX360UA Asus targets the popular segment of mid-level ultraportables with a 2-in-1 form factor, ruled in the last years by devices like the HP Spectre 13 x360, Lenovo Yoga 900/910 or the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Spin.
Just like the competition, the UX360UA gets solid looks and construction, a touchscreen, Intel Kabylake hardware and a large battery. And knowing Asus’s past pricing policies, I expect this unit to sell for less than its rivals, especially in the US.
The laptop is scheduled for release towards the end of September, beginning of October 2016, but I already spent time with a pre-release version of it and will let you know what I think about it in this article. The retail versions will ship with Intel Kabylake hardware as the UX360UA or UX360UAK in some regions, yet our preview unit is built on a Skylake platform, thus the performance and battery life results will differ on the final product, but all the other aspects should remain the same.
I’ll update this post as soon as the final version of the UX360UAK is released and I get to test it. In the meantime though, here’s what to expect from the Zenbook UX360UA series.
Note: Asus also offers a Zenbook Q324UA in the US, which is identical to the Flip UX360UA, but with a darker exterior. This looks primarily like a BestBuy exclusive, albeit it’s also available on Amazon.com.
Note: Asus also offers a Zenbook Flip UX360CA series, already available in stores. While they are part of the same UX360 series, the UX360UA is different in a few ways, including the fact that is built on a more powerful and fan-cooled Core U platform, while the UX360CA is built on fanless Intel Core M hardware. Check out our detailed review for more details.
Specs as reviewed
|Asus Zenbook Flip UX360UA (UX360UAK update)|
|Screen||13.3 inch, 3200 x 1080 px, IPS, touch, glossy|
|Processor||Intel Skylake Core i7-6500U CPU (Kabylake Core U update)|
|Video||Intel HD 520 (HD 620 with Kabylake)|
|Memory||8 GB LPDDR3 (soldered)|
|Storage||512 M.2 SATA SSD (80 mm)|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC (Intel AC 7265), Bluetooth 4.1|
|Ports||2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 gen 1, HDMI, mic/headphone, SD card reader|
|Operating system||Windows 10|
|Size||321 mm or 12.63” (w) x 219 mm or 8.62” (d) x 13.9 mm or 0.54” (h)|
|Weight||2.79 lbs (1.27 kg)|
|Extras||backlit keyboard, HD webcam, available in two colors: Rose Gold and Grey|
Design and first look
The UX360UA looks and feels pretty much like you’d expect from a Zenbook. In more words, it’s a metallic laptop with a rippled pattern on the hood spurring from the chromed Asus logo and a fairly scratch resistant matte aluminum interior. It’s also light, has a thin profile and is fairly well built, although there are more solid options out there, albeit most of them with a traditional form-factor.
The Zenbook UX360UA is Asus’s ultraportable 2-in-1 laptop
This laptop is built on a plastic inner frame (does not get an unibody construction), with solid sheets of metal as the outer shell, and a keen eye will notice a little flex in the keyboard area and a little more in the hood. I can spot these because I’ve tested so many other laptops in the past and know how some are sturdier than others, but I don’t think the average user would have anything to complain about this notebook’s build quality and finishing, which are above average to say the least.
The color on the other hand, that’s something else. Our version comes in Rose Gold, which might not appeal to everyone. If that’s not up your alley, Asus also offer the UX360UA in a darker Grey version, which will however show smudges and fingerprints much easier than the Rose model, a master at concealing them.
These aside, the Zenbook Flip UX360UA is practical and well designed. The screen converts to 360 degrees on the back, a standard feature for convertibles. What I appreciated though is how you can actually lift up the screen with a single hand while the laptop sits on a flat surface and how strong those tiny hinges are.
In fact, I’ve been told Asus are pretty proud of these redesigned hinges, meant to offer smooth transition between modes while also keeping the screen firmly in place once you set it up in a certain position. They performed remarkably well in my short experience with the laptop and I sure hope they’ll prove to be reliable as well, on the long term. I’ve added a few pics of their internal mechanism below, if curious.
There are two more details I noticed and I wanted to share. First, if you’ll look at this laptop from the profile, you’ll see how the screen half is pushed a millimeter forward on top of the bottom half, leaving a small wedge for users to grab the screen and lift it up. And second, check out how well the screen fits on top of the bottom half in tablet mode. These minor aspects might not sound like much, but actually make the computer more comfortably to use everyday.
The IO is pretty good here too, despite the slim profile and the fact that a big part of the left edge is occupied by the hot air exhaust grill. You’ll still find two USB 3.0 slots on the edges, the power button and volume rocker on the left, plus the PSU, a full-size HDMI connector, the headphone/mic combo jack, an USB 3.1 slot and an SD-card reader on the right.
I advise you to deactivate the Power Button if you don’t want to accidentally put the computer to sleep when grabbing it, the card reader still won’t fit an entire SD card inside (standard for 13-inch Zenbooks) and the USB 3.1 is not Thunderbolt 3 compatible, at least not on the Skylake model we have here.
One other aspect to mention in this section is the underbelly. It gets four slim rubber feet, not very grippy but good enough to keep the laptop in place on a desk, the speaker cuts on the sides and an air-intake grill towards the back, running on top of the heatpipe and fan.
Overall, Asus did a really good job designing this notebook. It feels nicer and stronger than the Lenovo Yoga 900 series in my opinion, it’s slimmer and lighter than the HP Spectre X360 and it comes close to the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Spin in terms of build quality. As for looks, well, that’s for everyone to judge, but I sure doubt anyone could call this ugly.
Keyboard and trackpad
After typing several thousands words on it, I can say that the keyboard on this Zenbook suits my style of typing better than any other ultraportable laptop keyboard I’ve tested in the last months. The feedback is just right for my taste, the keys’ finishing is matte and grippy, the click is firm and responsive, the drop is adequate at 1.5 mm, and besides all these, I like that the keys are actually a little wider than on most other notebooks. They are rectangular in shape and measure 16 x 14 mm, compared to the 14 x 14 mm ones on the Dell XPS 13.
On the other hand, this keyboard is a little noisy, with especially the space key clattering on each hit.
This is a great keyboard
However, I have a nit with the color scheme. I’m not a fan of silver keyboards on silver backgrounds because it makes keys hard to read, especially when the white backlightning is active. With the illumination switched off, you’ll probably find the keys easily, but with it active, you’ll struggle. Now, advanced users that can type without looking at the keys won’t be bothered by this aspect, yet I still think Asus kind of sacrificed usability for aesthetics here.
Keep in mind that only the Rose Gold version of this laptop gets a silver keyboard, while the Grey version gets black keys.
As for the trackpad, it performed surprisingly well on this Zenbook. I came to the conclusion that trackpads on Asus laptops are hit and miss. You can end up with an erratic surface or with one that works just fine, and the difference between them is usually software based, as the hardware is most of the time a Microsoft Precision certified trackpad made by Elan on these laptops.
So while this won’t necessarily speak for all UX360UAs, the trackpad on this test version is accurate, responsive and precise. Its surface is cut out from the palm-rest by beveled edges, feels smooth and handles well swipes, flicks, gestures and taps. Physical clicks are not stiff or noisy either.
There is however one particular case where I found this surface isn’t up to par. If you’re one of those persons who rest their index finger on the bottom strip of a trackpad, the area you’d usually press for clicks, you’ll find that the cursor would occasionally jump or lag when swiping with another finger, and also performing gestures while having the index finger on the surface isn’t always going to work properly either.
You’ll find this laptop in stores with either 1920 x 1080 px or 3200 x 1800 px IPS touchscreens. We had the latter for this test, with an LG Philips LP133QD1-SPB2 panel, very similar to the one on the Zenbook UX330 tested a while ago, so there’s no surprise the test results were pretty much identical, as you can see below.
Note: Keep in mind we have a pre-production sample of the UX360UA here, the final retail products might get a different panel. We’ll update this section once we know more.
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LGD0512 (LP133QD1-SPB2);
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 77% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 265 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 390:1;
- White point: 7900 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.68 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 3.46 uncalibrated, 2.06 calibrated.
This display is not very bright, so you’ll struggle to use the laptop outdoors, especially given the glare and reflections caused by the protective glass on top of the screen. The contrast isn’t very good either, as blacks are washed out and for me that was actually visible with the naked eye. On top of these, the colors aren’t well calibrated out of the box and get a strong blue tint. Our calibrated color profile addresses that to some extent, but don’t expect wonders.
Overall though, this screen is going to be good enough for browsing, multimedia content and other sorts of activities, as long as you’ll keep the laptop indoors or use it in dim to medium lit environments. If you want a very bright or color accurate panel though, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
This particular version of the UX360UA came with a Core i7-6500U processor, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB M.2 SATA SSD, which is standard for a high-end Skylake Zenbook. If you’re reading this post later into 2016 or in 2017, you’ll be interested in the Kabylake version and we’ll update this section once we know more about Kabylake and how it performs compared to the Skylake hardware.
Most details are similar between the two platforms though. For instance, the CPU and RAM cannot be upgraded, but the storage can. You’ll have to take care of the Torx T5 screws on the back for that and pop-open the back panel to get to the internals, where you’ll also find a replaceable Wi-Fi chip. There are no screws beneath the rear rubber feet, like on other Zenbooks.
Be careful when removing the back panel though, as it is physically tied to the motherboard by two cables. From what I can tell, the wireless antennas are placed behind the plastic strip towards the rear of the back panel and connected to the wireless module with those two cables (see the last picture in the next gallery).
Asus uses an M.2 80mm SSD with a B-M key on this laptop, that only supports SATA 3 speeds. However, as noticeable in the pictures, the SSD connector on the motherboard uses an M-key and thus faster PCIe SSDs are theoretically compatible as well.
Despite the slow SSD by today’s standards, the computer performs well in daily tasks. We had the Core i7 configuration, but the Core i5 models are well capable of handling standard chores as well and in fact those are the ones I recommend, as they run a little cooler. Just keep in mind there’s a lot of bloatware on this computer, preinstalled software that you should get rid of in order to get the best performance out of it. For the purists in you, I even recommend a clean Windows install.
Among the preinstalled apps, there’s one called Asus SwitchLock which you should keep. It determines when you convert the screen past 180 degrees and once that happens, automatically switches the laptop to Windows 10’s Tablet mode and deactivates the keyboard and trackpad, and then switches them back once you get back to the Laptop mode. However, I noticed that at times the trackpad remains inactive after the switch, but there’s a solution: enter Tablet mode manually and then switch back to Laptop in order to get the cursor working again. Something to keep in mind.
We’re not going to get into benchmarks results, since this is a pre-production model and doesn’t get the best of drivers. I will tell you that the laptop performs just as you’d expect from this platform, can handle multitasking, browsing, office use, multimedia content and even games and more demanding software like Photoshop, Mathlab and others, as long as you keep projects small. In the pictures below you’ll find more details on how the computer performs and the temperatures reached by the CPU and GPU in some of these tasks.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
Just like most other Asus ultraportables, this Zenbook runs cool in daily use and can rest on your lap without a problem, but its fan is too aggressive for my liking. I expect a good computer to be able to run basic tasks passively nowadays, without requiring the fan to spin. My XPS 13 does that. The Zenbook UX360 does not, even when performing the most simplest of chores, like editing a text document. Now, the fan isn’t noisy and it’s not going to bother you in a standard environment, but if you work in a quiet place you’ll hear it.
Under heavy load, the fan spins faster, but even so is far from being noisy and is easily covered by the speakers. The laptop’s case gets warm and even hot in some places, reaching temperatures of around 45 degrees in certain spots, but that’s not bad for such a thin computer and definitely in line with most competitors. So there’s nothing to complain about the acoustics and thermals under load, but I still think the fan can be tweaked to fire later in daily use and offer a fanless experience in most basic activities.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
Connectivity wise there’s WiFi AC and Bluetooth 4.1 on this laptop. Asus went for a dual-band Intel AC 7265 wireless module which performed flawlessly in my tests, without any drops, disconnects or unusual behavior. The signal strength and speeds drop once you get further away from the router, but even at 30 feet with 2 walls in between I never felt the connection bottlenecking, as with a few other laptops tested in the past. Keep in mind my apartment has really thick walls, so your experience should be more positive in your environment.
The speakers on this laptop are pretty good and overall a step up from those on the UX360CA. They are not very loud (85 dB max volume at head level in our tests), but they sound OK and don’t distort or push any vibrations into the frame at high-volumes. However, due to how they are positioned, there’s the possibility you will obstruct these when using the laptop on your lap. It didn’t happen to me often, but it can happen.
The headphone jack works as expected too, with no hiss or background noise.
Asus provides an AudioWizard app that allows tweaking of the sound output and includes several audio profiles. The Music one sounds best to my ears, which is the one that was active out of the box on this unit. However, there’s a chance the OFF profile might be active by default on your device, and in this case the speakers are going to sound muted, so make sure you check the settings in AudioWizard before anything else.
I’m also going to mention the webcam, which is pretty crap, capturing washed out pictures with little detail. It will do for occasional calls, but not if you require quality or want to use it in dim rooms. The microphones are placed beneath the panel and capture voices fine, but they’re not capable of isolating typing noise very well, since they are so closely positioned to the keys.
There’s a 57 Wh battery on this laptop and that’s enough for 5 to 10 hours of daily use on a charge on this configuration. We set the screen’s brightness at roughly 120 nits (40%) and here are the results we got:
- 6.5 W (~8 h 45 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.7 W (~8 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.7 W (~10 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.9 W (~8 h 15 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12.6 W (~4 h 30 min of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
If battery life is important for you, look for the configuration with a Core i5 processor and the FHD screen, as the QHD panel is significantly more power hungry.
Asus bundles this Zenbook with a 45 W adapter with fixed prongs (not retractable in any way) and a full-charge takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Price and availability
The Zenbook Flip UX360UA is available in some regions of the world, both with Skylake and with Kabylake hardware (Core i5-7200U and Core i7-7500U processors).
Over here in Europe a Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage goes for around 1000 EUR, so I’d expect something similar to sell for around $800-$900 in the US, where Asus usually have a very aggressive pricing policy. Follow this link for more details.
However, as the time of this latest update the UX360UA is not available in the US, where Asus offers a Q324UA model, similar in every way to the unit tested here, but with a darker exterior. This is available with a Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage space for between $1200 to $1400, and you can find more about it via this link.
Expect the Zenbook Flip UX360UA to be more affordable than the competition
While it’s too soon to draw a final conclusion on the Zenbook Flip UX360UA, I can tell you I’m happy with what I’ve seen in this pre-production sample. It checks many of the right boxes, and those that it doesn’t, like the rather poor and dim screen and the aggressive fan, might actually be addressed in the final retail versions or might not even bother most of you anyways.
Overall though, I feel this Zenbook is one of the best 13-inch convertibles you could get in the second half of 2016. It looks great and it feels well built, is comfortable to use as both a laptop and a tablet, is fast, runs cool in daily use, lasts for a long while on a charge, gets an excellent keyboard and a pretty good trackpad too, and last but not least, is probably going to have a good price tag as well.
The Zenbook Flip UX360UA is one of the best 2-in-1 convertibles available out there
The Spectre X360 has been my 2-in-1 of choice for a long while now and in comparison, this Zenbook is more portable and sells for less, so there’s a fair chance it might be a better pick for the average user. However, it’s too early to tell if this is going to be a hit, without knowing more about the Kabylake platform and without having exact details on the panel Asus will put on this computer or the potential quality-control issues that users might run into, an aspect that has plagued Asus products in the past.
Even so, put the Zenbook Flip UX360UA on your shortlist if you plan to buy a convertible this year.
I’ll update the article once we get more details and once we get a final-version of this notebook for review. In the meantime, get in touch in the comments section if you have any questions or anything to add to the post, I’m around to reply.