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ASUS VivoBook S15 S532F review: compact, capable and competitively priced

ASUS is known for launching well-rounded, powerful and compact laptops that don’t break the bank under its VivoBook S Series. The latest in this range, the VivoBook S14 and S15 were launched in India last month. The difference between these two models, apart from the display size, is that the Vivobook S15 comes with a screen integrated into the touchpad called the ScreenPad 2.0. I received the VivoBook S15 for the purpose of this review, and have been using it as my primary laptop for the last couple of weeks. Here’s what you need to know.

Design and display

The VivoBook S15 S532 is the first in the series to be crafted from aluminium, however, metal is used only for the lid and the underbelly is still plastic. This has allowed the brand to keep the weight of this 15-inch laptop down to just 1.8kg, making it extremely portable. And with a thickness of 18mm, it’s also one of the sleekest 15-inch laptops around. I received the Moss Green unit with orange trimming around the lid that looks stylish and professional at the same time. ASUS is also offering the latest VivoBook S15 in Transparent Silver and Punk Pink colourways.

The ASUS VivoBook S15 comes with what’s probably one of my favourite design elements so far in laptops – the ErgoHinge. For the uninitiated, the lid of the laptop is designed in such a manner that when it’s opened, it raises the keyboard ever so slightly. While the hinge lift is very slight, the raised keyboard makes it extremely comfortable to work on. On the topic of the keyboard, the only factor hindering the comfortable typing experience is the silver glossy finish on the keys, which masks the characters even when the backlight is turned on. Therefore, in case you are not used to typing a lot and rely on your sight to type, it will be difficult to get used to the VivoBook S15.

The 15-inch display size means that the laptop is big enough to not skimp on the number of ports and connectors. The VivoBook S15 S532 features a USB 3.1 port, USB-C outlet with DP capability, microSD card slot (I personally would have preferred a full-sized card reader), 3.5mm audio jack and an HDMI port on the right edge. On the left side, you will find two USB 2.0 ports and a battery charging LED indicator. The air vents situated on the inside, where the keyboard and the lid meet. For some reason, the Taiwanese brand has placed the speakers on the underside of the laptop. On the top bezel, you’ll find an IR Sensor and 720P camera which work with Microsoft Hello for secure login.

The laptop is only slightly larger than my 13.3-inch Macbook Air, which is a feat considering the 15.6-inch screen that it comes with. This is possible thanks to ASUS’ proprietary NanoEdge display, which features very slim bezels on three sides resulting in an impressive screen-to-body ratio of 88 percent. Additionally, the 60Hz IPS display features a matte finish, which keeps reflections off the screen. On the flip side, the brightness is on the lower side so you will struggle if using it in bright sunlight. Thanks to the 1,920 x 1,080 pixels screen resolution, you won’t find any issues with sharpness and clarity.

ScreenPad 2.0

The ASUS VivoBook S15 S532F, as I mentioned before, flaunts a secondary Super IPS display integrated into the touchpad called ScreenPad 2.0. It measures 5.65-inch with FHD+ (2,160 x 1,080 pixels) resolution. As of now, ASUS has added companion apps for Spotify, Word, Excel and a few others, which let you perform key actions from the ScreenPad. Additionally, there is a handwriting app that can convert your writing into text, and a Quick Key app that lets you automate commands such as Cut/Copy/Paste. Apart from these, you can also download third-party apps from My ASUS store for other functions.

In my opinion, the software accompanying the ScreenPad 2.0 needs more finesse and support from app developers. I found few apps to be incompatible with the resolution of the ScreenPad, and could see an annoying flickering line on the right edge (this could be limited to this particular unit as the line is present all the time). I turned off the ScreenPad after the first couple of days as it did not add much value and was also taking a toll on battery life. Instead, I enjoyed using it as a regular glass touchpad. You can switch between ScreenPad mode, regular touchpad and no touchpad mode by clicking on the F6 button in progression.

Keyboard, trackpad and audio

As I mentioned previously, the glossy silver finish on the individual keys makes the characters illegible. Apart from that, I have no complaints about the keyboard. The size of the laptop allows for a full-sized keyboard, which means you get a well-spaced layout with a dedicated numpad towards the right, and short but well-spaced arrow keys for navigating. The keys have good travel and are quite soft to keep it quiet while you are typing. However, the latter is quite subjective, as I found myself disliking the soft and shallow typing feedback from the keyboard.

Moving on to the touchpad, as I already mentioned, I didn’t use Screenpad much and used it more in the regular touchpad mode. I personally liked the ability to activate the keyboard illumination by swiping across it. The keyboard backlight itself is pretty bright with three levels of illumination. As for the touchpad itself, coming from a Mac, I found myself in my comfort zone with press to click and other gestures including four-finger smart gestures. Despite being a glass display, the touchpad doesn’t rattle and has very smooth travel while clicking on it, which is pretty impressive. While I might not have found the ScreenPad 2.0 of much use in my experience, I did find the large touchpad pretty convenient.

As for the audio, despite being placed underneath, the speakers deliver powerful yet clean audio output. They are tuned by ASUS’ SonicMaster stereo audio system and offer surround-sound, a smart amplifier and Harman Kardon certification.

Performance and battery

The ASUS VivoBook S15 S532F comes in four configurations with up to a 10th-Gen Intel Core i7 chipset, 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD. The processor is further backed by NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics with dedicated 2GB GDDR5 VRAM. On the software front, the Taiwanese brand is offering the laptop with the option of either Microsoft Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. I received the variant with Windows 10 Home, a Core i5-10210U Comet Lake processor, Intel UHD 620 and Nvidia MX250 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB NVMe SSD.

The 14nm, 2.1 GHz processor powering the laptop offers extremely commendable performance for its class. The notebook scored a very respectable 1,471 and 3,961 points on CineBench and PCMark 10, respectively. This is probably the best performance so far in my experience with Core i5 powered laptops. In 3DMark, the laptop managed to pull together a score of 1,198 in Time Spy and 3,186 in Fire Strike, which is a testament to its gaming prowess. However, I would refrain from pushing it to its limit and avoid playing intensive gaming titles like Far Cry 5. The laptop also returned an impressive sequential read and write speeds of 1791.69MB/s and 979.75MB/s, respectively.

As you can tell by now, the ASUS VivoBook S15 S532F comes packing some serious muscles and it reflects in the day to day usage. In the course of an average workday, my usage comprises of writing on Microsoft Word and WordPress, browsing on Chrome with 100s of tabs open, doing a bit of photo editing, and using WhatsApp Web/Slack for chats during work hours. I also indulged in a fair bit of streaming on Netflix and YouTube, all the while keeping various apps, browser tabs and documents running in the background. The laptop performed like a champ through it all, which is commendable.

The battery on the VivoBook S15 2019 is its only Achilles’ heel. For a 15-inch notebook, the S15 comes with a 42Wh battery, which is small by notebook standards. During my time with the laptop, with the ScreenPad 2.0 turned on and actively used, the battery drained in just under 4 hours. With the ScreenPad 2.0 turned off, I could squeeze in a couple of more hours of usage. Additionally, while ASUS is offering a 90W adapter and fast charging support for the high-end variant, my review unit came with a 65W adapter. The laptop takes close to two and a half hours to charge fully.

Verdict

With its price starting from Rs 69,990, the ASUS VivoBook S15 offers bang for your buck. While the laptop misses the mark when it comes to the battery, it makes up for this with its powerful performance. Therefore, if you are planning to use this one as a work machine, VivoBook S15 2019 is a solid option. The utility of the ScreenPad 2.0 in its current form is still questionable, but then ASUS is not charging a bomb for the laptop and there’s a scope for improvement through software updates. The ASUS VivoBook S15 S532F, in my opinion, is an ideal laptop for a professional who is looking for a powerful yet lightweight option.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Good performance
  • Minimal, lightweight design
  • Precise and accurate touchpad
  • Sturdy chassis

What doesn’t:

  • No full-sized card reader
  • ScreenPad software needs refinement
  • Display brightness could have been better
  • Small battery

Photos by Zaid Hassen

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