Tuesday , 15 October 2019

ASUS VivoBook S15 (S531) Review: Beauty and Power in Harmony

We review the VivoBook S15 (S531)!

ASUS’ VivoBook S line was originally made to attract younger buyers with its sculpted lines, slim chassis, unconventional color choices, and more importantly, an attractive price point. ASUS hopes to rake in even more millennial buyers with its redesigned VivoBook S15, which is now dressed up with an aluminum top lid with three dazzling color options: Punk Pink, Moss Green, and Cobalt Blue.

Aside from the new colors, the new, refreshed model has a bevy of hardware improvements including a more powerful GPU, which makes it feel as premium as ASUS’ aluminum-clad Zenbook line.

Definitely eye-catching with vast color choices

While the VivoBook S15 (S531) comes in five colors, our review unit’s Punk Pink motif is the most eye-catching between the five.

The Punk Pink aluminum lid changes its shade to a deep red-like hue depending on the lighting. Moss Green accentuate the top lid’s side panels, while blush pink covers the polycarbonate keyboard top and bottom case. The keyboard keys are dressed in silver, making this variant of the VivoBook S15 (S531) one of the most colorful ASUS laptops in recent memory.

While pink is a color you would associate with women, men can also rock this bright pink laptop in public. Heck, I’ve been using the VivoBook S15 (S531) as my daily driver and I did not feel insecure about its neck-breaking color. The millennial in me prefers a brightly-colored laptop than one clad in full of RGB lighting—which is the case with most gaming laptops, ASUS’ own ROG line included.

The VivoBook S15 (S531)’s redesigned top lid logo and keyboard top case made it look as premium as the aluminum-clad ZenBook line. You still have ASUS’ trademark ErgoLift hinge, along with a good amount of key travel on its backlit keyboard. Both features were helpful in comfortably typing multiple articles (including this review) while on the go.

Display suffers from inconsistent brightness

There are good things and bad things about the VivoBook S15 (S531)’s 15-inch, Full HD display. First, the good: ASUS managed to trim down the bezels dramatically, giving it a higher screen-to-body ratio compared to its predecessor. And even with the slimmer bezels, ASUS found a way to keep the webcam on top of the display—no need to worry about awkward camera angles from a repositioned webcam.

Now, the bad: the display suffers from inconsistent brightness. The screen’s readability and overall brightness is a bit on the dim side when using battery power and when using the laptop outdoors, while the display’s brightness improves a bit when plugged in. Take note that I didn’t change the brightness settings at all – for some reason the display is just dimmer when it’s not plugged in.

The brightness issue might be more of a software-related problem, and if that’s the case, there’s still a chance ASUS can fix it through future updates.

On the audio side, the VivoBook S15 (S531)’s Harman Kardon-tuned stereo speakers offer good mids and highs. It’s one of the better laptops speakers for its price range, as the overall sound quality remains to be crisp and clear even at maximum volume.

IR face unlock works like a breeze

One of the VivoBook S15 (S531)’s standout features is its web camera that’s paired with two IR sensors. The additional sensors help in securely unlocking the laptop using your face with Windows Hello. Setting up facial recognition is similar to how you set up face unlock with smartphones, and unlocking the VivoBook S15 (S531) using this method is a breeze, even if I was working in dimly-lit places.

While the VivoBook S15 (S531) does not have a fingerprint scanner, the IR camera is enough to secure the laptop from intruders.

Good I/O selection, but the MicroSD card slot is puzzling

You get a decent port selection with the VivoBook S15 (S531), where you have two USB 2.0 ports on the left side, and power adaptor, HDMI, USB 3.0, USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, headphone jack, and MicroSD card slot on the right side.

Like its predecessor, the VivoBook S15 (S531) only comes with a MicroSD card slot. Granted that smartphones and specialty cameras (ie. action cameras and drones) use MicroSD cards, it is strange for ASUS to incorporate such a card reader on the VivoBook S15 (S531) wherein the smaller VivoBook S14 (S431) comes with a full-sized SD card reader.

Internals are adequate for most tasks

Even if most mid-range laptops are equipped with 9th-gen or 10th-gen Intel processors, the VivoBook S15 (S531)’s 8th-gen Intel processor is still a capable processor for 2019 standards. Our review unit came with a Core i7-8565u processor paired with 8GB RAM and a dedicated MX250 discrete GPU with 2GB GDDR4 VRAM. The said configuration is enough for most tasks, including light-to-medium photo editing. If the preinstalled RAM and SSD is not enough, you can boost it further to 16GB RAM and 1TB PCIe SSD. Check out the benchmark scores below:

Using the VivoBook S15 (S531) extensively for editing photos with Adobe Lightroom, the laptop performed well with very little to no hiccups in between. While the VivoBook S15 (S531)’s fans run at high speed during heavy loads, the fan noise is tolerable and not loud.

As for storage, our review unit came with a dual storage solution consisting of a 512GB PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD and a 1TB hard drive. Having a dual storage solution offers the best of both worlds: the SSD ensures speedy boot-up times and better app multitasking, while the HDD offers enough space to store all of your files.

Battery life is more on the average side

Based on our video loop test—WiFi on, YouTube in autoplay mode, 50% brightness, 50% volume, the VivoBook S15 (S531) lasted for around 5 hours and 40 minutes before it went into hibernation. On real-life use, I managed to clock in roughly the same battery life while being always connected to WiFi and editing photos in between writing articles.

Charging with the supplied power brick takes around two hours from empty to 100%.

Verdict: A great option for those looking for a dazzling-yet-reliable notebook 

At Php 59,995, the VivoBook S15 (S531) is priced competitively. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing with its modern looks and vast color choices, the VivoBook S15 (S531) is a performer with internals that can handle light-to-medium tasks like photo editing. The display may have brightness issues, but ASUS might be able to remedy it through a software update.

While the single storage (SSD only) version of the VivoBook S15 (S531) is Php 3,000 more affordable, the dual storage version offers better value for money as you get the convenience of additional storage without lugging around a separate external hard drive.

ASUS VivoBook S15 (S531) Specs

  • Intel Core i7-8565U processor
  • 8GB DDR3 2133MHz SDRAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 620 Integrated GPU
  • NVIDIA MX250 Discrete GPU with 2GB GDDR4 VRAM
  • 15-inch Full HD display
  • 512GB PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD
  • 1TB HDD
  • HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB-C, Combo headphone jack, SD card slot
  • Fingerprint scanner, backlit keyboard, MIL-STD-810G certified
  • 3-cell 42Wh battery

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