The Asus VivoBook S551 is a mainstream touch-capable laptop that scores high in the looks department. Based on its polished, metallic appearance, you could be forgiven for thinking that it costs more than its $1,398 retail price, which includes the latest Haswell-based Intel Core i7 chip.
Both the lid and the inside surface of this 15.6-inch laptop come with an attractive brushed aluminium finish, which is marred slightly by Intel and Nvidia logo stickers on the palmrest.
The island-style keyboard has good keystroke depth and includes a numeric keypad. The touchpad is of a good size and it is responsive to multi-touch gestures. It also has a touchscreen which is useful when navigating Windows 8's tile-based interface.
Despite looking like a premium laptop, the VivoBook is not as thin or as light as more expensive models. This is because the base of the VivoBook is made of plastic, not aluminium like high-end models. The added optical drive increases the bulk.
It did not take long to understand how Asus managed to keep this laptop affordable.
From the moment you press the power button, it takes around 16 seconds for the VivoBook to boot up Windows 8. Unlike most ultrabooks, the VivoBook uses a normal 750GB hard drive that provides ample storage, but is much slower than hybrid drives or solid-state drives.
The screen resolution is also less than ideal at just 1,366 x 768 pixels. This is barely adequate for a large 15.6-inch screen, resulting in fuzzy-looking text. The viewing angles are decent from the sides, though it is not helped by a reflective layer of glass.
On the bright side, the modest screen resolution means the VivoBook runs games such as Bioshock Infinite at medium to high settings smoothly. A screen with a higher resolution would have been more taxing on the graphics chip.
Clocking in at 7hr in Digital Life's battery test, the VivoBook showed a surprising amount of battery stamina. It probably helps that the laptop uses a low-voltage Haswell processor and switches from the Nvidia graphics chip to the integrated graphics chip for video playback.
For a similar price, the Core i7-powered Acer V5 comes with slightly better specifications, such as 8GB RAM, a 1TB hard drive and a GeForce GT 750M. But it does not look as good as the VivoBook.
An average mainstream touchscreen laptop suitable for everyday computing and gaming that scores in the looks department but could be better with some specs.
By Vincent Chang