Last year, the ASUS VivoBook S550 was clearly one of the most capable (and affordable) 15.6″ laptops. The ‘affordable’ tag becomes evident as “worth it” when you squeeze in a 3rd generation i5 processor, 4GBs of RAM, 2GB NVIDIA graphics, a hybrid 24GB SSD + 500GB SATA inside a 21mm thin laptop with a massive 15.6″ touch display – and all that for Php 37,000 to 38,000.
This year, the upgrade – the ASUS VivoBook S551 (above) – comes with a beefier 4th generation Haswell processor. That means an extended battery life of 4-5 hours, since Haswell consumes less power. Always a welcome improvement. Nearly everything else stayed the same – Windows 8, touch display, 4 GBs RAM, 2GB NVIDIA graphics, “standard” ASUS attention to details (the chassis remains sturdy, classy, thin and light for a massive laptop). Oh, the hybrid storage is bigger – 750GB HDD + 24GB SSD. You can still get all the graphic and video work done, but the price for the beefed up processor is just as beefy – SRP Php 49,992.00. Let’s hit the Spec Sheet followed by the Good, the Bad, and the Verdict.
ASUS VivoBook S551LB-CJ117H Spec Sheet
Intel® Core™ i7 4500U 1.8GHz Processor
15.6″ 16:9 HD (1366×768) Glare panel
Windows 8, 4GB DDR3
NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 740M with 2GB DDR3 VRAM
750GB HDD 5400 RPM With 24 G SSD
Super-Multi DVD 2 -in-1 card reader (SD/ SDHC)
Camera: HD 720p CMOS module
Networking: 10/100/1000 Base T BT 4.0 support
1 x COMBO audio jack
2 x USB 3.0 port(s)
1 x USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert
1 x HDMI 1 x SD card reader
Built-in Speakers And Microphone
ASUS SonicMaster Lite Technology
3Cells 4500 mAh 50 Whrs Polymer Battery
Dimensions: 380 x 258 x 22.5 mm (WxDxH)
Weight: 2.4 kg (with Polymer Battery)
SRP Php 49,992.00
- There’s no uncomfortable palm area or underside heat. That’s vital if you’re the type who works for hours on end in front of a laptop.
- Very sturdy build. The aluminum chassis is really becoming an ASUS trademark for Windows notebooks. Barely any flex on the center of the keyboard, and the display doesn’t wobble. Premium tactile feel all over.
- Keyboard is comfortable to type on – spaced out well and providing just the right amount of bounce and travel.
- Generously spaced and very responsive trackpad that’s already optimized for Windows 8 gestures.
- The app launching, the wake from sleep, the boot and shut down time, and the responsiveness of the touch screen are sufficiently fast.
- Although Windows 8 allows for two full screen apps side by side, that feature gets better on a larger 15.6″ screen – you see more rows and columns on two MS Excel sheets, and you can compare two documents you’re editing without having to crane your neck near the display or squint.
- The battery life of 4 to 5 hours is reliable.
And that’s the glare.
There’s no doubt the ASUS VivoBook S551 is a capable gaming notebook: here’s Sniper 2 with graphic settings toggled to high.
Dual full screen apps side by side. Well, not exactly full screen for each, more like half and half. But you can see the possibilities. MS Office 2013, by the way, does not come preinstalled.
Sometimes it’s easier to touch the side of the S551’s screen to see how many and which apps are running.
If you’re looking for a great headset for games and movie marathons, the ASUS Orion Pro Gaming Headset is recommended.
Close up of how pixelated the text can get. The display resolution of the massive 15.6″ display of the VivoBook S551 is ONLY 1366×768. Activating Clear Type helps improve readability, but not by much.
Just to give you an idea of how big that 15.6″ screen is – that small tablet on the left, leaning on the VivoBook, is the LG G Pad 8.3.
You can’t bend the display anymore than that.
Closing a Windows 8 apps by swiping from the top of the screen to the bottom, on a screen this big, is actually tedious. Alt+F4, by the way, still works.
The ASUS VivoBook S551 comes with some pre-installed apps that are actually useful, not bloatware.
- Resolution could be better, given the price jump. 1366×768 is just sad to see on a 15.6″ display. Activating Clear Type improves readability to some extent. But still.
- The display glare cannot be avoided, only minimized. A screen protector might help.
- Audio is sufficiently loud without sounding strained. It’s not bass-rich and voices are at times hard to make out clearly, so you’ll need either a good headset or external speaker. Highly recommended is the ASUS Orion Pro Gaming Headset.
- Non-backlit keyboard. For long hours of graphic work and WordPress design and content building, not having to squint down at your keyboard, because it’s already back-lit, would have been nice.
- MS Office 2013 does not come preinstalled.
- The SRP Php 50k price tag. Since the S551 is an upgrade to the S550, which excelled in specs-to-price ratio, so you come to expect the upgrade to offer better specs at a higher price point, or offer some improvements at more or less the same price range.
Personally, I can live with all the bad save for the low resolution and the price. Fortunately, the S551 was launched along side with other 15 inchers with a price point and specs along those of the S550. One such alternative 15 incher is the ASUS X550LC which runs on a similar 4th generation Haswell processor and 2GB NVIDIA graphics. The drawback? No touchscreen, no SSD drive for cache. The ASUS VivoBook S551 is a capable machine, classy looking, formidably sturdy, and assuredly sleek. But it just feels as though the i7 processor pulls the price too high without throwing in other vital improvements.