ASUS ZenBook Flip UX461UA
CAST YOUR EYES over today’s PC market and you’ll largely see a tale of woe, but there’s one bright spot among the carnage in the form of 2-in-1s — the only PC category that’s still seeing substantial growth, with detachables and convertibles continuing to steal a lot of customers from the shrinking tablet market. From a consumer perspective, we guess it makes some sense to put a bit of extra money into a laptop to gain the ability to also use it as a tablet — and in some cases, that extra spend will also net you a faster SSD, a more powerful CPU or even, in some cases, a dedicated GPU for better gaming chops..
ASUS’s latest 2-in-1 convertible, the 1.4kg ZenBook Flip UX461UA, is perhaps not quite as comfortable to use in tablet mode as a detachable or a straight-up slate, but for people who will only use the tablet form occasionally, it does perform adequately enough as a tablet to serve comfortably in both modes. There are caveats, with that 14-inch size meaning it’s a little too big to easily hold with one hand (even though it’s light for a laptop, it’s about double the weight of your average highpowered tablet) and, as with all 2-in-1s that use this folded form factor, it’s a little jarring that your supporting-hand has to cling to keyboard keys. The included 1,024 pressure-point stylus and the fully foldable design do make it good as a desktop slate or drawing display, however, which does somewhat help make up for the less-than-ideal handheld tablet experience.
As a laptop, however, the UX461UA looks and feels great, sharing the premium concentric brushed-metal casing of the broader ZenBook line and keeping its compact form factor at an impressively-slim 1.39cm thickness. There’s some clever engineering in the hinge design which folds to give the keyboard face a comfortable typing incline without thickening the overall body design, and although it lacks a built-in Ethernet port (they’re just too chunky to fit), just about every other interface you’d want is there, including: a HDMI-out, one Type-C and two Type-A USB 3.1 ports, a microSD Card slot and a 3.5mm headphone socket.
Despite this compact chassis, that foldable facade conceals a proper mobile series Core i7-8550U CPU (or in its cheaper iteration, a Core i5-8250U) from Intel that is thermally serviced by a single, edge-mounted vent at the left of the keyboard. The speedy CPU was accompanied by 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SanDisk M.2 SSD (connected via the SATA 6Gbps interface) on the model we tested. This is a powerful configuration for a nearly tablet-sized setup, and the new 8th-generation Intel CPU showed a 10% performance boost on last year’s Toshiba Portégé X20W-D (which runs on a Core i7-7600 CPU with the same amount of RAM) in PCMark 8’s Home general-productivity benchmark. Despite those powerful components, the UX461UA manages to last a full 7 hours during video playback tests on balanced power settings, making it a good out-and-about device, too.
While the UX461UA’s CPU is a top bit of kit, a growing selection of premium ultrabooks are beginning to offer dedicated GPUs, so you’ll want to be sure that you prefer the tablet features to being able to lightly game, mine cryptocurrency or 3D model anything. There’s just an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 chip here, which is outperformed by entrylevel dedicated GPUs like Nvidia’s GTX 1050 by anywhere between 100% and 600% across the suite of 3DMark graphics benchmarks.
Thankfully, the price of the UX461UA is competitive against other current 2-in-1s. It undercuts the similarly-specced HP Spectre x360 convertible by about $500 on average, and a comparable fully detachable Surface Pro slate will likewise have an RRP of at least $500 more — and that’s for a machine with only 8GB of RAM. If you’re looking for a laptop that you’ll need to use as a tablet on occasion, then the ZenBook Flip UX461UA is the best value 2-in-1 we’ve come across.