A great mid-ranger let down by a sub-par screen and middling battery
ASUS' VIVOBOOK SERIES is all about packing a powerful punch without breaking the bank. The latest member of the family is the somewhat awkwardly named VivoBook S15 S532.
The S15 S532 looks pretty much to its S530 predecessor, sporting the same ErgoLift hinge which adds a gentle 3-degree tilt to the keyboard when you open the laptop for a more comfortable, desktop-like experience. However, this time around, the trackpad has been replaced by the ScreenPad 2.0 - a smaller screen which offers helpful functions on the touchpad to improve multitasking, such as faster switching of applications and the ability to create your own shortcuts.
As impressive as it sounds - does it work well in the real world? Well that's what you're about to find out.
The Vivobook series might not be as sleek as Asus' super-slim ZenBook devices, but it does have a stylish aesthetic about it. Asus has also drastically improved on the aesthetics since the last time around, as the Vivobook S530 was made predominantly from plastic. Now, the firm has only used this the underbelly of the chassis, with the lid-cover and the interior now being made from a lovely silver and clean-looking aluminium.
We're big fans of this design; it's classic, minimalistic and timeless, and will definitely appeal to most. And in case you're looking for something a bit more exciting, Asus also offers the S532 in Pink or Green colourways.
Measuring 18mm thick, it's definitely not the skinniest out there but for a 15in device, it's pretty good going and will fit in a backpack nicely. It's fairly lightweight too at 1.8kg - we were definitely expecting it to be heavier.
Overall it feels strong and robust. The lid retains a stiff solid shape even when tilted in opposite directions, so we think this laptop will definitely stand the test of time. The Ergolife hinges, which raises the laptop's main body on rubber feet placed at the bottom of the screen, are a welcome touch, too. They create a slightly sloped typing position and allowing for improved airflow underneath as well as the feel of a desktop PC.
The VivoBook S15 S532 features a 15.6in screen with a Full HD 1920x1080p resolution. It's not the best screen we've seen on a laptop - mainly because it's of the matt "anti-glare" variety - so icons don't seem as sharp and it feels a little washed out as a result. Still, with its Full HD resolution screen, pixels aren't visible even on close inspection, and viewing angles are decent.
Thanks to LED backlighting, the brightness of the S15 S532 is vivid enough for general day-to-day use, and because the display isn't of the glossy variety, it doesn't reflect light as easily as some others on the market.
Keyboard and ScreenPad
The VivoBook S15 S532's keyboard is probably one of the nicest we've used of late. Keys on the large size, with feedback proving accurate and sharp with plenty of travel. It also has backlighting, although one downside to its sleek, all-silver look is that it makes the writing on the keys harder to see.
As for the trackpad, this is where the true innovation comes. The ScreenPad 2.0, as it's called, is essentially a second screen which can be used to multitask more efficiently by using other, specially designed apps in tandem. For instance, load the calculator while browsing your finances on full screen, or make notes on a video without minimising the tab.
The major flaw here, however, is that it's not all that useful unless there are apps there to be used on it; its usability is highly dependant on third-party developers creating them. The other problem is that while it uses extra battery life, it's just a bit too small for and so Windows doesn't really scale well at that size.
If you're not a fan of having the ScreenPad as a secondary screen, you can simply turn it off and use it as a regular trackpad. Better still, when used like this, it's comfortable and responsive to use.
When it comes to connectivity, the VivoBook S15 S532 boasts three USB ports, an HDMI slot, a 3.5mm audio jack, a microSD slot and one USB-C port. Oddly, two of the three USB ports are USB 2.0, there's no USB-C charging (it's done via a proprietary plug which is irritating and inconvenient) and there's no fingerprint reader for extra security. There is, however, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 as standard. All of the above worked fine in our experience.
Performance and battery life
Our Vivobook S15 S15 S532 review device came powered by an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU running at 1.8GHz alongside 8GB DDR4 RAM and a speedy 512GB SSD, which meant the laptop was able to manage pretty much most things we threw at it with ease. Take multitasking, for instance, which the Vivobook S15 S532 makes a breeze. Intensive applications are easy to churn through, and for everyday tasks, it provides everything you need.
What was particularly impressive about the S15 S532, though, is how quiet it remained throughout using it. Even when running more intense applications, you're barely able to hear it while tapping away, which is a bonus for those that get distracted easily.
While using the VivoBook S15 S532 over long periods, we found it does get a little warm to the touch, especially when throwing demanding applications at it, but nothing worth worrying about.
Asus claims that the VivoBook S15 S532's (rather small) 42Wh battery will last nine hours on a single charge, which isn't great by today's standards. Nevertheless, we found to be more or less correct. Running our standard test of general web surfing and word processing at 60 per cent brightness, we found the device ran for just over eight hours. When it came to watching a high definition video on full brightness, the machine ran out of juice in just under five hours. Not great, but it'll get you through a few films on a long train ride, at least.
The VivoBook S15 S532 is nicely made mid-range laptop with a lovely minimal style. There are some big negatives, though, such as a disappointing display, lack of Type-C charging and average battery life. The ScreenPad 2.0 is a novelty but we do like the innovation here, it's just a shame buyers probably won't use it all that much.
We'd recommend the VivoBook S15 S532 to those who don't want to lug a laptop around with them all the time but do need a portable device that acts as a good desktop replacement. It's available now in several different configurations. Our review model with Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD retails for £1,099, which is pretty good going for a 15in device, we think. Especially with the innovative trackpad design. µ
Classic design, great hinge design, innovative trackpad which doubles as ScreenPad, good performance, a numerical pad.
No USB-C charging, battery life could be better.
Dim and washed-out display.