Asus VivoBook S200 and VivoBook S400 review: first look


With yesterday’s launch events in London and New York, Asus introduced its glittering new range of Windows 8 devices to the world. In amongst a host of familiar tablets, laptops and convertibles from this year’s Computex and IFA trade shows, however, Asus slipped in a little surprise with the arrival of its affordable touchscreen not-quite-but-almost-Ultrabooks, the 11.6in VivoBook S200 and 14in VivoBook S400.

Asus VivoBook S200

The VivoBook S200 is the baby of the range. With a glossy 11.6in screen squeezed into a metal chassis, this compact laptop aims to deliver Ultrabook style and solid build for under £500. And if you’re wondering why it doesn’t quite make the Ultrabook grade, it’s because the 21.7mm thick chassis is just a few millimetres outside Intel’s guideline dimensions.


Ultrabook or no, the build quality is superb — the 1.3kg chassis feels far sturdier than even far pricier rivals, and is gorgeous enough to make others hang their head in shame. Asus hasn’t gone over the top with fancy design, and instead the S200 features a plain, elegant finish, with a dark brushed metal on the lid and a smooth silver panel around the Scrabble-tile keyboard. There’s barely any flex anywhere to be found.


The keyboard and touchpad worked fine in our time with the S200 — they felt very, very similar to that of the Zenbook UX21, in fact. The surprise attraction is the 11.6in touchscreen. There’s no Full-HD or IPS fanciness going on here, but the touchscreen marries beautifully with Windows 8, and the 1,366 x 768 resolution still looks reasonably sharp thanks to the small screen dimensions.


We’ve no qualms with the connectivity on offer. There are both D-SUB and HDMI video outputs, two USB 2 ports, one USB 3 port, an SD Card reader and an Ethernet socket. There’s no sign of Bluetooth according to Asus’ official specifications, though, so you’ll have to make do with single-band 802.11n.


A pair of models will be available come the end of this week, with one sporting a 1.5Ghz Intel Pentium 987 CPU and the other a 1.8Ghz Core i3-3217U. Both models will be equipped with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk.

The surprise? The Pentium-powered S200 will come in at just £400, with the Core i3 model hitting £450, and both will be available from PC World on Windows 8’s launch day, 26 October.

Asus VivoBook S400

The S200’s big brother, the 14in VivoBook S400, follows in its daintier siblings footsteps. There’s the same two-tone metal-clad chassis, and it’s even a touch thinner than the S200, measuring just 21mm thick. It is, however, a fair bit heavier at 1.8kg.


That’s around half a kilo heavier than its Ultrabook-monikered peers, but the S400 doesn’t feel any the worse for its extra bulk. The two-tone metal chassis is stout and sturdy, and with the keyboard surround hewn from a single piece of metal, there’s not a hint of wallow or flex in the Scrabble-tile keyboard.


Our hopes that the S400 might have a higher resolution display than its smaller cousin were dashed, however. The 14.1in glossy panel is still a bona-fide touchscreen, but the 1,366 x 768 resolution is bog-standard stuff. We’ll have to wait for our review sample to arrive before we can see whether the image quality’s up to snuff, though.


Connectivity covers the essentials. Two USB 2 ports are accompanied by a single USB 3 port, an SD card reader, an Ethernet socket and D-SUB and HDMI video outputs. Again, Bluetooth is conspicuous by its absence, and the wireless chipset is restricted to single-band 802.11n.


A trio of models will be available in the next couple of weeks, with an assortment of Intel Core low-voltage processors doing the honours. Every model will come with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk, with the entry-level Core i3 model launching at a penny under £500, the Core i5 at £600 and the range-topping Core i7 coming in at £700.


It’s early days yet, but Asus may just have combined the best of both worlds with its VivoBooks. Affordable, lovingly designed and thin-and-light enough for most, we wouldn’t be surprised to see these flying off the shelves. We’ve already pestered our contacts at Asus for a review sample, so keep an eye on PC Pro for the full, definitive review.


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