[Review] Asus VivoBook Ultra K403 - Pretty in Pink and Tough to Boot 1
Asus VivoBook Ultra K403

Asus VivoBook Ultra K403

The Asus VivoBook Ultra K403 addresses the classic pain points of an entry-level notebook as it introduces a large sized screen in a compact MIL-STD-801G rated tough chassis, enough performance for daily computing needs and outstanding battery life. Ideal for students and the butter-fingered looking for a daily computing workhorse.

The elusive grail for road warriors is an ultraportable notebook that is capable of offering all-day battery life with sufficiently sound performance to tackle most if not all of their computing needs. The Asus VivoBook Ultra K403 manages to handily achieve most of these objectives and it even adds in a few extra features of its own in the form of mil-spec grade toughness to sweeten the pot.

Asus’ VivoBook line-up is best known among the hoi polloi as one of their best value oriented laptop designs in the market. By and large, the VivoBook Ultra K403 fulfills this aspect of its design by keeping the price under RM3,500 for either of its two available variants but where it really aims to redefine the concept of value is that its chassis is built to MIL-STD-810G standards of toughness. This level of sturdiness is reflected in its impressive build quality.

The external finish comes in a shade of rose gold and there’s a subtle pink hue which does make it stand out from the plethora of black or gunmetal gray notebooks out there.

VivoBook Ultra K403 front

Where others in its price and weight class are likely made of thin aluminium and plastic, this notebook is built like a tank. The chassis itself is built significantly sturdier with more metal components for structural integrity than what its size and price tag would suggest with a significant heft and weight to the whole affair.

The top lid itself is made of metal with the Asus logo emblazoned on the top. Unlike flimsier notebooks in its price range that primarily rely on plastic, the VivoBook Ultra’s metal top lid exhibits no flex or play whatsoever and flipping it open reveals equally robust construction.

VivoBook Ultra K403 closeup

Asus’ recent refinements in their VivoBook range have been carried over to the VivoBook Ultra and it has a revamped hinge design though it does not have a bottom lip raise itself up like the VivoBook S510 for better ventilation. It does however allow the panel to flip up to an almost 120-degree angle of orientation.

VivoBook Ultra K403 right side

The only quibble here is that the hinge mechanism is a bit on the stiff side which means that you’ll have to open it with both hands. On the bright side, the hinge itself has no wobble and stays where you want it to.

VivoBook Ultra K403 keyboard

The keyboard itself is backlit and sports the usual customary array of shortcut function keys up top and a compact direction pad but no numeric keypad; understandable seeing the compact form factor. Placed just below it is a generously sized touchpad with a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello authentication.

The display on the VivoBook Ultra K403 is rimmed with extremely thin plastic bezels done up in matte black; this is the only part of the notebook that feels rather cheap but this is compensated by the size of the display itself which is fortunately larger than what you’d expect from a notebook of this size. Crammed into a 13-inch sized form factor is a 14-inch 1080P display that has a very respectable 87% screen-to-body ratio and a matte finishing that’s ideal for indoor usage.

VivoBook Ultra K403 keyboard

In terms of ports, the notebook is very well equipped for its size. On the right side you have a full-sized SD card reader which is highly useful for those toting a camera, a USB 2.0 Type A port and an audio combo jack for mikes, headphones and the like. The left side comes with a HDMI 1.4 port, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port, a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and DC port for power.

VivoBook Ultra K403 right side closeup

The underside is otherwise bare save for a pair of downward firing Sonicmaster speakers and a quartet of rubberised feet to prevent it from sliding off a table into oblivion. As far as build quality is concerned, the VivoBook Ultra K403 raises the bar to new heights and if Asus can expand this level of mil-spec durability and sturdiness to all their notebooks while keeping prices fair, they’ll gain a significant edge indeed. For what you pay for, you’re mostly getting the level of build quality that you’d get in a notebook almost twice the VivoBook Ultra’s intended price tag.

Asus VivoBook Ultra K403 Specifications and Performance

For the Malaysia market, the Asus VivoBook Ultra K403 comes in two variants that are mostly identical save for what processor it uses with your choice of either an 8th generation Intel Core i3-8154U which is what our test unit is packing or an 8th generation Intel Core i5-8265U processor for a bit more cash. For the uninitiated, the 8th generation Intel Core i3-8154U is an ultra low voltage processor of recent vintage from their Whiskey Lake family built on their 14nm process with two cores, four threads and a 2.1GHz clock speed as well as a max turbo speed of 3.9GHz. This setup is more than capable of handling most day to day tasks like web browsing, basic paperwork and the like.

VivoBook Ultra K403 night raid benchmark

The rest of the hardware across both variants is otherwise identical. You get a 14-inch NanoEdge 1080P LCD display, Windows 10 Home running under the hood, 8GB DDR3 RAM and a 512GB PCIe Gen 3 x 2. The notebook lacks a graphic card and instead relies on internal Intel HD Graphics 620, relegating it to retro gaming and daily computing work.

VivoBook Ultra K403 pcmark score

Firing up the laptop from a cold start into the Windows 10 desktop took mere seconds and the notebook was easily able to tackle a dozen open Chrome browser windows without keeling over. It was able to tackle Google Docs and Sheets along with Microsoft Office without significant lag. It was also able to run some vintage gaming such as FTL and it was also able to play 4K video too. While it’s primary focus is daily computing, you’re still able comfortably pencil in some light gaming and entertainment on the VivoBook Ultra K403.

VivoBook Ultra K403 crystal disk mark

The monitor notebook’s display is pleasantly vibrant with sufficient width to allow for two Word documents to be displayed side by side without cramping. Movies proved to be a delightful affair with fair contrast though footage of battle with the Night King at Winterfell in Game of Thrones was still too dark to view without ramping up screen brightness to maximum.

Other films proved to be more viewable with the Fifth Element’s vibrant palette appearing wonderfully onscreen. Alas, the provided speakers were middling with poor volume and work best in a quiet room.

VivoBook Ultra K403 angled

In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the VivoBook Ultra K403 got a PCMark 10 score of 3,098 points. In 3D Mark’s Night Raid test, it got a fair score of 4,664 points. As it lacks a dedicated graphics card and only integrated graphics, the notebook scored a predictably low benchmark on 3D Mark’s Time Spy test with only 399 points.

VivoBook Ultra K403 cinebench

In CrystalDisk Mark, the combination of 8GB DDR3 RAM and the 512GB PCIe Gen 3 x 2 storage yielded a sequential read speed of 1706.9MB/s and a write speed of 971.9MB/s. Under practical field conditions, you’ll find that transferring a large 4GB movie shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. In CineBench R20, the latest incarnation of the benchmark, it got a rather low score of  821cb.

VivoBook Ultra K403 front

In general, these scores tally with the VivoBook’s intended purpose as a light productivity oriented workhorse and if you aren’t rendering large amounts of video or tackling the latest games, this is more than enough for your needs. The provided keyboard on the notebook offered decent travel and play, allowing us to get an excellent 100wpm in a typing test. The provided touchpad was high responsive as well with a smooth glide .

Asus VivoBook Ultra K403 Price, Battery Life and Conclusion

One particular feature that Asus was keen to emphasise is that the notebook is able to offer a whopping 24 hours of battery life on account of its 72Wh 4-cell lithium polymer battery. Their claims are certainly close to the mark. With brightness set to 50% and with the power mode set to maximum battery efficiency, the VivoBook managed to last well nigh on 18 to 20 hours of usage spread out across a day and a half with WiFi on, emails, web browsing, constant use of a spreadsheet along with Google Docs as well as several episodes of the Game of Thrones finale plus a good helping of the Umbrella Academy. While you have to keep your expectations modest and remember that the VivoBook Ultra K403 Intel Core i3 variant is focused primarily on paperwork, this kind of endurance for basic computing is exceptional indeed.

VivoBook Ultra K403 with teddy
As it stands, the VivoBook Ultra K403 Intel Core i3 model is a fairly priced offering that brings to the table MIL-STD810G levels of durability, phenomenal battery life and a number of welcome creature comforts for users that include a diverse variety of ports, a backlit keyboard and wide display. While it cannot tackle intensive tasks like video rendering or current-gen gaming, the VivoBook Ultra K403 is ideal for students and those looking for a sturdy laptop for paperwork and the like. If you need more punch, aim for the Intel Core i5 variant of the VivoBook Ultra K403.

What we liked – Exceptionally sturdy MIL-STD-810G rated build quality, phenomenal battery life, backlit keyboard, slim Nanoedge screen, generous variety of ports.
What we didn’t – Keyboard layout a bit cramped, speakers not very loud.
We say The Asus VivoBook Ultra K403 addresses the classic pain points of an entry-level notebook as it introduces a large sized screen in a compact MIL-STD-801G rated tough chassis, enough performance for daily computing needs and outstanding battery life. Ideal for students and the butter-fingered looking for a daily computing workhorse.

Price RM2,699 (Intel Core i3-8145U) / RM3,399 (Intel Core i5-8265U)
Display 14-inch Full HD NanoEdge LCD, 1920 x 1080 pixels
Processor Intel Core i3-8145U
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
OS Windows 10
Memory 8GB DDR3 RAM/ 512GB PIe Gen3 x 2
Battery 72Wh 4-cell lithium-polymer battery (24.7 hours quoted)
Size/Weight 322.86 x 208.48 x16.5mm /1.3kg
Review unit courtesy of Asus Malaysia. Check out the Asus K403 on Asus’ official page here.