Microsoft Surface Pro 3stars
Building on the Surface Pro 2 released late last year, the Surface Pro 3 is the "tablet...
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2013, 15-inch screen)
Asus Transformer Book T100
Rather than employ some kind of bizarre convertion mechanism to bring tablet functionality to a laptop -- like the Dell XPS 12 or Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 -- the S400 simply whacks a touchscreen into a regular laptop.
You get to enjoy the gestures and live tiles that make up the colourfuloperating system, switching easily to the keyboard when you need to get on with some typing.
There's a powerful Intel Core i7 processor stuffed inside, along with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. That lot will set you back a reasonable £700 from PC World. If that's too pricey for you then there's a Core i5 variety for £100 less, but naturally you can expect a smaller helping of power.
Should I buy the Asus VivoBook S400E?
The S400E packs a potent Intel Core i7 processor with 4GB of RAM that I found to be extremely powerful. It matched the performance of Acer's Aspire S7 -- a laptop that costs more than double the asking price of the S400E.
That engine is protected by a sturdy metal shell with a black, brushed finish. It's not super-attractive but it's functional and will keep it protected on the road. For the money, you'd be hard pressed to find something more rugged.
The responsive touch-enabled display helps navigate around the gesture-based Windows 8, but it's let down by its poor resolution and disappointing colours.
If you're after a great display for getting the best out of your movies, take a look at Sony's Vaio E Series 17, or the Dell XPS 12 if you want a portable touchscreen Windows 8 laptop.
For general computing on the move, however, the S400E offers a good all-round set of features for a reasonable price.
Design and build quality
The S400's shell is constructed primarily from metal, and has a deep grey/black lid. It's far from an exciting look, but the brushed effect Asus has given it saves it from being yawn-inducingly dull. At the very least it looks functional -- I wouldn't hesitate to pull it out in a meeting -- although it's not likely to catch the eye of anyone in the coffee shop.
That black lid is an absolute magnet for fingerprints though. You'll want to keep a polishing cloth of some kind handy if you want it to maintain its professional look. Aside from this, the design is very much par for the course. Silver metal is in abundance under the lid, and the bottom of the machine is clad in black rubber. The keys are set directly into the base -- there's no separate keyboard tray -- which, together with the edge-to-edge glass of the screen, help make it look more expensive.
It's 339mm wide and 239mm deep so it'll fit into an average backpack without too much pushing and shoving. At 21mm thick, it's considerably thicker than its Zenbook UX31 cousin, but it's not exactly what you'd call fat. It weighs in at 1.8kg, so you're unlikely to feel too bogged down if you have to carry it around for a couple of hours.
The metal shell makes it feel particularly sturdy. There's minimal flex in the lid and none at all in the wrist rest. The hinge too feels sturdy and doesn't bend when opening. It's quite stiff, but it needs to be in order to avoid falling down when you're using the touchscreen. It certainly feels burly enough to put up with a few knocks inside a rucksack, so don't hesitate to take it down to Starbucks.
Around the edges you'll spy one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports (a shame that not all USB ports are of the faster 3.0 variety), an SD card reader, Ethernet, VGA and HDMI out, as well as headphone and microphone jacks. Storage is taken care of by a 500GB hard drive.