By Alex Wawro Review Source
The Asus VivoBook 15 is a budget laptop we had high hopes for. Budget laptops, as you might well know, often seem like they're too good to be true. The idea that you can get enough performance to carry you through a few years at an exceptionally reasonable price is quite enticing. But often, when you're paying less, you're getting less, too.
In the case of the latest refresh of the Asus VivoBook 15, you're paying for less performance and less battery life and opting for a less vibrant display. In exchange, you get numerous ports, a thin chassis, and a nearly edge-to-edge widescreen display, but this Asus VivoBook 15 review will show how the result is merely a reminder of the compromises one has to make to save money.
The Asus VivoBook 15 excels at dressing for the job it wants. Its slate-gray chassis doesn't look like a budget laptop, and despite its plastic build and relative lightness — a mere 3.7-pounds, lighter than the Acer Aspire 5 and HP 15 (3.8 pounds and 4.4 pounds, respectively) — it all feels cohesive in its overall design and construction.
The inside of the VivoBook 15 reveals a keyboard fitted to the rest of the laptop like on Asus' premium models. The trackpad is flush on the wrist rest without being too obvious, and there's even a fingerprint scanner for locking up your system.
Asus managed to fit in a whole number pad without crowding the keyboard area, and there's enough room for comfortably resting your wrist while thumbing through your work.
The VivoBook 15's ErgoLift Hinge is one of its more helpful facets, as it angles the keyboard so that it's raised a bit for more comfortable typing when you're seated at a desk. It's a feature carried over from some of Asus' ROG gaming laptops (some of the best gaming laptops you can buy) for increasing ergonomics on the go. It's nice that the company implemented it into its lower-tier laptops.
Buying a laptop with plenty of ports is a good idea if you're ever considering docking the device and working with a full set up. The laptop's left side has two traditional USB 2.0 Type-A ports, plus a status indicator light.
The right side has the rest of the bounty, housing a proprietary power jack, a USB 3.1 Type-A port, an HDMI 2.0 port for tethering the laptop, and a combination headphone and microphone jack. There's a USB Type-C port, a rarity for a laptop in this price range, and a way for you to add an Ethernet port by way of a compatible adapter.
There's also a MicroSD slot, which is a nice-to-have and allows adding on storage space, but I would have preferred a standard SD slot to work with my DSLR on the go.
The VivoBook 15's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 NanoEdge display offers little bezel on either side of the laptop, with a bit more at the top to accommodate the webcam. But beyond its widescreen look, the display's dim color profile and weird viewing angles make it an underwhelming device for consuming online video. It made episodes of vintage TV shows like Baywatch, already with a worn-in color palette, look older than they are, while movies like the recent remake of Emma were extremely hard to see in dark scenes.
In lab tests, the VivoBook 15 scored a measly 65 percent on the sRGB color gamut. While that's ahead of similarly-priced laptops, including the Acer Aspire 5, which scored 63 percent, and the HP 15, which scored 67 percent, it's behind the industry average of 85 percent. Anecdotally, the display on the VivoBook 15 is obviously off-kilter. I can get through a YouTube video without immediately recognizing it, but it becomes apparent once I switch displays. And while I was able to edit RAW photos in Adobe Lightroom, I felt more confident about the result only after connecting to an external monitor with better color reproduction.
The viewing angles of the VivoBook 15 are a bit odd, too. You have to look at the laptop at an exact angle — about 100 degrees — to see the display without a sheen. The issue affects dark colors, specifically black and grays, and if you rely on dark mode within most apps, it's hard to ignore. I found the laptop hard to use with the Windows 10 night mode because of this sheen issue. It's also not very bright, with the VivoBook 15 maxing out at 205 nits in lab tests. The Acer Aspire 5 and HP 15 Laptop are brighter, measuring at 258 nits and 222 nits, respectively, though even those models are below the industry average of 268 nits. Whichever way you shake it, the VivoBook 15 isn't meant for a cinematic viewing experience.
Theoretically, if I were in a rush and needed a so-called throwaway laptop to perform a few quick deeds, the Asus VivoBook 15 would be likely to carry me through. It has enough power to run an older game at low-quality settings to help fulfill the nostalgia quotient. It has enough battery life to file words at a Denny's in time for the next deadline. But as this Asus VivoBook 15 review showed, performance doesn't particularly impress, which doesn't make it a laptop worth an upgrade.
At least there are plenty of ports, so if the VivoBook 15 is the only choice you have in your arsenal, an external monitor, a set of speakers, and a mouse can help with some of its quirks. But if you can swing it, at least consider spending a few hundred more on the Core-i5 version of the VivoBook 15 for a little more power in the processor.