Review: Asus VivoBook S400C

If you're put off by the slew of new form factors and radical designs emerging with Windows 8, the Asus VivoBook S400 wraps the new operating system up in a comfortingly traditional package.

NameUltrabook: Asus VivoBook S400C
At a glance:Intel Core i5-3317U dual-core CPU,4GB RAM,500GB HDD/24GB SSD hybrid,21mm thick,1.8kg
Summary:A great entry-level Windows 8 Ultrabook; solid and functional if a little thick and heavy by Ultrabook standards.
Rating:4/5
RRP:$1,349
Contact:asus.co.nz

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If you’re put off by the slew of new form factors and radical designs emerging with Windows 8, the Asus VivoBook S400 wraps the new operating system up in a comfortingly traditional package.

This 14-inch aluminium-and-plastic Ultrabook looks every bit the regular laptop, with a couple of subtle Windows 8 touches: the borderless screen, likely to be covered in fingerprints within an hour of unboxing, and the touchpad that sits flush with the keyboard wrist-rest.

The build feels solid, and it should: the VivoBook was the thickest Ultrabook in our December 2012 roundup at 21mm, and the heaviest at 1.8kg. If it were armour-plated and ruggedised, that might be excusable, but it’s not. Yes, its pretty solid, but not enough to justify the impact on its portability.

The screen is low-res for its physical size at 1366 x 768 pixels. That gives it the lowest dot-pitch in our roundup, of 112 PPI. The screen is also highly reflective – too much to be useful outdoors or even under bright indoor lighting – and has a narrow vertical viewing angle.

The upside of the screen’s low resolution is that traditional Windows desktop apps are easy to operate by touch, as buttons and icons are nicely finger-sized without changing any scaling options.

The touchpad is large, responsive and comfortable to click, while the island keyboard is a good size with well-spaced and positioned keys. The only downside is its shallow travel, which makes marathon or high-speed typing uncomfortable.

Inside the VivoBook is the common Intel Core i5-3317U, 4GB of RAM and – contributing to the weight – a hybrid drive comprising 500GB hard drive and 24GB SSD. I personally prefer SSD-based Ultrabooks thanks to the weight advantage and lack of moving parts, but the hard drive/SSD hybrid setup is a good compromise if you need to carry a fairly large volume of data around. If your Ultrabook is to be your primary home PC, a 500GB hard drive may suit you much more than a 128GB SSD.

Performance is unremarkable – in line with the other Ultrabooks in our roundup for CPU-based tasks, though it lags well behind on storage-based tasks as a result of the mechanical hard drive. While the hybrid storage provides fast boot, resume and application start, it doesn’t give the same all-out performance boost of an SSD.

Connectivity isn’t bad, with two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, full-sized HDMI, VGA, Ethernet and an SD card reader. For wireless connectivity there’s 802.11bgn, but no Bluetooth.

Battery life was good, at 3 hours 31 minutes running our standard ‘productivity’ test.

Altogether, the Asus VivoBook S400 is hard to get excited about – but that doesn’t make it a bad laptop. In fact, it’s a pretty good buy at $1,349: $350 less than the next-lowest priced Intel Core-based Ultrabook in our roundup. Only the Samsung ATIV Smart PC beats it on price, but with its Atom CPU and 64GB storage, the ATIV is not something many people could use as their main home or office PC. The VivoBook is.

If you want to upgrade your existing laptop or Ultrabook to a model designed for Windows 8, without going for a convertible form-factor or spending big, the VivoBook makes a great entry-level option.

Tags ultraportablenotebookultrabooklaptop

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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