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Asus VivoBook S400E review

Verdict

A stylish and potent Ultrabook-alike for sensible money: Asus’ VivoBook S400E isn't perfect, but it's an affordable all-rounder

Review Date: 31 Jan 2013

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £583 (£700 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

Asus VivoBook S400E

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.

Asus VivoBook S400E

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.

Author: Sasha Muller

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User comments

Confusing English

The phrase "to have no truck with" means to reject or to have nothing to do with something, so you have given the opposite meaning of the one it subsequently looks like you intend. You could have said that you "have no beef" with the ergonomics perhaps.

By bd4mer on 31 Jan 2013

Seems great

My sister bought one of these (when she could finally find a place that stocked it).

It's her first experience of Windows 8 and touch screens (having had a 8 year old XP laptop up until now) and she adores it all!

By Grunthos on 31 Jan 2013

firewire or expansion slot

hi all - i use my laptop for audio work and need either firewire or an expansion slot to add it. all these lovely new windows 8 machines i've seen around don't have either. anyboy spotted one?

By sihaz2 on 31 Jan 2013

It's better than it sounds

I've just bought a pair of these for my parents (well, the i3 version at least) and they are generally very good indeed. The screen stats sound bad but in real world use, I didn't notice as full brightness on most laptops is too bright for my liking. At only £499 for the i3 and around £599 for the i5, I think they're fantastic VFM considering the touch screen capability.

By PsYcHoTicTac on 31 Jan 2013

Beware Intel lawers

If I were you, I'd get rid of the hyperlinked title of this review on your front page - it's not an Ultrabook.

Back to the review, it sounds like a decent machine let down by a crappy screen. Again. Resolution, brightness and contrast all well done on where they should be, and I'd be very wary of the ergonomics of a touchscreen on a regular form-factor laptop - RSI of the shoulder with repeated use of the touchscreen does not sound like a fun prospect.

By aeonturnip on 31 Jan 2013

@sihaz2

Trouble is that manufacturers are leaning towards the Ultrabook spec.

Firewire has never been a big hit in the PC world and USB3 is used instead.

Of course, that doesn't help people in the AV world like yourself.

Is there an adapter that can convert from USB to Firewire?

By Grunthos on 31 Jan 2013

@sihaz2

Unfortunately Firewire is all but dead. I haven't seen any laptops with Firewire for a couple of years now.

Even Apple the stalwart of Firewire has dropped it completely.

By big_D on 31 Jan 2013

I've not seen firewire on a new laptop for a good long while now. Your best bet could be an adaptor, maybe? Amazon has a bunch here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_12?url=
search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=firewire+to+usb+
adapter&sprefix=firewire+to+%2Caps%2C170

Sorry for the long URL, but most security conscious people won't trust a bit.ly link so i just pasted it in.

By khellan on 31 Jan 2013

Firewire - Get a Mac!

If you are into audio (or video) then a Mac is ideal. Unlike the previous comment Apple have not dropped firewire, they have just updated it to Thunderbolt! If you have older firewire peripherals then Apple sells a Thunderbolt to firewire adapter.

By bernardm3 on 31 Jan 2013

advice

thanks for the advice guys. i may give one of those adapters a try as they are so cheap however my firewire audio kit tends to be a bit fussy about which firewire chipset you have so i suspect ading an adapter to the mix might just cause bother. it's why i was hoping to find a laptop with an expansion port as the card i've got on my current laptop i know is good for the job. don't seem to be able to find any with expansion ports either. and sorry bernardm3 macs aren't my thing i'm afraid!

By sihaz2 on 31 Jan 2013

Substandard screen on a Windows laptop? At that idiosyncratic resolution? Again? Is there a reason for this (apart from cheapskate punters)?

By c6ten on 31 Jan 2013

@bernardm3

So what you're saying is:
Unlike Windows laptops where you need an adapter you should get an Apple laptop where all you need is an adapter!? :)

By Grunthos on 1 Feb 2013

@bernardm3

If Apple have not dropped fire-wire why do you need an adapter to thunderbolt for?
As Grunthos says your statements do not make any sense.

By curiousclive on 9 Feb 2013

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