Asus ZenBook Flip 13 review: A beautiful OLED laptop with one thing missing

Good-bye headset jack, we hardly knew ye.

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

The Asus ZenBook Flip 13 is a beautiful laptop that offers decent battery life, very good graphics, and a lot of pep for most of what you’d do on a small 13-inch convertible laptop.

Unfortunately, you probably won’t remember it for its impressive 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 chip, nor its drop-dead-gorgeous OLED screen. Nope, instead you’ll fixate on something it doesn't have: a 3.5mm analog audio jack.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for informaiton on competing products and how we tested them.

Courage or cost-cutting?

Yes, the same move that Apple claimed as “courageous” on the iPhone 7, Asus has now done to a laptop. And just as other smartphones followed Apple's lead, we expect other PC vendors are watching closely to see how users react to this eviction. 

We have no idea why Asus did this. While Apple did it to save a nickel in production costs on a $1,000 phone and said it was to “save space,” Asus has plenty of space on the ZenBook Flip 13. In fact, alongside the pair of USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports the ZenBook Flip 13 has, Asus fits in a full-size HDMI port as well as a square USB-A port. Maybe if we had to choose we'd prioritize those over an analog jack, but why make us choose at all, Asus?

asus courage 1 Gordon Mah Ung

Mark this day in your calendar folks: Asus’ ZenBook Flip 13 is the first laptop we’ve seen that drops the headset jack.

To make up for it, Asus does include a 3.5mm analog to USB-C dongle that uses a 24-bit ESS DAC. It should yield cleaner audio than an analog circuit in a laptop, which is open to picking up interference. It’s a pure digital dongle, so it’ll work on your Android phone as well.

Asus ZenBook Flip 13 features and specs

With that bile cleared, we can now talk about just how impressive the ZenBook Flip 13 is. Featuring beveled edges with gold accents, the ZenBook Flip 13 feels and looks like a premium laptop that can run with the best of them. Here are the primary specs: 

CPU: Intel 11th-gen quad-core Core i7-1165G7

GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Xe

RAM: 16GB LPDDR4x/4267

Storage: 512GB SK Hynix NVMe PCI Gen 3 SSD

Display: UHD 4K Samsung OLED display with touch and pen support (pen not included)

Battery: 67 Watt-hour

Dimensions: 12 x 8.3 x 0.55 inches (14mm) thick.

Weight: 2.7 pounds. Add another 8 ounces for the power brick.

Ports: Rather than talk about the ports and trigger everyone, we’ll let the pictures tell the story. The left side includes two Thunderbolt 4  and HDMI 2.0.

asus zenbook left Gordon Mah Ung

Bravery. Courage. These are words we don’t associate with taking ports away from consumers.

The right side features a power button and a square USB-A 5Gbps port. And no, there’s no headset jack on the back or front. It’s really gone.

asus zenbook right Gordon Mah Ung

No, really, there’s no headset jack on this side either.

Photographs on a webpage do not do justice to the ZenBook Flip 13's OLED. We have yet to find such a display that didn’t have us swooning. While a 4K-resolution screen on a 13-inch laptop is probably excessive pixel density, it's simply beautiful. Unlike conventional backlit LCDs, OLEDs turn off pixels when not in use, creating deeper blacks and, incidentally, saving power. On the other hand, moving to a bright-white background uses more power. OLED is expensive, but it's nice if you can get it.  

Keyboard and trackpad: An unexpected bonus

Keyboard and trackpad discussions aren't usually very exciting, but the ZenBook Flip 13 carries something very special. Smaller laptops can't squeeze in a 10-key numeric keypad, so Asus offers a virtual grid that lights up with a long press on the upper-right hand corner of the trackpad. Some will say it’s pure gimmick, while others will say it’s better than nothing. It's a very individual choice.

The trackpad is compliant with Microsoft’s Precision touchpad requirements for expanded Windows gestures. It’s a larger trackpad, but we had no issues with palm strikes.

asus zenbook flip Gordon Mah Ung

Gimmick or useful? The trackpad on the ZenBook Flip 13 features a virtual number pad.

The keyboard is a little mushy compared to its thin-and-light competition, but we're still talking subjective taste at this point. The keyboard button assignments are good, with a dedicated button to switch off the camera.

The camera button seems to switch off access to applications, but it doesn’t take the further step of removing the camera from the device manager, which would make it even harder to access. Some laptop makers also slide a shutter over the camera. For most of us, the camera switch will suffice.

ai noise Asus

Asus’ ClearVoice magically removes background noise using AI. Although there is a muffling effect, it works quite well.

Speaker, microphone, webcam

The laptop carries Harman Kardon labelling, suggesting that someone paid attention to the sound coming from the laptop. There appear to be two drivers on the bottom, and both do a decent job. The ZenBook Flip 13 actually sounds better than most gaming laptops twice its weight.

Asus also features AI-based noise cancellation called ClearVoice. We thought it used the noise cancellation available in Intel’s Tiger Lake, but it looks more like Asus proprietary tech. To test it, we played the sound of Ghostbuster’s Ecto1 siren on a phone next to our mouth while recording with ClearVoice turned on. For comparison, we did the same with an HP Elite Dragonfly, which features Bang & Olufsen audio and its own noise-cancellation technology. On the HP, we could still hear the reduced, but distinctive sound of the siren along with our voice. On the ZenBook Flip, the sound of the siren was magically removed.

We should say, however, that even though the sound was removed completely, our voice did suffer greatly with a muffled, digital warbling sound. The laptop also offers to remove background noise from any sound played on the laptop, but we didn’t find that to be as effective.

The ZenBook Flip 13’s webcam isn’t particularly wide-angle. That’s bad for those who want multiple people in a Zoom conference, but it’s good for those who want people to focus on your face rather than the mess in your room. Image quality was fine, but compared to the HP Elite Dragonfly, we found the exposure leaned toward the cold or blue side. The camera itself is part of the IR camera module, so Windows Hello face login is supported. 

asus zenbook flip 13 vs hp dragonfly elite Gordon Mah Ung

HP’s Dragonfly Elite (left) and the Asus ZenBook Flip 13 (right).

Keep reading for performance and battery life.

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Gordon Mah Ung

Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
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