Asus VivoBook Flip 14 2021
“The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is a powerhouse budget laptop despite a disappointing display and build quality.”
- Outstanding productivity performance
- Mostly attractive aesthetic
- Active pen is bundled
- Upgradable RAM and storage
- Mediocre build quality
- Lackluster display
- Below-average battery life
Everyone likes a good budget laptop. They might not seem as exciting as the latest and greatest, but budget-oriented laptops have their place. Not everyone has the res or need for a laptop that costs well over $1,000, but everyone deserves something great. Locating a diamond in the rough can be a lot of fun.
Most manufacturers have a distinct budget lineup, and in the case of Asus, that’s the VivoBook. Recently, the company released the updated VivoBook Flip 14, an AMD-powered 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 that’s meant to offer solid performance and an exciting experience at a budget laptop price.
I reviewed the $629 VivoBook Flip 14 configuration (when Asus offers it on their site, it will retail for $600) that includes an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe SSD, and a 14-inch IPS Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display in the increasingly old-school 16:9 aspect ratio. You can also get a version with a 256GB SSD for just $529. That’s an attractive set of components for the price, but does the VivoBook Flip 14 live up to its value promise?
The VivoBook Flip 14 is mostly plastic, with aluminum alloy lining the lid. You don’t have to get plastic at this price, but it’s not uncommon. Unfortunately, the build quality wasn’t up to the usual Asus standard, with a lid that bends with too little force and can cause LCD distortion, quite a bit of flex in the keyboard deck, and a chassis bottom that gives in to pressure. The similarly priced Acer Swift 3 is more solidly built, and for $300 more or so, you can grab the HP Envy x360 13 that’s also far better built — unsurprisingly, both machines are on our list of best budget laptops. You don’t find many 14-inch 2-in-1s at this price level, and so I can’t think of a direct comparison that we’ve reviewed.
Aesthetically, the VivoBook Flip 14 is a little more impressive, if a bit odd at the same time. It comes in a “Bespoke Black” color scheme that covers 99% of the chassis. There’s a bright silver logo on the lid and some chrome trim around the touchpad, but that’s mostly it. What’s odd is that the Enter key is lined and lettered in lime-green, standing out quite boldly — but I’d say garishly at the same time. And it’s the only element on the laptop to sport that color, so it’s not part of a theme.
If you typically have difficulty finding the Enter key, then the bold coloring will help, but I usually don’t run into that predicament, so the coloring detracts from the aesthetic for me. Even so, I find the VivoBook Flip 14 to be better looking than the Swift 3 and on par with the Envy x360 13. It’s even as attractive as a more expensing laptop like the MSI Prestige 14 Evo and has a more distinctive look than the Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 2-in-1, which is also about $300 more expensive.
The bezels are a little large, with a screen-to-body ratio of 82%. More premium laptops tend toward a 90% ratio or better, but the VivoBook Flip 14 isn’t bad for a budget machine. That does make the chassis a little larger, and it’s not the thinnest or lightest 14-inch laptop at 0.72 inches and 3.31 pounds. The Yoga 7i comes in at 0.69 inches and 3.09 pounds, while the MSI Prestige 14 is 0.63 inches thick and weighs 2.85 pounds.
The Acer Swift 5, another 14-inch clamshell, is a mere 0.59 inches thick and quite light at 2.31 pounds — it’s also twice as expensive. Looking at our budget competition, the Acer Swift 3 is 0.63 inches thick and weighs 2.65 pounds, and the HP Envy x360 13 is 0.65 inches thick and weighs 2.92 pounds. Clearly, the VivoBook Flip 14 doesn’t win the thin-and-light battle.
Asus incorporated its ErgoLift hinge into the VivoBook Flip 14, which is a nice touch given the general complexity of the 360-degree hinge. It works well, lifting the keyboard deck to a more comfortable typing angle and theoretically giving additional room underneath for airflow — except there aren’t any vents on the laptop’s bottom. Rather, air is drawn in via the keyboard, and so there aren’t the usual thermal benefits. Anyway, the hinge is a bit stiff, and the lid requires two hands to open, but it does a respectable job of holding the display in place in clamshell, tent, media, and tablet modes.
Asus also built in some upgradability. The SSD slot is readily accessible if you want to upgrade storage at some point, and of the review unit’s 8GB of RAM, 4GB is soldered on the motherboard, and the other 4GB plugs in. So, you can swap that out for an 8GB chip if needed and increase your RAM to 12GB. The maximum available is 16GB, which of course must be configured when ordering the laptop.
Connectivity is good, with one USB-A 2.0 port, a USB-A 3.2 port, a USB-C Gen 2 port, a full-size HDMI 1.4 connection, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader. A proprietary connector provides power, and given the AMD chipset, there’s no Thunderbolt support. Wireless connectivity is a bit behind the times, with Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.2.
The VivoBook Flip 14 equipped the first six-core Ryzen 5 5500U CPU that we’ve tested, and I was looking forward to seeing how it compares to Intel’s various Tiger Lake variants and the Ryzen 7 line. I came away impressed.
It didn’t dominate in Geekbench 5, with the lower single-core score and more competitive multi-core result typical of AMD chips. It came in third in the comparison group, behind the Asus ZenBook 13 UM325UA with an eight-core Ryzen 7 5800U that dominated and the MSI Prestige 14 Evo with its quad-core Intel Core i7-1185G7. In PCMark 10, the VivoBook Flip 14 came in second behind the ZenBook 13, and it scored particularly well in the Content Creation portion of that test. According to these results, the Ryzen 5 5500U is competitive with Intel’s Core i7 and much faster than the Core i5.
In two particularly CPU-intensive apps, Handbrake and Cinebench R23, the VivoBook Flip 14 was particularly impressive. In the Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, the Asus was 31 seconds faster than the Prestige 14 Evo and only seven seconds behind the ZenBook 13. The results were similar in the demanding Cinebench R23 test where, at least in multicore mode, the VivoBook Flip 14 came in a close second to the ZenBook 13 and was significantly faster than the Prestige 14 Evo. And the Ryzen 5 5500U is a real step up from the previous generation, making the VivoBook Flip 14 an impressive budget performer.
As with all the recent Ryzen laptops we’ve reviewed, the VivoBook Flip 14 excels at CPU-intensive tasks and will churn through the typical productivity workflow. It can tackle creative applications as well, although its Radeon Graphics won’t offer much in the way of boosting applications that can utilize the GPU. That’s also true of Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics, of course. In this comparison group, only the HP Envy 14 with its Nvidia GeForce GTX-1650 Ti will bring real value to those applications. Everywhere else, the VivoBook Flip 14 will perform exceptionally well, especially given its $630 price.
|PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|Asus VivoBook Flip 14
(Ryzen 5 5500U)
|MSI Prestige 14 Evo (Core i7-1185G7)||1593/5904||162||1479/6680||4866||1465|
|Acer Swift 3 2020 (Ryzen 7 4700U)||1120/4831||152||N/A||N/A||975|
|HP Envy x360 13 (Ryzen 5 4500U)||1101/4485||176||N/A||N/A||902|
|Asus ZenBook 13 UM325UA
(Ryzen 7 5800U)
|HP Envy 14 2020 (Core i5-1135G7)||1398/4741||190||1343/5028||5178||3147|
One area that won’t impress is gaming. The 3DMark Time Spy test result isn’t anything to write home about, and the VivoBook Flip 14 was a weak performer in Fortnite. It managed just 25 frames per second (fps) at 1080p and medium graphics, in line with laptops equipped with Intel Iris Xe graphics. It hit 15 fps in epic graphics, again equivalent to Intel’s integrated GPU. Simply put, the VivoBook Flip 14 isn’t a gaming laptop at any price.
Spend $630 on a laptop, and you’re going to give something up. Usually, a major compromise shows up in display quality, and the VivoBook Flip 14 is no exception.
First, it’s not very bright, at just 230 nits (we like to see 300 nits or more). That’s almost identical to the Acer Swift 3’s 233 nits, and so the VivoBook Flip 14 isn’t alone among budget laptops in having a dim display. The contrast is also poor at 720:1, below the Swift 3’s 770:1 and well below our preferred 1000:1 threshold. The Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 was even worse at 690:1, demonstrating that it’s not just true budget laptops that suffer from poor contrast.
Next were the VivoBook Flip 14’s colors, which were incredibly narrow. Coverage of the Adobe RGB gamut came in at just 50%, and of the sRGB gamut at just 66%. That’s well below the 70% and 95%, respectively, that we typically see as a minimum with midrange and premium laptops — and the HP Envy x360 13 that’s on our best budget list hit 71% and 96%, which is much better. I’ll note that, again, the Swift 3 was in the same class as the Asus at 48% and 64%. The VivoBook Flip 14’s color accuracy was better at a Delta E of 2.62 (1.0 or less is considered excellent) than the Swift 3’s 4.76, while the Envy x360 13 managed a lower 2.26.
Subjectively, the VivoBook Flip 14’s display wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either. It’ll do for web browsing and productivity apps, but that’s about it. Watching media on the 2-in-1 wasn’t a terrible experience either, despite the poor colors and contrast.
Two downward-firing speakers provide audio with Harman Kardon tuning. The speakers get loud, but they also get distorted, with crackling at any volume above 80%. Highs were blown out and mids were subdued, giving a tinny sound. Of course, there was no bass to speak of. You’ll be okay with system sounds and the occasional YouTube video, but for anything else, you’ll want headphones or a pair of Bluetooth speakers.
Keyboard and touchpad
The VivoBook Flip 14’s keyboard is eerily reminiscent of HP’s Spectre keyboard, which is a good choice if intentional. It enjoys good spacing, large keys with attractive and legible lettering, and a row of Home, PgUp, PgDn, End, and Fn keys on the very right-hand side. Unfortunately, while it may look like a Spectre keyboard, it doesn’t quite feel like one. There’s plenty of travel and a nice click to the switches, but the bottoming action is too abrupt. There’s no crisp bounce like you get from HP, and the overall typing experience isn’t nearly as comfortable. I’d rate this keyboard a few steps behind the Spectre and Dell XPS keyboards and way behind Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the latest MacBooks. I’ll note that the three-step backlighting is even and useful.
To put it bluntly, the touchpad is way too small. There’s so much room left on the keyboard deck for a larger version, and the small size is exacerbated by the fingerprint reader stuck up in the right-hand corner. The touchpad is a Microsoft Precision version, so it works well with good support for Windows 10 multitouch gestures, but it’s just tiny.
The display is touch enabled, of course, this being a 2-in-1, and an Asus active pen is included in the box. It supports Windows 10 inking well, with smooth strokes and precise response.
The aforementioned fingerprint reader provides Windows 10 Hello passwordless login support. It was fast and accurate during my testing, and it was welcome on such an inexpensive laptop.
Asus only packed 42 watt-hours worth of battery into the VivoBook Flip 14, which isn’t a lot for a 14-inch display, even at Full HD resolution, and a powerful CPU. I wasn’t expecting great battery life.
Starting with our web browsing test that loops through a series of popular websites, the VivoBook Flip 14 lasted for nine hours. That’s a little less than average for this class of machine but not a terrible result. The Acer Swift 3 managed just eight hours, while the HP Envy x360 13 made it to a little over nine hours. In our video test that plays a Full HD Avengers trailer until the battery dies, the VivoBook Flip 14 went for 12 hours, again a bit less than average but not too disappointing compared to the Swift 3’s 10 hours. The Envy x360 13 beat out both at 13 hours.
In the PCMark 10 Gaming test that pushes the CPU and GPU, the VivoBook Flip 14 lasted for just over two hours, which is average for the test. The Lenovo Yoga 7i made it to just over 2.5 hours, and we didn’t test either the Swift 3 or the Envy x360 13 with this benchmark. In the PCMark 10 Applications test, which is the best indicator of productivity battery life, the VivoBook Flip was — again — below average at just over nine hours. That still beat out the Yoga 7i’s 8.5 hours.
Overall, the VivoBook Flip 14 was just a hair behind the pack in terms of battery life. It will likely last you a full day of work if you don’t push the CPU too hard, but it definitely suffers from the small battery. Again, though, this is a budget laptop, and so the results are pretty good when the price is kept in mind.
The VivoBook Flip 14 is really, really fast for a $630 laptop. Its build isn’t the best, its battery life lags, and its keyboard isn’t among my favorites. But a laptop that performs like this for so little money shouldn’t be disregarded.
If you have a demanding productivity workflow or use the occasional creative application, then the VivoBook Flip 14 will give you the performance you’re looking for. And nothing else is so bad about the laptop that you should be dissuaded from giving it serious consideration.
Are there any alternatives?
I’ll start with the Asus ZenBook 13 OLED UM325UA. It’s not a 2-in-1, but it’s just $170 more for a color-accurate OLED display, a faster AMD Ryzen 7 5800U CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive. If your budget isn’t so tight and you don’t really need a 2-in-1, then the ZenBook 13 is a great option.
If you need a 2-in-1 and your budget is limited, then the HP Envy x360 13 is a solid alternative. It’s also a bit more expensive, but you get better performance, better battery life, and a better display. What’s not to like?
How long will it last?
The VivoBook Flip 14 isn’t the most solidly built laptop we’ve tested, but it’s not bad for a budget machine. It won’t stand up to extreme abuse, but it should last for several years given the normal wear and tear of home and office use. You won’t be surprised by the limited one-year warranty.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you don’t need a color-accurate display and you’re strapped for cash. The VivoBook Flip 14’s outstanding performance makes up for a lot of its flaws.