The Asus Vivobook series of notebooks has always been about offering as much value as possible at as low a price point as possible and their latest offering the Vivobook S15 excels in that in every way as it offers both hardware, looks and performance that wouldn’t have you hocking house and home or a kidney.
Externally, the Vivobook S15 is sized to the dimensions of a 14-inch notebook though it comes with a larger 15.6-inch Full HD display on account of its exceptionally slim bezels. The notebook is almost akin to an ultrabook in terms of its size at 17.9mm and weight at 1.5kg on account of its mostly plastic chassis though the top lid remains brushed aluminium. The plastic moulded chassis isn’t so much a cost cutting measure as it is a means to provide weight savings and the notebook proved light enough for all-day carry in a backpack.For units sold in Malaysia, they’ve even tossed in a free matte black canvas backpack so you can carry the notebook around in some measure of safety and style.
The exterior finish consists of a sturdy plastic done up with a faux metal finish though the metal top lid fortunately comes in a shade matching the plastic. The overall finish itself repels fingerprints extremely well and it remained fingerprint free during the extent of our review period even with heavy handling. Unfortunately, the finish on the chassis tends to chip on the edges with age and extended use after a couple of years. That aside, it looks well made and suitably premium out of the box.
The underside of the notebook sports a quartet of rubberised pads to keep it in place while in use along with a pair of forward firing, underside-mounted speakers. The right side of the notebook has a USB Type C 3.1 port, a HDMI-out, a full sized USB 3.1 port along with an audio jack and the obligatory port for power. The left side hosts a pair of conventional USB 2.0 ports along with an SD card reader.
The hinge is built in a sturdy fashion and holds the display in a fixed position without significant wobbling even with heavy usage of the keyboard. It opens smoothly though you’re unable to open the notebook one-handed due to the lightness of the main chassis, requiring a firmer two handed grip to open it. The top lid itself is well built and despite its large size has no flex or play and it has a slight indented notch to make it easier to deploy.
Once you’ve popped the lid open, you’ll discover a full sized keyboard that has generously sized palm rests, an equally large touchpad along with chiclet-style, fully backlit keys. The keyboard configuration is ergonomically odd with the power button taking up space in the upper right corner right next to the delete button along with a row of function keys arrayed horizontally on the extreme right edge but the rest of the keyboard is otherwise pretty standard. Of note is that the notebook also has Windows Hello support along with the corresponding fingerprint reader indented in the upper right corner of the touchpad.
As far as build quality goes, Asus has outdone themselves this time around as they’ve managed to deliver exceptional build quality along with a decent number of ports at a very reasonable price tag though a few minor ergonomic niggles remain in regards to its keyboard button placement, in particular the aforementioned power button being plonked next to the delete key.
Specifications and Performance
The Vivobook S15 comes in a variety of configurations depending on region though Malaysia has lucked out with a solid blend of hardware. The stock configuration comes with the aforementioned 15.6-inch Full HD panel, an Intel Core i5-7200U 2.5GHz processor, 4GB of DDR3RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce 940MX graphics solution and a 1TB 5400rpm hard disk for RM2,999. For RM400 more, you can get a 128GB M.2 SSD added to the whole affair to host the OS for faster bootups. Our test unit was the latter with an SSD and hard disk combo for a grand total of RM3,399 which is lower than what you’d expect for something with its size and specifications.
On paper, the configuration is more than sufficient for general everyday use with some light gaming thrown in the mix though the existing 4GB of RAM may not be sufficient for more demanding applications like high-end gaming or heavy video rendering. Fortunately, it’s quite upgradable with an additional SODIMM slot to add in another 4GB of RAM though you’ll likely have to do this yourself. Accessing the notebook is somewhat of a bother though as it has multiple screws with two of them hidden beneath the rubber friction pads which require exceptional care to remove as they’re only stuck on with adhesive.
The notebook fired up in seconds to the desktop on account of the nippy SSD and when subjected to the usual synthetic benchmarks, it yielded generally fair scores that predicate it as a general purpose workhorse capable of handling a modicum of everything a mainstream user would dabble in. In Geekbench, it yielded a multicore score of 6,249 and an OpenCL score of 30,657. In PC Mark, it snagged a score of 3,529 while in 3D Mark’s Sky Diver it got a score of 4,952. In 3D Mark’s Time Spy test, it yielded a modest score of 685. All this paints it as a pretty capable general purpose rig which is all the more impressive for its intended asking price though it won’t beat more purpose-focused notebooks.
In actual field use, the Vivobook S15’s display proved to be rather capable with the wide Nanoedge panel serving up luscious hues and good detail in all but direct sunlight at high noon. The ultra narrow bezels of the ‘NanoEdge’ display made quite a difference in enjoying content with the extra screen real estate offering a more immersive viewing experience especially in conjunction with the forward firing speakers that proved to be rather competent.
Even with a selection of eclectic tracks like Bear McCreary’s Prelude to War and Joanna Wang’s Vincent, the speakers served up clear vocals, modestly stirring bass and good treble though there wasn’t much of a sound stage or separation so it likely won’t do well with more acoustically intricate tracks. At maximum volume, the speakers offered no distortion or tearing and just managed to fill a room with sound though if you’re looking to be the life of the party you’ll likely need to augment it with an external pair of speakers. For what you pay for though, the Vivobook S15’s integrated speakers proved to be surprisingly capable.
The configuration we got with the SSD served up web pages in a suitably swift manner, running half a dozen open Chrome browsers without a hitch and managed Youtube on the side too with Google docs open. We also ran it through a few games for kicks. Far Cry 3 as well as Borderlands 2 ran smoothly without a hitch at modest settings without it keeling over though it did get a bit warm after extended gameplay on its underside panel though not uncomfortably so. Even under a relatively heavy workload and gaming, the notebook’s fan noise remained all at a comfortably low volume that’s barely inaudible.
The keyboard on the Vivobook S15 proved to be a pleasure to use with just enough travel and play to make hammering out longer texts like this review less of a chore. The generous palm rests and well sized keys make for a comfortable typing experience though significant care has to be taken to ensure that you don’t inadvertently press the power button by accident when you’re reaching for the delete key. The three-stage backlighting helped, especially when working in the dark and the touchpad proved serviceable though it didn’t seem as responsive as we’d like it to be with some delayed feedback and stickiness on our test unit. It’s an unlikely occurrence but buyers may want to test this particular aspect of the notebook out on the showroom floor first.
Battery Life, Price and Conclusion
Unfortunately, battery life isn’t as good as we’d hoped for. On paper, it’s rated for a maximum of eight hours before needing a charge and with a moderate workload – spreadsheets, half a dozen browser windows and some Youtube videos with Wi-Fi on – it lasted slightly more than seven hours though your mileage will vary based on screen brightness and if you’re gaming heavily. You’ll likely need to constantly keep an eye out for a power point if you aim to tote this around as your daily work PC.
In terms of aesthetics, the notebook punches way above its weight class with a beautifully finished if slightly plasticky chassis. The hardware it comes with isn’t the cutting edge of tech as it stands but it is well considered and represents great value with a NanoEdge display and an SSD thrown in the bargain to offer generally sound overall performance that will tackle all but the most demanding tasks. Unfortunately, this is tempered by middling battery life and an ergonomically odd keyboard though the overall package far outweighs these two quibbles. If you are looking to get a solid workhorse with decent hardware combined with a luscious 15.6-inch 1080P display and generally solid design at a decent price, look no further. The stock configuration is well specced for what you pay for though chunking out just a big more for the SSD equipped variant makes better sense in the long run.
What we liked Decent hardware for price, wide and luscious NanoEdge display, good speakers
What we didn’t Middling battery life, sticky touchpad, power button right next to the delete key
We say The Vivobook S15 is an exceptional bargain with a well considered blend of performance and features at a very affordable price tag
Display 15.6-inch LED backlit Full HD
OS Windows 10 Home
Processor Intel Core i5-7200U
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
Memory 4GB RAM / 128GB SSD + 1TB hard disk
Battery 3 cell 42whr battery
Size/Weight 361.4 x 243.5 x 17.9 mm / 1.5kg
Review unit courtesy of Asus Malaysia