ASUS ZenBook Pro (2017) + ZenBook Flip S hands-on

ZenBook Pro

ASUS chairman Jonney Shih unveiled two new members of the ZenBook today, at a special event in Taipei ahead of Computex 2017. The 2017 ZenBook Pro is the company's most premium laptop to date (outside of its gaming-focused ROG brand). And the bendy ZenBook Flip S lays claim to the title of world's thinnest convertible, but without compromising on display quality or hardware specs.

After some brief hands-on time with both at ASUS's event in Taipei today, we're eager to see more of these two high-end machines.

ASUS ZenBook Pro 2017

ZenBook Pro

A laptop for people who care about performance, picture, and sound.

ASUS's redesigned ZenBook Pro sits at the top of the ZenBook line, packing the latest seventh-generation Core i5 and i7 chips from Intel and discrete graphics in the form of an NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti GPU. (That's faster than the regular 1050, but less battery-hungry than the 1060.)

Plus it's configurable with a 4K touchscreen, up to 1TB of PCIe 3.0 SSD storage and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. And all of that power is contained in a chassis that draws on ASUS's established design language, with dual color pairings, reflective chamfers and an etched concentric circle design on the lid.

As a result of the 15.6-inch screen diagonal, the ZenBook Pro is a hefty machine, but it's not excessively weighty, tipping the scales at just under four pounds. That's all the more impressive when you consider that ASUS is promising up to 14 hours of battery life from this model — with an H-series Core i5 or i7 processor and a meaty GPU.

The Pro isn't exactly pitched as a high-end gaming laptop — that's ROG territory, after all — but the combination of specs should make it a nicely balanced machine for folks working on photo or video production, or anything requiring a bit more oomph than an Ultrabook. And yes, that pits it directly against Apple's larger MacBook Pro — which is why it's important that other premium features are packed in there. There's a built-in fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello in the top-right corner of the trackpad and audio driven by a quad-speaker system, developed in partnership with Harman Kardon.

Speaker quality is tough to judge in a demo situation, but I was impressed with the clarity and bass of the ZenBook Pro's audio playback and was able to max out the volume without any noticeable distortion.

While you can argue about the ergonomics and aesthetics of the ZenBook Pro compared to Apple's 15-incher, and Windows rivals, it's hard to fault the brilliant 15.6-inch touchscreen, which makes up 83 percent of the interior surface and covers 100% of sRGB color gamut. It's bright and vibrant, and between this top-notch display and the Pro's impressive audio capabilities, this looks set to be an excellent laptop for audiovisual connoisseurs.

ASUS ZenBook Flip S

ZenBook Flip S

ASUS's other new ZenBook is aimed at an altogether different kind of consumer. The ZenBook Flip S is a convertible Ultrabook — the world's thinnest, as ASUS is keen to point out — with U-series Core i5 and i7 processors, and the same maximum 16GB/1TB RAM/storage config as the ZenBook Pro. It has a suitably gorgeous 13.3-inch 4K touch display, which takes up 80% of the screen area, and this can be used with the ASUS Pen for even more precise drawing and note-taking.

ASUS's new convertible is an upgraded, slimmer, more versatile take on the ZenBook 3.

The key differentiator for the Flip S is its 360-degree "ErgoLift" hinge. Sure, the name is cringe-inducing, but the joint itself is firm yet flexible, allowing you to prop it up in a tent or stand position, or rotate it all the way around in tablet mode. The ZenBook Flip S isn't entirely fanless — there is a tiny impeller fan on the inside, measuring 0.3mm in thickness — and with any luck, this will help keep the Flip S cool despite its svelte depth of just 10.9mm. Despite its slim dimensions, the Flip S also manages to pack a one-touch fingerprint sensor on the side bezel for Windows Hello, ideally placed for use in tablet mode.

ZenBook Flip S

Battery life is quoted at 11.5 hours, which isn't the longest we've seen in an Ultrabook, but equally is nothing to sniff at. Unlike ASUS's other ZenBooks, the Flip S's integrated 39WHr battery charges over USB Type-C, with quick charging technology able to revive a dead Flip S to 60 percent in 49 minutes.

The convertible space is more crowded than ever right now, but ASUS's latest offering has promise, taking the familiar design of the ZenBook 3 and transforming it into a versatile lightweight machine. Even more compelling is the $1,099 starting price — though you'll likely need to settle for less RAM and internal storage, and an i5 CPU to bag a Flip S at this price point.

Alex Dobie