This here is our detailed review of the 2020 update of the Asus VivoBook S14 S433.
VivoBooks are Asus’s line of mid-level ultrabooks, the more affordable alternative for their premium ZenBooks. In the past, stepping down for a ZenBook came with a couple of important trade-offs, but for the most part, that’s not the case anymore.
The S14 S433 generation feels and looks like a premium product, with an all-metal build, a backlit keyboard, and a fair-quality matte screen with 100% sRGB color coverage. It also gets the same kind of hardware and battery available on the ZenBook 14, with even more capable Nvidia graphics as an option on some configurations. But it’s not without quirks.
Overall, though, the VivoBook S14 S433 is definitely an interesting option in the $700-$900 price range, and we’ve used two S14 models during the last weeks to gather our thoughts and impressions for the article down below.
VivoBook S14 S433 video review
Specs as reviewed – 2020 Asus VivoBook S14 S433 FL/FA
||ASUS VivoBook S14 S433 FL/FA
||14.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, non-touch, matte, CEC PA LM140LF-3L03 panel
||Intel Comet Lake Core i7-10510U, 4C/8T (i5-10210U 4C/8T option)
||Intel UHD + Nvidia MX250 2GB DDR5 25W (10DE 1D13 – GeForce 445.87 drivers) on S433FL model
||16 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (soldered)
||1 TB M.2 PCIe x4 SSD (Samsung PM981 MZVLB1T0HALR)
||Wireless 6 (Intel AX201) or 5 on lower-tier models, Bluetooth 5.0
||1x USB-A 3.1 gen1, 2x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C 3.1 gen2 (data only), HDMI, microSD card reader, mic/headphone
||50 Wh, 65W charger
||325 mm or 12.79” (w) x 214 mm or 8.40” (d) x 15.9 mm or 0.63” (h)
||3.1 lbs (1.4 kg)+ .44 lbs (.2 kg) charger, US version
||white backlit keyboard, glass clickpad with finger sensor, HD webcam, 2x 1W stereo speakers
Our VivoBook S14 test models are the S433FL variants with a Core i7-10510U processor and Nvidia MX250 graphics, in the more powerful 25W version, and not the 10W normally implemented on gaming ultrabooks of this size.
However, we’re also going to explain what to expect from the S433FA variant, which is identical to the FL, just without the Nvidia MX250 chip.
That aside, Asus also offers a more powerful VivoBook S14 S433JQ variant of this same chassis, built on an Intel Ice Lake processor and the updated and more competent Nvidia MX350 graphics. We’re going to review that in a separate article, but in the meantime, this is what to expect from the MX350 chip in terms of GPU and gaming performance.
Lastly, AMD Ryzen versions of this laptop are also available, and here’s our detailed review of the 15-inch VivoBook M533.
Design and construction
Metal is used for the entire construction of this 2020 VivoBook S14 generation, with a choice of different colors. Our unis are the Indie Black and Dreamy White versions, with Gaia Green and Resolute Red models also available.
For the most part, the White, Red, and Green models are all the same, just with different colored lids. They all get the same silver aluminum interior and silver keyboard, with (optional) white illumination and poor contrast. The Black model, on the other hand, gets a darker gray interior and a black keyboard with white writing and illumination, one I much prefer over the silver/white implementation. Yes, the darker variant is going to show smudges easier, especially on the lid, but I still find it the more practical out of the four.
Colors aside, all these laptops are built well, with sturdy screens and little to no flex in their main chassis. They also look neat and clean, with fairly subtle branding elements on the lid and beneath the screen, plus a touch of yellow around the Enter key on all models.
The sturdy metal construction pushes the weight of these S14 S433s at a little over 3.1 lbs, which is heavier than the 14-inch ZenBooks, but still lightweight and portable.
These laptops are also a tad thicker and larger then ZenBooks, and you can tell that by the thicker forehead and chin bezels around the screen. But that thicker chin is actually a good thing IMO. Air is still sucked in from the bottom and blows through the grill behind the hinge, but the distance between the exhaust and the panel is roughly 2-inches on this design, so the screen doesn’t heat up as badly as on the 14-inch ZenBook.
These aside, the S14s are also practical and comfortable to use in daily use. The hinge allows you to pick up and adjust the screen with a single hand, while holding it well in place, and the grippy rubber feet on the bottom keep the laptop well anchored on the desk. The bottom feet are taller than the ones in the front, to ensure improved airflow underneath, something the previous VivoBooks struggled with.
Asus also made sure to blunt and round the corners around the arm-rest, and sent the status LEDs on the sides, out of the way. I still wish the screen would lean back flat, but it only goes to about 155 degrees.
The IO is also lined on the sides, with USB-A and USB-C ports, HDMI for video, a 3.5 mm jack, and a microSD card reader. Most of the ports are placed on the left edge, and the laptop still charges via a barrel-plug charger, and that USB-C port is still data only, so it doesn’t support video or charging.
Keyboard and trackpad
These VivoBooks get a fairly standard Asus keyboard, with a full-sized main deck of keys, a smaller row of Function keys at the top, and an extra column of Function keys at the right side.
They travel 1.4 mm into the chassis and return rather shallow feedback, the kind you can expect from an ultraportable implementation. That makes them fast and quiet, but takes a toll on accuracy.
Asus also implemented white backlighting on these keyboards, but some of the base-level S14 S433FA models might only ship with a non-backlit keyboard, as we have on our silver model. The illumination on our black model is fairly bright and uniform, but light still creeps from some of the keys, and especially the LEDs under the Space and arrows keys are annoyingly noticeable in daily use.
I’ll also mention that the layout includes a physical CapsLock LED indicator, and that the illumination can be activating by swiping your fingers over the clickpad, as on the higher-tier devices.
Oh, and you probably noticed from these pictures the poor visibility of the silver keys with white writing, and how easier everything is to tell apart on the black keyboard version. It might not seem like much on a first glimpse, but it’s something I constantly find annoying when using this sort of silver keyboard, which many OEMs still put on some of their laptops.
Speaking of the clickpad, most S14 configurations include a glass clickpad with a finger-sensor integrated into the top corner, the one we have on the silver model. However, a NumberPad implementation without a finger-sensor is also mentioned on the official site, so you might want to double-check the listings for more details on the implemented variant.
The clickpads on both our S14 review units performed well with daily use and gestures, and implemented smooth and somewhat clunky physical click buttons.
I should also mention that the 2020 VivoBook S14 S433 no longer offers a ScreenPad option, which was available in the 2019 S14 S432. Asus went this route to make the 2020 model more affordable, and having experienced ScreenPads in the past, I feel that was the right decision here.
The VivoBook S14 series gets a 14-inch matte non-touch display.
Both our review units came with the same CEC PA IPS FHD panel, which promises good contrast and viewing angles, as well as 100% sRGB color coverage.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: CEC PA LM140LF-3L03;
- Coverage: 95.3% sRGB, 69.6% NTSC, 72.3% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.46;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 244 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 14.79 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1308:1;
- White point: 7100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.18 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
This panel is fine for daily use, with punchy colors and contrast, just as advertised. However, it’s fairly dim, at a little under 250-nits in our tests, and calibrating it to correct the skewed Gamma and White Point further limits the maximum brightness to between 200-240 nits. This won’t suffice for brighter environments, but you should be fine as long as you’re using your laptop mostly indoors.
Lower-tier S433FA configurations might ship with a more modest and washed-out FHD 52% sRGB panel (model BOE NV140FHM-N49), tested in this review. The official S14 S433FA page doesn’t mention anything about this panel option, so you should double-check with the store for more details on the included panel, and if possible stay away from this lower-quality BOE variant.
Hardware and performance
Our samples are top-tier variants of the Asus VivoBook S14 S433 in the S433FL configuration, with an Intel Core i7-10510U processor, 16 GB of DDR4 2666 MHz RAM, a fast Samsung PM981 PCIe x4 SSD and dual graphics, with the Intel UHD embedded within the CPU and the dedicated Nvidia MX250 2GB DDR5 dGPU, in the more powerful 25W variant (10De 1D13) normally implemented in full-size notebooks.
We’re also testing early pre-production units with the software and drivers available as of late May-2020 (BIOS 204, MyAsus 2.2.21, Nvidia GeForce 445.87), thus certain aspects might improve with future updates. They performed as expected, though, that’s why I’m comfortable sharing our findings with you.
These S14 S433 versions are built on the 14nm Intel i5-10210U or i7-10510U processors, with 4C/8T. These offer strong single-core and fine multi-core performance for a mobile hardware implementation, but are not a match for the newer AMD Ryzen 4000 Mobile options in term of multi-threaded results. Furthermore, the Intel UHD iGPU is outmatched by both the newer Intel graphics in the IceLake processors, and the Vega graphics in the AMD platforms, which is something to consider on the S433FA configurations. In fact, those S14 S433FA models are well suited for daily browsing, video streaming, and text editing, but not for intensive CPU or GPU workloads.
Here’s what to expect in terms of performance and temperatures with Netflix, typing, and daily use.
The VivoBook S14 S433FL configurations further implement that 25W MX250 dGPU, which is still an entry-level graphics chip, but one that handles older or casual titles such as Fortnite, Minecraft or the likes, and we’ll talk about that further down.
Before that, I should also mention that our configurations included a fast 1 TB Samsung PM981 SSD, which favorably impacts some of the benchmarks results. Retail configurations vary between regions, but Asus tends to put a mid-level SSD on the 512 GB models, and the top-tier Samsung SSD on their 1 TB configurations.
The CPU, GPU, and memory are soldered and non-upgradeable on this laptop, but inside you do get two M.2 PCIe x4 slots for storage and an upgradeable WiFi module. Getting inside is fairly easy, you just have to remove the back panel, hold in place by a couple of screws. There are no screws hidden underneath the rear rubber feet, like on other Asus laptops.
OK, let’s talk about performance and numbers. We start by testing the CPU’s behavior in 100% loads, by running the Cinebench Cinebench R15 test for 15+ loops, with 2-3 sec delay between each run.
Unlike on the ZenBooks, Asus does not offer multiple fan/performance profiles in the MyAsus apps for these VivoBooks, so we ran all our tests on the Best Performance mode in Windows.
The Intel i7-10510U runs at 28W for the first Cinebench loops, and then fluctuates between 15 and 28W for the rest. Temperatures average around 76 C at 15W and jump up to 95 C at 28W, while the fan remains quiet, ramping up to 37-38 dB at head level.
Undervolting the processor (stable at -60 mV with Throttlestop) allows slightly increased frequencies and results, within the same power envelopes. Unplugging the laptop limits the processor at between 11 and 15W, with temperatures of 63-69 C. All the results are detailed in the logs and pictures below.
We verified these findings by running the longer and more demanding Cinebench R20 loop benchmark, as well as the gruesome Prime95 test. The CPU runs at ~28W for about a minute, then quickly drops to 15W, and then jumps back to 28W, and so on.
We also ran some of our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit did not pass it. Luxmark 3.1, on the other hand, fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time. The GPU runs fine in this test, but the CPU quickly throttles to 10W and .9 GHz. These two combined tests suggest that the thermal module struggles to keep both the components in check in this sort of demanding loads, and we’ll further look into this down below, when we get to talk about the gaming experience.
Before that, though, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the Best Performance power mode in Windows. Here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 3479 (Graphics – 3845, Physics – 8918);
- 3DMark 13 – NightRaid: 12210 (Graphics – 16131, Physics – 5137);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1237 (Graphics – 1120, CPU – 3071);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: Read: 37915 MB/s, Read: 34029 MB/s, Latency: 83.6;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 2679;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 17.43 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 4681, CPU mark: 14136, 3D Graphics Mark: 3496;
- PCMark 10: 4110 (Essentials – 8480 , Productivity – 6956 , Digital Content Creation – 3196);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5598, Multi-core: 15564;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1267, Multi-core: 3900;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 709 cb, CPU Single Core 194 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 1420 cb, CPU Single Core 448 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 160.87 fps, Pass 2 – 38.12 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 94.12 s.
We also ran a few of these tests on the -60 mV undervolted CPU profile.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 3493 (Graphics – 3849, Physics – 9262);
- 3DMark 13 – NightRaid: 12335 (Graphics – 16014, Physics – 5380);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1294 (Graphics – 1172, CPU – 3188);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 2690;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1216, Multi-core: 3945;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 1543 cb, CPU Single Core 460 cb;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 718 cb, CPU Single Core 194 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 86.22 s.
Undervolting helps boost some of the CPU scores, but with a minor impact on GPU results and combined loads.
We also ran some Workstation related loads:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 9m 31s (stock);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 33m 35s (stock);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: 6547;
Finally, we also reran some of these tests on the VivoBook S14 S433FA configuration (with the same applied -60 mV undervolt), which relies on the integrated Intel UHD chip for graphics.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 1165 (Graphics – 1274, Physics – 10744);
- 3DMark 13 – NightRaid: 5854 (Graphics – 5876, Physics – 5734);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 487 (Graphics – 423, CPU – 3502);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 838;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1216, Multi-core: 3945;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 739 cb, CPU Single Core 185 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 81.82 s.
This S433FA scores higher than the S433FL model in the CPU heavy tests, as the thermal module allocates all its effort towards the CPU and no longer has to cool the Nvidia dGPU as well. However, graphics scores are about a third of what we got on the MX250 configuration, which impacts real-life applications and games.
Speaking of games, we ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on these VivoBook S14s on the Best Performance profile, with and without the MX250 chip. Here’s what we got:
|Core i7-10510U + MX250 25W
||FHD Auto UV
||FHD Auto UV – Intel UHD
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)
||88 fps (49 fps – 1% low)
||87 fps (49 fps – 1% low)
||27 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
|Dota 2 (DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
||60 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
||62 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, no AA)
||28 fps (23 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (23 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||58 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (44 fps – 1% low)
||23 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX 12, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||48 fps (14 fps – 1% low)
||49 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Low Preset)
||41 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
||41 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
||15 fps (11 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||15-35 min-max fps
(27 fps avg, 13 fps – 1% low)
|26-37 min-max fps
(31 fps avg, 18 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3, Dota 2 – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Witcher 3, and Shadow of Mordor on the stock Best Performance Windows profile.
Both the CPU and GPU quickly reach fairly high temperatures in the mid-80s and low-90s, but then the system limits their clocks to cope with the heat. Eventually, the CPU stabilizes at low-80s to high-70s and the GPU in the high 70s, but with a roughly 20-30% drop in clock speeds. This drop is greater in the more demanding titles, such as Far Cry 5, and less aggressive in Shadow of Mordor.
Undervolting helps reduce the CPU temperatures by a fair amount, and that translates in more constant CPU performance, as well as slightly higher long-term GPU frequencies. The benchmarks results above don’t show massive gains for the Undervolted profile, but those don’t account for the performance degradation that occurs after a while, once the system builds up, and overall the GPU ends up stabilizing at 2-5% higher clocks in this case.
The laptop’s bottom aluminum panel heats-up quickly, and raising the laptop from the desk further impacts the component’s temperatures and speeds. In this case, the GPU stabilizes at 5-10% higher clocks than on the Undervolted profile, and 7-15% higher than on the stock profile. That suggests a poorly designed D-part and makes this laptop a prime candidate for a cooling pad when running games and other demanding loads.
Finally, gaming on battery is hardly possible here. The GPU runs smoothly, but the CPU quickly throttles down to 6W and takes a major toll in most titles, and especially those CPU bound.
In conclusion, the VivoBook S14 performs alright for what it is, but leaves a fair bit on the table with the stock settings. Undervolting the CPU helps to some degree, but the thermal design is still a limiting factor here, so you should either raise the laptop’s back to improve cooling when playing games, or better put this on a good quality cooling stand.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The thermal design is fairly basic here, with a single fan and single heatpipe that covers both the CPU and GPU, and that’s not ideal for the i7 CPU and the 25W MX250 GPU in games and other demanding tasks that simultaneously put both these components to serious work.
For what is worth, though, this sort of thermal module performed better on this S14 than on the more compact ZenBook 14s tested a few months ago. The design includes a larger fan and radiator, as well as what looks like a larger thermal plate over the GPU.
I don’t understand why the fan’s intake is completely blocked by the bottom panel, and fresh air is only channeled in from the keyboard and through that narrow intake cut on the belly. As shown in the previous section, the aluminum bottom panel heats-up and impacts the overall performance in demanding loads, and more ample intakes might have addressed (at least alleviated) this issue. As it is, using the S14 S433 with a cooling pad is going to make a major difference in games.
As far as outer temperatures go, the metallic runs mildly warm with demanding loads, peaking at mid-40s in the hottest parts both on the interior and on the back. It also runs quietly, with the fan ramping up to 38-39 dB at head-level while running games.
The same fan remains active even with the most basic of everyday tasks, but runs quiet and you’re not going to hear it even in a silent room.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Better Battery life Profile, fans at 25-33 dB
*Gaming – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Best Performance Profile, fans at 38-39 dB
For connectivity, there’s latest-gen WiFi 6 with an Intel AX201 module on this laptop. It did well with our setup and the signal and performance remained strong at 30-feet, with obstacles in between.
Lower-tier models might only ship with a WiFi 5 module, but that should still be plenty fast for everyday use, and if it’s not, the WiFi module can be easily swapped out and upgraded.
A set of stereo speakers firing on the bottom handles the audio on this laptop. They’re averagely loud, at 73-75 dB at head-level on the Music profile in Audio Wizard, and sound fine, but still lack in the lower end, pretty much what you can expect from laptop speakers in this segment. I feel they’ve been upgraded from the previous generation though, but still, make sure not to obstruct the speaker cuts when using this on the lap.
Finally, there’s an HD camera at the top of this laptop’s screen, flanked by 2 microphones. They’re fine for occasional calls, but the camera isn’t much and rather muddy and washed out.
There’s a 50 Wh battery inside the VivoBook 14 S433, which is averagely sized for a mid-tier 14-inch laptop, but the efficient hardware implementation helps squeeze solid runtimes on each charge.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~70 brightness).
- 6 W (~8+ h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.5 W (~8+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.2 W (~9+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.5 W (~5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop comes with a compact 65W charger (in this configuration) that plugs-in via a classic barrel plug. It’s a single-piece design with a small brick and a long cable, and a full charge takes about 2 hours. USB-C charging is not supported.
Price and availability
The VivoBook S14 S433 is listed in stores around the world at the time of this post.
The Intel-only S14 S433FA variant starts at $699 in the US, 699 EUR in Germany, and 699 GBP in the UK, for the Core i5 version with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage.
The S14 S433FL model with the MX250 dGPU starts at 899 EUR in Germany, and is not yet available in the US and UK.
Follow this link for updated configurations and pricing info at the time you’re reading the article.
Drawing the line on this 2020 VivoBook S14 lineup, we need to look at the S433FA and S433FL variants separately.
The more affordable S14 S433FA model is fine for daily use, for browsing, video, and text-editing. You won’t need more than a Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM for that, which is what you’re getting for 699 USD/EUR. However, make sure to check whether that base model comes with a backlit keyboard or not in your region, and whether it gets the 100% sRGB screen or the more washed-our variant. If it’s the latter, I’d look at another option with a better screen.
The S14 S433FL versions tend to ship with the backlit keyboard and higher-tier screen by default, as well as the MX250 graphics chip, for a 200 USD/EUR extra. You’re only going to need the Nvidia graphics if you plan to run some games on this laptop, and if that’s that the case, the 25W MX250 implementation is more powerful than what you’ll normally get on 14-inch ultrabooks. However, the laptop’s limited thermal and D-panel design limits its performance in games, so you might want to consider investing in a cooling pad to maximize your framerates.
Hardware aside, I feel that these 2020 VivoBooks S14 have outgrown their segment, with their neat design lines and excellent build quality, as well as long battery life, fine inputs, and good connectivity options. They’ll struggle in bright light though, due to the fairly dim screens, but that’s pretty much their only major flaw.
With that in mind, we’ll wrap up this review here, but I’d love to hear what you think about these VivoBooks, so get in touch down below with your feedback or if you have any questions about them.
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