ASUS has launched (and will be launching) multiple products that run Windows RT / 8. A family of laptops branded under the VivoBook umbrella, the S200 and S400, are solutions for those who require a light, thin notebook that sport touch screens and all the bells and whistles for Windows 8. We recently invested in an S400 to see what all the fuss is about with this mid-range notebook. We must admit - we're pleased with the experience on offer.
So what's the S series packing that's oh-so-incredible? The latest generation of Intel chips, touch screens and other bits and bobs. Compared to the its S200 sibling, the S400 sports a larger display, faster Intel chip options and overall improvements to the specification sheet. The model we purchased set us back £500 / $699 (Amazon pricing) and contains the following setup:
- Intel Core i3 1.8GHz dual-core CPU
- 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM (upgraded to 8GB)
- 500GB SATA hard drive
- 3-cell battery (provides 4-6 hours worth of power)
- HD webcam, Bluetooth (v4), SD reader and WiFi
- HDMI, 2x USB 2, 1x USB 3, VGA, LAN ports
Not bad for a Windows 8 notebook.
Weighing in at just 1.8Kg and is just 21mm thick, the notebook is easy and light to hold and carry. That's quite an impressive feat for ASUS as the laptop does indeed sport a touch screen display, which adds both weight and size to the overall figures. Speaking of which, the screen is a 14 inch LED-backlit TFT LCD display with a 1366 x 768 resolution (16:9). It's no 1080p, which is sported in the Acer S7 we recently took a look at, but it's a useable resolution nonetheless.
While $699 isn't cheap for a notebook, what you receive in terms of quality and power surely makes up for the price. The S400 is an aluminum-plastic build with a hairline finish for the lid - it looks every bit a star. Windows 8 64-bit runs smooth on the i3 chip and we can't see the requirement for more horsepower unless you're into video processing and advanced gaming. Running multiple apps simultaneously failed to slow the system down, thanks to the amount of RAM installed and optimisations present in Windows 8.
What's surprising about the S400 is just how quiet and cool it runs. The processor is generally clocked at just 800MHz until bumped up to the maximum 1.8GHz when demanding processes are launched. This enables the chassis to remain cool and for the on-board fan to run almost at idle. The result is a comfortable palm rest and a pleasant experience when using the notebook on the lap.
The keyboard is a joy to use and we've encountered no issue using it on a daily basis, apart from sometimes a key stroke may not be registered correctly (which may well be limited to the unit we received from Amazon). Just be sure to give each key some wellie when going for gold. As mentioned above, the laptop runs fairly cool and so the keyboard remains at a comfortable temperature for those long periods of entering data onto the screen.
Audio is actually pretty good for a laptop, especially one that's just 21mm thick. Sporting ASUS SonicMaster (www.sonicmaster.asus.com) there are two speakers under the beast's belly, one on either side of the laptop. Providing some decent levels of bass and rich audio, the sound quality surpasses the MacBook we used for comparison by a clear mile, especially with the subtle surround effects.
Battery life is okay. Reviewers have slammed the laptop for only providing 3 hours worth of power, but we managed to get through 6 hours on a single charge. It of course depends on what you're doing with the laptop, as is the case with any electronic device with battery power. ASUS bundles a number of suites with the installation, which aren't too bad and don't need to be removed.
The S400 isn't a perfect laptop, but if you're seeking a slightly cheaper ultrabook with a touch screen this might be the choice for you. ASUS has done a superb job packing quality and strong specifications into a cheap package, which is surely a hit with consumers. Again, the S400 is running in the neighborhood of $650-700 US and can be found at various retailers such as Amazon.com and the Microsoft Store.
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.