Asus Zen Book Flip UX560
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.
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 desktoplike 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.
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 typist.
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.
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 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.
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 operating system 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.
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.
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. Andrew Williams
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
802.11b/g/n/ac single-band 2x2 MIMO
1x USB-C 3.1
3x USB 3.0
Kensington Security Slot
SDXC card slot
3.5mm headset jack
UK tiled keyboard with numberpad
57Wh lithium-ion battery, removable
£1,299 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/y9qs7tza