Asus VivoBook S400E review

31 Jan 2013

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

Price when reviewed: 
700(£700 inc VAT)
5

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £583
Price inc VAT £700
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 6
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 339 x 239 x 24mm (WDH)
Weight 1.820kg
Travelling weight 2.2kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-3517U
Motherboard chipset Intel HM76 Express
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 14.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 465GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

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
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.9mp
Fingerprint reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 43min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.63
Responsiveness score 0.69
Media score 0.68
Multitasking score 0.50

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 64-bit
OS family Windows 8