Asus VivoBook S500CA-DS51t review

The Asus VivoBook S500CA-DS51t's trim chassis, responsive touch screen, and reasonable price tag work together to create to an affordable Windows 8 experience.
Photo of Asus VivoBook S500CA-DS51t

There’s a lot to like about the Asus VivoBook S500CA-DS51t ($679.99 list). This Windows 8 entry-level ultrabook sports a trim design, responsive capacitive touch display, and reasonable price tag all contribute to an affordable Windows 8 experience. That said, its disappointing keyboard/ touchpad duo and so-so battery life hold it back.

Design and Features
With the exception of its slightly larger 15-inch display, the VivoBook S500CA looks nearly identical to its predecessor and our former Editors’ Choice for entry-level touch-screen ultrabook, the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51. Its chassis measures 0.80 by 15.1 by 10.2 inches (HWD) and is decked out with a dark brushed metal lid and a matte silver keyboard deck. At 4.73 pounds, it’s on the heavy side for ultrabooks, especially when compared to our current Editors’ Choice for entry-level ultrabooks. the Acer Aspire M5-481PT-6644 (4.4 pounds) or the Toshiba Satellite U945-S4390 (3.85 pounds). Despite the VivoBook S500CA’s more pronounced mass, its sleek profile nevertheless allows it to easily slip into a backpack or laptop bag.

The 15-inch LED display has a maximum resolution of 1,366 by 768, which is good enough to support 720p videos. Although it can’t deliver HD content in 1080p like the pricier Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BH15T , the VivoBook S500CA’s glossy screen deserves props for its bright picture and vibrant color reproduction. Moreover, the display’s capacitive touch functionality is responsive enough to your fingertips that pinching, swiping, and scrolling through Windows 8′s tiles quickly feels like second nature. Impressively loud speakers complement the display’s eye-candy by pumping out sound at surprisingly high decibels. At maximum volume, the horns and hi-hats on Gold Panda’s “Trust” still sounded crisp. Although the bass is somewhat lacking, the speakers are certainly capable of adding some life to the next impromptu party in your dorm-room or office.

Unfortunately, the VivoBook S500CA’s chiclet-style keyboard evokes considerably less joy. Despite being accompanied by a generously-sized palmrest, the keyboard’s key travel is glaringly shallow even by ultrabook standards and makes typing anything beyond an informal email a fairly uncomfortable endeavor. Moreover, the keyboard isn’t backlit, which makes typing in dimly lit settings doubly frustrating. While the VivoBook S500CA’s touchpad fares somewhat better and supports Windows 8 gesture controls, its one-piece design occasionally yields somewhat unresponsive left- and right-clicks. Although the touch-screen means this issue isn’t a deal-breaker, the inconsistency mars an otherwise decent touchpad.

For the most part, the VivoBook S500CA’s port selection is on par with other ultrabooks. The left side of the system sports a multicard reader, two USB 2.0 ports, and a combined mic/headphone jack. The right side sports the system’s sole USB 3.0 port, a full-sized HDMI port, a VGA port, and an Ethernet port. While the VivoBook S500CA isn’t the only ultrabook to feature just one USB 3.0 port—just look at the Asus S400CA—it’s still a bummer for those with multiple peripherals. If this qualifies as a deal-breaker for you, you’d be better off with something featuring two such ports, like the Acer M5-581T-6405.

The VivoBook S500CA comes with a 1TB 5,400rpm HDD for storage and a 24GB SSD that makes booting the system up seem nearly instantaneous. Although its 1TB of storage capacity is generously spacious, the HDD is clogged up with some preloaded software. You’ll find all the usual suspects here, like bloatware (links to Skype), trialware (trial versions of Office 2010 and Trend Micro A/V), and a chunk of proprietary software known as the Asus Application Suite. Asus covers the VivoBook S500CA with a one-year warranty on parts and labor, which also includes 24/7 access to tech support and accidental damage coverage.

Performance

Like many of the ultrabooks that we’ve seen, the VivoBook S500CA packs an Intel Core i5-3317U processor and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. That combination, along with 6GB RAM, yields average multimedia and day-to-day performance. This is evident in its Cinebench R11.5 score of 2.39 points, which fell imperceptibly short of both the Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light (CT14-A4) and Asus S400CA (2.40 points each).

A similar pattern emerged in multimedia-oriented tests like our Handbrake video-encoding test, where its performance (1:28) was equal to both the Toshiba U945-S4390 and Vizio CT14-A4 (1:28 each) and only seconds short of the chart-topping Acer M5-581T-6405 (1:25). Likewise, the 5 minutes 30 seconds it took the VivoBook S500CA to run through the dozen or so filters in Photoshop CS6 test was nearly indistinguishable from both the Toshiba U945-S4390 (5:31) and Vizio CT14-A4 (5:29), though it did succeed in blazing past the Asus S400CA (6:28) and Acer M5-481-PT-6644 (7:18).

Although the VivoBook S500CA’s integrated graphics demonstrated a moderate capacity for rendering 3D graphics in our 3DMark11 test (1,168 points in Entry-level mode, 210 points in Extreme mode), don’t expect to be playing any high-end games here. Like the rest of its class, the 30 frames per second (fps) playability barrier eluded the VivoBook S500CA in both Alien Vs. Predator (scoring 13fps with medium detail, 7fps with high detail) and Heaven (11fps with medium detail, 6fps with high detail).

The VivoBook S500CA’s average performance also extends to its non-removable 44Whr battery, which lasted a so-so 4 hours 52 minutes on our battery rundown test. That put it somewhere between the Toshiba U945-S4390 (4:47) and the class-leading Acer M5-581T-6405 (6:17). While it’ll get you through a class or two, don’t expect to spend an entire day on the VivoBook S500CA without paying a visit to the power outlet.

Despite being a fairly average ultrabook, the Asus VivoBook S500CA-DS51t sports a good touch screen and an affordable price tag. While that’s not enough to unseat the Acer Aspire M5-481PT-6644 from its throne as the Editors’ Choice for entry-level touch-screen ultrabooks, it’s nonetheless a good option for users seeking a well-rounded Windows 8 experience without having to drop too much cash.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the Asus VivoBook S500CA-DS51t

Specifications
Touchscreen Yes
Processor Name Intel Core i5-3317UM
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
Weight 4.73 lb
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 4000
Screen Type Widescreen
Type Ultrabook
RAM 6 GB
Networking Options 802.11n
Processor Speed 1.7 GHz
Screen Size 15 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 1024 GB

Verdict
The Asus VivoBook S500CA-DS51t's trim chassis, responsive touch screen, and reasonable price tag work together to create to an affordable Windows 8 experience, but its disappointing keyboard/ touchpad duo and so-so battery life hold it back.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc