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Asus VivoBook S510U review

BRIDGING THE GAP between portable and powerful has been a challenge for pretty much every laptop maker around, some making slim but weak machines while others make powerhouses that push the definition of mobile.

And Asus has not dodged that bullet with its latest VivoBook S510U attempting to blend power with a form factor that’s not too difficult to lug around.

Design
Lightweight aluminium tops the laptop’s lid, but the rest of the Asus VivoBook S510U is made out plastic, which while solid and seemingly durable, isn’t pleasing to the touch when compared to the MacBook Pro it’s seemingly attempting to ape design-wise.

Measuring 1.7cm thick and weighing 1.5kg, the VivoBook S510U is not the slimmest or lightest machine with a 15in display.

But then again it does fit a trio of USB Type-A ports, a USB Type-C port (sadly without Thunderbolt 3 support) an HDMI connection, and a full-sized SD card reader into its chassis.

There’s also a full-sized keyboard thrown into the mix with an eye on productivity. But that’s where things fall down.

While the touchpad, with its integrated fingerprint scanner for use with Windows Hello, is adequate if not wonderfully accurate or slick to use, the keyboard is a distinct disappointment.

That’s mostly down to the lacklustre feel to the key travel, despite it being rated by Asus as 1.4mm, and a rather unpleasant degree of flex in the keyboard deck, though the simple white backlighting of the keys is pleasant.

The keyboard isn’t the worst around once you’ve coaxed your fingertips into learning where the WSAD is for touch typing and the pressure needed to activate the key mechanisms, but the overall feel of keyboard is just not good enough given the laptop’s £1,000 price tag, especially when compared to other devices. Google’s Pixelbook had a much more tactile feel, while even the Surface Pro’s Type Cover feels more pleasing to hack out an email on, with solid feedback compared to the numb feel of the VivoBook S510U’s keys.

Overall, the build and design of the VivoBook S510U is nothing to get excited about. It presents a solid if unremarkable ‘get s**t done’ aesthetic, but we really didn’t get along with the keyboard which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, especially when we know Asus makes better keyboards; the ZenBook UX430 has a thoroughly excellent keyboard in comparison.

Display
Thankfully, Asus wins points with its 15.6in 1920×1080 16:9 IPS display which has what the company calls a “NanoEdge” – which basically means the bezels are pretty slim at a mere 7.8mm.

With an 80 per cent screen-to-body-ratio, NanoEdge makes the display appear bigger than it is, though the Huawei MateBook X Pro still trumps it when it comes to bezel-eating screens.

Colours, contrast and brightness are decent, but not class-leading by any stretch of the imagination. And a lack of sRGB or Adobe colour gamut accuracy means people looking at doing colour correction work for photos and videos will need an external display or should look elsewhere.

But otherwise, it does the job. It’s perhaps not as bright or vibrant as say the PixelSense display on Microsoft Surface products and the ZenBook UX430 has a better screen, so again there’s a feeling Asus could do better here.

Nevertheless, for day to day work the VivoBook S510U’s display if more than adequate, just don’t expect to be blown away when watching movies or playing the odd game.

Performance and battery life
Asus has equipped this refreshed VivoBook S510U with Intel’s eight-gen Kaby Lake R, rather than Coffee Lake, chip in the guise of a Core i7-8550U. This slice of silicon sports four cores and with eight threads and a base clock speed of 1.8GHz which ramps up to a nippy 4Ghz. Paired with 8GB of RAM in our review unit, there’s enough performance on tap for everyday computing.

Let’s throw some benchmarks around; on Geekbench 4, the processor got single core score of a respectable 4,543 and a generated a multi-core score of 13,969. While in the Cinebench R15, the CPU render test hit a score of 660, again a solid result. And PCMark 8 hits an overall score of 3342, which is decent for an all-around laptop.

While our review model came sporting an Nvidia GeForce MX150, it’s no pixel pushing powerhouse and is only really suitable for running less demanding or older games at around 30 frames per second; fans of games like Dota 2 and Overwatch should get playable frame rates though. And the dedicated GPU helps with video rendering and more graphically demanding apps, but don’t go expecting rapid 4K video editing.

Storage is decent, with our model rocking a 256GB SATA3 M2 SSD. It’s not a super-fast PCIe drive, but it’s good enough for a grand; pity it comes with a suite of bloatware that’s best purged before getting set up.

Battery life is a letdown, though. Asus states it’ll provide eight hours or a working day’s worth of juice. But with the brightness cranked and regular work of writing documents, emails, web browsing and downloading files, the VivoBook S510 slurped up power like there was no tomorrow. In a mere two hours battery life fell from around 70 per cent to 19 per cent, so we doubt it would last more than five hours of decent use before you’d need to reach for the charger.

Reducing the brightness helps save power, but the battery life was still a tad lacking, especially when other slim laptops have a lot more endurance.

In short
Asus has put some solid components into a machine that sits around the £1,000 mark. Similar specs in laptops from HP and Dell, for example, would add a good few hundred pounds more on the price tag.

At the same time, the VivoBook S510U lacks a really compelling hook to make you want to part with your cash over say a machine in the ZenBook range. The design is fine but uninspiring and the display is decent but nothing special – basically there’s a whiff of ‘just good enough’ around the VivoBook S510U. And then the keyboard lets the whole thing down.

While the VivoBook lineup is distinctly mid-range, meaning we don’t expect the very pinnacle of laptop performance and design here, the competition around the £1,000 mark is very stiff, as such the VivoBook S510U struggles to get a real recommendation from us.

If you happen to spot it in a sale or indeed one of its predecessors which sport older but decent seventh-generation Core i processors at a reduced price, then it could be worth snapping up as a mobile workhorse. Otherwise, we’d suggest spending a little more on something like Dell XPS 13, or go for the ZenBook UX430UA which comes with the same Core i7-8850U processor but offers a much better package for a £1,000.

Overall, the VivoBook S510U shows there’s certainly potential in the VivoBook range but perhaps Asus needs to tighten up various aspects of its laptops before they can really hit the high notes while remaining aggressively priced.

The good
Solid performance, slim bezel around the screen, decent port selection

The bad
Mostly plastic chassis, poor battery life, no Thunderbolt 3 support

The ugly
Bad key feel with a keyboard deck that has too much flex for satisfying typing

Bartender’s score
6/10

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