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Asus VivoBook Flip 14 (2021) review: Ambitious ultraportable with some flaws
Asus VivoBook Flip 14 (2021)
What we like
What we don't like
The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is a bit of an odd man out in the VivoBook lineup. It’s a premium offering in a lineup full of low-key-looking home and office laptops. It is pretty much the top-of-the-line laptop you can get under the VivoBook brand. Asus has a few Flip models in its lineup, but the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is the most affordable one of the lot that runs Windows. You get the 2-in-1 design, which means a touchscreen and a 360-degree hinge that “Flips” the screen back to let you use it in tablet mode.
Buying guide: Asus laptop lineup explained
Now refreshed with AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors, the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 brings even more performance in the same thin-and-light chassis, making it a really peppy little machine. Asus hasn’t played around with the formula, keeping the same design, and merely bumping up the internals. On paper, it looks great, performs well, and promises incredible value for money.
The question is — should you spend your money on one? Let’s dive into Android Authority’s Asus VivoBook Flip 14 (2021) review.
What you need to know about the Asus VivoBook Flip 14
- Asus VivoBook Flip 14 TM420 (AMD Ryzen 5000 series): Prices starting from $599/Rs. 59,990
The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 TM420 has three AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPU options: the 5300U (in some markets), the 5500U, and the 5700U. Asus has just one color option here — Bespoke Black. The Flip form factor means this laptop has a touchscreen, and the Asus Pen stylus comes in the box. You can either kick back the hinge to make the laptop stand up, or fold it all the way and use it as a tablet.
The lid of the laptop is made out of metal, while the base gets the plastic treatment. Notable optional features include a backlit keyboard, a virtual Numpad integrated into the touchpad, and a fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello biometric login. You get all the important ports, with Ethernet being the only exception.
There’s a microSD card reader on board, and we also get Harman/Kardon stereo speakers. The laptop weighs in at 3.31lbs (1.50kg).
Prices start at $599/Rs. 59,990, and the laptop is now available in the USA and India, as well as other regions where Asus has a presence.
How is the design?
With the Asus VivoBook Flip 14, there’s no denying the design is the most important factor. The lightweight chassis definitely complements the 360-degree hinge. Even in the fully folded tablet mode, it’s surprisingly wrist-friendly. The prime issue with this mode is that the lid has sharp corners, which means you can only grab the laptop by its sides — a considerable design oversight.
Those sharp edges are also a part of what gives this laptop its clean look, though. The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is rather pleasant to look at, be it the screen, the muted chassis design, or the keyboard that goes along with it. It also feels very balanced, with solid weight distribution backed by a sturdy hinge.
Also read: The best new laptops to look forward to
However, good looks aren’t everything. The design oversights in this model don’t end with sharp corners. The hinge, while sturdy, can make the lid a pain to open. The recess provided for opening the lid simply slips away from you, leaving you to use your nails to get the lid open.
The base chassis is plastic with only the lid being metal. I faced a peculiar problem with the plastic part of the chassis. A marketing sticker on the right palm rest, highlighting features of the laptop, peeled away during my use, leaving some nasty adhesive residue and a stain that seems fairly permanent. I have never seen this issue before on any laptop I’ve ever used, and this could be an issue limited to the review unit I received. Regardless, the staining raises some concerns about how the plastic body will handle palm grease and other points of contact over time.
How is the screen?
The Flip form factor of the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 puts the screen at the center of this device. However, the screen often fails to impress. It’s a Full HD panel, making it pretty crisp for the 14-inch size. My issue with the panel was more with the color. It only covers 45% of the NTSC color gamut, making it rather dull for a laptop that has great media consumption promise.
What’s even worse here is that the display only hits 250 nits of brightness. I didn’t face any issues with the brightness and gloss while indoors. However, this device has some serious limitations when it comes to outdoor use.
The glossy glass combined with poor brightness levels meant that this laptop was barely usable outdoors, even when the weather was rather cloudy.
Coming to the touchscreen and stylus experience, it was acceptable. The touch accuracy is solid, and the bundled Asus Pen is a pleasure to use. Windows 10 still isn’t great with touch, and the in-built tablet mode doesn’t do any favors for usability. The Asus Pen comes with a nifty tiny sleeve with a magnet, which you can use to attach the pen to the metal lid of the laptop. While I’m not a touchscreen user when I’m on a laptop, I particularly enjoyed this attachment solution from Asus. It almost made me want to use the pen more.
How is the battery life?
This is where the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 impresses. My workload is rather light, and the Flip 14 managed to give me a battery life of between eight to 10 hours, consistently. This included a ton of open browser tabs in the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, with a solid bit of Full HD video playback on YouTube going on from time to time.
Even when I tried to push the Flip 14, it still got very close to the eight-hour mark. Unless you’re doing some heavy work like video editing, the battery should last you for a full working day.
See also: The best laptop deals
Even if your workload results in less-than-stellar battery life, fast charging should help make up for it. Asus promises a 60% charge from a “low battery” in 49 minutes. In my testing, the laptop went from under 10% to full in about an hour and 15 minutes.
The battery life and quick top-up certainly earn this laptop a few brownie points.
How powerful is it?
The Ryzen 5 5500U that I tested is the latest from AMD, sitting in the low-power mobile chip series. It has ample performance on board, and for general-purpose usage, you’re unlikely to hit any snags.
However, there’s an issue with AMD’s chips that seems to considerably water down the performance when on battery. I noticed between a 40-50% drop in performance when benchmarked on battery vs AC power. SSD speeds dropped a bit as well. Although that was the case, I didn’t notice any performance drops with my workload.
Note that this is not quite an issue with the laptop itself, but instead with the way AMD configures its processors. Asus has performance profiles in its MyAsus app that let you squeeze out some extra performance from this chip.
The port selection is decent. The inclusion of a microSD 4.0 card reader is a nice touch. The only major omission here is an Ethernet port. I would have expected to see at least a collapsible version of it. The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 does come with a Wi-Fi 6 network card which somewhat makes up for the lack of Ethernet.
- Biometrics: The fingerprint sensor is great, waking Windows 10 from Sleep mode in less than a second most of the time.
- Keyboard: The keyboard is not too bad, but the 1.35mm travel leaves you wanting, and there’s way too much deck flex, although it’s not too much of an issue while typing.
- Speakers: The Harman/Kardon speakers are better than the average laptop speakers, but not so good at the lows.
- Webcam: The 720p camera is not the worst you can get at this price, but the image looks dull and smoothened.
- Windows 10: You get the usual Windows 10 Pro with the MyAsus app, MS Office 2019 Home & Student edition, and a subscription to McAfee LiveSafe for a year.
Asus VivoBook Flip 14 (2021) specs
|Asus VivoBook Flip 14 TM420 (2021)|
|Display||14-inch IPS-level LED-backlit LCD|
1,920 x 1,080 resolution
45% NTSC color gamut
250 nits peak brightness
Touch support with Asus Pen included
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 3 5300U - 4 cores / 8 threads, 2.6GHz base clock, 3.8GHz boost (select markets)|
AMD Ryzen 5 5500U - 6 cores / 12 threads, 2.1GHz base clock, 4.0GHz boost
AMD Ryzen 7 5700U - 8 cores / 16 threads, 1.8GHz base clock, 4.3GHz boost
|GPU||AMD Radeon Graphics|
|RAM||Up to 8GB DDR4 on board, up to 8GB DDR4 SO-DIMM, (16GB max) |
|Storage||Up to 512GB/1TB PCIe 3.0 SSD (depending on market)|
|Charging||65W via AC adapter|
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (dual-band Wi-Fi 6)
|Biometrics||Fingerprint scanner embedded into touchpad|
|Ports||1x USB 2.0 Type-A|
1 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A
1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C
1 x HDMI 1.4
3.5mm Audio Jack Combo
MicroSD Card Reader
|Dimensions and weight||324mm x 220mm x 18.2mm|
Value and competition
With prices starting at $599/Rs. 59,990, the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is not quite a unique offering. While it stands out when compared to other VivoBook laptops, it falls short when compared to its competition. This segment is quite packed, so you have a ton of options, which is a good thing given the shortcomings of this laptop.
Competitors include the Acer Spin 3 ($552), the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 ($519), and HP‘s Pavilion x360 14 ($749). The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 is the best alternative you can get to the Flip 14. It has also been refreshed with Ryzen 5000 processors and offers similar weight and dimensions.
Also read: The best laptops you can buy
If you are to buy this laptop, it would make sense to pick the cheapest configuration available as it provides the best value. The base model will get you the Ryzen 5 5500U processor. Some markets also have configurations with Ryzen 3 5300U available. The cheapest model will limit the onboard storage. However, you will be able to find it for cheaper than the starting price tag of $599.99, making it the best value among all the refreshed Flip 14 models.
The costlier models come with higher storage options and a processor upgrade to the Ryzen 5 5700U. There’s definitely a performance boost that comes with those upgrades. However, the value for money thins out given the drawbacks of this laptop, especially the dim display. So if you’re set on the Asus VivoBook Flip 14, look out for the cheapest Ryzen 5000 series processor-equipped configuration you can find.
The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is not terrible value for the price. In terms of value, it gets it all right on paper. However, a few key issues with the laptop keep it from being the home run hit that it can be, especially in a segment that is very competitive.
Asus VivoBook Flip 14 (2021) review: The verdict
The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is a premium-looking offering from Asus. As we have come to expect from Asus laptops, it performs quite well and looks the part. However, it has a few glaring issues that become harder to ignore the more you use it.
The chassis doesn’t feel cheap at first, but there are hints that it won’t hold up very well over time. The form factor promises great media consumption functionality, but the display fails to deliver. It’s barely usable outdoors — despite the fact that a laptop like this attracts folks that need a powerful laptop that can be used on the go.
The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 needs to offer a more well-rounded experience, and fix a few issues that hold back the otherwise great design.
The battery life is impressive, and this laptop can comfortably handle home and office workloads. At the end of the day, this form factor really deserves a better screen and to have fewer issues with the build. The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 is bound to get your work done, but its rougher edges make it tough to recommend over the competition.