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ASUS ZenBook UX360CA Review : Let there be flexibility

Earlier this year, ASUS launched the Zenbook Flip UX360CA in India. The device has been priced at Rs. 46,990 and will be sold by major retailers across the country. The device comes with a choice of Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. The device features a 13.3 inch LED-backlit display with FullHD resolution. The ASUS ZenBook UX360CA can be used as a notebook, in tent mode if you are presenting something, in tablet mode. The Zenbook Flip is powered by Intel Core M3 6Y30 processor and has integrated Intel HD Graphics 515. The device comes with 4 GB RAM and 512GB solid-state disk (SSD). Read on to know what we think about the UX360ca!

When Apple announced the first iPhone back in 2007, tech pundits predicted that the end of personal computers is coming. As expected, the sales of personal computers started declining and many thought that the pundits were spot on. The PC makers released ‘Netbooks’ which are tiny laptops with sub 11″ displays and it only turned out to be a short term gain. The decline of PC sales continued and Intel is one of the many companies that would have suffered, if the decline had picked up speed. The release of Apple iPad in 2010 did exactly that. Apple was using ARM licensed architecture for processors in iPad and iPhone. Intel did not have an answer to the explosive growth of ARM licensed processors (Qualcomm Snapdragon, Apple Ax etc).

Come 2011, Intel foresaw that premium looking super thin, super light and powerful laptops is the segment that will save the PC industry and introduced the concept devices named ‘Ultrabooks’. Though we call all thin and light notebooks as ultrabooks, the name ‘Ultrabook’ (as in ultra-portable notebook) is actually a trademarked brand by Intel. Yes, Ultrabook is actually a brand. Ultrabooks must be powered by Intel chips, should be less than 0.8 inch thick (of course), should have long battery life and should have aluminum build. Intel had set aside $300 million fund to help achieve this. In 2016, we have seen a lot of Ultrabooks and 2-in-1s that re-defined desktop computing. The year 2017 is going to see more and more Ultrabooks. ASUS is one of the brands that pioneered the ultrabook form factor and  UX360ca proves yet again that ASUS can design great ultrabooks.

Build and Design

If you have liked previous UX series Ultrabooks from ASUS, you will definitely fall in love with this one. The aluminium alloy body feels smooth to touch and you instantly feel the premium quality.The best view is from the right corner or left corner as you get to see the curvature of the lid. The aluminum frame that covers the lid curved in (like how the iphone 6/s shell curves to the front. This gives the UX360 great aesthetics. Slide your finger across the edge and you feel the smoothness of the curavature. It’s like you are feeling something silky.

The UX360 looks absolutely clean from all angles. The lid has circular pattern and ASUS logo is placed at the center. The bottom too is super clean. There are no visible vents and the only change is the two speaker grill. To access or upgrade internal components, you need to remove the 10 screws that hold the bottom panel. Similar to how the lid curved to the front, the bottom panel too curves into the top the base and at one angle, it indeed looks like the back of an aluminum build tablet.

The lid magnetically lathes to the base and there are no sliders to open the ultrabook. You can open the lid with one hand but given the light weight nature of the shell, the lid slightly lifts when you are using one hand to open the ultrabook. It is recommended that you use both hands to open UX360 (one hand on the base and one hand to open the lid). The first thing that you notice when you open the UX360 is the lack of power, volume keys and any notification LEDs. I had searched a bit to know how to turn it on/off and that is when I realized that the power key and volume keys are on the side. Yes, this is one of those rare laptops where the power key is on the side. This is done to make sure that the power and volume keys are accessible in any mode that you use.

The left side of the UX360ca has a USB port, SD card reader, notification LEDs, volume rocker, power key. On the right side, there is power input, USB Type-C port, mini HDMI port and 3.5mm audio port. The problem with the curved metal body and super thin frame is, some of the ports look ugly. For example the SD card slot looks as if it was cut by hand at the last-minute. ASUS should’ve covered this slot by a flat as the port can accumulate dust. The new generation ports like USB Type-C and mini HDMI ports look in place as they fit well with the frame. Another problem is that the volume rocker. The UX360 is a laptop first but the volume rocker is aligned to tablet mode. If you are using this in laptop mode, volume down means increase volume and volume up means decrease.

The display looks great, the bezels are of right size. ASUS logo is etched below the display and the web camera is placed above the display. Somehow, the gold color chassis gels really well with the black bezels. If you are looking for a non-silver color of UX360, I strongly suggest the gold color. The hinges that hold display are strong but there seems to be a design flaw where in the display panel is rubbing (slightly) against the hinge and this is causing chipping of color from the hinge. There are notches on either side of keyboard and on bottom left and bottom right corner. When the UX360 is used in tablet mode, these rubber notches protect the keyboard and chassis from rubbing against surface. Do note that when you are using the UX360 in winter, you may feel chill running down your spine when you place your palms on the aluminum body.

Overall, the quality of the UX360ca is exceptional. The lid does not flex at all when touched on (touchscreen display), the base too feels super strong. The subtle gold color looks amazing. The weight distribution is very good and the laptop does not feel awkward when it is used while walking. I placed the laptop on my left palm and tried to type fast with right hand while walking. There was no shaking and the island style keyboard was perfect (we will cover keyboard quality later in the review). In short, if you spend a lot of time on the run, this one is one of the better suited ultrabooks for you.

 

The ASUS UX360 is that ultrabook that will not fail you if you are always on the run. Great aesthetics, even weight distribution, super thin build and touch screen display makes it perfect for on-the-go professionals.

The ASUS ZenBook UX360ca is powered by Intel Core M processor. Our review unit has 512GB SSD, 4GB of RAM. I was surprised to see that the UX360 does not have any vents. Thanks to the super low heat dissipation of Core M chips, the UX360ca has a fan-less design. This means that however long you use the ultrabook, it wont make any noise at all. The only sound you will hear will be from the keyboard. The speakers are bottom firing, placed at the bottom of the Ultrabook. Do note that if you place the ASUS UX360ca on sofa or bed, the volume will reduce and sound will be muffled.

 

Keyboard and Trackpad

 

I can type at 90+ words per minute without breaking a sweat and when I did typing tests, the keyboard felt superb.

When I tested the UX305, I fell in love with the keyboard and the keyboard on the UX360 is even better. This time, I was able to consistently hit 90+wpm (improved from 83+wpm on UX305). The keys are slightly rectangular in size and it helps a lot in finding the right key without looking at the keyboard. There is just enough gap between keys and the key travel of 1.5mm is perfect. The only problem though is the sound that hey key press generates. It feels like you are tapping on a board and there are no clicks that are usually much nicer to hear. One major negative is that the keyboard is not backlit and this was the same issue with U305.

The touchpad is big and accepts multi touch gestures. Similar to the touchpad on the UX305, the one on UX360ca is noisy but does its job very well. Windows 10 screams at us to use gestures and touch input and UX360ca makes Windows developers feel happy.

 

Camera

There is a front facing HD camera that can be used for video calling. The LED next to the camera turns on when the camera is in use and there is a microphone next to the camera and another microphone next to the ‘Enter’ key on the keyboard. The speakers are bottom firing and are just enough for occasional listening. The sound gets muffled when you place the ultrabook on your lap (as speakers are blocked) or on soft material like bed.  If you are going to get this Ultrabook and if you do not have speakers at home, it is time to invest some money and get a set of speakers. The webcam is decent enough for video calls. The microphone sensitivity is very good but do not expect recording video podcasts using the camera.

Display

The FullHD display is inline with other ASUS notebooks that we tested. The display has very goo viewing angles and color reproduction is very good (not the best one though). This one does not come with ambient light sensor so you have to change the brightness as per your need. The touch response is very good. The best part is that the lid does not shake much or flex when I tap on the screen. Given the excellent touch response, you do not have to poke at the display as if you are punching a hole through. Soft touch is enough to register touch input. One downside is that the display is not as bright as I expected and there is a slight creamy tinge to the display (as if the display has blue light filter is on).

 

ASUS ZenBook UX360ca display has good color reproduction, the tablet mode with touch screen input is a definite advantage.

 

Thanks to the touchscreen display and the 360 degree hinge design, I can use the UX360ca either like a regular laptop or in tablet mode as well as in tent mode. Frankly speaking, 90% of time, I use the UX360 as a proper notebook and the remaining 10%, I use it like a tablet. Sometimes, I do lay the UX360ca flat on the bed and use it like a tablet and when I have to type something, I use the physical keyboard. When there is enough room to place, this feels better than using it in tablet mode. I am yet to find a use case for tent mode. Still, this flexibility makes the UX360ca one of the best Ultrabooks out there in the market.

Performance

Do remember that this is a 2-in-1 for non-intense work. Though the UX360ca is powered by Core M chip, there is no visible lag when I performed day-to-day tasks. I cannot use this for video and audio editing neither can I use this for running virtual machines. What I can really use this for is to perform productivity tasks (Microsoft Office applications, using simple editors to develop scripts etc) or if I want to use this at home, I can watch a video or play music while writing an article. Limit gaming to fun and time pass games like Solitaire.

Boot up and shutdown times are really fast. It only take s a few seconds to boot into WIndows 10, thanks to super fast SSD.

The amount of time it takes to take your hand off the ultrabook is nearly the same amount of time it takes for the UX360 to go to sleep

On continuous usage, the UX360ca gets a bit hot. The area between the display hinges, till the top row of keyboard gets hot and the same area under the base gets pretty hot. This is expected as there are no fans to direct cold air in or hot air out. Still, the heat generated is perfectly acceptable and never did I face any heat related irritation.

If you are looking for higher resolution display, you can get the higher variant that comes with 3200X1800 pixel resolution display and it looks breathtakingly good. 

Multimedia

The UX360ca comes with Bang&Olufsen ICEpower audio enhancement and it clearly shows. The audio quality is very good. If you are too lazy to configure audio output, you can use AudioWizard application to switch between different audio modes (Music, Movie, Audio recording, gaming, speech) or you can turn off any settings and hear audio as it is.

You can also use SonicMaster from ASUS to tweak it further by making custom changes to audio output.

 

Battery

Unless you try to play some games or perform resource intensive tasks or keep the display at 100% brightness all the time, you can easily expect more than 8 hours of battery life. Turn on ‘battery saver’ and you can squeeze out double-digit battery life.

The Verdict

I do not like using a tablet computer. Tablet PCs come with lot of limitations. Casual games are the only things that work well on a tablet due to this, kids get easily addicted to them. There are these instances when I prefer having a tablet. When I am traveling seated in places where I cannot comfortably use a laptop, when I do not want to carry a laptop and a tablet with me, when I  want to continue a Skype call on laptop while walking. The ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360ca is powerful enough to use as a notebook PC, is light enough to use as a tablet (when you rotate the display 360 degrees) and has really long battery life. This is the 2-in-1 Ultrabook that lets you get rid of multiple devices. There are few niggles like lack of backlighting for keyboard, poor webcam, lack of full size HDMI port to connect to a monitor without buying a dongle. But hey, there are things that we can live with when compared to the advantages of owning a UX360ca. I do recommend this Ultrabook to those who are looking for a 2-in-1 with solid build quality and battery life under 60k.

About bandla

Co-Founder of GadgetDetail, gadget lover, addicted to American TV shows, fan of Ferrari and Federer, Bengalurian, FOOD LOVER, multiplex hater.

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