Asus VivoBook S400
14 in 1,366x768 display, 1.8kg, 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U, 4.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 8
The Asus VivoBook S400 is the bigger brother of our budget-buy winner, the Asus VivoBook S200, which brought us a great-value touchscreen laptop for just £400.
While the top model of the S200 had a 11.6in display and a Core i3 processor, the top spec of the S400 reviewed here gives you a 14in touchscreen and a 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U processor for just £700.
This is the same processor that that powers the considerably more expensive Asus Taichi and Dell XPS 12, and it breezed through our multimedia benchmarks with an overall score of 48, making it plenty fast enough for everyday tasks as well as applications that can make use of multiple cores and threads.
Not only is the S400 much better value than many competitors, it also offers roughly a 70 per cent increase in performance power compared to the S200.
Its 3D performance, on the other hand, is roughly the same, as its graphics are provided by its integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset. This is to be expected from most Ultrabooks, but this nevertheless makes it a relatively poor laptop for gaming - excepting lightweight tablet/mobile fare.
It only managed 16.2fps in our Dirt Showdown tests on High Quality settings at a resolution of 1,280x720. We had to put it down on Low Quality to get nearer to a more playable 30fps at the same resolution, but we managed to do so while keeping the 4x anti-aliasing, so you’ll manage an even faster frame rate with this disabled.
It may not be able to handle modern 3D games, then, but its ten-point touchscreen makes it a perfect companion for many of the less-demanding games and apps available through the Windows 8 Store. It’s extremely responsive and calling up the Windows 8 Charms bar and switching between individual windows has never been easier.
Tapping icons does make the screen wobble slightly, but as long as you’re not too heavy-handed with it then the S400 has enough weight to prevent it from rocking backwards. Its larger screen doesn’t detract from its overall portability either, as it weighs just 1.8kg and has a depth of 21mm.
We were slightly disappointed that its screen falls into the same pitfalls as the S200, though, as while its glossy finish helps colours appear richer and more vibrant than an ordinary matt display, its lacklustre brightness levels ends up making everything appear quite dim. This is perhaps the VivoBook’s biggest flaw, and it isn’t helped by its average viewing angles. Our solid colour tests also revealed that the bottom half of the screen appeared to be much lighter than the top half if you’re not looking at it more or less straight on. It’s not particularly noticeable during day to day use, though, and there’s a fairly generous amount of screen tilt to help remedy this problem as well.