We’re having a look at a new mid-range series of laptops in this article, scheduled for release in the second part of 2017, the Asus Vivobook Slim.
This is not your average notebook line though, as it’s one of these new iterations of thin-and-light computers that put a big screen with tiny bezels inside a compact and light body. We got to spend time with probably the most interesting member of the line, the Vivobook S15 S510UQ, a 15-inch laptop that weighs just 3.6 lbs and offers modern Intel Core U hardware, dedicated Nvidia Graphics, dual-storage, a backlit keyboard and for most configurations, an IPS FHD screen.
The Vivobook S510 series is however available in a bunch of different options, with dedicated graphics (S510UN – MX150, S510UQ – 940MX, S510UR – 930MX) or without (S510UA), as well as various Intel Core U processors, screen options and amounts of memory and storage. At the same time, the same series is sold as VivoBook F510 in the US. Prices start at around $500 for the base Vivobook S15 S510UA model with a Core i3 CPU and a TN HD display, and go up to about $$900 – $1000 for the higher end S15 S510UN models with Nvidia MX150 graphics, the IPS FHD screen and dual-storage, which is similar to the version we’re talking about in this article. On top of these variants, Asus also plans to offer 14 and 17-inch Vivobook Slims, but more about those in later posts.
For now, we’ll focus entirely on the S15 S510 series, with all its goods and quirks. And while our test unit is the S510UQ model with Nvidia 940MX graphics, our findings also cover the S510UA, which are identical and just lack the Nvidia chip on the motherboard, or the S510UN models, an updated version with an 8th gen Core i7-8550U processor (more about this line of 8th gen Intel processors here) and Nvidia MX150 graphics (more about this chip here).
Update: Our review of this laptop’s most recent follow-up, the VivoBook S 15 S532, is available over here.
Specs as reviewed
||ASUS VivoBook S15 S510UQ / F510UQ
||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, non-touch, matte
||Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U CPU
||Intel HD 620 + Nvidia GTX 940MX 2 GB GDDR5
||16 GB DDR4 (2x DIMMs, up to 32 GB)
||512 GB SSD (M.2 SATA) + 2 TB 5400 rpm HDD (2.5″)
||Intel AC 8265 Wireless AC , Bluetooth 4.1
||2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.1 gen 1, HDMI, mic/earphone, SD card reader
||42 Wh, 65 Wh charger
||362 mm or 14.25” (w) x 242 mm or 9.52” (d) x 18 mm or 0.70” (h)
||3.57 lbs (1.62 kg) + .52 lbs (.24 kg) charger and cables
||white backlit keyboard, VGA webcam, stereo speakers
Design and first look
I have to get this out from the beginning, this Vivobook S510 is one of the nicest 15-inch laptops I’ve ever got my hands on, and it’s merely the mid option in Asus’s new line.
Of course, there are quite a few devices with more premium builds and finishes out there, like the Zenbook UX530, LG Gram 15, Samsung Notebook 9 or Dell XPS 15, but for something that sells for a lot less this Vivobook is surprisingly small, light and appealing. It weighs about 3.6 lbs in the configuration we got for this test, and it’s slim and petite for a 15-inch laptop. You’ll understand why when you’ll open it up and see those narrow bezels around the screen.
But before we get to that, let’s turn our attention on the outer case. This notebook is made from a mix of silver aluminum (Asus actually calls in Gold-Metal, but it looks more like silver to my eyes) on the hood and smooth plastic on the underbelly and interior. The light color choice is ideal, as it hides smudges and potential scratches, and the build quality is pretty good too, none of the materials feeling cheap by any means.
The lid is pretty strong, despite its thinness. It’s made from a thicker piece of metal so I feel it matches the build quality of the higher end Vivobook Pro and Zenbook series. It doesn’t give much when pressed, so there’s no need to worry about any impact on the screen beneath when having the laptop in your backpack.
The main-frame on the other hand is entirely plastic and not as solid, which means you’ll notice a fair amount of wobbling and warping when typing, especially towards the top side of the keyboard. There’s still a metallic plate on the inside, beneath the keyboard, but the plastic shell is fairly thin and hence the flex. It’s quite obvious in actual use for someone like me who’s accustomed to sturdier chassis, but it didn’t actually bother me that much and is the only corner Asus cut on this product’s build and design.
In fact, this laptop is very comfortable in use. It gets a matte screen with a tiny black bezel, a spacious enough palm-rest and space for a proper keyboard and a big trackpad. The speakers are placed on the bottom, towards the front, and can be covered fairly easily when using the computer on the lap, but that aside, there’s nothing I can nitpick on.
Build and looks aside, this Vivobook S510 is also practical. It’s easy to lug around thanks to its reduced weight and size, it sits nicely on a desk thanks to the four rubber feet on the belly and it fits on the lap, again due to its compact format. The screen can be picked up with a single hand and the hinge does a nice job at keeping it in place. It also allows it to tilt back to about 150 degrees, which is not ideal for an ultraportable, but will suffice for desk and most lap use cases.
I also appreciated that there aren’t any sharp bits or misaligned parts around the body, which tends to happen with some lower-end laptops. The edges are a bit sharp, but this laptop has a very low profile and the main-case is made out of plastic, so they are not as sharp as on other devices with metallic builds. As a result, my wrists didn’t have anything to complain about them.
Asus put proper IO on this laptop, despite shrinking it down. You’ll find three full-size USB slots, an USB Type C gen 1 (without Thunderbolt 3), a card-reader, and audio-jack and a full-size HDMI port for video output. Most of these are placed on the right edge, where you’ll also find the PSU.
All in all, I have to say I’m surprised by how nice a mid-level laptop like this Vivobook S510 can be. It’s fairly well made, slim, comfortable to use and practical, with the only lacking aspect being the overall sturdiness of the main body, but even so there aren’t many laptops with similar traits in this segment. I expect that to change in the months to come, till then though, this Vivobook is a laptop like very few others.
Asus went with a 15.6-inch screen on the VivoBook S510, with a completely matte finishing and tiny black bezels around it. They’re not as small as on the XPS 15, but they’re damn close and actually allow for the webcam and mics to be placed on the top, like they should be.
There are two screens to choose from, a TN 1366 x 768 px panel and an IPS 1920 x 1080 px option. We haven’t seen the former in action, but I would definitely advise picking the IPS version instead, it’s ages apart in terms of overall quality and not that much more expensive either.
The IPS option is an LG Philips panel with average traits, but again, much better than the TN alternative: max brightness of around 250 nits, which will suffice for indoor use but not that much for outdoors and bright environments, good contrast, decent viewing angles and somewhat washed out colors and limited gamut coverage at 51% AdobeRGB. You can however improve on the gray levels and colors to some extent by using our calibrated screen profile available over here.
This panel is in fact pretty similar to what most other OEMs put on laptops in the $600 to $1000 price range these days and all-in-all I believe most users should find it good enough for daily use, multimedia content and some games. It’s definitely not something professionals would use in their work though, as you can tell from the details below.
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LGD0573 (LP156WF9-SPK2);
- Coverage: 68% sRGB, 48% NTSC, 51% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.4;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 246 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 740:1;
- White point: 7100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.33 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 2.33 uncalibrated, 0.97 calibrated.
I’ll also add that this screen is well built and our sample didn’t suffer from any noticeable light bleeding around the edges, but that’s not a guarantee yours won’t though. The display is also easy to operate with a single hand and leans back to about 150 degrees, which is fine for most daily use scenarios, although ideally it would be capable of going back flat to 180 degrees.
Keyboard and trackpad
I’ve read some opinions online claiming this keyboard feels shallow and the flexible main-body takes a major toll on the typing experience. I agree with the latter aspect, yes, the constant warping of the plastic chassis is noticeable and somewhat annoying, but even so I actually found my time with this keyboard a pleasant experience.
With several thousands words in the bag, I can say this types accurately and the keys have a nice, springy feedback. They definitely don’t feel shallow, in fact I’d say they’re actually firm and need a heavier push to register, which somewhat lowered my overall typing speed, as you can see below. It’s not the best option for someone who types for a living, but it will do alright for the average consumer.
This keyboard is also fairly quiet and backlit, white white LEDs and two brightness levels to choose from.
As far as the layout goes, it’s pretty good, with proper sized and spaced 15 x 15 mm keys and an extra column of dedicated function keys on the right side that you’ll need some time to get used to. The arrows are short, but at least they’re nicely spaced from the rest of the keyboard, and there’s no NumPad section which some of you might miss, but I for one did not.
For mouse Asus went with a plastic made Elan clickpad with Microsoft Precision drivers. The plastic surface is somewhat rubbery and prevents fingers from gliding as smoothly as on other clickpads, especially the glass ones. As a result very precise swipes are a little difficult to perform, as the surface would sometimes catch to my finger and not allow to move the cursor smoothly those last few mms that I would need. I also found it rather slow out of the box, but that can be tweaked from the settings.
Overall though, this clickpad works pretty well. I had no issues with gestures and found the click buttons pretty good too, with a nice click and sound. It’s also worth adding that the surface did not rattle with daily taps, as most other plastic clickpads do.
As a side note, Asus integrates a finger sensor within the top-right corner of the clickpad, very useful for quickly logging into Windows with Hello and a feature I now consider a must have on my next laptop.
Hardware and performance
As I mentioned in the beginning you’ll find the Vivobook S15 S510 in a multitude of configurations, and our review option is the highest tier configuration with a Core i7-7500U processor, Nvidia GTX 940MX 2 GB DDR5 memory, 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512 GB M.2 SSD and a 2.5″ 2TB spinning HDD.
Aside for the CPU and GPU, all the components are accessible and upgradeable by removing the back panel, which is hold in place by a handful of Philips screws. Careful they’re not all the same size, so make sure you note where each comes from. There are also two screws behind the rear rubber feet, so make sure you get to those as well.
Inside you’ll notice the two memory slots, for a total of up to 32 GB of RAM, a M.2 80 mm SSD slot and a 2.5″ 7 mm bay. The M.2 slot uses a B-key connector, so only B&M key SATA SSDs are compatible. The wireless chip and battery are also within reach in case you would ever have to replace them.
With that out of the way, let’s take a few minutes to talk about the hardware inside. First of all, unless you plan to put this laptop to some serious work you’re not going to need the i7, the Core i5-7200U option will do just fine and help save around $100. It will also run a little cooler, which actually matters on a laptop as thing as this one. Just make sure you get rid of the bloatware that comes preinstalled on this laptop, it takes a toll on performance. For RAM, you’d need at least 8 GB for daily use and you can add more if needed. For storage you should absolutely get an SSD, it’s night and day in terms of performance from having just a regular HDD. The HDD will do fine for mass storage, but it’s also a noise source, so if the budget allows you can replace it with a 2.5″ SSD as well.
As for the GPU, you can get the laptop as of right now with either a GTX 940MX dedicated chip or without dedicated graphics, in the S510UA versions. If you won’t plan to run any games on your computer, get the UAs, they’re cheaper, quieter and cooler under load. If you do plan to run games than the 940MX is a decent pick, especially since it’s not an expensive upgrade (about $75 on top of an UA configuration). It’s important to know that Asus puts the updated version of the 940MX chip in this notebook, with GDDR5 memory and increased performance, it’s not the old GDDR3 model from 2015 and 2016 laptops.
You’ll see how the two compare in games below, where we’ve also added what to expect from the Intel HD 620 chip that you’ll rely on the UA models, for comparison.
||940MX DDR5 – FHD low
||940MX DDR3 – FHD low
||940MX DDR5 – FHD high
||940MX DDR3 – FHD high
||Intel HD 620 – FHD low
|NFS Most Wanted
Albeit still an entry level dedicated chip, the 940MX on this laptop can run smoothly most titles released in the last few years at FHD resolution and low details, and it’s about twice as capable as the integrated Intel HD 620 chip. I’d expect future versions of this laptop to get the newer Nvidia MX150 graphics at some point, which is an even faster solution, as you can see in this article.
We also ran a few be benchmarks on our sample, and here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 11: P2822;
- 3DMark 13: Sky Driver – 6753, Fire Strike – 1961, Time Spy – 635;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3156;
- PCMark 10: 3217;
- Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 3586, Multi-core: 7779;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 4363, Multi-core: 8495;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 64.20 fps, CPU 3.81 pts, CPU Single Core 1.65 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 79.41 fps, CPU 336 cb, CPU Single Core 144 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 124.43 fps, Pass 2 – 22.61 fps.
These results are pretty solid, except for some of the CPU related scores. The i7 processor heats up and drops to about 3.2-3.3 GHz in some benchmarks, a little bit under the maximum TurboBoost speeds of the i7-7500U (of 3.4 GHz). That’s not going to be any issue in games, but has a slight impact in some synthetic tests. However, you should keep in mind we’re testing a pre-release version of this Vivobook S15, so performance will improve on the final retail versions. In fact, from what I can tell right now, I’m confident this laptop will be able to squeeze the most out of the i7 + GT 940MX configuration, even if the CPU and GPU are going to run at mid 80s in continuous loads.
You’ll find more about CPU/GPU speeds and temperatures in several scenarios in the pictures below.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The cooling is illustrated in the picture below, a basic build with a single fan and one heatpipe that spreads over both the CPU and the GPU. This is what Asus uses to cool all their laptops with similar hardware configurations, yet perhaps they could have went with something a little more elaborated here, as this updated GT 940MX chip runs hotter than the DDR3 version we’ve last tested on the Zenbook UX410UQ for instance, a laptop with very similar dimensions.
With long gaming sessions the CPU and GPU averaged temperatures in the mid 80s on the Vivobook S510UQ (pic in previous section) and only mid 70s in the Zenbook UX410 (source). This can be explained by the different GPU and by the fact that our Vivobook was a pre-release sample, but we can generally conclude this configuration is going to run fairly hot.
For the average user, this translates is noise and fairly high outer case temperatures. The fan inside spins fast under load, but it’s not noisier than on most other laptops, averaging about 45 dB at head level. The Zenbook UX410UQ was quieter though, at about 43 dB. It also ran cooler, as this Vivobook S510UQ reaches mid 40 temperatures in certain spots on the back, as you can see below, so gaming on the lap is not really a possibility. The interior and especially the keyboard area stay within comfortable margins though.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing FarCry 4 for 30 minutes
With daily use this notebook runs cool, but the fan is active all the time, even when there would be no need for it to spin. It’s also a bit noisy, averaging around 40 dB at head level with occasional spikes to 42 dB when multitasking, so you’ll definitely hear it in a quiet room. Aggressive fan behavior is standard for Asus laptops, so no surprise here. The HDD is also a noise source when in use and I also noticed a fair amount of electrical noise on our sample, which hopefully won’t plague the final retail models, but it’s something to check for once you get your units.
Before we jump to the next part of this article we have to add that Core i5 versions of this laptop will run a little cooler with marginal losses in games, and the S510UA models without dedicated graphics will run significantly cooler and quieter, which is one more reason not to get the UQs unless you plan to play games on your computer.
Connectivity wise there’s Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 in this laptop. Asus went for a good Intel 8265 wireless module on our sample and as a result we didn’t ran into any issues with the wireless performance and overall signal quality.
For audio the Vivobook S510 gets Asus’s SonicMaster entry level sound system, with two speakers placed on the underbelly. They’re fairly loud, peaking up at 80 dB at head-level, and they sound alright on the Music profile from the included Audio Wizard app. However, they do push vibrations into the main body at volumes above 50% and tend to distort at volumes above 80% when dealing with low-end sounds. So if you’re a bass-head, this laptop is clearly not for you, or you can always just turn to your pair of headphones.
One final aspect to mention here is the webcam, placed on top of the screen and flanked by microphones. Unfortunately it’s merely a VGA camera, so the images and video coming out of it are mediocre to say the least.
In order to save weight and costs Asus only put a 42 Wh battery inside this laptop, which is smaller than what the average laptop offers these days.
Not a fan of skimming on battery size for any reason, but at least the IPS screen and the KabyLake hardware don’t require a lot of energy for basic activities and video playing. Still, you’ll only get about 3 hours of real life multitasking from this notebook in the reviewed configuration, which is poor for something that’s meant to be ultra-portable. More details below.
- 9.2 W (~4 h 30 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.0 W (~7 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.6 W (~9 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.6 W (~7 h 30 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 13.5 W (~3 h of use) – heavy browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 40 W (~1 h of use) – gaming on battery, High Performance Mode, screen at 50%, Wi-Fi ON.
On the plus side Asus pairs this device with a very compact charger that’s able to quickly charge 60% of the battery’s capacity in about 50 minutes, but that’s little consolation for having a small battery and won’t help at all when on the go and not having a wall around anyway. I guess it’s better than nothing though.
Price and availability
The Asus Vivobook S510 / F510 is listed a few stores around the world at the time of this article, and you can follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region.
From what we know so far we expect the very basic configurations to start at around $500 in the US and 550 EUR in Europe, for a Core i3-7100U processor, 4 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD and a TN HD display. I would however recommend picking a configuration with the FHD IPS screen we had on our test model, which is a much, much better option.
The best value model will get you the Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD for around $700, which you can then upgrade with your own SSD. The i7 processor and a larger SSD are going to cost around $100 extra and if you plan to play games and opt for the S510UX models with Nvidia 940MX graphics, those are going to cost about $75-$100 on top of the similar UA models. More details below, but take them with a pinch of salt:
- S15 S510UA ~ 600 USD / 600 EUR – Core i3-7100U, 4 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD, FHD IPS screen;
- S15 S510UA ~ 700 USD / 700 EUR – Core i5-7200U, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD, FHD IPS screen;
- S15 S510UA ~ 800 USD / 800 EUR – Core i7-7500U, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD, FHD IPS screen;
- S15 S510UQ ~ 750 USD / 800 EUR – Core i5-7200U, Nvidia GT 940MX graphics, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD, FHD IPS screen;
- S15 S510UQ ~ 850 USD / 900 EUR – Core i7-7500U, Nvidia GT 940MX graphics, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD, FHD IPS screen;
- S15 S510UA / F510UA ~ 600 USD / 650 EUR – Core i5-8250U, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD, FHD IPS screen;
- S15 S510UN / F510UA ~ 900 USD / 1000 EUR – Core i7-8550U, Nvidia MX150 graphics, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD, FHD IPS screen.
Asus won’t offer all these options worldwide, but you can follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region.
I took a while to look for laptops with similar features and size to this VivoBook S15 in the $700 – $800 segment, and there are very few options as of Mid July 2017, like the Dell Inspiron 7560, which is just as compact, gets the same hardware and battery size, but is heavier at 4.4 lbs. There’s also a 15-inch version of the Lenovo IdeaPad 320S scheduled for the next months, but can’t tell much about it at the time of this post.
You can find laptops with similar configurations, like the Acer Aspire 5, Asus X556 or Lenovo IdeaPad 520, among others, but they’re not nearly as compact. And those that are similar or smaller in terms of size, like the Zenbook UX530, LG Gram 15, Samsung Notebook 9 or Dell XPS 15, sell for a few hundreds more.
In other words, if you’re in the market for a thin-and-light 15-incher and don’t want to spend $1000 on it, this Vivobook S15 is your best available option. It’s a nice and practical laptop with a decent IPS screen, a good keyboard, proper IO and fast hardware. Of course, some corners were cut in order to meet the budget requirements, and the two most important ones are the averagely built plastic main-body and the small 43 Wh battery. If nitpicking we could also add the mediocre webcam and the fact that the laptop gets warm and noisy under load, but that’s normal from a thin computer.
Bottom point, if you’re willing to compromise (not that much though) on build and battery life in order to save a few hundreds of dollars, the Vivobook S15 S510 is for you. On the other hand, if you don’t care about size and portability, you will find cheaper laptops with similar specs, and if you’re willing to spend much in order to address these issues, there are options for you out there as well.
All in all though, I’m impressed with what Asus managed to do here and the Vivobook S15 gets our strong recommendation in its niche of budget thin-and-light full-size laptops.
This pretty much raps up our review, but the comments section is open for questions, feedback or anything you might want to add, so get in touch.
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