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Review: ASUS VivoBook S400CA

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Asus VivoBook S400CA

I don’t normally spec Asus laptops as I mostly deal with business oriented hardware (for their business grade warranties). It’s been 7 years since I last recommended an Asus computer, but times change so I felt it time to revisit the brand.Asus VivoBook S400CA

This particular clients spec was for a light,portable, non mission critical laptop. The budget was tight and forced me to look outside my regular list of vendors. Normally for an ultrabook I would look at a Dell XPS 13 or HP Folio, upgraded with their respective next business day onsite warranties. This time the budget didn’t allow for that and frankly, the scope didn’t really call for it.

I began looking for an ultrabook, preferably Windows 8, preferably touch screen. I came across the Asus VivoBook S400CA and was pleasantly suprised. For the price this ultrabook had all the goods.

The Asus VivoBook S400CA is not the lightest or thinnest ultrabook I’ve held but at 2 kg its hardly heavy. The glass touchscreens do add some weight over their plastic counterparts.

The technical specs came in as follows:

  • Intel i5 3217U
  • 4GB DDR 3
  • 14″ LED HD Touch Screen
  • 24GB SSD + 500GB Hard Drive
  • Wifi/USB 3/B&O Audio/Webcam

The screen resolution is 1366 x 768 which is pretty standard. I do find that resolution a bit low on my 15.6″ laptop, prefering a 1920 x 1080 Full HD, but on this 14″ screen the standard HD resolution is fine.

Being a glass touch screen means it does have a reflective surface. This is a necessary trade off. It doesn’t really work well outdoors in bright light, and in office lighting can cause some reflection issues but a little angle tweaking of the lid can overcome this.

Most of my pc’s have solid state drives so when I use a physical drive based computer it feels a whole lot slower. The benefit of solid state drives, SSD for short is the amazing read and write speeds, 10 times that of hard disks, but they are smaller in capacity. The VivoBook S400 offers a small 24 gigabyte SSD teamed with a 500 gigabyte hard disk drive. The SSD in this instance is used as a large cache, giving the processor super fast access to your most used applications. It does work. After a little while Windows learns your most actively used content and stores it in the SSD cache. This VivoBook feels like it has a full time SSD.

The case is a nice brushed aluminum, the lid darker than the keyboard tray. It all looks very smooth, elegant and stylish and feels great in the hand. The base is plastic which is to be expected at this price point. I didn’t feel any weakness anywhere, other than the center of the keyboard. Under heavy typing the keyboard tray actually flexes inwards. It’s a little disconcerting, a total departure from the rigid keyboard on my Thinkpad, however I don’t see it as a real issue. It’s not twisting the chassis and you do have to press pretty hard.

Asus VivoBook S400CA Top ViewTyping on the shallow keyboard takes some getting used to. It’s not the best keyboard in the world, but far from the worst. In terms of Ultrabooks, they are all pretty average as they compress the keystroke travel, reducing tactile feedback.

The overall design of the laptop has a  modern macbook-esque type profile. The Windows 8 coloured tile interface is sure to attract some attention, especially when swiping hand movements across the screen.

Windows 8 is best experienced with a touch device and the Asus VivoBook S400 showcases it beautifully. Due to its light weight  it can be slightly difficult to use the touch screen without tipping it over. You find work arounds though and using it on your lap with one hand holding the screen and another gesturing becomes second nature, just as if holding a tablet.

This laptop has a myriad of ports including USB 3 and a full size ethernet socket built into the chassis. No cable adapter is needed as on other slimline ultrabooks. The VivoBook also comes with SonicMaster audio which performed well considering the thin case size and small speakers. Another great feature is the 2 second on-time giving it almost tablet like wake up responsiveness.

The Asus VivoBook S400CA comes with a 1 year back to base warranty, which is standard for a consumer device.

After spending a few days with this Ultrabook I seriously considered taking one home. If your after an ultraportable to perform most office tasks the VivoBook S400CA should be on your list.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great review John.

    After travelling with an MS Surface I would definately lean toward a W8 ultrabook for my next PC. The touch screen/keyboard combination is intuitive and perfect for plane travel where an ext mouse is impractical.

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