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Asus Vivobook S551LB / V551LB review – a good 15.6 inch ultrabook

Asus Vivobook S551LB / V551LB review – a good 15.6 inch ultrabook
Posted by: Andrei Girbea | Last updated on: 7 Jul 2013 | See the comments
Summary: The Asus Vivobook S551 is a 15 inch ultrabook you have to consider. Sleek, solid, powerful and efficient, it offers most of the things you would ask from such a laptop. It's not as light as it might seem though and it does have some small design quirks, but those shouldn't steer you away from it.
Rating: 3.5 / 5   Price range: $749 - $1100

THE GOOD

beautiful and sleek, solid built, touchscreen, decent keyboard/trackpad, fast hardware, good sound, long battery life

THE BAD

poor screen, hot air blown out towards the display, rather heavy, expensive

WHERE TO BUY: Latest discounts

While 15 inch ultrabooks are still a rare commodity these days, more and more potential buyers are interested in this class of portable machines, as they offer the power and the features required by most everyday activities, while losing the bulk.

The Asus Vivobook S551 is one of the latest 15 inch ultrabooks launched and it does offer plenty for the money, while starting at around $800 or even less. As a mainstream machine, it’s meant to be affordable,  while bundling fast hardware, long battery life and a sleek body. And as a Vivobook, it sports a touchscreen as well.

Of course, the Vivibook S551 is not without flaws, but as you’ll find from this review, you can easily live with most of them. And that’s why I’m pretty sure this laptop is going to be fairly popular in the next couple of months.

But enough said, let’s get going. We have the most powerful version of the S551 here, the Asus Vivobook S551LB, and we’re going to talk about all of its important aspects below. In the US, the same laptop will be sold as the Asus Vivobook V551LB.

Asus Vivobook S551/V551 video review

But before we get to the detailed review, the video will tell you most of the things you should know about this Vivobook.

The specs sheet for the Asus Vivobook S551 / V551

Asus Vivobook S551LB / V551LB
Screen 15.6 inch, 1366 x 768 px resolution, TFT TN panel, touchscreen
Processor Intel Haswell Core i7-4500U CPU
Chipset Intel HM87
Video integrated Intel 4400 HD + dedicated Nvidia 740M 2GB
Memory 8 GB DDR3
Storage 1TB 5400 rpm HDD + 24 GB cache SSD
Connectivity Wireless N, Gigabit Lan, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 2xUSB 3.0, 1xUSb 2.0, card reader, HDMI, DVD-RW unit
Baterry 50 Wh 4470 mAh
Operating system Windows 8 Pro 64bit
Size 380 x 258 x 20.4 mm (14.96″ x 10.15″ x 0.80″)
Weight about 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds)
Extras -

Design and exterior

The S551 is a fairly large laptop, with a 15.6 inch screen. However, this one is an ultrabook, like I mentioned in the beginning, and that’s why it is quite sleek. In fact, it’s thinner than my Lenovo X220, as you can see here. On the other hand, this VivoBook is not the lightest lad on the market, as it is mostly meant to offer plenty for the money.

So you shouldn’t be surprised that it weighs about 5.5 pounds, which barely sets it apart from a regular laptop. But at least it’s fairly sturdy and definitely a looker in its class, I might say. The inner body is cast from a solid piece of metal, a nicely textured sheet of aluminum covers the hood and you’ll only find plastic on the underbelly.

Speaking of that, there are barely any cuts down here, except for a small cooling grill on the side and the speakers placed towards the front. The battery is encased and the components are not that easily accessible. Still, with a proper screwdriver, you can remove the 10 or so screws holding the entire plastic back in place and have a peek at the internals.

You’ll see how the hardware looks in the pics below. From what I can tell, the memory modules are either placed behind the motherboard, or are soldered, in which case upgrading the memory is going to be very complicated, or impossible.

Anyway, with the laptop back in shape, let’s have a look around the sides. Most of the ports are lined on the left, while on the right there’s Optical unit, another USB port and a card-reader. And yes, there’s no VGA port on this laptop, if that’s something you care about. Besides these, you’ll find some status LEDs on the front lip, while a bunch of others are placed above the keyboard, near the Power button.

And now that we opened this laptop, you’ll actually like it even more. The silver aluminum body creates a nice contrast with the black keyboard and you’ll appreciate the wide and sturdy palm-rest or the slightly beveled edges, that won’t cut through your wrists when using this laptop for a while.

You’ll also like the large screen hinge, able to firmly keep that 15 inch display in place, and that’s even more important as this is an Asus Vivobook we have here, thus it comes with a touchscreen that you’ll keep poking everyday.

Screen

A fairly good touchscreen by the way, one that responded snappy and accurate to my taps, gestures or swipes. However, except for that, the screen is overall… average, at best. Asus bundled a 15.6 inch TFT panel on their S551 with 1366 x 768 px resolution, so it’s not the sharpest on the market.

That aside, the viewing angles are pretty poor, as with most TFT displays and the reflective glass on top of the panel doesn’t help either. In fact, this laptop is going to be a complete pain to use in strong light, because of those reflections, but also because the panel is not very bright.

However, as long as you keep it indoors and away from direct light, you should find it good enough. The contrast is alright and the colors quite accurate and vibrant for this class.

Still, I was expecting better, but maybe my expectations are too high. After all, Asus used a similar display on the 14 inch S400 last year and that unit got quite popular. What do you think?

The screen could have been better

The screen could have been better

Keyboard and trackpad

Anyway, next to the screen, the keyboard and trackpad are extremely important for me on a laptop.

The ones on this Asus VivoBook are fairly good. The keys are large and properly spaced and the feedback is overall alright, although the travel is a bit too shallow and because of that you will miss strokes from time to time. But once you get used to the overall experience, I think you’re going to find this keyboard good enough.

It does include a NumPad area with full-size keys and you’ll notice that the arrow keys, while smaller than the other, are slightly separated from the entire block, something that I came to appreciate.

On the other hand, it’s worth mentioning that this is not a backlit keyboard and my unit had the European layout, which I for one am not a big fan of. Oh, and you’ll notice there’s a Blue key in the NumPad section. That one launches the Asus Console, a neat interface that grabs together several Asus bundled apps.

As for the trackpad, it’s large, smooth and nicely separated from the palm-rest. It’s a clickpad of course and it tends to be accurate and reliable most of the time, with occasional exceptions. It supports all sorts of gestures, those embedded within Windows 8 that require you to drag from the sides, or many others, with up to three fingers, configurable via the Smart Gesture software bundled by Asus. So overall this clickpad is OK, not perfect, but definitely usable,

Decent keyboard and trackpad

Decent keyboard and trackpad

Hardware and performances

Anyway, enough about that for now, let’s push that power button and see what this laptop can do.

I have the top Asus VivoBook S551LB configuration for this test, with an Intel Core i7-4500U processor (clocked at 1.8GHz, can go up to 3 GHz), 8 GB of RAM, hybrid storage (1 TB Hitachi Travelstar 5K1000 HDD + 24GB SanDisk U100 cache SSD) and hybrid graphics as well (Intel 4400HD + Nvidia 740M 2GB).

Yes, there’s an ULV platform pushing this laptop, but it is part of Intel’s Haswell family, just recently launched, and one of the fastest available right now in this class. That’s why this Vivobook is pretty snappy, although I did encounter some occasional stuttering that I blame on the slow hard-drive. So you will probably want to upgrade that and get both a more responsive machine, but also a quieter one.

Speaking about those upgrade possibilities, replacing the 2.5 inch storage unit is fairly simple. You could also replace the optical drive for a second storage drive, but that only if you can find a matching cradle. And that’s about it.

Anyway, this Asus S551 managed to deal fine with most of the things I threw at it, from basic tasks like text-editing and browsing, to more complex activities, like editing some videos and even running some recent games, as you will find from the clip below.

And here are the numbers (1366 x 768 px, with Medium details), if you’re interested in those:

  • Metro Last Light – 55 fps;
  • Grid 2 - 52 fps
  • Skyrim – 60 fps;
  • Starcraft 2 - 45 fps (4 v 4 map) – can drop below 30 fps in intense battles with hundreds of units.
  • Bioshock Infinite – 34 fps

– gaming video will be added soon

And if you’re interested in benchmarks results, you’ll also find these useful:

  • 3DMark 13:  Ice Storm – 52133, Cloud Gate – 5138, Fire Strike – 928, Fire Strike Extreme – 460 ;
  • 3DMark 11:  Entry – E2941, Performance –P1863, Extreme – X527 ;
  • PCMark 07: 2970;
  • PCMark Vantage: 8341;
  • Windows Rating: 5.9;
  • CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 36.68 fps, CPU 2.87 pts.

The S551 can be a decent multimedia companion as well, being able to play smoothly all sorts of Full HD content. The overall screen quality does have a negative impact on the overall experience, but at least the speakers are pretty good, punchy and fairly clear, as you can hear from the video review.

The notebook does run Windows 8, so you do get the Touch Friendly interface and the apps within Microsoft’s Windows Store, next to the classic Desktop mode and standard legacy software. Asus bundles some extras as well, things like Smart Audio, Cloud Storage, Splendid and several others, but while some of them could be useful, none are actually something you can’t live without.

Noise, Heat, Connectivity and others

Alright, so we know by now that the S551 can plow through plenty of chores, and you’ll be glad to find out that it does that while running cool and almost completely silent.

Even when heavily pushing this ultrabook and even when running stress tests, the body did not get more than warm and software like HWInfo showed the CPU reaching temperatures of around 80 degrees Celsius, which is actually great. The cooling system is never too loud, not even in these conditions mentioned before.

Air is sucked in from the small cut on the bottom and blown out through the hinge, upwards, towards the screen. And that does make the lower part of the display quite hot when running games and I’m a afraid that might have a negative impact on the screen’s long-term quality. Definitely something Asus should have done better.

Anyway, there are some other things that you will enjoy about this laptop. For instance, I could mention the decent webcam you’ll find above the screen, with dual-microphones, alright for quick-chats. Or I could praise the fast and reliable Wireless module (Qualcomm Atheros AR9485WB-EB), although you should know that this unit does not offer support for the latest 802.11AC wireless standard. The S551 does offer Bluetooth and Gigabit Lan as well.

Battery life

Those aside, don’t forget that the S551 is an ultrabook so it needs to be portable, if required. And it is.

The 50 Wh battery inside this unit, combined with the Haswell platform and the dual-graphics solution, can push this machine for many hours on a charge. Here’s what I got:

  • 6+ hours of HD video playing (720p clip) – screen at 50%, Energy Saving Mode, Wi-Fi OFF;
  • about 100 minutes of gaming on High Performance Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi OFF;
  • between 4 to 5 hours of everyday use – Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
  • almost 7 hours when used lightly, for editing documents, with a text editor and 3-4 tabs opened in the browser, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON, Energy Saving Mode.

The battery charges completely in a little over 2 hours and Asus does include a compact powerbrick with a long cable, that should do just fine in most situations.

Asus S551LB - sleek, fast and efficient

Asus S551LB – sleek, fast and efficient

Prices and availability

Anyway, enough said, let’s talk prices for a little bit. The S551LV / V551LB will be available in stores by the beginning of August and based on what I know right now, it will sell for between 750 and 1100 USD. More details below:

  • Intel Core i3-4010U, 500 GB HDD + 24 GB SSD, 4GB RAM, Intel HD 4400 – between $749 and $799;
  • Intel Core i5-4200U, 750 GB HDD + 24 GB SSD, 6GB RAM, Intel HD 4400 – $899;
  • Intel Core i7-4500U, 1 TB HDD + 24 GB SSD, 8GB RAM, Intel HD 4400 – $999;
  • Intel Core i3-4010U, 500 GB HDD + 24 GB SSD, 4GB RAM, Nvidia 740M – between $849 and $899;
  • Intel Core i5-4200U, 750 GB HDD + 24 GB SSD, 6GB RAM, Nvidia 740M – $999;
  • Intel Core i7-4500U, 1 TB HDD + 24 GB SSD, 8GB RAM, Nvidia 740M – $1099;

Anyway, you’ll find most of these versions discounted if you’ll follow this link.

Wrap-up

Bottom point, there are plenty of things to like about the Asus VivoBook S551, or the Asus Vivobook V551 as it will be called on some markets. And while it is not the kind of laptop I would be interested in, I’m pretty sure many of you will. If you want a decently fast, thin and good looking 15 inch laptop that can run for several hours on a charge without getting hot or noisy, this one should be on your list. Other good 15 inch ultrabooks can be found in this article.

However, I do find the S551 a bit too expensive, based on what we know right now. Think about the Asus N550 for instance, that offers a full-voltage processor, more powerful graphics, a backlit keyboard and an IPS touchscreen for about 100 to 150 dollars extra, without being a lot larger or heavier. To be frank, I’d pick that one over this S551 in a second.

The Asus Vivobook S551 is a 15 inch ultrabook you should consider

The Asus Vivobook S551 is a 15 inch ultrabook you should consider

That’s why I’m pretty sure the S551 is going to be cheaper at launch than announced or quickly get 100 to 200 dollars price cuts soon after. And that based on how much the current Vivobook S550 sells for these days.

And when that happens, this VivoBook is going to become an option you have to consider in its class, despite the things Asus should have done better. And yes, I’m mostly talking about that screen here.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. Let me know what do you think about this laptop and if you have any questions, post them below and I’ll do my best to reply. Besides that, if you did find this post useful, hopefully you could share it on forums, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc, that would help me a lot and would allow me to carry on with my reviews in the future. Thanks.

Andrei Girbea, aka Mike, Editor-in-Chief and a huge fan of mobile computers. Since 2007, I've only owned smaller than 12.5" laptops and I've been testing tens, if not hundreds of mini laptops. You'll find mostly reviews and guides written by me here on the site.

29 Comments

  1. Rick

    July 9, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Wait, I though the screen was 1366 x 768, and not 1366 x 1768.
    I think u have a typo.

  2. Dave Voelker

    July 13, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Misspelling in the first paragraph: “…while loosing the bulk.” Correct spelling is “losing.”

  3. Rick

    July 15, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    No Problem

  4. Reza

    July 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Perfect & Amazing :-)

    10/10

    4th Gen Intel Processor
    NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 740M (WoW)

    Thank a lot ASUS :-)

  5. mark

    August 2, 2013 at 4:00 am

    hi, can you review the acer aspire v5-473.
    also on haswell.

    thanks.

  6. Masoud

    August 4, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Hi
    I wanna purchase this lap top but I am worried about the heat that blown out toward the display,Is it an important issue or may damage the screen after a while or couple of month ?
    If yes I think I have to purchase another lap top or maybe n550jv :(
    sry for my bad english.

    • Andrei Girbea

      August 6, 2013 at 8:55 am

      it could be an issue down the road

      • ZULKHAR

        October 14, 2013 at 6:47 am

        ultrabook s551 sound is very poor, could have office software pre-installed.

  7. Carl

    August 5, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Hi Rick
    The benchmarks rate lower than the Asus N550, but on your review the frame rates are better for this Vivobook.
    Can you explain this please.

    • Andrei Girbea

      August 6, 2013 at 8:56 am

      not sure who Rick is… but it’s pretty simple: the vivobook runs games on 1366 x 768 px resolution, while the N550 runs them on 1920 x 1080 px

  8. elzafir

    August 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Mike,
    I’m hoping you could give me a suggestion.
    I’m currently looking for an Ultrabook.

    =========
    My requirements are below:

    BUDGET
    I can’t go over $900.

    PURPOSE
    Large graphics editing (billboards materials with Photoshop, Corel Draw, Illustrator) and short-video editing (5min to 30minutes videos on Premiere Pro and After Effect). I also intend to play games on the laptop, mainly FIFA 13, Football Manager 2013 & SWTOR with highest detail and other AAA titles with medium details. Frame rate needs to be over 40fps for me to be able to enjoy it.

    PORTABILITY
    I need it to be thin(-ish) and light, like an Ultrabook. As I will to carry it everyday to the office and I love to work in a cafe.

    BATTERY LIFE
    Around 5 to 6 hours of web browsing/light work such as Words, Excel, etc.

    OPTICAL DRIVE
    I don’t care for optical drive. I prefer NOT to have it on the laptop.

    STORAGE
    I don’t care about storage, as I would slap a 256GB SSD on it.

    RAM
    I don’t care about RAM, as long as it supports minimal 8GB of RAM (most do, I believe). I prefer if it supports up to 16GB.

    SCREEN SIZE & RESOLUTION
    I prefer 13.3″ for portability, but don’t mind 14″ or 15.6″ if it’s thin and light enough. I don’t mind 1366×768 for the time being, considering no discrete mobile graphics card can play games with acceptable frame rates with 1080p. And I can’t find 1080p Ultrabook under $1000. The screen vertical viewing angle should be good enough. Matte/glossy don’t matter.

    TOUCHSCREEN
    Not an absolute requirement, but nice to have.

    TRACKPAD
    Not an absolute requirements, as I would use a mouse, but I’d love to have two-finger swipe.

    OS
    I have three legit copies of Windows 8 from MSDNAA, so I don’t mind if the laptop comes with no OS (or Ubuntu or Mac OS).
    ======

    Now, with my above requirements, it seems the V551 is almost perfect.

    My question are:
    1. Is there any other laptop that suits my needs better?
    2. Do I need a Core i7 QM (quad-core) for my needs (graphics & video editing)?
    3. I’m afraid an ULV processor will hampers my productivity when editing large graphics. Is my fear warranted?
    4. Does the Haswell version of the V551 last longer on battery vs. the V550 (Ivy Bridge) when doing video/light works?
    5. Is it worth it to get the Acer Aspire TimelineU M5? It’s being phased out.

    Thanks bro!!!!

    • Andrei Girbea

      August 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

      Not sure what V551 you had in mind, but I for one would look at the Acer V5-573G . Haswell + nvidia 750M + 8 GB of RAM.

      It’s a 15 incher though, but it’s fairly slim and weighs about 4.5 pounds and I believe it will fit your budget. There’s also the 14 inch Aspire V7 you can look at, with similar specs, but only marginally more compact. and this looks out of your budget as well

      I haven’t tested any of them myself and can’t say anything about how it feels, build quality, keyboard, trackpad, etc…

      As for your questions:

      1. See above
      2. It would be recommended, but if you want a thing an light device, you’ll have to stick with an ULV platform
      3. It really depends on how large your projects are but if you have realistic expectations, you should be fine. Your videos will take longer to render of course
      4. Not sure, haven’t tested it yet
      5. Could be, if you can find it cheap and don’t care that much about battery life

      • elzafir

        August 16, 2013 at 8:58 am

        Wow thanks for the recommendations. I haven’t looked at Acer V5 in a long time, didn’t know they have one with GT750M. I haven’t even hearts of Aspire V7 before you mentioned it.

        I was talking about the Asus V551LB with Core i5-4200U and GT740M. I said it was almost perfect because it ticks most of my requirements but $100 out of my budget.

        The TimelineU M5, based on the review has 7 hours of continuous web surfing battery life.

  9. Guillaume

    September 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Hello !

    Is it possible to change the SSD ?

    Thx

  10. Sheshan

    October 13, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks for your review on Asus vivobook V551LB
    it has got the exact and all the specifications what i have been looking for.it matches my budget(below 1000$) but not lunched in INDIA

    For the point :-
    is there any other ultrabooks with same specifications,which may be better than this one or equal to this in other brands( sony, acer, hp, dell)
    suggest me any one i need to buy before this December

    eager to receive email from you
    thank you

  11. Joao Oliveira

    October 29, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Great review… that I wish I had paid more attention about the screen, before buying an S551LB-CJ048H! The glare / reflections are most annoying since I occasionally work outdoors, and I’m considering returning the unit (otherwise, it’s OK).
    In the N550 review, you made a similar warning, but mentioned the possibility of a “matte FTF panel” or, in the future, “a non-glare IPS option”. What model would you recommend to overcome this problem – even if it implies paying significantly more? Would the alternative be the Zenbook U500 series?

    Many thanks

    • Andrei Girbea

      October 30, 2013 at 10:12 am

      Any laptop with a touchscreen will get these reflections, due to the glass over the display.

      Unfortunately, most laptops these days come with touchscreens. Not sure what your budget is, but you should find some options with Non-glare displays among 15 inchers. If you’re looking at ultra-slims, then yes, the UX51 could be an option. Last year’s Series 9 from Samsung could be one as well, but each has some quirks, make sure to read reviews first, so you’ll know what to expect

      • Joao Oliveira

        November 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm

        Many thanks, Andrei. Indeed, I dropped the touchscreen functionality and went for a (non-glare) N56VB-S4081H. A bit heavy, it’s true – but only 200 grams more than my current one, so I won’t really tell the difference!

        Congratulations for your brilliant and useful work for all the community!
        Joao

  12. sheshan

    November 3, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    In price and availability
    “Intel Core i7-4500U, 1 TB HDD + 24 GB SSD, 8GB RAM, Nvidia 740M – $1099;”
    It doesn’t have 24gb SSD it’s 24 gb web storage given by Asus

    Tell me best alternative for Asus vivobook v551lb

  13. Hisham

    December 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

    my s551lb touchscreen doesn’t not working since the day I it, what should I do?

  14. Bassel

    February 10, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Thank you for the review, it was really helpful.My overall first impression of this machine is positive, though I must say I’m really conflicted between the asus s551lb and the lenovo ideapad z510, and this is where I need your expert opinion.

    I have been trying to find some good/technical in depth review for the lenovo z510 found here http://www.arush.ae/lenovo-z510-59-403400-dubai-abudhabi-uae-price.html

    On paper the lenovo machine seem to better in all the areas where the asus vivobook is weak at while offering similar-to-better specs (better processor, backlit keyboard , matte display with higher resolution) although heard about some issues with wifi connectivity , heating and possibility less overall reliability/build quality.

    I’m really torn between these two since they are comparable and available in the exact same price. While I find touch screen to be a nice added bonus, it is not a priority in my mind, I care mostly about overall performance, reliability, and quality.

    Please help, I need your recommendation .

    • Andrei Girbea

      February 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      I haven’t tested the Z510, but I did see the Z500 in action and they are more or less the same.

      There’s nothing to worry about the build quality, the Z500 is solid built and good looking and I doubt the Z510 is different. However, I can confirm that the Z500 I tested had wi-fi issues. I’m not sure if Lenovo managed to fix them or not. Best advice: head over to lenovo’s forums or the forums on notebookreview.com and see if you can find an Owner’s thread, where those who already bought this laptop can share some real feedback.

  15. amiR

    February 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    hi and thanks for the magnificent review
    I actually bought this laptop tonight but I have an issue with the SSD partition, I’m confused why the operating system isn’t installed on th SSD partition?
    and two other question:
    1- is it possible to reinstall the windows on the SSD partition, if yes, does it do any good?
    2- what is your estimation on the booting elapse time?
    appreciate your cooperation.

  16. Anne Marie

    February 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Does the Vivobook work without the battery when the adapter is plugged in? And also would you recommend this for a uni student?

  17. Ahmad Maulana

    March 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Excuse me, I want to ask, whether the battery is in the ultrabook (wrapped by a ultrabook) and how the shape of the battery if the battery is in the ultrabook?
    as in the picture here of my less abundance and understand how the shape of the battery.
    thank you

  18. Mehdi

    April 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Hi,
    I have Asus S551LB with 4GB Ram. May I upgrade it by another 2GB Ram?
    That means use two Ram, is it has 2 slots for this?
    Cheers

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