Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW review: Huge power, low price
High-powered laptops tend to fall into two distinct camps these days. You have your big, brash gaming laptops, which go for all-out power and specifications, and don’t give a fig for portability. And then you have a choice of elegant, more practical machines. It’s this category that the Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW falls into, and although its core specification has more in common with gaming laptops (it’s precisely the same, in fact, as Asus’s own Republic of Gamers GL552VW), it cuts a more refined and elegant figure.
On the outside, there’s Asus’s trademark brushed metal concentric circle finish, resembling the grooves of a vinyl record, while inside is a classy silver keyboard tray. Admittedly, I did notice a little flex on the keyboard base, but it wasn’t particularly worrisome, and the rest of the build and design, while not up to the high standards set by Dell’s XPS range or Apple’s MacBook Pro and Air laptops, is good enough.
For all its classy good looks, the N552VW is still quite hefty, measuring 29.9mm thick and weighing a sizeable 2.5kg, so it’s not the best laptop for carrying around all day. Most of its bulk can be attributed to its built-in DVD drive, but the thick, black bezels around the display also drag down its overall appeal.
Still, this is clearly designed as a desktop-replacement laptop rather than a thin, sleek ultra-portable, which makes it a touch easier to forgive its rather unwieldy dimensions.[gallery:4]
Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW: Keyboard, touchpad and connectivity
And there’s plenty else here to recommend the VivoBook. The keyboard, in particular, is incredibly comfortable to type on. The keys have a good amount of travel with a positive-feeling action to each keystroke, and they all sit precisely where your fingers would expect them to, meaning I had no acclimatisation period and made only very infrequent mistakes. The only disappointment is that the UK model of the VivoBook Pro has no backlighting.
The large touchpad is equally comfortable to use, and its smooth, slick surface allows your fingers to glide across it without much resistance. It felt lovely and responsive during testing, with integrated mouse buttons that worked well.
The sheer size of the laptop means there’s plenty of room for ports and sockets. For data, you get three USB 3 and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. There’s also both a full-size HDMI output and mini-DisplayPort for hooking up external displays. The aforementioned DVD-RW drive is on the right side and there’s also room for an SD card reader and Gigabit Ethernet. Wireless, meanwhile, is covered by 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.[gallery:5]
Display and Speakers
The other big difference separating the VivoBook from its Republic of Gamers counterpart – aside from the design – is its display. Where many gaming laptops make do with a standard 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 resolution panel, the VivoBook Pro employs a vastly superior 3,840 x 2,160 IPS screen.
This not only has a lower black level of 0.49cd/m2 (with the brightness set to maximum) than the ROG, but it’s also brighter, reaching 288cd/m2. That’s still not a match for the very best displays in the business, but it does at least cover a decent 81% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is a definite step up from the ROG’s paltry 61%.
There are, of course, better displays out there – most notably on the Dell XPS 15 – but to get the same kind of specification as the VivoBook, you’re also looking at paying around £700 more.[gallery:8]
Likewise, the VivoBook’s 4K resolution is great for those who like to multitask and work on multiple documents simultaneously, and it’s also a good fit for digital creatives such as audio engineers.
As for the speakers, they’re distinctly average, but since they fire upwards they don’t sound as muffled as other laptops with downwards-firing speakers. They’re perfectly adequate for watching films on Netflix and the odd YouTube video, but for a more enjoyable audio experience, you’ll need to plug in some headphones or external speakers.
Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW: Performance
If the design and ergonomics are a mixed bag, the core specifications more than make up for it. For your money, you get a top-end, sixth-generation quad-core Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor running at 2.6GHz. This can Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz when thermal conditions allow for it, and it also has 16GB of RAM. There’s plenty of storage, with a 128GB PCI-E SSD and 1TB hard disk. It’s a shame it doesn’t have the ROG’s 256GB SSD and 1TB hard disk, but this should still provide more than enough room for all your media files and applications.
In our tough 4K-based benchmarks, the VivoBook Pro managed a score of 114, which is right up there with the similarly specified Dell XPS 15. This makes the VivoBook Pro an excellent choice for a wide variety of desktop tasks, whether that be video editing or music production, especially when you take into account its sharp 4K display.
And then there’s the graphics card. It’s a mid-range Nvidia GeForce 960M unit, so not one for the hardcore gamers, but there’s enough oomph here for light gaming, and it will be able to help out a little on desktop tasks where GPU acceleration is supported.[gallery:2]
In our Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark it couldn’t handle 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, Very High graphics and SSAA turned on, producing just 18.5fps, but turning off SSAA resulted in a much smoother 32.8fps. Dropping the quality to High saw that rise to a completely playable 43.8fps, a result that indicates you should be able to play most games as long as you tailor the graphics settings.
The one area where the VivoBook Pro falls behind is battery life, most likely due to that high-resolution screen. It only lasted a very disappointing 3hrs 34mins in our video playback test, just under an hour short of the ROG. However, with a laptop this big and bulky, you’re not going to want to use it on the move that often.
Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW: Verdict
There’s a lot to like about the Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW. It’s good value considering the specifications on offer, and it’s a halfway-decent gaming laptop, too, although that’s not its main purpose in life. It’s just as quick as the considerably more expensive Dell XPS 15, too, even if its design doesn’t quite live up to the same expectations.
Still, for around £900, you’re getting a decent 4K display, top performance, and a respectable dedicated graphics card, making it a great all-rounder for anyone looking for a speedy desktop replacement. Provided you’re happy with its heft and slightly disappointing battery life, it’s a great choice.
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