This here is our detailed review of the 2020 update of the Asus VivoBook S15 M533, in the M533IA configuration based on AMD Ryzen 4000 hardware.
VivoBooks are Asus’s line of mid-level ultrabooks, the more affordable alternative for their premium ZenBooks.
While in the past stepping down from a ZenBook came with a couple of important trade-offs, the lines between the two series have been dulled in recent years. That’s why the S15 M533 generation feels and looks like a premium product, with an all-metal lightweight build, a backlit keyboard, solid performance and efficiency, especially in this AMD implementation. It’s not without quirks, though, with trade-offs in the screen quality, IO, or cooling design, among others.
We’ve used a retail model of the VivoBook S15 M533IA for the last two weeks and gathered our thoughts and impressions in the article down below.
Specs as reviewed – Asus VivoBook S15 M533IA
||Asus VivoBook S15 M533IA
||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, matte, non-touch, LG Philips LP156WFC-SPD1 panel
||AMD Renoir Ryzen 5 4500U, 6C/6T
||AMD Radeon Vega 6, 6 CUs, 1.5 GHz
||8 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (soldered) – up to 16 GB
||512 GB M.2 PCIe x4 SSD (Samsung PM991)
||Wireless 6 (Intel AX200), Bluetooth 5.0
||1x USB-A 3.2 gen1, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB-C 3.2 gen1 – data only, HDMI 2.0, microSD card reader, headphone jack
||50 Wh, 45W charger with quick-charging
||360 mm or 14.17” (w) x 234 mm or 9.21” (d) x 16.1 mm or 0.63” (h)
||3.64 lbs (1.65 kg)+ .33 lbs (.15 kg) charger, EU version
||white backlit keyboard, plastic clickpad with finger sensor, HD webcam , stereo bottom speakers
Asus offer the VivoBook M533IA series in a couple of configurations, with 8-16 GB of memory, various amounts of storage, and two types of AMD Ryzen processors (Ryzen 5 4500U, Ryzen 7 4700U), as well as a couple of different color choices. All these get the same 15-inch screen though, a middling quality panel with sub-250-nits of brightness and washed out colors.
Intel-based VivoBook S15 S533 models are also available in some regions, as well as more compact 14-inch options such as the VivoBook S433 (Intel) and M433(AMD).
Design and construction
Build wise, there’s almost nothing you can fault on this new 15-inch VivoBook series. Metal is used for the entire construction, including the underbelly, and while it’s not a unibody design, it looks and feels premium and sturdily made, for a fraction of the cost of the higher-end products.
Asus offers the M533 series is a couple of different colors. The one here is called Indie Black with a gray interior and a darker lid, and it’s the one I’d recommend out of all the available options because it’s the only one with a black keyboard. The other variants do a better job at hiding smudges, but also get something I resent on modern laptops: a silver keyboard with white backlighting and poor legibility.
Looks aside, this M533 series is also fairly compact and lightweight, at a little over 3.6 lbs in this configuration.
It gets small bezels around the screen and a spacious interior, perfect for lap use, and just enough to accommodate a full-size keyboard and a decently sized clickpad. It also gets a fair selection of ports on the sides, with USB-A and C slots, HDMI 2.0 that can drive an external 4K monitor, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack, most of these smartly placed on the left side. The laptop only charges thought a barrel-plug charger though, as the USB-C port is data only, so doesn’t support video or charging. There’s also a webcam at the top, and an IR sensor integrated within the clickpad.
I appreciate that the design places the status LEDs on the edge, out of the way. The thermal solution that blows hot air through the gap behind the screen-hinge isn’t my favorite, though, but we’ll talk about that in a further section.
On to the other practical aspects, the hinges are stiff and strong and keep the screen in place as set-up, but they also require two hands to lift it up and adjust its angle. Furthermore, the screen only goes back to about 140 degrees, and not all the way flat as I prefer on an ultrabook. And while we’re nitpicking, I should also mention that the machined beveled front edge looks cool, but is also a tad harsh on the wrists.
Keyboard and trackpad
This VivoBook gets a standard Asus keyboard, with a full-sized main deck of keys and a slightly narrower NumPad section at the right, plus squashed arrow keys and the Power button integrated into the top-right corner, with a pesky always-on light in it.
The keys 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 not necessarily the most accurate. Being used to typing on the XPS 13, I got along well with this keyboard, which somehow proved more reliable than the similar implementation in the S433.
The keys are backlit, with white LEDs, good uniformity, and bright intensity at the highest setting. There’s’ some light still creeping from beneath some of the keycaps, such as the arrows keys on this unit, but that aside, there’s little to complain about. This Asus layout also includes CapsLock and FN+Esc physical indicators.
However, the writing on the keyboard is going to be a lot more difficult to tell apart if you opt for one of the silver-keyboard models, as shown in this review of the VivoBook S433 series.
For mouse, the S15 gets a glass clickpad with a finger-sensor integrated into the top corner. It’s not a very large surface, but works fine with daily use and gestures, and the physical clicks are fine as well, just a tad clunky with heavier taps.
Asus offers a matte FHD 15-inch screen on the VivoBook S15 M533 series, yet they only went with a lower-tier panel here, with sub 250-nits of brightness and washed out colors.
I understand that’s a cost-cutting measure and something most of the other OEMs offer for around 600 EUR in this class, the amount this goes for over here, but it’s not something I agree with. The screen is one of the last aspects you’d want to sacrifice in your design, no matter the price. As it is, this LG Philips panel is rather dim, but still offers good uniformity and contrast, so it would be fine for indoor use, if not for the washed-out colors. But at 40% AdobeRGB coverage, for me, this is a deal-breaker, and I’d gladly, gladly pay extra for a ~70% AdobeRGB screen on this chassis.
In all fairness, it might not be a deal-breaker for you, though, especially if you’re not used to good quality displays or you’re coming from an older laptop with a TN panel, so you could still give this a try and see if it works for you.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LGD0563 LP156WFC-SPD1;
- Coverage: 56.8% sRGB, 39.3% Adobe RGB, 40.4% DCI-P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.27;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 234.41 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 21.33 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1150:1;
- White point: 7100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.20 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
Nonetheless, I only rate this panel at a measly 3/5 in terms of quality by today’s standards and still believe that Asus should offer a better option on this laptop, at least for those that are willing to spend the extra for it. Right now, that’s not the case, but hopefully will be in the future, especially if the competition ramp-up their offer in this class as well.
Hardware and performance
Our sample is a lower-tier variant of the Asus VivoBook S15 M533 in the M533IA configuration, with an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U 6Core processor, 8 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, a Samsung PM991 PCIe x4 SSD and AMD Radeon Vega 6 graphics.
We’re testing a retail unit of this laptop, bought from a local store, with the software and drivers available as of mid-August 2020 (BIOS 301, MyAsus 2.2.35). Our test unit was provided by Asus, and sent back to them once we finished up the tests.
Spec-wise, this is based on the 2020 AMD Renoir Ryzen U APU. The Ryzen 5 4500U APU includes a 6C/6T processor, fairly snappy in single-core tasks, and competent in multitasking, especially when allowed to run at higher TDP settings in demanding loads. Based on our other Ryzen U reviews, this can stably run at 25+ W in sustained loads in the better designs, yet in here it stabilizes at around 15W, as you’ll see down below, just like on the higher-tier Asus ZenBook UM425IA we’ve recently tested. That’s why the Ryzen 5 configuration is the best-value choice on this laptop, and we’ll elaborate on that in a bit.
Graphics are handled by the integrated AMD Radeon Vega 6 chip, with 6 Compute Units and frequencies of up to 1.5 GHz. Our configuration also gets 8 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM in dual-channel, and a Samsung PM991 PCIe x4 SSD, plenty fast for daily use.
You can upgrade the storage if you want to, as there are two M.2 80 mm slots inside. The APU and memory are soldered on the motherboard though, so make sure you pick the right configuration from the get-go, there’s no upgrading those. Getting to the components requires removing the back panel, hold in place by a handful of Torx screws, all visible around the sides. Inside you’ll also find the battery, the fairly large speakers, and the measly thermal design, with one of the thinnest heatpipes I’ve seen in a while.
This series also gets a rather peculiar thermal design. There’s an intake cut on the bottom of the laptop, but it’s not directly over the fan, but over the APU. The design draws fresh air on top of the APU, sucks it over the heat pipe into the fan, and out through the radiator. I can’t tell whether that’s more efficient than the standard approach other OEMs are using, with an open intake for the fan. In fact, even Asus use that for their ZenBooks, yet they went with this approach for this 2020 VivoBook generation.
What I can tell is that the S15 M533IA runs well, cool and quiet with daily use, with browsing, text-editing, and video streaming.
It also stays quiet with more demanding loads, but its performance in sustained chores is limited, with the APU power throttled at 15W in our synthetic and gaming tests. Before we proceed, I’ll also mention that Asus doesn’t offer any power profiles for this VivoBook in the MyAsus app, unlike on their ZenBook products, so you can only change between the few Windows power profiles, which don’t have a major impact on the settings, though.
Ok, so we start by testing the CPU’s performance in taxing chores by running the Cinebench R15 benchmark for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run, on the Best Performance mode in Windows.
The AMD Ryzen 5 processor runs at higher clocks and power for the first 5-7 loops, but then quickly drops towards 15W of power, with excellent temperatures in the low-60s Celsius and very quiet fans, at only about 33-34 dB at head-level in this test. The laptop stabilizes at around 740 points.
We also ran the same test with the laptop unplugged, and ended up with similar results, yet in this case the APU powers down to 15W quicker, after only a few runs.
To put these results in perspective, here’s how a couple of other AMD and Intel ultraportable notebooks score in this same test.
Keep an eye on the 8Core Ryzen 7 4700U in the ZenBook UM425, which is also limited at 15W after a while, and the Ryzen 5 4500U in the IdeaPad 5, which constantly runs at 25W for the entire duration of this test. As for the Intel-based models, this 15W limited Ryzen 5 configuration outmatches even the better 25W implementations of the Intel Comet and Ice Lake platforms in this test, and smokes the 15W i7-10510U in the ZenBook 14.
We went ahead and verified our findings with the more demanding Cinebench R20 test and the gruesome Prime 95. In both cases, the Ryzen processor stabilizes at 15W after a short initial burst, with temperatures in the low 60s.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook, on the same Best Performance profile in Windows.
3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit failed it, but by a minor margin. Luxmark 3.1 fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time, and while it’s not properly supported by the Ryzen platform, it shows that the APU stabilizes at only around 13W in demanding loads, with limited CPU performance and solid GPU performance. However, that’s not translated in real-life combined loads, which we’ll get to in a bit.
But first, some benchmarks results. We then ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the Best Performance profile. Here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2543 (Graphics – 2797, Physics – 12100, Combined – 888);
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid: 10283 (Graphics – 10813, CPU – 8475);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 925 (Graphics – 815, CPU – 3982);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: 20698 MB/s, Read: 32010 MB/s, Latency: 117.1;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 1728;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 28.32 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 5037 (CPU mark: 13051, 3D Graphics Mark: -, Disk Mark: 11741);
- PCMark 10: 4715 (Essentials – 8628 , Productivity – 7098 , Digital Content Creation – 4646);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 4842, Multi-core: 19495;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1104, Multi-core: 4692;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 918 cb, CPU Single Core 176 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2262 cb, CPU Single Core 450 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 206.45 fps, Pass 2 – 53.66 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 62.77 s.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, on the same Dynamic profile:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 7m 31s (Auto);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 23m 22s (Auto);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: — AMD APU not supported.
Comparing these findings to the Ryzen 5 implementation on the IdeaPad 5, the VivoBook trails that by about 5-15% in the CPU heavy tests such as Blender, Handbrake or X265, due to the limited allocated power, but also in the graphics tests, as that 15W cap also takes a toll on the GPU clocks.
That’s why I wouldn’t recommend opting for the Ryzen 7 configurations on this chassis, but if you still want to, this review of the ZenBook UM425 tells you what to expect, as that’s also a very similar 15W-capped implementation. In theory, the 8Core Ryzen 7 processor should significantly outmatch the 6Core Ryzen 5 in multithreaded loads, but in practice, the gap between them is small and if that kind of performance is what you’re after, you’d be better off with a higher-power implementation of the Ryzen platform. We haven’t tested all the available options, but the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 that we tested was able to constantly run at 25W in our tests, with that 5-15% performance boost.
— to be updated
As far as the combined performance goes, we also ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan games on this VivoBook M533IA, on the Best Performance profile and FHD Low/Lowest graphics settings. Here’s what we got, and I’ve added a couple of other configurations for comparison:
||M533 – AMD R5 + Vega 6
||UM425 – AMD R7 + Vega 7
||IdeaPad 5 – AMD R5 + Vega 6
||UM433 – Ryzen 7 + MX350
||UX434 – Intel i7 + MX250
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)
||62 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||66 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
||63 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
||97 fps (45 fps – 1% low)
||76 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
|Dota 2 (DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
||48 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||39 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||74 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
||47 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, no AA)
||19 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (17 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||35 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||25 fps (21 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||40 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||45 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||41 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||31 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
|NFS: Most Wanted (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||58 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX 12, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||32 fps (14 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (Vulkan, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||26 fps (21 fps – 1% low)
||27 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
||40 fps (35 fps – 1% low)
||29 fps (25 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Low Preset)
||32 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
||37 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||19 fps (13 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (14 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||29 fps avg (18 fps – 1% low)
||24 fps avg (10 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3, Dota 2, NFS – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
Even with the power bottleneck that affects both the CPU and GPU, as you can see in these following HWinfo logs, older and simpler titles run alright on this VivoBook S15 M533.
In fact, with the GPU clocking down to about 1.2-1.3 GHz after a while, down from its maximum 1.5 GHz potential, I was expecting this laptop to score poorer than it did in our gaming tests. However, it performed neck in neck to the full-power Ryzen 5 implementation in the IdeaPad 5, and within 10% of the 15W limited implementation of the Ryzen 7 with Vega 7 graphics in the ZenBook UM425.
That suggests you’re only going to get roughly 10% higher framerates with the Ryzen 7 4700U configuration of this laptop, which further adds to my recommendation of sticking with the more affordable Ryzen 5 variants unless you require 16 GB of memory on your laptop, which is only available on the R7 models.
Furthermore, if you’re after a more competent gamer withing this sort of a form-factor, I’d keep a close eye on those Nvidia MX350 models, they’re a big step-up from the Vega only devices.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
As mentioned above already, Asus went with a very basic thermal module here, with a narrow single heatpipe and single fan, and that peculiar airflow design that draws air from over the APU and does not offer a clear intake over the fan.
Thermally, this design works here, keeping the AMD APU withing solid temperatures, with limited fan noise. In fact, the fan sits silently with daily use, and only ramps up to about 36-37 dB at head-level with games, which is barely noticeable even in a silent room without any sound coming from the speakers. However, this laptop’s thermal performance is also corroborated with the limited power supplied to the APU, which stabilizes at 15W and below in games and other demanding loads, while better implementations of this same platform allow it to run at 25+W, with improved performance.
And while the internals run cooly on this VivoBook, the exterior chassis heats-up a bit with demanding loads. I measured temperatures in the low to mid-40s in the hottest par on the interior, which is positioned around the X and C keys, in an area that you’ll constantly come in contact with, while the underbelly reaches temperatures in the high-40s around the APU. However, this laptop’s hottest part is on the screen’s chin, right near the exhaust, which hits temperatures in the very high 40s. The panel itself doesn’t heat up past 40s though, so I don’t expect this to be an issue over time.
These findings do illustrate the design’s limits. In theory, a faster spinning fan might allow the CPU to run at higher power and performance, and there’s plenty of thermal headroom to play with here. But a hotter APU would also translate in that chin heating up more, and some of that heat dangerously spreading over to the panel, potentially damaging it long-term. That why I’m not a fan of this sort of thermal design that blows the hot air into the screen, and rather prefer an open back edge, the kind Lenovo or Acer use on their products.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Best Battery Mode, fans at 0-35 dB
*Gaming – Best Performance mode – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 36-37 dB
For connectivity, there’s latest-gen WiFi 6 with an Intel AX201 module on this laptop. It performed fine with our setup, yet not as fast as some of the other units we’ve tested, but the signal and performance remained strong at 30-feet, with obstacles in between.
Audio is handled by a set of stereo speakers that fire through those grills on the belly. Asus upgraded them from the previous S15 generations, with punchier units. Expect above average volume in the 75-78 dB at head-level, no distortions at higher volumes, and slightly better audio quality than on the average affordable laptop.
The camera still isn’t much, though, fairly washed out and muddy, but it’s fine for occasional calls in a well-lit room.
There’s a 50 Wh battery inside this VivoBook S15, which is not that big for a 15-inch laptop. Still, corroborated with the efficient AMD hardware and dull screen, this notebook lasts for a long while on a charge.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~70 brightness).
- 5.5 W (~7-9 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5 W (~10 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.7 W (~10+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 8 W (~6-7 h of use) – browsing in Edge, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop comes with a compact 45W charger that plugs-in via a classic barrel plug. It’s a single-piece design with a compact brick and a long cable, and a full charge takes about 2 hours, but quick-charging allows for 60% of the battery to fill up in about 50 minutes. USB-C charging is not supported here.
Price and availability
This Asus VivoBook S15 M533IA is only available in some regions at the time of this article.
Over here, our Ryzen 5 review configuration starts at around 600 EUR, which is competitive and on par with the competition. The Ryzen 7 model with 16 GB of RAM, but still the same screen, goes for around 650 EUR.
We’re looking at slightly higher prices in the western part of Europe, around 700 EUR for the base Ryzen 5 model and 800+ for the Ryzen 7. However, I couldn’t yet find this in the UK or the US, so we’ll have to update in the future.
In the meantime, follow this link for updated prices and configurations in your region.
This VivoBook S15 M533IA is an option to consider if you’re after a mid-range all-purpose computer for everyday use, school, and some occasional heavier loads or maybe some casual gaming in the spare time.
Asus nailed the design and construction, which are both excellent for this price range, and also implemented good inputs, punchy speakers, and the kind of IO that would satisfy most potential buyers, even with that gimped USB-C port. They also put up together a well-balanced system, the kind that performs snappily with daily use, runs quietly and efficiently. However, this is not the best implementation of the Ryzen platform, with the limited APU power and quirky thermal design, that’s why my recommendation primarily goes towards the more affordable Ryzen 5 configurations.
Nonetheless, the screen is what will make or break this for you. Asus only offer a dim and washed out IPS panel on this series, that kind that I could not live with in this day and age, and that’s why I cannot truly recommend the M533IA for everyone and will only rate it 4/5, considering all the other aspects mentioned in the article. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t, though, so you could give it a try, just don’t expect the punchy colors and image quality you’d be getting with a higher quality panel. As I mentioned already, I’d gladly pay 50-100 EUR extra for a 300+ nits panel with 100% sRGB on this chassis, and hopefully, this will be an option for this series at a later date.
That wraps up our review of this Asus VivoBook S15 M533IA, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it, so get in touch int he comments section below.
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