All work and no play? That won't be a problem for owners of this game-ready laptop.
With most laptops now aiming to pack the punch of a full-featured model into a pint-sized product, it's refreshing to see something like the Vivobook S551LB, a throwback to the days when 15-inch laptops were considered small enough. The larger monitor should make multitasking a breeze, while the broad keyboard can comfortably fit adult hands. Even better, the larger base means ASUS can pack more hardware inside, without having to compromise on components. However, students will have to lug this larger laptop between classes all day, so is the added back pain worth the cost?
Design and features
The 15.6-inch touchscreen determines the overall dimensions of the S551LB, making it one of the larger laptops in our back to school roundup. Despite the larger size, ASUS has scrimped on the resolution, settling on a lacklustre 1366 x 768 display, decidedly low resolution when compared to the crisp HD offerings elsewhere. Despite the screen size, this lower resolution makes hosting multiple windows a screen-cramping affair, losing one of the key benefits of the extra size. Colour quality and contrast performance were both as disappointing as the resolution.
The external chassis is built from a mixture of aluminium and plastic, offering a happy compromise between affordability, sturdiness and good looks. The bottom half of the base is the plastic part, but as this faces down it's hard to see. The upper half of the base is made from aluminium, giving the island keyboard a reassuringly sturdy skeleton, with no keyboard flex even during the most furious typing. The size and travel of each key is just right, making the keyboard an extremely comfortable home for your fingers, perfect for rapid note-taking during meetings or intense lectures. The touchpad is similarly impressive, with excellent accuracy and left/right buttons that register perfectly. ASUS's proprietary Sonic Master technology apparently uses specialised speaker designs to deliver better audio, but we found the stereo speakers as bad as we expect most laptops to sound.
Connections, performance and battery
The larger dimensions of the S551LB should have allowed ASUS to install a potent mix of hardware inside. Unfortunately Intel's i7-4500U CPU is only a dual core model peaking at 3GHz, but the inclusion of HyperThreading helps lift performance. 8GB of DDR3-1600MHz memory is plenty for multitaskers, while the 1TB mechanical hard drive offers a vast amount of storage space. Obviously this comes at the cost of speed when compared to an SSD, but ASUS has paired it with a 24GB MSSD drive to act as a cache, again lifting overall performance. Twin USB 3.0 ports sit alongside a single USB 2.0, HDMI, SD Combo card and Gigabit Ethernet port.
We ran PCMark 8's Home benchmark, which measures performance over real world tasks such as web browsing, word processing, photo editing and video playback, and the S551LB scored 1889, which puts it towards the bottom of the pack at this price point.