When it comes to affordable laptops that stretch the buck, the VivoBook series has always been one that at the top of our minds. Earlier, at Computex in Taipei, ASUS announced a new refresh to the VivoBook S14 and S15 which brought two versions: one with the ScreenPad and another without. The VivoBook S15 S531F is the former and it focuses on bringing affordable performance to a segment that is slowly becoming everyone’s go to.
The demand for thin and light laptops that are able to take more than just your run of the mill tasks is increasing. With the recent entries into the Vivobook series such as the VivoBook 15 A512, we’re seeing even more offerings coming from manufacturers such as ASUS. That said, how does the new ASUS Vivobook S15 S531F fair as a laptop? That’s what we’ll be looking at in this review.
The Vivobook S15 S531 comes with a push for people to express themselves. To this end, ASUS has included some stickers to get you started personalising the laptop. That aside, the Vivobook S15 S531F comes with a refreshed design language which brings a sense of refinement that is pretty apt for the way the Vivobook has evolved. What was once considered one of ASUS’s entry level laptops has matured into a line up which is both elegant and refined.
The first thing you will notice about any of the colours is the clean, machined look that the Vivobook has. However, don’t let it fool you. The beautiful, polished finish isn’t a plastic body. Instead, ASUS has opted to use an aluminium lid with a metal chasis. You’ll be able to feel and see it all its glory when you look at the keyboard once you’ve opened the lid.
The first thing that caught my eye when reviewing the Vivobook S15 S531F, was its beautifully slim bezel which frames the IPS LCD display to. This is accented with a blue line which runs a top the bezel; and is visible even with the lid closed. The webcam and Infrared (IR) camera is nested within the top bezel. There’s a sleek ASUS Vivobook branding emblazoned in the bottom bezel which feels a little bit more premium but doesn’t intrude when it comes to the experience of using the laptop.
When it comes to the keyboard, the VivoBook S15 S531F’s is one of the better keyboard experiences on the market. There is a full sized keyboard with a numpad. It’s backlit and the keys are large enough that you won’t be accidentally hitting two keys at the same time. Something which can be an issue when it comes to other keyboards on the market. The ASUS VivoBook S15’s keyboard also has one of the most tactile keyboards on a laptop of its size. The keys have just the right amount of feedback. This makes the experience of using the keyboard much more satisfying and also prevents fatigue after prolonged use. I found myself able to type comfortably for more than 2 hours on the S15. The keys weren’t mushy and soft but provided enough cushioning for comfort. The keyboard experience is enhanced by the 3° lift afforded to it thanks to design of the Vivobook’s hinge. The lower end of the lid slides under the bottom chassis and lift the keyboard to make typing more enjoyable and more ergonomic. It also helps reduce strain on the wrist.
Below the keyboard is a pretty large track pad. This is definitely a plus point as you’re not swiping multiple times just to get your cursor from one end of the screen to the other. However, some larger track pads can sometimes be a pain thanks to accidental touch, but ASUS has addressed this issue with some smart palm rejection technology.
The new Vivobook S15 S531F is built in a few configurations. The one Malaysia is getting is the one without the ScreenPad. A concession that totally changes the user experience of the ASUS VivoBook S15. That said, the user experience afforded by the spec that’s being offered allows users to be productive with features that make sense.
There are a few improvements that we strongly suggest users do to make the experience better. The first would be to upgrade to at least 8GB of additional RAM; the VivoBook s15 S531F supports up to 16GB total with DDR4 RAM. For our review, we actually used one of our extra 4GB RAM sticks to improve the experience of the laptop. The other (optional) one would be to invest in either an Intel Optane memory or a 1TB rotating hard disk. This would be especially important for those who want to store multimedia files as you’d be looking for additional space in no time with the built in 512GB.
|Processor||Intel ® Core ™ i5-8265U processor 1.6GHz quadcore with Turbo Boost (up to 3.9GHz) and 6MB cache|
|RAM||4GB SDRAM (+1 empty slot with support for up to 12GB)|
|Hard Disk||512GB SSD Intel Optane Memory (+ 1 empty slot)|
|Graphics Processing Unit|
|Nvidia GeForce MX250 with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM|
Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel)
16:9 aspect ratio
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Battery||42Wh 3-cell lithium-prismatic battery|
90W Power Adapter
Fast Charge (60% in 49 minutes)
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 5 802.11 ac,|
Type C USB3.1 GEN1
USB 3.1 port Gen 1 (Type A)
2x USB 2.0 ports
SD Card Reader
Combo jack (3.5mm audio out/in)
IR Camera (Windows Hello)
|Keyboard & Touchpad||Fullsize keyboard with NumPad|
1.4mm key travel
Touchpad with four finger gesture support
|Audio||Harman Kardon Certified|
ASUS Sonic Master with Surround Sound and smart Amplifier
|Size||180 x 357.2 x 230.3 mm|
The new Vivobook S15 S531F is a step up from the previous generation; albeit a small one. It’s an iterative update on a form factor which is proving to be really successful for ASUS thanks to the size and overall features. Like we mentioned earlier, the ASUS Vivobook S15 S531F is a laptop that brings along with it a whole slew of small but meaningful improvements when it comes to the its features.
One of the main improvements anyone will notice is the reduction in the bezels as well as the overall size of the laptop. The reductions, while small, bring a lot of benefit when it comes to the look and feel of the device. The Vivobook is sleeker and thinner thanks to the reductions in size. The reduction of the bezel also makes the screen feel a lot more substantial and immersive.
That said, the feature that makes the most difference is the Ergolift hinge. This hinge design lifts the laptop by about 3°. You’d think that the lift would have minimal impact on the overall user experience of the laptop, but that isn’t the case. In fact, we would go so far as to say that this feature has revolutionised the experience on any ASUS laptop with it. The lift makes the typing experience on the Vivobook S15 S531F one of the best we’ve experienced. The angle makes typing a lot easier and less straining on the wrist.
Aside from this, the ventilation of the Vivobook seems to be a little bit improved as the fan isn’t as loud as it was in its predecessor and the aluminium chassis doesn’t heat up as much when undertaking heavy tasks. The position of the vents remains the same; facing the bottom portion of the lid where the electronics for the display panel likely resides. From our time with the device, we haven’t noticed any untoward effects of this.
The ASUS Vivobook S15 S531F comes with an IR camera module for Windows Hello. While the inclusion of the Windows Hello enabled camera is plus, it would have been easier if it was complemented by a fingerprint sensor. Windows Hello’s facial recognition still leaves a little bit to be desired when it comes to accuracy. I found myself resorting to using my password and PIN as facial recognition seemed to be unable to detect my face for unlocking.
If you’re looking for something that is able to run the latest games in Ultra mode, you’ll need to look for something else. However, looking for something more powerful may run you a lot more than the MYR3,100 that the S15 S531F costs. That said, some of the more powerful laptop will also be substantially larger than the sleek Vivobook S15.
That said, the specifications of the S15 do not leave it in the lurches when it comes to performance. The Intel Core i5 processor in the Vivobook S15 is able to handle a good deal of torture before we see any slowdown. We were able to run complex equations and calculations on the laptop without much hassle. Paired with the NVIDIA GeForce MX250, the ASUS VivoBook S15 S531F is able to handle pretty heavy duty processing. During our time with the VivoBook, we were able to edit videos in 1080p Full HD and even 4K Ultra HD; of course, at 4K, the laptop was struggling to keep up with the rendering in Adobe Premiere Pro.
When it comes to games, the Vivobook could handle games such as DoTA 2 or League of Legends without much problem. However, when it comes to games such as Overwatch or even Diablo 3, we did notice the laptop struggle. This was easily addressed by lowering the graphics settings to less demanding level. That said, even with optimising the graphics settings, you’ll still be hearing the fan whirring in the background. In more demanding games such as Shadow of War, you will notice stutter and dropped frames. Even on the automatically optimised settings we saw pretty significant lag and frame drops.
All day battery. That’s ASUS’s promise when it comes to this laptop. However, from our experience with it, we’ve managed to push it at about 10 hours with light use – word processing and the like. However, when we began to push the laptop’s performance to the edge, we began to see a significant dip in the battery life. At best, while rendering video, we managed to squeeze about 6 hours of battery life. However, more often than naught, we were getting about 5.5 hours with heavy use. We expect that regular use cases would get about 8 to 9 hours on average.
When it comes to the fast charging, the laptop did what was promised. Charging to at least 50% in about 40 minutes. That said, fast charging raises a concern of battery deterioration over time. As we didn’t have a long enough duration for review, we can’t really comment on the battery durability.
When it comes to the display on the ASUS Vivobook S15F, it’s has one of the thinnest bezels out there in the market. However, being nearly bezel-less while impressive isn’t the only thing that we’re looking at. The panel quality, colour accuracy and viewing angles all play an important part in the viewing experience.
The display on the ASUS Vivobook S15F is an LED backlit display. This doesn’t mean that it’s an LED panel. However, the picture quality on the panel is acceptable. It may not be the most accurate when it comes to colour reproduction, however, unless you’re looking to do some really heavy or professional video and photo editing it shouldn’t be much of a concern.
The screen is pretty bright too and it also has pretty good viewing angles. Even at near parallel angles, the display was still clear. The details in the panel are sharp and create a pretty immersive experience thanks to the Harman Kardon certified speakers.
ASUS has also bolstered its display with what they call TruView technology which sharpens images and increases colour contrast. This actually benefits some situations but we found it offputting most of the time. Things became a little unnaturally sharp which tended to pull you out of the experience.
Iterative Updates with Meaningful Improvements for a better user experience
The VivoBook S15 S531 may be a minor, iterative update to the VivoBook 15 A512. However, the company has managed to keep some of the better design choices and features giving users an overall better experience. However, some of the concessions made this time don’t really make the most sense. That said, ASUS VivoBook S15 S531is not a bad laptop; in fact, ASUS has managed to make the mid-range laptop a bit more appealing thanks to the metal chassis and also the performance improvements.
However, where the VivoBook does fall short is in the value it brings at its price point. At MYR3,199, users should be expecting a little bit more performance. This would have been with a simple inclusion of an addition rotational hard disk or even an additional 4GB of RAM. These minor differences would have improved the user experience tremendously. While they are not deal breakers, they are things that would have been nice to out of the box with the price point.
Overall, with the few meaningful changes and the shortfalls, the VivoBook S15 S531 still remains one of the most affordable laptops on the market. The sleek design, light weight, and performance gives a pretty well rounded user experience. If you’re a student or light laptop user needing simple word processing and may be some light multimedia use, this would be worth considering. We would go so far as to say, this may be the most affordable option on the market with the latest specifications.