Asus VivoBook S400CA review: Won't be the life of the party

Ports, performance, and bang for the buck
You can see the ports and connections in the photo above, but I'll just say that the Acer Aspire M5 managed to fit an optical drive into a similarly sized space, partly because it moved its ports to the rear. Otherwise, the VivoBook matches the average laptop's feature set.

Equipped with the practically generation-standard 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317 processor, as seen in many other ultrabooks, along with its Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, the VivoBook S400CA hardly surprises. It performs about as well as any of the other laptops we've seen, handling applications well and running games reasonably effectively, too, provided they're not graphics barnburners. That's good news, because it means the VivoBook performs well enough to do almost anything you'd expect out from a basic laptop. You get 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive with an added 24GB solid-state drive (SSD) cache, which makes booting up feel speedier.

The bad news, of course, is that the S400CA doesn't do things any better, particularly, than its chief competitors, and if you look at the benchmark charts below, for a few tasks it was actually a little bit slower.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in minutes)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in minutes)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (avg. watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio T13
25.4 
Asus VivoBook S400CA
26.49 

I wish I could say something profound about the VivoBook S400CA; I can't. Despite the new brand name it's a very familiar product, a big-boned 14-inch ultrabook with a touch screen and somewhat unimpressive feel and design. Getting this much computer plus a touch screen for $700 is a pretty good value, but I'd recommend the Acer Aspire M5 over it because the Acer has better battery life (see below), a backlit keyboard, and a DVD drive.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life and warranty
Speaking of battery life, the Asus VivoBook S400CA eked out 4 hours and 45 minutes of run time in our video-playback drain test. That's not as long as similarly sized laptops like the Acer Aspire M5-481PT, HP Envy 4 , and Toshiba Satellite P845t lasted, though in some cases not by much. It's better than the Acer Aspire V5's time. Still, you'd ideally aim for closer to 6 hours of battery life in an ultrabook-style laptop like this one, and there are products out there (the Acer Aspire M5, in particular) that achieve it.

Asus gives a one-year warranty with accidental damage protection for this particular model, the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 (confusingly, a similarly specced S400CA-DH51t model is also sold on some Web sites). The Asus Web site can get a little confusing to navigate, but 24-7 phone support is available at 888-678-3688. To find your laptop's support information, the fastest way is to type the model number into the support page search box.

Conclusion
The Asus VivoBook S400CA may have a new name, but it's a very familiar laptop, infusing some of the Zenbook design into a 14-inch Windows 8 laptop with a touch screen. It's aggressively priced at $700, and covers all the bases you might be looking for in the average laptop, but lacks a killer feature, or a particularly killer price, considering the new bottom line in Windows touch laptops extends as low as $500. Even though it's relatively well-designed, you can sense the corners that were cut; and it's easy to imagine other laptops leapfrogging it in 2013 sooner than later. But for now, it's a fair value.

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Asus VivoBook S400CA
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite P845T-S4310
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio T13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Acer Aspire M5-481PT
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm + 20GB SSD Hybrid

HP Envy 4-1102
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron 13z - 5323
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Asus VivoBook S400CA

Part Number: S400CA-DH51T

MSRP: $699.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1366 x 768 ( HD )
  • Operating System Windows 8 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color black
  • Weight 4.4 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (3rd Gen) 3317U / 1.7 GHz
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