With a starting price of $799 (about £617, AU$1,002), the VivoBook S is a moderately-priced laptop that’s sure to attract attention from students and the casual user. It’s powerful and has a large display, yet is still portable enough to tote around in a backpack.
We’ve spent the past week putting it through our benchmark tests as well as using it for work and play. The VivoBook S spec sheet hits all the right notes, but at the end of the day, real world use tells a slightly different story, but a happy one nonetheless.
Price and availability
This particular model is available in the US for $799 (about £617, AU$1,002), with the same configuration we tested for this review. In the UK and Australia, however, Asus only lists more robust variants of the VivoBook S, with specifications more in line with gaming laptops than the everyday computer we tested. Pricing for the VivoBook S15 models listed in the respective countries wasn’t available at time of writing.
In the US, Newegg has numerous configurations of the VivoBook S ranging from the model we tested to a model with a 2TB SSD and 32GB of memory for $1,836.
At this price, the VivoBook S compares favorably against the Dell XPS 13. With the same processor, GPU and RAM, the VivoBook has more storage (256GB SSD on XPS 13), but lacks the UHD display of the XPS 13. A larger display and lack of a few extra pixels, for some, is a fair tradeoff for the amount of storage gained.
Within the same ballpark price, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop gains a touchscreen, a 720p webcam, and a smaller design when compared to the VivoBook S. As with the XPS 13, however, you’re going to give up storage space, with the entry Surface Laptop housing a 256GB SSD.
The plastic base of the VivoBook S is a mirage. Its brushed finish gives the impression it’s a metal housing from afar. It’s only after you pay closer attention do you realize the optical illusion, designed to match the aluminum lid that protects the display when the lid is closed.
The slight taper from the hinge to the front of the housing is reminiscent of the MacBook Air, albeit on a larger scale. Weighing in at 3.3 pounds (1.5kg), the VivoBook S is slightly heavier than the XPS 13 (2.9 pounds or 1.29kg), but that’s expected due to the difference in size.
Overall, there’s solid feel to the build quality, as if it can withstand an accidental drop off your desk – though, we don’t suggest you try it. And, with the combination of plastic and aluminum that looks nearly identical, Asus is able keep the VivoBook S at an affordable price point without sacrificing looks.
Ports for days
With a fair amount of ports decorating either side of the VivoBook S, you’re unlikely to run out of spots to plug in accessories.
The left side is where you’ll find both USB 2.0 ports and a standard SD card reader.
On the opposite side is the 3.5mm audio jack, a lone USB C port, full-size HDMI, a USB 3.1 port, and the DC charging port.
Bezel is officially a buzzword
Surrounding the 15.6-inch, FHD display is a narrow bezel, measuring just 7.8mm. Asus’s official marketing term for this bezel is “NanoEdge” and yes, it looks that way, but we aren’t sure it’s a huge selling point.
Of course, by shrinking the bezels, Asus can reduce the overall size of the VivoBook S, like Dell’s InfinityEdge displays, but the difference isn’t enough to warrant us suggesting you limit yourself to only NanoEdge bezels.
Fingerprint reader placement
As with the Asus Zenbook 3, the fingerprint reader is located in the top-right corner of the trackpad. Fortunately, on the VivoBook S it’s tucked further into the corner than it is on the Zenbook 3.
The slight change in position makes it easier to use the pad without the reader interrupting gestures or swipes. We’d still prefer not to have a fingerprint sensor included within the trackpad, but we’ll settle for the improvement.
Overall, the VivoBook S was a dream to test and use. It kept up with any task we put it up against, and we didn’t notice any significant slowdown or over zealous fans to keep it cool. Between Slack and Chrome, both of which are known to eat away at resources even when idle, the VivoBook S still kept up with our use.
Where the VivoBook S struggled the most, especially against the Dell XPS 13, is in battery performance. Otherwise, it was within a couple hundred points (above or below) in our performance benchmark tests.
But, for battery life, the PCMark 8 test came back at only 3 hours and 12 minutes. In contrast, the Dell XPS 13 hit 4 hours and 3 minutes.
The biggest difference was during our movie test, with the VivoBook S registering 5 hours and 48 minutes, whereas the XPS 13 managed over 7 hours.
A giant sticker on the VivoBook S claims expected battery life is eight hours, or “full workday freedom.” Regrettably, our testing didn’t return those same results.
Out of the box, the touchpad is set up with left and right click sections, separated by a line in the middle of the plastic covered touchpad. Click within either section and it initiates the respective action. This isn’t an uncommon setup, with a lot of fellow laptop makers implementing a similar system.
WIth the VivoBook S, however, we grew frustrated of just how finicky the invisible sections are, resulting in frequent errant right-clicks. As we absent-mindedly scrolled or gestured across the pad to select a link on a web page, for example, we would accidentally trigger a right-click despite our finger staying above the invisible line. Or so we thought, perhaps there’s a subconscious push towards the bottom of the trackpad due to the placement of the fingerprint sensor.
Thankfully, the easy fix is to disable right-click in the lower right corner of the touchpad in the Windows 10 settings menu. But, for those who’d rather use the the bottom corner as either forms of a click, there’s going to be a fine line you’ll need to learn to walk.
Other odds and ends
The keyboard doesn’t deserve strong accolades, nor does it warrant criticism. It’s an average keyboard, with adequate spacing, and suitable travel in the keys.
The 1080p display could be a touch brighter especially for outdoor use. Outside of the brightness issue, the display is sharp, with vivid colors and saturation. It really shines when watching a movie or viewing photos, as well reading crisp text on websites or in documents.
For the price, the VivoBook S is an affordable laptop that’s sure to please the average user who doesn’t need to edit video files or plan on intense gaming sessions. It’s build quality is stellar, to boot.
At risk of repeating ourselves, the fingerprint sensor would benefit from being in a different location. Battery life is a disappointment, too, especially with a laptop of this size.
For those looking for a laptop around the $800 mark, where storage and screen size are the main priorities, the VivoBook S hits all the right notes. Between the hybrid SSD and HDD storage setup, the 7th gen i7, and 8GB of RAM, performance isn’t an issue.
The biggest detractor comes down to battery life, and even then it’s not horrible. It would, however, be nice if it came closer to a full day of use as Asus claimed. All told, you’re looking at an average Windows laptop for the average user that would be worth more serious consideration whenever Asus decides to snip the price a bit.