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[Review] Asus VivoBook Flip 14 J401MA-YS02: Beware!

  • Great Battery Life
  • 14 inch Full HD Display
  • 64 GB of eMMC storage (upgradeable)
  • Limited I/O ports
  • Windows S Mode (easily switchable).

While it's true that 2-in-1 laptops didn't turn out to be the top-sellers everyone had hoped for a few years back, these kinds of laptops have still managed to find themselves a loyal follower base who would much rather get a tablet and a laptop than have to purchase these things separately.

It's within this particular niche that companies such as Asus have managed to shine thanks to their affordable models that pack the perfect balance between price and overall specs. In this regard, there's one particular model that has managed to outshine several of its competitors, we're talking about the ASUS VivoBook Flip 14 J401MA-YS02, a 14-inch convertible that packs some pretty decent specs for the price. 

Today we're going to get to know this compelling convertible as we dive into our review of the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 J401MA-YS02 and find out if it's our best bet or if we'd be better off looking elsewhere.
  1. Design
  2. Who is this laptop for?
  3. Who should not buy this laptop?
  4. Performance
  5. Battery life and Windows S Mode
  6. Closing arguments 

It's all about the design

When looking at a convertible design takes on a whole new level of importance compared to when we look at a regular laptop. Here portability is critical and a bad display is not something we can easily ignore. Fortunately for us, Asus's is very much aware of this and has managed to concoct a convertible that's pretty easy on the eyes and on your back.

Starting off with the display we've got a 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) glossy IPS display with good viewing angles of 178 degrees - you would not believe how many low-cost models leave out this basic principle -. Obviously, it's tactile with 6mm spacing intervals to ensure a pretty decent touch experience.  

Overall, the display works quite alright and responds well for most use cases. However, we would not recommend this display for very detailed work ie; high-quality detailed sketches as it's not that great when it comes down to capturing all of the more subtle little traces - for artists we would much rather recommend they look towards the 2019 iPad which is only slightly more expensive alongside the Apple Pencil to make the most out of it -. 

One of the main advantages that come with using a 2-in-1 is the fact that it comes with a dedicated keyboard integrated onto the body of the laptop.  In this particular case, we've got an ergonomic chiclet styled keyboard with a proper travel distance for the keys as well as a trackpad located right below it to not have to make use of an external mouse. 

This, in and of itself, will be the main reason why most of us opt for a convertible in the first place, we've got the commodity of a fully-fledged touchscreen along with the comfort that comes from typing on a keyboard instead of a screen and using a trackpad instead of having to press firmly on the screen to adjust that tiny little typo that takes 2 seconds to correct on a laptop and 20 seconds on a tablet.

In terms of portability, as you probably know by now, this device weighs in at just over 3 pounds and has a very slim figure at 0.6 inches. Overall it's quite comfortable to carry around, more so when you consider it packs a 14-inch display.

Finally, to wrap up the design, we should point out that connectivity is a bit scarce as is often the case with convertibles. Specifically, we've got a USB Type C port, a microUSB 2.0 port (the one we used on phones over two years old), an SD card reader - an easy way to expand internal storage- and a microHDMI port in case you wanted to connect the laptop to a monitor.

What's performance like? Am I buying a paperweight?

If there's one thing that most convertibles compromise on - more so the cheap ones - it's performance

You can't expect a convertible - or a laptop for that matter - to deliver high-end performance when priced in the range of the ASUS VivoBook Flip 14 J401MA-YS02. If you're looking for high-end performance on a convertible at a reasonable price we would be much more inclined to recommend the Lenovo Flex 5

That said, as long as you know what you're getting, the J401MA-YS02 presents itself as a relatively good option, perfect for students or people who aren't looking for a workhorse. Packed with an Intel Celeron n4000 that clocks in at 2.6 GHz alongside 4 GB of DDR4 RAM and 64 GB of eMMC storage, the VivoBook does deliver a good bang for your buck.

Specifically, with this set of specs you can expect a device that's best suited for browsing the web, editing documents, streaming music, or watching movies on Netflix. Also, due to the fact that it comes with 4 GB of memory, we would advise against intensive multitasking otherwise you should be ready to deal with some major lags.

We would not advise this laptop for anyone looking to do CPU intensive tasks. Photoshop, video editing, coding on IDE's are all things that should not be done on this laptop unless you want to experience some major frustrations. If that's what you need from a convertible then again we recommend the Lenovo Flex 5 linked at the beginning of this paragraph.

Can I upgrade the storage?

64 GB of storage can be a bit tight, more so when you consider that Windows will already take up 32 GB of usable storage. 

With that in mind, you should know that you can use an SD card and set up Windows to store data and even apps directly on the SD card. This is a quick and easy way to upgrade the storage on the VivoBook Flip 14 J401MA-YS02.

Battery life, connectivity, and the infamous "S Mode"

It's pointless to have a compact and lightweight device if we have skimp on battery life. With that in mind, Asus has advertised this convertible as having a battery life that lasts you "all day"

Now, while that phrase might be open to interpretation, what we've found in cold hard numbers is that battery life lasts between 5 to 8 hours depending on usage which is still pretty great all things considered. You can watch a movie, edit documents, surf the web, and still have battery to spare.

Addressing the issue of connectivity, we've already spoken about the availability of ports on the design segment, we should also mention that -as expected- this laptop comes with WiFi, Bluetooth support in case you wanted to use an external mouse or speaker and we've also got a VGA quality integrated webcam which is, quite honestly, an expendable feature due to the quality and you'd be better off with a webcam.

Finally, an issue a lot of people were bothered with, as you attest on the customer reviews, is the fact that the laptop comes right off the box with Windows 10 in S Mode. 

This is a mode whereby Windows works exclusively through apps supported by the Windows App Store. However, you can easily disable this mode and upgrade to a standard Windows 10 Home OS.

 An easy way to do so would be to attempt to install Chrome on the laptop at which point you would get a message that says that it can't do that on S Mode and would invite you to disable it. That's it. Problem solved.

Verdict: Should you buy it?

As we have seen in this review of the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 J401MA-YS02, this laptop is not for everyone. 

Amongst its limitations, we have a modest processor, tight internal storage -which we may upgrade through the SD card -, and a rather decaffeinated connectivity suite. If we look only at the price point it's clear that we've got a great deal but make no mistake, this convertible is not for everyone.

If you're looking for a convertible to surf the web, watch movies, do some sketching and edit some documents then this option will more than fit your needs and you should definitely buy it. However, if you don't fall within this spectrum of light users then this laptop is quite simply not for you.