The Asus VivoBook S15 S530UA ($699) proves that innovation isn't limited to premium laptops. This excellent mainstream system is truly one of a kind. Inspired by the laptop maker's pricier ZenBook S, the VivoBook S15 features Asus' new ErgoLift hinge, which angles the keyboard for a more comfortable typing experience. As if that weren't unique enough, the VivoBook S15 is available in several striking color schemes, including a gorgeous turquoise green and a blinding yellow.
The S15's appeal isn't skin-deep, either. With good performance, solid battery life and excellent heat management, the VivoBook S15 is a very good laptop overall, and one of the best Asus laptops. In fact, I'd wholeheartedly recommended it if not for its dull display and obnoxious amount of bloatware. Still, the VivoBook is a compelling option unlike any other on the market.
Asus VivoBook S15 price and configuration options
There is a single configuration of the Asus VivoBook S15. For $699, the 15.6-inch laptop comes with an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD -- our minimum recommended setup for a mainstream laptop.
Asus VivoBook S15 design
Take a bow, Asus.
The VivoBook S15 is a beautifully crafted laptop with an exquisite design and jaw-dropping color schemes. Breaking away from the silver aluminum mold, Asus has finally given us what we've been asking for: unique color options in a nonbudget laptop.
We got our eyes on two of the VivoBook S15's five color options: star gray with yellow trim, and firmament green. The other three finishes are gunmetal, silver blue, and star gray with red trim. The green model is undoubtedly the showstopper. That particular machine has a forest-green brushed-aluminum lid and a shiny, green-plastic deck with barely visible stippled crosshatching. The chassis's turquoise trim is the bow around this beautiful package.
The silver model we received also has its own flair, sporting a bright-yellow trim and a smooth, faux-aluminum deck. The tiny stippled dot texture and vibrant color reminded me of a Roy Lichtenstein painting. There is also something undoubtedly Scandinavian about the VivoBook S15: If Ikea had a tech section, the VivoBook S15 -- with its sleek, simple design and splash of bold color -- would be the poster child.
But that's not the only reason to get excited about the VivoBook. The ErgoLift, the clever elevated hinge introduced on the ZenBook S, makes a pleasant return. This time, the back of the keyboard tilts upward at a 3.5-degree angle. This offers a more comfortable typing experience and improves audio and heat management.
At 14.2 x 9.6 x 0.7 inches, the VivoBook S15 is relatively compact for a 15.6-inch laptop. It has a similar footprint to the sleek Lenovo Ideapad 530s (14.1 x 9.6 x 0.6 inches) and is significantly smaller than the Acer Aspire E 15 (15 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches). The VivoBook S15 is also lightweight, at 3.7 pounds. Again, that matches the Ideapad 530s (3.7 pounds) and is much lighter than the Aspire E 15 (4.9 pounds).
Asus VivoBook S15 ports
The left side of the laptop holds two USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card slot and LED indicators for charging and battery status.
On the right side, you'll find a DC jack, a USB 3.1 port, an HDMI port, a USB Type-C port and a headphone/mic combo jack.
Asus VivoBook S15 display
It's a shame that such a colorful laptop has this dull a display. The VivoBook S15's 15.6-inch, 1080p display is sharp and bright, but it disappoints in the color department.
When I watched a trailer for the upcoming mystery flick Bad Times at the El Royale, the opulent furnishings in the majestic setting were crystal clear, and I could even make out the thin pinstripes in Jon Hamm's dapper suit.
But at the end of the first trailer for the upcoming Captain Marvel film, the red and blue in Brie Larson's suit looked dull as fire raged around her. And although the skin tones and white balance were accurate, the sci-fi effects didn't glow with the same richness of color that you'd find on a higher-quality panel.
The VivoBook S15's display can reproduce only 68 percent of the sRGB color spectrum, which is worse than even the Lenovo Ideapad 530s (72 percent) and the Acer Aspire E 15 (74 percent) -- two laptops with particularly dull displays. The mainstream laptop average is 89 percent.
Topping the mainstream-laptop average (242 nits) with a maximum brightness of 257 nits, the VivoBook S15's display should be visible outdoors, even on a sunny day. The Ideapad 530s' 255-nit display was slightly dimmer, and the Aspire E 15's 200-nit screen wasn't anywhere near as luminous.
Asus VivoBook S15 keyboard and touchpad
The Asus VivoBook S15's island-style keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience, thanks to tactile keys and an innovative elevated hinge, which make up for faults like shallow key travel.
With 1 millimeter of travel, the VivoBook's keys are shallow for a 15-inch laptop. (We prefer key travel of at least 1.5 mm.) However, the keyboard has several things going in its favor. The keys are well spaced and generously sized, apart from a slightly undersized number pad -- that's right; there's a number pad. And despite the low travel, there is a pleasant springiness to the keys.
What greatly improves typing on the VivoBook S15 is the laptop's elevated ErgoLift hinge, which tilts the back of the keyboard toward you at a 3.5-degree angle. That's a gentler gradient than the one on the ZenBook S, but my wrists still appreciate the natural typing position offered by the gentle slope.
Unsurprisingly, I sped through the 10fastingers.com typing test, achieving 119 words per minute with an accuracy rate of 95 percent. Those figures match my speed and accuracy typing averages.
MORE: Best Hard Drive Speed
The Asus VivoBook S15's 4.1 x 2.8-inch touchpad is spacious, and it was quick and responsive when I performed complicated Windows 10 gestures. I had no problem scrolling through web pages and swiping to switch between open windows. A fingerprint reader is embedded in the touchpad for faster, safer login authentication.
Asus VivoBook S15 audio
The VivoBook S15's speakers can fill only a medium-size room. Those aren't the loudest speakers you'll find, but they still sound very good, especially on a laptop this thin. When I listened to Lana Del Rey's "Mariners Apartment Complex," the vocals sounded clear, and the drum beats had a nice weight to them.
The S15 did equally well when I listened to Thrice's "My Soul," a more instrumentally complex rock song. Electric guitars shimmered in the upper frequencies atop Dustin Kensrue's husky voice. I do wish the bass went deeper, but there was some nice punch to it.
Asus VivoBook S15 performance
Equipped with an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU and 8GB of RAM, the VivoBook S15 breezed through my typical stress test, swiftly loading 20 Google Chrome tabs. The laptop didn't lag or freeze, even when I simultaneously played three 1080p YouTube videos and two full-HD Twitch streams.
The S15 also did well on our lab tests. Its score of 12,163 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test edged out the mark from the Lenovo Ideapad 530s (Core i5-8250U, 11,966),and crushed the score from the Acer Aspire E 15 (Core i5-8250U, 9,278) and the mainstream-laptop average (8,930).
However, the VivoBook S15's 256GB SSD failed to impress when tasked with duplicating 4.97GB of mixed media files. It completed the task in 41 seconds, for a rate of 124.1 megabytes per second. The Aspire E 15's hard drive (256GB M.2 SATA SSD, 149.7 MBps) achieved a faster rate, and the Ideapad 530s (256GB PCIe SSD, 282 MBps) was more than twice as fast. The VivoBook S15 even fell short of the mainstream-laptop average (136.2 MBps).
The Asus laptop rebounded on the Excel Macro Test, matching 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 1 minute and 4 seconds and beating the Ideapad 530s (1:24), the Aspire E 15 (1:30) and the mainstream-laptop average (2:05).
The VivoBook S15 needed only 25 minutes and 38 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution using the HandBrake app, comfortably beating the 28:39 mainstream-laptop average. The Aspire E 15 (25:15) took about the same amount of time, but the Ideapad 530s (21:05) smoked the competition.
Asus VivoBook S15 graphics
Armed with an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU, the VivoBook S15 can play less-demanding games at low to medium graphics settings. The VivoBook S15 scored 65,313 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, falling short of the Ideapad 530s (UHD 620 GPU, 69,450) and the mainstream-laptop average (68,579). The Aspire E 15 (122,144), with its dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, blew away the competition.
Still, the VivoBook S15 outperformed its competitors in real-world testing. The laptop ran the racing game Dirt 3 at 59 frames per second, beating the Ideapad 530s (49 fps), the Aspire E 15 (33 fps) and the mainstream-laptop average (44 fps) -- all of which topped our 30-fps threshold.
Asus VivoBook S15 battery life
The Asus VivoBook S15's battery life is good, but not great. The laptop lasted 8 hours and 23 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of display brightness. The S15 outlasted the Ideapad 530s, which powered down after 7 hours and 41 minutes; however, the Aspire E 15 lasted an excellent 9 hours and 26 minutes. The mainstream-laptop average, 7:29, is about an hour shorter than the VivoBook S15's runtime.
Asus VivoBook S15 webcam
The Asus VivoBook S15's webcam is decent. In a selfie, the 720p lens accurately captured my burnt-orange shirt, and I could see the stubble of my freshly shaved beard. Unlike the images from other webcams I've tested, the VivoBook's picture was well-exposed, even with sun streaking in from a window behind me. Best of all, the webcam is placed above the screen, despite the laptop's razor-thin bezels.
Still, a smartphone camera produces better selfies than the VivoBook S15. While the lens is sharp, there was a lot of visual noise in the image I took under our dim office lights -- so much that I couldn't read the small Sony logo on my headphones.
Asus VivoBook S15 heat
A claimed benefit of the ErgoLift hinge is improved heat management from increased airflow. While that wasn't the case with the ZenBook S, the VivoBook S15 remained remarkably cool in our testing. After we played a 15-minute YouTube video, the center of the keyboard heated to just 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad, at 82 degrees, and the underside, at 86 degrees, were even cooler.
Asus VivoBook S15 software and warranty
There's a host of programs preinstalled on the VivoBook S15's Windows 10 Home operating system. From Asus, there are apps like Hello, which offers a Dropbox-like cloud service, and ZenAnywhere, which lets you access files on your laptop from Android and iOS phones. Asus also brought a program dedicated to keyboard hot keys. The only Asus-branded apps I'd see myself using are MyAsus and Asus Install, which offer diagnostic support and let you download laptop drivers and key applications.
Unfortunately, there is plenty of bloatware on the Asus VivoBook S15, including those obnoxious games that come courtesy of Microsoft, like Candy Crush Saga, Hidden City and Minecraft. LinkedIn, Netflix and McAfee Security also make an unwelcome appearance.
The colorful Asus VivoBook S15 is one of the most visually stunning laptops to cross our desks this year, and at $700, it's much more affordable than you might expect. Furthermore, the laptop has very good performance, speakers that output clear audio and a clever hinge that angles the keyboard toward you. The only considerable knocks against the portable 15-inch laptop are a dull display and an unfortunate amount of bloatware.
But the VivoBook S15 has some tough competition in this price range. The Lenovo Ideapad 530s is remarkably similar to the VivoBook S15. It has gorgeous looks, a borderless display and a thin-and-light footprint. It also has similar internals -- a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD -- for the same $700 price. However, like the Asus, the Lenovo's biggest shortcoming is a dull display.
Ultimately, your decision between these two laptops should come down to your personality. If you prefer a more buttoned-up look, go with the Lenovo. But if you want a laptop that stands out, the Asus VivoBook S15 is a great option.