Asus ZenBook Flip UX560

£1,299 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/lketqmr

Tech Advisor - - Contentes - An­drew Wil­liams

The Asus ZenBook Flip UX560 is a strange lap­top, one that wants to be both a trendy slim hy­brid (both a lap­top and a tablet) but pow­er­ful enough to be the main com­puter for most fam­i­lies. It’s the sort of lap­top you might buy if you’re torn be­tween buy­ing a com­puter you can use on the sofa and an all-in-one PC.

The more you think about it in its real-life con­text, the more the Asus ZenBook Flip UX560 makes sense. It can han­dle a bit of ev­ery­thing. There are

a few is­sues that stop us from rec­om­mend­ing it un­con­di­tion­ally, though. The screen is very re­flec­tive due to its dated touch­screen con­struc­tion, it may not be as pow­er­ful as you may ex­pect and build qual­ity in cer­tain ar­eas could be bet­ter.

De­sign

The UX560 is a large, 15.6in lap­top that still wants to be like one of the trendy mod­els you might see be­ing used by some­one in a cof­fee shop. As such, it’s fairly slim, mostly-alu­minium and has a 360-de­gree hinge.

Its hinge bears one of the flashiest bits of de­sign, with or­ganic-look­ing blobs of dark chromed metal around the two main joints. Th­ese seem to be purely dec­o­ra­tive as you can move them slightly with your hands, but they do look neat.

The Asus is oth­er­wise a plain-look­ing lap­top. Its alu­minium lid, un­der­side and key­board sur­round are all sober-look­ing plates of dark metal, leav­ing out the shiny con­cen­tric cir­cles de­sign seen in a lot of ZenBooks. There’s an el­e­gance here miss­ing from most 15in lap­tops, which tend to try to cram-in desk­top-like power into a lap­top frame. The Flip doesn’t.

This is a real life­style lap­top. The hinge opens the screen up to any an­gle you like, in­clud­ing flip­ping the screen all the way around so it sits on the key­board’s back. It’ll make a good mini Net­flix streamer for your bed­side ta­ble, a dig­i­tal cook­book for the kitchen or per­haps a fun dig­i­tal can­vas for the kids.

This kind of de­sign won’t be the right fit for ev­ery­one, par­tic­u­larly those who are now used to work­ing on lap­tops with smaller screens and ap­pre­ci­ate

the low weight. At 2.2kg and just un­der 22mm thick, it’s only slim and light among its 15in peers. But it is dif­fer­ent, and worth­while.

As with some other re­cent Asus lap­tops, though, the UX560’s build is less than per­fect. All that alu­minium feels great, but the key­board does flex more than we’d like. Press down with a fin­ger with mid-level pres­sure and you’ll see the alu­minium bend in­wards. It’s not ideal in a lap­top cost­ing this much.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

The UX560 has con­nec­tions fit­ting for a larger, but non-en­thu­si­ast, lap­top. There are three nor­mal USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C 3.1 and an HDMI. Sec­ondary bits in­clude an SD card slot, head­phone jack and an­other au­dio port for the lit­tle bass am­pli­fier speaker that comes in­cluded. With­out it the sound is pretty un­re­mark­able, with bog-stan­dard vol­ume. With the mini sub­woofer pluggedin the bass rad­i­cally in­creases, get­ting

you a much more pow­er­ful sound. How­ever, the bass does sound quite sep­a­rate from the rest of the sound – it’s still low-grade stuff – so we’d ad­vise get­ting some speak­ers when you can af­ford the up­grade.

What’s miss­ing? There’s no op­ti­cal drive, no fin­ger­print reader and no Eth­er­net port. The fin­ger scan­ner is the only one that would re­ally fit with a lap­top like the UX560, and to date Asus’s lap­top scan­ners have been so-so. We don’t miss this fea­ture.

Key­board and touch­pad

The key­board that is a larger take on the sort of typ­ing sur­face you get with the av­er­age style lap­top. It doesn’t have the deep keys seen in some work­sta­tion mod­els, but they are fairly well-de­fined, have a solid amount of travel, and are ob­vi­ously well-spaced enough for long-form typ­ing.

It is the typ­ing that suf­fers from the UX560’s key­board flex­ing build is­sue, though. If you are a heavy-fin­gered tap­per, the key­board sur­round’s slight move­ments ac­tu­ally make the key­board less clear, less def­i­nite. This seems to be an is­sue with the makes Asus makes 360-de­gree hy­brids in par­tic­u­lar, as the same ef­fect is present in the smaller ZenBook Flip UX360, too. Thank­fully, the ef­fect seems to be most pro­nounced by the num­ber­pad, the part of the key­board you tend to use the least.

Iso­late the key­board from the flex and it’s fine, but that is, of course, not pos­si­ble when you ac­tu­ally use it. It’s worth care­ful thought if you’re a heavy typer.

The key­board has a back­light like most higher-end lap­tops, and the track­pad be­low doesn’t suf­fer from

any of the same qual­ity is­sues. It’s a glass-topped pad, of­fer­ing a smooth glid­ing sur­face, its size is good and there are no ob­vi­ous driver is­sues to make it a pain to use day-to-day.

You will have to get used to its po­si­tion if you’re used to a smaller lap­top, though. Thanks to the num­ber­pad it ac­tu­ally sits to the left, not dead cen­tre.

Dis­play

There are two main is­sues with this lap­top. One is the key­board flex, the other is the way the con­struc­tion of its touch­screen dis­play re­duces the per­cep­tion of dis­play con­trast.

In most phones and tablets, the dis­play layer and touch­screen are fused into a sin­gle com­po­nent. It’s called full screen lam­i­na­tion. You can tell the UX560 doesn’t use this process be­cause when there’s any de­cent amount of am­bi­ent light, the blacks of the screen turn grey.

It’s caused by tiny air gaps in the spa­ces be­tween screen lay­ers, which re­flect some light.

We’ve seen this ef­fect be­fore in the Asus ZenBook UX701, and while it seems less pro­nounced here, it’s still dis­ap­point­ing in a £1,299 lap­top. It dra­mat­i­cally de­creases the punch­i­ness of the screen, which should re­ally be pretty strong as the na­tive con­trast of the dis­play is a per­fectly re­spectable 834:1.

Colour per­for­mance is good too, although not close to the ul­tra-wide gamut abil­i­ties of the 4K Dell XPS 15. The UX560 cov­ers 92 per­cent of sRGB, 67 per­cent Adobe RGB and 72 per­cent of DCI P3. What you re­ally want a nor­mal con­sumer lap­top to do is

to get as close to full sRGB cov­er­age as pos­si­ble, and this is pretty close.

Again, though, the im­pact of that de­cent colour per­for­mance is damp­ened by the con­trast-sap­ping screen style. In a room with low light­ing, it looks great. But if you’ll need to use your lap­top out­doors or in a well-lit of­fice, we wouldn’t rec­om­mend the Flip UX560.

The dis­play doesn’t have the bright­ness for out­doors use any­way, with max in­ten­sity of 285cd/m2. That’s not dis­as­trous, but marks this out as an in­doors lap­top.

This is prob­a­bly all start­ing to sound damn­ing, but needn’t be a deal-breaker if you’re only go­ing to use the UX560 in the house. Don’t for­get it has a touch­screen too, miss­ing from the vast ma­jor­ity of 15in lap­tops.

Per­for­mance

It’s when you look in­side the UX560 that you start to see how this is quite dif­fer­ent to, for ex­am­ple, the Dell XPS 15. Where that lap­top uses one of In­tel’s high-power quad-core lap­top pro­ces­sors, this one has the same kind of U-se­ries model found in smaller, lighter ma­chines.

It’s a dual-core In­tel Core i7-7500U, the topend chip in this fam­ily, which is de­signed to jug­gle per­for­mance with low bat­tery use. If you want a ma­chine to han­dle se­ri­ously pro­ces­sor-in­ten­sive work, this isn’t the kind of lap­top you should buy. It’s meant for the ev­ery­day com­puter user, and is turbo-charged in other ways to suit that sort of user.

In­stead of fo­cus­ing on raw power, Asus has jacked up the RAM and stor­age. 12GB of RAM will let you

run more apps at once, load more browser win­dows, with­out be­ing at risk of slow­ing the com­puter down.

Sim­i­larly, there’s a gi­ant 512GB SSD to keep the OS and your pro­grams load­ing and run­ning quick, plus a huge 2TB hard drive onto which you can dump all your photos, mu­sic and other as­sorted junk. This is a lap­top you can use lazily and care­lessly with­out hav­ing to worry about run­ning out of space.

Any­one who has switched from us­ing an old lap­top with a gi­ant hard to one with a small SSD should be able to ap­pre­ci­ate the ben­e­fit of this setup.

You just need to nail down whether you need the ad­di­tional power of a quad-core CPU rather than more stor­age. If all you do on your com­puter is use Face­book, edit the photos you oc­ca­sion­ally take with your ‘proper’ cam­era, play the oc­ca­sional game and use Mi­crosoft Of­fice, you don’t need a quad-core CPU.

And if there’s a par­tic­u­lar pro app, like 3DS Max or Sonar X, you want to use, the in­ter­net will tell you whether you re­ally the ex­tra power. Most peo­ple don’t.

Our bench­marks tell this story too. In the PC Mark 8 Home test, de­signed to em­u­late nor­mal use, the Asus ZenBook Flip UX560 ac­tu­ally beats the Dell XPS 15 (with quad-core CPU) with 3014 points to the Dell’s 2810. How­ever, the Dell trashes the Asus in the raw CPU per­for­mance bench­mark Geek­bench 4.

The Asus scores 8373 points, the Dell 14049. They’re both great scores, but show you there is a real dif­fer­ence be­tween In­tel’s dual-core and quad-core pro­ces­sors.

This is a lap­top of breadth over depth, and gam­ing is an­other area it lightly touches on. Most hy­brids use

the graph­ics chipsets in­te­grated into their In­tel CPUs, but this one has a sep­a­rate Nvidia GT 940MX GPU.

This is an age­ing, en­try-level graph­ics chip, but does still of­fer a mean­ing­ful per­for­mance boost over the In­tel HD 620 built into the Core i7. For ex­am­ple, where you’ll av­er­age around 22fps in Thief play­ing at 720p res­o­lu­tion with the set­tings min­imised, the Asus UX560 man­ages a far more playable 45fps.

We also see a dou­bling of per­for­mance in Alien: Iso­la­tion, which runs at 720p at around 30fps with in­te­grated graph­ics, but at a fab 61fps av­er­age here. Be­fore you start buy­ing any more Steam bar­gains, th­ese tests were per­formed with the graph­ics dumbed-down, and the res­o­lu­tion re­duced. It’s not how you’d ide­ally want to play them.

With all the op­tions switched back on and the res­o­lu­tion flicked to na­tive 1080p, Alien:Iso­la­tion av­er­ages a just-about-ac­cept­able 26fps av­er­age, and Thief an un­playable 13.6fps. If you’re happy to play games from the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, the Asus ZenBook Flip UX560 will do just fine.

How­ever, new ti­tles will have to be played with the set­tings stripped to the bone. If the aim was to get a slim and light-ish lap­top that trumps the crowd: mis­sion suc­cess.

Bat­tery life

Us­ing a dual-core CPU rather than a quad-core one helps the Flip UX560 use less power. When sim­ply play­ing a 720p video at 120cd/m2 bright­ness, it lasts just un­der eight hours off a charge: seven hours 52 min­utes. That’s an hour-plus longer than the Dell XPS

15. It’s just about enough to get you through a day’s work, and is dra­mat­i­cally bet­ter than most 15in lap­tops, again be­cause of the use of a more ef­fi­cient CPU. Asus has not re­ally cap­i­tal­ized on the ex­tra space in the lap­top to make stamina truly ex­tra­or­di­nary, though.

That’s not to say the space has been wasted, mind. Don’t for­get the Asus ZenBook Flip UX560 has two stor­age drives, not one.

Ver­dict

The ZenBook Flip UX560 is a good lap­top for fam­i­lies, ca­sual com­puter users who don’t want to run out of stor­age and those who think 13in lap­tops are just too small. It’s not for power users, en­thu­si­ast gamers, bar­gain hunters or those who want some­thing truly por­ta­ble. Be­ing there for a spe­cific au­di­ence is not an

is­sue, but there are a cou­ple of stings here. The screen is held back by its dated touch­screen style, which kills screen con­trast in a well-lit room, and like some other re­cent Asus mod­els there’s just a bit too much key­board flex for com­fort.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

15.6in (1920x1080, 282ppi) IPS LCD glossy touch­screen 2.7GHz In­tel Core i7-7500U (3.5GHz boost) 2 cores, 4 threads Win­dows 10 Home 64-bit Nvidia GT940M GPU 2GB 12GB RAM DDR4 2133MHz 512GB SSD 2TB HDD 802.11b/g/n/ac sin­gle-band 2x2 MIMO Blue­tooth 4.1 1x USB-C 3.1 3x USB 3.0 HDMI Kens­ing­ton Se­cu­rity Slot SDXC card slot Stereo speak­ers HD we­b­cam Sin­gle mic 3.5mm head­set jack UK tiled key­board with num­ber­pad Two-but­ton track­pad 57Wh lithium-ion bat­tery, re­mov­able 380x254x21.8mm 2.26kg

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