- Sturdy housing
- Hard disk with flash cache
- Disappointing keyboard and touchpad quality
- Battery life of up to four hours
With the Vivobook S400 series, Asus sells compact, Ultrabook-like laptops with prices of up to around eight hundred euros, but the cheapest in the series can be obtained for less than six hundred euros. The housing is relatively compact and is made of sturdy, brushed aluminum. Due to the 14″ screen, which makes the laptop slightly smaller than average, the S400 could just be everyone’s friend that is easy to take with you, but that also comes into its own on the kitchen table. We found out whether that is indeed the case.
Appearance, keyboard and touchpad
The Vivobook S400 falls between a laptop and an ultrabook. When you lift the laptop, the weight seems higher than you would expect from a 14″ laptop and it turns out to be 1848 grams. The back of the screen and the top of the laptop are made of aluminum, which undoubtedly contributes to the weight, but also ensures that the laptop feels sturdy and gives the impression that it can take a beating.
The case may be above average, but the keyboard and touchpad don’t really stand out. The keys of the keyboard are flat, where we would have preferred some relief, and the keys could have had a bit firmer feedback. In addition, the keyboard on our test model creaked slightly when tapped, suggesting that this is a point of wear and tear.
The touchpad is surrounded by a beautifully finished ‘chrome’ edge, with which short, clear clicks can be made. The surface is nice and smooth and allows good precision. Unfortunately, the touchpad on our test S400 turned out to be too high in the housing and even protruded above the palm rests. The touchpad supports multitouch, but you keep touching the side of the touchpad while swiping . Just like the creaks in the keyboard, this problem can be exemplary.
Screen, battery life and speed
Asus has equipped the S400 with a 14″ touchscreen with a resolution of 1366×768 pixels. The integration of a touchscreen immediately means that it is also a mirrored screen, of which we are not a fan due to the reflections that this entails. many apps in the Windows 8 interface, however, will benefit from a touch-sensitive screen.
Like many other manufacturers in this price range, Asus uses a TN panel, which usually means that the viewing angles of the screen are disappointing. The vertical viewing angles of the S400 are disappointing, but the horizontal viewing angles turn out to be particularly good for a TN panel. As a result, you retain a good image, even if you watch a movie on the system with different people, for example. In addition, there should not be too much ambient light. The maximum brightness of the screen is 220cd/m² and the contrast ratio is 348:1. This makes working outside on the laptop virtually impossible and incident sunlight also leads to poor readability of the screen.
When it comes to battery life, the S400 has more features of a regular laptop than an ultrabook. During web browsing, the laptop lasts no longer than four hours and while watching a 1080p movie, we end up with three hours. Although the laptop is easy to carry thanks to its size, an adapter can also be included in most cases.
One of the reasons why the laptop doesn’t last very long on a battery charge is the outdated processor architecture. The Core i3-3217U processor isn’t much slower than the newer Haswell processors, but the new architecture is much more energy efficient. As far as speed is concerned, the S400 is fine. In addition, the hard drive is accelerated by the use of a flash cache, which means that startup times are shorter than with laptops with only a hard drive. An SSD is even faster in all cases, but that’s not an option with the Vivobook S400. Those who want to replace the hard disk themselves will have little trouble doing so; the standard 2.5″ sata drive is easily replaceable.
The Vivobook S400 offers above-average value for money, especially if you’re considering purchasing the cheaper version. We would rather expect the sturdy aluminum housing and the hard drive with caching SSD on more expensive laptops. On the other hand, the S400 is now a somewhat outdated model. This means that the laptop comes standard with Windows 8 and not 8.1 and that the Core i3 processor is still from the previous generation. In terms of speed, the current and previous generation i3 do not differ much and the upgrade to Windows 8.1 is free. This makes the S400 a laptop of above-average quality, which comes into its own even better on the kitchen table than on the road.