Why is it only 14-inch and smaller laptops get the slim and light treatment? Look for something with a 15-inch screen and you’ll mostly find performance machines or standard laptops you wouldn’t want to carry around or take out in public too often.
The Asus VivoBook S15 is a 15-inch laptop that is light, slim and attractive. And it’s not too expensive either.
This laptop’s build isn’t close to Asus’s best ZenBooks, though, so make sure you keep your expectations in check.
Price and availability
The Asus VivoBook S15 covers the range of Intel Core i-series processors. If you’re happy with a Core i3, which may well be more powerful than you think, you only need to spend £599.
We’re reviewing the mid-range model, called the S510UQ. It has a Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, and costs £799. You get dedicated GTX 940 MX graphics, making it better at playing games than some. Check it out here on Amazon.
You can spend an extra £100 if you want a Core i7 CPU instead, although the rest of the specs are the same. Alternatively, the S510UA model gets you a Core i7 CPU without a dedicated GPU for £799. But that’s not as much fun, is it?
The S15 comes with a one-year collect and return warranty
Design and build quality
The VivoBook series is Asus’s mid-range family of laptops. While the Asus VivoBook S15 looks nice, it is not an all-metal laptop.
Its lid is aluminium, but the rest is plastic. You’d have to touch the keyboard surround to know this, mind, as it’s a dead ringer for anodised aluminium.
As it’s not part of the elite ZenBook society, the Asus VivoBook S15’s lid uses a normal brushed finish rather than Asus’s signature circular spun one too. But it’s still metal and still looks smart.
Plastic is no limiter on laptop strength, and Acer makes some budget Chromebooks that would probably survive being thrown against a wall, but the Asus VivoBook S15’s build is not perfect.
Certain parts of the keyboard are pretty spongy, because it appears to rely on a strut running down the middle, rather than having a solid sub-frame.
By the “H” key it’s solid, but press down by “D” or “;” and the keyboard flexes under your finger like a Tupperware lid. This is what we look to avoid in laptop build.
Other parts of the S15 design are far better, though. The screen has a narrow border, for example, giving the laptop a fairly petite footprint for a 15-inch model.
At 1.5kg and 17.9mm thick, it is also highly portable for the screen size. Your average thin and light 13-inch laptop is only 200-300g lighter.
The connections show the VivoBook is made for an ultra-mainstream audience. There are three normal-size USBs, a full-size SD card slot and a full-size HDMI. You won’t need an adapter to plug in your current peripherals, unlike laptops that only use USB-C.
We are slightly disappointed by the speed of the USBs, though. Only one is a USB 3.0. The other two are USB 2.0 ports, which will limit transfer speeds if you plug in an external hard drive or a very fast USB stick.
There’s also one of the newer USB C sockets, for future-proofing. It’s USB 3.1 Gen 1 spec port, so while it doesn’t have the bandwidth of the Thunderbolt 3 you’ll find on some expensive laptops, with 5Gbps it’s still fast enough for most uses. That includes attaching a 4K monitor.
In some other countries, Asus puts a fingerprint scanner on the VivoBook S15 S, but we don’t get one in the UK. No great loss.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ keyboard feel is affected by the flex of its surround, but not as bad as it could be. Its far right side is the spongiest part, populated by symbol and function keys.
Let’s not let it off entirely, though. A bit of flex/give to the left side also makes the action less well-defined and rigid than it should be. Even a slight bit of sponginess degrades the feel.
It will affect light typists the least, and the keys are otherwise of good quality. There’s also a backlight, which is sometimes left out of mid-price laptops.
The Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ trackpad is a standard plastic surface rather than a textured glass one. However, it gets about as close to the feel of glass as plastic can.
It’s a similar size to previous generations of MacBook Pros. There’s plenty of room, and the pad’s click is perfectly good. It’s a standard “hinge” mechanism but doesn’t depress too far at the bottom or have any dead zone at the top.
If we were to simmer the appeal of the Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ down to a single bullet point it’s a large screen in a slim and light frame. You get a 15.6-inch display, and even the MacBook Pro 15 is significantly heavier at 1.83kg (before you get too excited, it’s also a lot more powerful).
Several elements of the display are just OK, but it does reach the basics of what we’d be happy to use day-to-day, with an IPS LCD panel and 1080p resolution. It’s not super-sharp but is reasonably so, and doesn’t look odd from certain angles like a TN LCD does.
The Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ display has a matte finish, which is great for minimising the effect of reflections, but fairly low max brightness isn’t great for outdoor use. Maxing-out at 256cd/m, you’ll be able to see documents thanks to the high contrast involved, but subtler images are going to appear too dim in bright daylight.
Colour is no more than acceptable too. Covering just 60.7% of sRGB, there’s clear undersaturation of bolder tones compared to some other (generally smaller) laptops around the same price. With just 42.6 percent of Adobe RGB and 43.7 percent of DCI P3 covered, the S15 is definitely not a laptop for video editors or photographers.
However, for those like us who consider color accuracy a “nice to have” rather than essential, the Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ screen is still surprisingly satisfying. It’s all down to contrast, the one aspect of the screen the laptop nails. With a measured contrast ratio of 1117:1, it’s about as good as you’ll find in an LCD-screen laptop.
It keeps the VivoBook looking punchy even if the actual color isn’t super-vivid.
The Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ uses Intel’s low-voltage CPUs. These have two cores rather than the four you’ll find in performance-focused 15-inch laptops.
Quad-core power is great for those who edit video or use pro-level apps that real tax a CPU. However, for day-to-day use you wouldn’t notice the difference.
Our Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ has an Intel Core i5-7200U processor, with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. This is a kind of gold standard spec for slim and light laptops. You could have a laptop with the most powerful processor available, but if it had an HDD instead it wouldn’t feel as slick as this VivoBook.
Just as it doesn’t have a no holds barred build or screen, the SSD delivers fairly ordinary performance, with 524MB/s reads and 497MB/s writes. It’s easily enough to provide the functional day-to-day benefits of an SSD, though.
In PC Mark 10 the Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ scores 2825 points, just a little more than we saw from the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S with the same CPU. It scores 7010 points in Geekbench 4, again just fractionally better than the Lenovo.
Comparing these results to those of a chunkier quad-core laptop like the Acer VX15 is more interesting. Its PC Mark scores are not radically higher, because this is contextual test based on the sort of tasks most of us do on a weekly basis. Geekbench 4 scores are a different story, the Acer scoring 10166 points (with an i5 CPU). That’s almost a 50% increase.
Chunkier quad-core laptops do have a lot more CPU power, but if you mostly perform light tasks, you probably won’t make great use of it.
The Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ is also one of an increasing number of thin laptops to have dedicated graphic hardware. It uses the Nvidia 940MX chipset, which we saw recently in the Lenovo IdeaPad 720S.
This is much better than Intel HD 620 integrated graphics, able to handle some games you might play on a PS4 or Xbox One. Alien Isolation runs at a fab 64fps with graphics at low settings and resolution at 720p. It’s also playable with the visuals turned up and the resolution set to native 1080p, averaging 27fps.
That’s not perfect but shows you can get fairly smooth results with just a couple of effects turned off.
The more challenging Deux Ex: Mankind Divided is only worth attempting with Low settings, at 720p. Like this it averages 28.6fps: not too bad. At 1080p Ultra settings, it runs at 7.2fps, reminding you this isn’t really a gaming laptop. It’s a dabbler.
We have a lot of time for low-end cards like this, not least because they can fit into slim laptops and don’t add too much to the price. However, and not for the first time, we wish it had the newer GeForce MX150 instead. It’s a successor to the 940MX and offers a roughly 20-30% improvement in our gaming tests.
Given the Asus VivoBook S15 S510UQ case must have more spare room in it than comparable 13-inch models (and certainly feels like it, tapping the casing) we’re slightly disappointed by how noticeable the fan is. It’s never like an aircraft taking off, but is louder than most ultra-slim models when you’re just browsing the web or writing a document.
It seems either Asus has put less effort into optimising fan speeds or the casing/internals aren’t as good at passive cooling as some. Asus’s website talks about ice cold cooling, but other laptops with low-voltage processors manage to stay fairly cool while running almost silent when, say, writing a document.
Asus hasn’t used the extra case space of the VivoBook S15 S to max-out the battery either. It has a 42Wh unit, smaller than the 48Wh of our old favourite ZenBook UX310UA or Dell’s 60Wh XPS 13.
This is a little disappointing when this is a laptop we’d consider taking on trips abroad. Or to the local cafe.
Playing a 720p video at 120cd/m² brightness, the laptop lasts 7 hours 15 minutes. You can expect a little less with mixed use, well under most people’s idea of a full day’s work.
Asus says the VivoBook is made for “today’s fast-paced urban lifestyle”, but that clearly doesn’t take into account how many of us work overtime.
Its speakers are fair. You don’t get the unusual bass punch we heard recently in the Asus ZenBook Flip S, or the greater volume and refinement of a MacBook. However, they are not thin of harsh, and we’d be happy to listen to a film’s soundtrack through them after slumping into a hotel room after a long flight.