In September, I reviewed the ASUS ZenBook S, a luxurious ultra-portable powerhouse of a notebook. I’ve spent the past few weeks with another laptop from the company that shares some of that laptop’s DNA, including a NanoEdge display and ErgoLift hinge. But the ASUS VivoBook S15 is an entirely different beast, with a big 15.6-inch display and a much more affordable price point. For typical home or student use, I think this is one of the better full-sized laptop options out there.
Unboxing: big, yet manages to look slim
The ASUS VivoBook S15 is a big laptop, but not as large as other 15-inch models. When I first opened the box, the top of the case made that clear, a large expanse of brushed metal in a “Gun Metal” finish. However, pulling it out, the laptop didn’t feel as heavy as I was expecting. It uses a two-tone finish with the edges in a contrasting colour (white in my case) that add an element of whimsy to the design, while also managing to make the laptop look thinner. I think the VivoBook S15 is actually a bit of a looker, something you don’t hear very often about full-sized laptops. This class trends toward designs that look like they mean business. In contrast, the VivoBook S15 looks fun—but without looking cheap or like it’s trying too hard.
NanoEdge display means 86% screen-to-body ratio
The move to reduce bezels has trickled down from premium laptops to more affordable ones. The VivoBook S15 features a NanoEdge display with narrow bezels on three sides that give it an impressive 86% screen-to-body ratio. That’s one of the reasons this laptop is physically smaller than many full-sized laptops: less bezel means the case can be physically smaller and still accommodate a 15.6-inch display.
The display is a nice one. It’s Full HD (1920 x 1080) LED-backlit panel that’s treated to reduce glare (and that works quite well). It has 178-degree, wide viewing angles. Also good. And I found it brighter than many displays on laptops in the class. However, the colours were a little on the subdued side.
Capable performance with 8th generation Intel processors
I’m not expecting fire-breathing performance from a laptop in this class, but the ASUS VivoBook S15 is a capable performer. My review unit was equipped with an Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage (the configuration of retail models may vary) which made the combination fairly snappy in performance. Productivity software like Microsoft Office is no problem, and I was able to open multiple web browser tabs without slowing down. It should be ideal for home, student and small business use.
However, graphics are integrated; so that rules out anything but basic gaming.
A full range of ports is offered, covering all your legacy accessory and modern connectivity needs, with USB-C, multiple USB-A, HDMI and a MicroSD card slot. When streaming Full HD video, I managed nearly eight hours of battery life.
ASUS VivoBook S15 specs, as tested
This laptop has the basics needed to be a decent multimedia machine. Its display is big, with Full HD resolution, good viewing angles and low glare. The ASUS SonicMaster audio is surprisingly robust, with considerable volume. With dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the VivoBook S15 did well at streaming Full HD content. The only dis against it was the slightly dull colour, although it has a Vivid mode that can punch things up a bit.
A mostly excellent keyboard
I’m a bit of a keyboard nerd. That happens when you’re a writer who spends all day typing … So I care about the keyboard on a laptop, and too many of them have keyboards that aren’t great. In particular, the super slim keyboards found on a certain manufacturer’s laptops have mechanisms that limit travel and feedback, making typing uncomfortable.
The ASUS VivoBook S15 has full-sized chiclet keys, and they have 1.4mm of travel. The laptop’s ErgoLift hinge works to slightly elevate the back of the base, giving an adjustable angle for better ergonomics (and providing a cooling assist through increased airflow). The keys are also backlit. As a result, typing on the laptop is comfortable and precise. The only slight against it is an unusual scenario. if you were to turn on the backlighting while working in a regularly-lit room, the white backlights and silver key surface combine to make it hard to make out the labels. In normal use there is no problem (the labels are black on silver) and in low light, the letters are perfectly visible, but if you like to have that backlight on all the time you might find yourself squinting.
The trackpad is glass covered and responsive, and there’s an integrated fingerprint sensor in the upper right corner.
Is the VivoBook S15 the laptop for you?
While I used to be in the big laptop camp (I carried around a 17-inch MacBook Pro for years), I reversed gears and have gone the ultraportable route for the past decade. The ASUS VivoBook S15 does as good of a job as any big laptops I’ve reviewed at providing the big laptop experience in a slim, sleek and fun package. It’s not exactly an ultralight, but it’s thinner and lighter than many full-sized laptops, and its keyboard plus the tilt of the ErgoLift hinge make it a great machine for typing. It’s not a powerhouse (at least as tested), but in the right configuration it could take on pretty much any tasks you ask of it. And it’s affordably price. This isn’t a gaming laptop, but otherwise it checks off a lot of boxes.