Asus VivoBook S400E review
Ultrabooks routinely match potent performance with luscious looks and a slim, sleek chassis, but such alchemy comes at a cost. This is where Asus’ VivoBook range comes in, offering similar style in a slightly portlier chassis. Our favourite so far is the budget VivoBook S200E, but the S400E is also appealing, combining a larger 14in touchscreen with a top-flight Core i7 CPU for only £700 inc VAT.
The curvy, 24mm-thick chassis isn’t slim enough for an official Intel Ultrabook sticker, nor, at 1.82kg, is it light enough. Despite those extra grams, though, it looks fantastic. The dark brushed-metal lid folds back to reveal a keyboard set adrift in a silver metal surround, and the stout, contoured base looks attractive from any angle.
There are no complaints about the S400E’s ergonomics, either. The glossy 14in touchscreen responds to the lightest dab and stroke of a finger, and the extra weight in the base means you have to prod hard before it rocks back on its hinge. There’s some flex in the Scrabble-tile keyboard’s surround, but the keys give way with a lovely, cushioned bounce. The buttonless touchpad supports all Windows 8’s edge-swipe gestures, as well as a range of two- and three-fingered dabs and flicks, and it worked well throughout testing.
The presence of a Core i7-3517U CPU is amazing for the money, and Asus has partnered the top-end processor with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk. The lack of an SSD puts a dent in overall performance, with the 0.63 score in our Real World Benchmarks behind models with SSDs, but it’s more than quick enough for most purposes.
However, unlike many of these rivals, there’s room to upgrade. Unscrew the base, and you’ll find an unoccupied RAM slot next to the laptop’s standard 2.5in HDD – adding more RAM and replacing the hard disk with an SSD is a ten-minute job.
Elsewhere, the essentials are all present and correct. Asus has put the extra millimetres around the S400E’s chassis to good use, squeezing in two USB 2 ports, a single USB 3 port, D-SUB and HDMI video outputs, an SD card reader and Gigabit Ethernet. There’s 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4 is included. Even the speakers are of reasonable quality.
Battery life is a touch disappointing at 5hrs 43mins in our light-use tests, but it’s only the VivoBook S400E’s display that lets the side down. Asus has opted for a glossy, 1,366 x 768 panel, and the backlighting is far from impressive. We measured a maximum brightness of 162cd/m2, the lowest we’ve seen for some time. The contrast ratio of 200:1 is no better, resulting in flat, lifeless images. The display isn’t a dead loss, however. Asus’ factory calibration means the panel’s colour response has been tweaked extensively, and the result is great colour accuracy.
There are plenty of areas where Asus could improve the VivoBook S400E – the display, the slight bounce in the keyboard, the overall weight – but for £700, those flaws are easy to forgive. It isn’t an Ultrabook, but the VivoBook S400E is a handsome, powerful all-rounder, and a perfect introduction to the touch-friendly aspects of Windows 8.
|Warranty||2 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||339 x 239 x 24mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3517U|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel HM76 Express|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||465GB|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.9mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||5hr 43min|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.63|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|