Asus VivoBook S500CA review

24 Sep 2013

A remarkable price for a classy 15.6in touchscreen laptop, but performance is seriously lacking

Price when reviewed: 
430(£430 inc VAT)
4

Asus pioneered the use of touchscreens on budget laptops with its VivoBook family, and now it's the turn of its VivoBook 500CA. Boasting a 15.6in touchscreen, and the same snazzy, wedge-shaped design as its 11.6in and 14in stablemates, this is a budget laptop with a modicum of style.

Like its daintier brethren, the S500CA is a striking machine that, despite its size, manages to impart an air of elegance. A dark, brushed-aluminium plate tops the lid, soft-touch plastic coats its underside, and understated matte-silver plastic surrounds the keyboard. Compared to most budget laptops, the S500CA is unusually attractive.

Build quality is a highlight. The metal keyboard surround keeps the chassis feeling pleasingly stiff, and while the decision to dump the optical drive might irk some prospective buyers, it's allowed Asus to trim the chassis down to a mere 22mm thick. It's also helped keep weight to a minimum - the 500CA weighs only 2.16kg, noticeably less than most of its 15.6in rivals.

Asus VivoBook S500CA

Around the sides are three USB ports, one of which is USB 3, an SD card slot, a 3.5mm headset jack, Gigabit Ethernet, full-sized HDMI and D-SUB outputs. That's an adequate assortment, but we’d prefer more USB 3 sockets. Inside, there’s single-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.

The Asus's 15.6in touchscreen is right at home with Windows 8, but the 1,366 x 768 panel isn’t the best example we’ve come across. It’s responsive enough, but its surface is a little sticky under the finger, which occasionally left us dabbing multiple times to drag windows around or perform edge-swipes.

As with the other touchscreen machines we’ve seen at this price, the touch-sensitive layer has a detrimental effect on image quality. Maximum brightness reaches only 179cd/m[sup]2[/sup], which is a low result even by budget laptop standards, and there's a noticeable grain to the image.

If you can excuse those complaints, however, then the image quality is by no means bad. The contrast ratio is a far more acceptable 245:1, and colour accuracy is as good as it gets at the price. Asus' decision to factory calibrate the display results in honest, lifelike colour reproduction - a rarity in a laptop in this price bracket.

Some of the 500CA's traits are less easy to forgive, however. Despite its size, the keyboard is cramped, with flat, dead-feeling keys. The buttonless touchpad isn’t our favourite, either, and is a little oversensitive.

Asus VivoBook S500CA

Performance is disappointing, too. Inside, there’s a two-generation-old Sandy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard disk, a combination which delivered a predictably middling result of 0.44 in our Real World Benchmarks. The older Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU also takes its toll on gaming performance, and the 500CA struggled to an average of 24fps in our least taxing Crysis test.

We like the price of the S500CA, we like its looks, and the fact that it includes a touchscreen at this price is remarkable. Alas, while the VivoBook S500CA looks the part, more dowdy rivals such as the Sony VAIO Fit 15E deliver a more convincing all-round performance.

Details

Price ex VAT £358
Price inc VAT £430
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 383 x 259 x 22mm (WDH)
Weight 2.160kg
Travelling weight 2.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i3-2365M
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Optical drive None
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support no
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
Pointing device type Touchpad, touchscreen
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.9mp

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 42min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 25min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 24fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.44
Responsiveness score 0.58
Media score 0.44
Multitasking score 0.29

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 64-bit
OS family Windows 8