You basically get what you pay for with the ASUS VivoBook S15. Which is to say, not an awful lot. If you're looking to invest in an everyday machine and like the odd game, it may be worth a look, however.
Cheap for what you get
Beautiful screen for the price
Quite light to carry
Slow for gaming
Case looks and feels low budget
Hello, and welcome to the bargain bin section of the gaming ultrabook roundup.
In fact, the ASUS VivoBook S15 S510U isn't even marketed as an ultrabook, its features hovering desperately towards the lower end of respectable for anything games-worthy. It's positioned more as an up-market everyday laptop.
Still, with specs like this for only £899, it's possibly worth discussing for anyone on a serious budget when trying to enjoy today's games - even if those games are going to run with varying degrees of success.
The 3DMax benchmarks for the VivoBook S15 were disappointing to say the least, getting only 595 for the Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card. That was crawling along at a depressing 3.7fps most of the time, and scraped a fairly apt score of 666 on Time Spy for a hellish crawl through that test.
The CPU - an Intel i7-7500U clocked at 2.7Ghz, managed 2058, which means the machine is great for anything that doesn't require graphics. So perhaps stacking up 100 Excel tabs, or perhaps playing Dwarf Fortress, if you're that way inclined.
The standard Forza Horizon 3 test was next. The game employs what it calls "dynamic rendering" to fix its own basic graphic options and change others on the fly during the game. Forza rated the VivoBook "low" and pitched a default resolution of just 1280x720 (with v-sync enabled at least), and most other frills turned down.
But we decided to ignore all those, and ramp everything up to max regardless.
Forza bombed back to the desktop after we attempted to up the resolution to the machine's native 1920x1080, and then wouldn't start again without a full reinstall. Messy.
In the end, we let the game have its way, and picked up some sparkling framerates averaging around 17fps on the game's sludgy, barely playable introductory race. Things picked up to a lightning 23fps upon entering a forest, presumably as it required drawing less field distance. It was almost possible to control the vehicle accurately. Almost.
Forza Horizon 3 is coded to target 60fps at all times, of course. Hmph.
We had a little more luck with DMC: Devil May Cry, which - presumably as it's an HD redux of a game created for the Xbox 360 - ran absolutely flawlessly, hitting 60fps and looking stunning the whole time.
It's worth noting, incidentally, that the version of the machine we reviewed only contained 8GB of RAM, which doesn't feel enough at the best of times, and certainly not for a games machine that's already fighting for breath.
Despite it all, though, apart from being horrendously slow and barely-equipped to play brand new titles, the VivoBook doesn't actually do much else wrong. The 15.6-inch screen is crisp and vibrant, with lovely colours and good blacks. The keyboard, though a little spongy for our tastes, is solid and responsive, and the track pad - while plastic and not glass - is extremely smooth and behaves itself.
The extremely plastic case feels pretty cheap, with noticeable gapping where moulding lines meet ports, but you get what you pay for with these things and it hangs together pleasantly enough. It's also not back-breakingly heavy for something with its own discrete GPU.
Battery life, however, wasn't great, with ten minutes of 720p Forza chewing up 13 per cent of the VivoBook's battery. The ‘remaining' estimate on Windows 10 suggested we'd have got about another two hours out of it.
It's difficult to say whether the ASUS VivoBook S15 is to be recommended or not. As a pure gaming machine, it's really just not a good idea in any way, shape or form. However, if you're after a slightly more exciting commute or business trip with a ‘productivity device', you'd pay for the same for one of these as a snooty, lower-specced HP or Lenovo machine, and be able to unwind with some genuinely great games. Just expect those games to be two-to-three years old.
Don't get ideas above your station if you're buying into this machine, or you'll just walk away disappointed.