More and more touchscreen laptops are hitting the South African market and they’re coming in at both ends of the spectrum. The Acer Aspire V5 Touch is a good example of an Ultrabook-alternative with Touchscreen. The ASUS VivoBook series is another.
Meet the Asus Vivobook S200E that we’ll be reviewing and that is available from WebAntics Online for R4,923.57 incl VAT including delivery to all main centres. Even without touchscreen that would not be a lot. It doesn’t look like a cheap laptop however, with not a lot of plastic (only the bottom cover) and a stylish brushed aluminium finish similar to the (much more expensive) Zenbook series. The net result is that the entire notebook is remarkably rigid and resilient. The build quality is very high: the transition between the different sections is without flaws, the corners are nicely rounded, and the gaps are even and unobtrusive. It is Asus’ best-selling laptop and currently one of the better selling ones at Amazon.com and it is easy to see why
The concept seems simple: use a touchscreen and combine it with Windows 8 so the VivoBook can be used like a tablet, while preserving the advantages of a full-fledged notebook. Dell follows a similar strategy with their XPS 12 though it is clearly in a different league as far as the price point is concerned (over R18,500.00 incl vat)
There is a downside to these new products, and that’s how much they cost. But it’s that way with any new product cycle, and it’s no different with Windows 8 products. The OS has now been out for a number of months, and we are finally starting to see manufacturers bringing more affordable products to market.
At 1.3KG with an 11.6” High Definition 1336×768 touchscreen, Windows 8 and an Ultrabook-like design, you’d be forgiven for thinking the ASUS S200E is an Ultrabook. With full-size VGA, 2 -in-1 card reader, HDMI and 3 USB ports (1xUSB3.0 and 2xUSB2.0) you might even think it has some advantages over Ultrabooks. There are a few downsides though that don’t put it into the ultrabook grade. The processor is an Intel® ULV Celeron® 847 1.1GHz Dual Core Processor and it takes a maximum of 2GB DDR3 memory . There’s no SSD cache, no Ultrabook security features and it only has a 2Cell 5136 mAh 38 Whrs Polymer Battery, giving a maximum possible run time of around 5 hours and 17 minutes.
But isn’t that all you’d expect at this price. Think of this as 70% netbook, 30% touchscreen plaything. Nothing flips out or turns into a stand, but within that standard notebook form you’ll find a fine keyboard/trackpad combo plus all you’ll need for serious work. There’s also sufficient grunt to handle Photoshop, various music apps and the odd bit of light video editing too but don’t plan on running any demanding (3D) applications
In use the Asus has the feel of a premium device, despite an underlying lack of user-friendliness from the Windows 8 desktop (but blame Microsoft for that). The trackpad is a tad unresponsive and there’s a bit of fan noise (more or less inaudible in most environments), but otherwise it all looks and feels like money well spent – which indeed it is. For casual movie viewing the Asus is more than capable enough for an 11-incher. Playback is smooth, but keep in mind that 1080p vids are scaled down to its lower-res HD 1366×768 screen. As for sound, colour us impressed! The VivoBook has the ASUS exclusive SonicMaster technology with Waves MaxxAudio 3 for a more powerful sound and richer bass through the speakers. It most certainly provides the best audio experience in its class, far outshining the competition…and I wouldn’t have expected anything less from ASUS.
Another feature we just couldn’t stop playing with was the Exclusive ASUS Super Hybrid Engine II technology that offers smartphone-like 2-second instant on from sleep or hibernate modes, so you can resume without delay. Open files and tasks are kept safe in memory, plus should the battery drop below 5% charge while you’re away, data gets automatically backed up. Your valuable content is always secure and within reach. Definitely something you”ll find hard to live without once you’ve had it.
The black chiclet-style keyboard is seamlessly integrated into the aluminum chassis, which in turn adds to the impression of high quality. The aluminum keyboard area is also responsible for exceptionally high rigidity – even when firm pressure is applied. With the exception of the arrow keys, which are a bit undersized, the layout is pretty standard and doesn’t take a long time to get used to.
Although the click point could be slightly better defined and the key travel longer, we were happy with the very good feedback and the typing experience overall. The VivoBook does not suffer from the usual issues that plague low-priced notebooks.
The ASUS S200E is by far the cheapest touchscreen Windows 8 laptop on the market in South Africa right now. If you’re looking for a ‘new-age’ netbook alternative or an entry level portable, ultrabook-alternative, you’ll certainly be very happy with this as your purchase