VivoBook S15

A sleek and solid mid-range laptop from ASUS with premium looks.

Getting a laptop that looks like the most expensive models but actually isn't that costly is a pretty big win. For ASUS, the Vivobook line is its mid-rangers, coming in just below the lineup topping Zenbook products.

In the case of the VivoBook S15, what you've got is a 15-inch laptop that's stunning to look at, well equipped and very well built for around $800. You even have a dedicated GPU thrown in. What's not to like?

That's what we're here to find out.

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ASUS Vivobook S specs as tested

Category Component
Processor Intel Core i5-7200U (2.9GHz)
Dual-core
Storage 256GB SSD
RAM 8GB
Display 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, matte
178˚ wide-viewing
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
NVIDIA GeForce 940MX with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM
Ports USB-A 3.1
USB-A 2.0
USB-C 3.1
HDMI
3.5 mm jack
SD card reader
Speakers ASUS SonicMaster
Wireless Intel dual-band Wireless-AC 3165
802.11ac (1 x 1)
Bluetooth 4.1
Camera Front-facing VGA
Touchpad Precision
Battery 42Wh
Weight 1.5kg (3.3lbs)
Dimensions 361.4 x 243.5 x 17.9 mm
OS Windows 10 Home
Price Around $800

Options are available up to a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD and 2TB HDD as well as a fingerprint sensor on the trackpad for Windows Hello.

ASUS VivoBook S15 hardware and design

VivoBook S15

The VivoBook S15 looks all metal, but in truth, there's only a portion of metallic goodness on the lid. The rest of the chassis is plastic painted to look like metal, which for a mid-range laptop is perfectly reasonable. It's nicely done, and if it can trick you into thinking it is metal then it worked.

Despite being a 15-inch laptop, the S15 follows the traditional Ultrabook style, wedge design, tapering to its thinnest point where you'll rest your wrists. With the sleek body and mostly plastic construction, you also end up with an incredibly light laptop, coming in at just over 3lbs. That makes it extremely portable for a 15-inch notebook. It's sturdy, too, and while there's a little flex if you press down on the keyboard, it's not noticeable under normal typing conditions.

The exterior is all one uniform color, the only break being the brushed finish on the lid. Adorning the sides are the multitude of ports, including a full sized SD card reader, HDMI and USB-C 3.1. No Thunderbolt 3, but we're happy to see the new standard included.

VivoBook S15

Upon opening the lid you're greeted with the 15.6-inch non-touch, matte finish, 1080p display. And super slim side bezels. I've criticised ASUS in the past for being too bezel heavy on some of their laptops, adding additional footprint where you probably don't need it. The VivoBook S15 has an 80 percent screen-to-body ratio, leaving your eyes focused solely on what's important: The display.

The laptop hinge hides the ventilation grille, while the speakers are located towards the front. The VivoBook S15 has ASUS' SonicMaster technology, which in truth is more about under the hood improvements to make audio sound better. The speakers themselves are pretty loud, and decent sounding for laptop speakers, but aside from watching a movie or something when you're on the go you'll probably just use headphones.

The VivoBook S15 also has a solitary front facing camera, as you'd expect. And it's awful. At VGA resolution, even if all you're doing is the occasional Skype call, it looks terrible. If good looking video calls are important to you, invest in a dedicated webcam.

ASUS VivoBook S15 display

VivoBook S15

The display is non-touch, which for some isn't very exciting and possibly a deal breaker. But it's also not a convertible, so, does it really lose anything not having one? I'd say not.

What it is, is a nice enough looking matte display. I have one main criticism, and that's the brightness isn't particularly amazing. Using this in my front room on a sunny day, the screen was a little washed out on maximum brightness, which is disappointing.

It's extra disappointing because when you can see it properly, it's an excellent looking display. ASUS has also bundled its Splendid Technology with the VivoBook S15, with easy to use controls to tweak the color balance. ASUS has its own eye care mode built in, along with a vivid mode which gives everything a bit more saturation, and a manual configuration to set the color temperature to your own desired level.

The best results still come from actually calibrating the display properly, and I can't recommend this enough. Run through the Spyder 5 Pro calibration software it's clear that out of the box it's pretty rough. Without calibration images look very flat, lacking in saturation and any real color temperature.

The display itself certainly isn't going to win any awards, coming in only 68% of sRGB. It still looks good to the eye, especially after calibrating, but if you're a creative depending on accurate color work it's really not for you. Equally, this isn't a high-end laptop, so there's certainly a trade off here.

ASUS VivoBook S15 keyboard and trackpad

VivoBook S15

One consistency across ASUS laptops is that it has a great keyboard, and that's true here. It's got a 1.6mm key travel distance which I think is about perfect for this kind of laptop, and the full sized layout doesn't miss anything out.

Looking a bit lower at the touchpad, and the first point to note is that it has that all important precision touchpad. It's responsive and the finish on the touchpad itself is perfect. Smooth and with no resistance, even with slightly clammy fingers.

What is worth noting is that the sensitivity out of the box was up way to high for my liking. The cursor was darting around all over the screen, but knocking that down a little in settings soon remedied it.

On higher spec models of the VivoBook S15 the trackpad is also where you'll find the Windows Hello compatible fingerprint scanner. The review model we have doesn't have this, but it appears to be the same as the one on the Zenbook 3. Just a little square in the top right corner, with single touch operation.

ASUS VivoBook S15 performance

VivoBook S15

Inside the S15 you have a capable Core i5-7200 processor from Intel with HD 620 graphics. You also have a dedicated 2GB GeForce 940MX GPU from NVIDIA. A gaming laptop, this is not, but we'll rarely turn our noses up at dedicated graphics.

The flipside to that is that battery life takes a hit if you're using it, especially since the older 940MX isn't nearly as power thrifty as more current GPUs. The battery is also pretty small, considering what some of the competition include, and in reality I've seen about 6 hours of mixed use between charges during this review.

I also put the VivoBook S15 through the PCMark Sky Diver test where it came out with a 6,614 result, better than 17% of all others. So nothing exciting.

Despite the fairly limited graphical capabilities, you can still play some games on the VivoBook S15. According to Microsoft, you'll even be able to have a decent go at Forza 7 when that comes out later this year. But less graphically intensive titles are certainly playable on it, including eSports favorites like League of Legends and CS:GO, along with Microsoft's own Age of Empires 2 HD and the forthcoming Age of Empires: Definitive Edition.

You can't play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, sure, but you can still have some fun when you're done with serious laptop work.

ASUS VivoBook S15 software

VivoBook S15

Depending which version of the S15 you get you'll either be using Windows 10 Home or Pro, in our case it's Home. That's not the story though, and it's, sadly, something we have to bring up every time an ASUS laptop comes across our desk.

There's too much bloatware.

The included ASUS software is fine, and very useful. The Splendid app for managing the display's colors and even the built in application to make flashing updated versions of the BIOS. Useful stuff is fine, especially things that will help less nerdy people keep on top of their BIOS updates.

But the Giftbox app is back, throwing itself in front of your eyeballs on first setup of the laptop, and you don't want anything that's inside it, really. You also don't want the built in McAfee software that keeps trying to convince you to register and use it.

Windows 10 has enough junk of its own included as stock these days (looking at you Candy Crush) without manufacturers making it worse. Some are better than others. Sadly, ASUS still puts too much on there.

ASUS VivoBook S15 - The bottom line

VivoBook S15

What ASUS has in the VivoBook S15 is something that should please many. The price is attractive, as is the laptop as a piece of hardware. It performs well, too, and if you're looking for dedicated graphics for a bit of a boost in your content creation, it's there to help you out.

There is certainly more good than bad. The display, for example, while not the brightest, looks great, and the keyboard and trackpad are both excellent.

It's a shame the battery life isn't longer and that ASUS stills loads up crapware you just don't want. Ever. But on the whole, the VivoBook S15 is a very good laptop.

Pros:

  • Excellent design
  • Dedicated GPU.
  • Matte display.
  • Good keyboard
  • Precision trackpad
  • Solid performance for $800.

Cons:

  • Display could be brighter.
  • Poor sRGB performance
  • Bloatware.
  • Battery life isn't fantastic.
  • Awful webcam.

Good

3.5/5

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