Shopping for an affordable laptop is super easy; decent battery life, relatively lightweight, and fast enough for browsing, streaming, and basic productivity is all you really need. And you can check all those boxes with a few hundred dollars.
Double your budget and suddenly it’s not so easy. Gone is the luxury of low expectations. Even if your needs match that of the average entry-level shopper, you want to know you’re getting value for the extra money you’re spending. The problem is the mainstream segment is pretty vast, and it’s full of laptops that are a hodge-podge of upgrades and downgrades based on the manufacturer’s best guess of what you might want. Sometimes you end up with a feature you don’t use, and a lot of the time you end up missing something you really need, like more USB ports or an SD card reader.
Back to basics
We went back to the drawing board with the VivoBook S. We surveyed 20 million ASUS users to figure out what’s most important to people when they’re buying a laptop. Our goal was to determine the non-negotiables and figure out what extras we could add to enhance day-to-day activities.
Performance was top of the list for the majority of folks, so old hardware was a no-go, and the components we did choose had to be easy on the battery. To that end, the VivoBook S is based on Intel’s latest generation of Core i5 and Core i7 U-series processors, the same chips powering today’s ultrabooks. These dual-core CPUs utilize Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology to facilitate four parallel threads of execution, and they’re powerful enough for work and play. During my time with the Core i5-7200U-powered VivoBook S150UA-DB71, I had no problems with my usual web activity, which includes streaming Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go, and hopping between a dozen different documents and spreadsheets in Google Drive. If you’re committed to working offline, rest assured the S510 handles productivity apps like Word, Powerpoint, and Excel with ease. And while gamers won’t be able to play the hottest titles, the integrated Intel HD 620 graphics can handle crowd favorites like Rocket League, CS:GO, and Race The Sun, so you can still have some fun between classes or while waiting for your flight to board.
VivoBook S15 variants destined for North America ship with 8GB of RAM, though the system can support up to 16GB if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and void your warranty to get at the additional SO-DIMM slot. All that stands in your way are 12 screws, which can be dealt with using a standard Phillips screwdriver. The first ten are easy to spot once you flip the laptop over, but there’s another couple of sneaky guys hiding under the rubber feet towards the rear. Keep track of your screws! They’re varying lengths based on the tapered edges of the S510, so make sure to take note of which ones go where.
Once you’re inside, you’ll get a peek at all of the components. The VivoBook S isn’t quite as modular as the likes of the Chromebook C213, but there’s plenty to muck around with if you’re keen. If you purchased the base configuration, you’ll be working with HDD storage only, but you could easily pop an M.2 SSD into the available slot to improve load times and all-around responsiveness. Alternatively, you could replace the SATA HDD with a 2.5″ SSD. If you’re a little more timid, boosting your RAM is a beginner-friendly upgrade with big returns. The dual SO-DIMM slots mean you don’t even have to remove the existing memory; just throw another stick in there and close ‘er back up.
For networking, we added dual-band 802.11 b/g/b/ac fed through a 2×2 antenna. When you connect to a dual-band Wi-Fi router, you’ll be able to access the less crowded 5GHz band in addition to the regular 2.4GHz one. Less interference equates to faster performance. The antenna does its part with two transmit radios and two receive antennas. This 2×2 configuration boasts double the throughput of a 1×1 setup and offers a more reliable connection.
Beautiful from any angle
I can suffer a small screen for productivity and browsing, but screen size is paramount for movies on the go. The VivoBook’s 15.6” Full HD display is big enough for movie marathons all on its own, but we went one step further and cut down the surrounding frame to make the display feel even bigger. The S510 features the same same 7.8-mm bezels present on premium ZenBooks like the ZenBook 3 Deluxe. Such a narrow border is less distracting while you work and keeps the focus on your movie or TV show during downtime. It also helps to keep the entire laptop nice and compact; with bigger bezels, we wouldn’t have been able to fit a 15.6″ display inside a chassis measuring just 14.2” x 9.6”.
If you’re used to binge watching on your laptop, you know that size isn’t everything. Glare and washed-out colors are enough to ruin some of the darker shows that are dominating the airwaves, like Jessica Jones, Stranger Things, and Mr Robot. Thankfully, the viewing angles on the VivoBook are nothing short of awesome. Its 178° wideview display with matte coating ensures everyone has a great view with bright, vivid colors and no annoying reflections from nearby windows or mood lighting.
High-end features find their place in the mainstream
The VivoBook S takes its design inspiration from our high-end ZenBook line. It’s got a similarly tapered body, and an aluminium lid with a brushed hairline finish gives this champagne-colored laptop an upscale feel that matches that of our ZenFone 3 Deluxe. It weighs in at a scant 3.5 pounds, so you won’t need to book an appointment with your chiropractor if you plan to tote it between coffee and class.
The VivoBook’s 15.6” display leaves enough room for a full-sized keyboard as well as dedicated home, page up, page down, and end keys along with a second function key. These all sit on the right-most edge, are easily accessible with your pinky, and offer some of the comforts of desktop typing on the go. The spacious layout works alongside 1.4 mm of key travel to make for a supremely comfortable typing experience. Longer travel equates to fewer typos, and while some ultrabook keyboards make do with under a millimeter of travel, the VivoBook doesn’t sacrifice day-to-day comfort in the name of absolute thinness. I scored a respectable 97 WPM on the VivoBook S, which is about in line with my average, accuracy be damned.
The trackpad has an integrated fingerprint scanner, so no one can access your laptop without your permission, even if they are privy to your mother’s maiden name. The scanner is responsive, requiring only a quick poke to rouse the VivoBook from a nap.
In news that should surprise pretty much nobody, even casual laptop users display a preference for a slim form factor. All laptops travel quite a bit, so “compact and light” is kind of a no-brainer. The VivoBook S checks in at just 17.9 mm thick, which is just below the threshold for a 13” ultrabook, and manages to fit its 15.6” display into a 14.2” x 9.6” footprint. That’s with a full suite of ports adorning its edges, including a reversible USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port to eliminate “right side up” stress. It’s joined by one USB 3.0 Type-A port, two USB 2.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI port, an SD card reader for transferring media, and the requisite audio combo jack. The USB 2.0 ports and SD slot on the left side are on their own separate I/O board, so if you do happen to aggressively shove a “vintage” USB stick in the wrong way and totally break one of the ports, a repair won’t mean the entire motherboard has to come out.
Super charged for all day performance
Battery life when you’re out and about and away from an outlet is eight hours on a full charge. Of course, boosting the brightness all the way up (tempting with that screen) and gaming will have an impact, but even with the most draining tasks, you should be good until well into the afternoon. I managed five hours hop-scotching my way through various productivity apps, HBO Go, and Steam.
We’ve also included some intelligent technology to extend the battery’s lifespan so that it won’t wear out before you’re ready to upgrade your computer. Keeping your laptop fully charged at all times is actually bad for the battery. Our Super Battery technology preempts this by not quite charging all the way up, which can extend the battery’s lifespan by up to three times compared to regular charging. Out of the box, this feature is switched off, but you can activate it via the Battery Health Charging app and manually set your charging limit to either Maximum Lifespan mode or Balanced Mode. The former will stop charging at 60% while the latter stops at 80%. Fast charging is on hand to get you from dead laptop to 60% in 49 minutes, just in case you’re caught without your charger and need to charge up quickly before your next class.
|Intel Core i5-7500U, 2.5GHz (4MB cache, up to 3.1GHz)
|Intel Core i7-7500U, 2.7GHz (4MB cache, up to 3.5GHz)
|Intel HD 620
|15.6" non-reflective matte, wide view
|Full HD 1920 x 1080
|8G DDR4 2133MHz
|1TB 5400RPM HDD
|1TB 5400RPM HDD + 128G M.2 SSD
|802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2x2 antenna
|1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C, 2 x USB 2.0 Type A,
1 x, USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x audio combo jack,
1 x full-sized HDMI, 1 x SD card reader, Bluetooth 4.2
|14.2" x 9.6" x 0.7"
Computer Upgrade King
The VivoBook S revamps the mainstream laptop based on the needs of today’s users. Gone are the superfluous bells and whistles and misguided compromises designed to boost the spec sheet while keeping pricing sane. Instead, the VivoBook S doubles down on the features that matter most and enhances them with thoughtful extras that deliver the best experience possible without driving the price through the roof. Announced at Computex 2017, the VivoBook S is now in the USA starting at $699 USD ($949 CAD) for the base configuration, which features Intel’s Core i5-7200U CPU and a 1TB hard drive. If you want a little boost in performance, there’s a $799 USD ($1049 CAD) configuration with a Core i7-7500U CPU and a 128GB M.2 SSD that runs alongside the 1TB HDD.