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Asus VivoBook S451LA review: A touchscreen for less, but compromises, too

The Asus VivoBook S451LA has a relatively low price and a touchscreen, but doesn't offer very much else.

Nate Ralph Associate Editor
Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.
Nate Ralph
7 min read

Since its inception, Windows 8 has had something of an identity crisis. The operating system demands to be touched, with bold tiles optimized for swipes and gestures. But we've grown spoiled by having a proper mouse (or touchpad) and keyboard to get us through the day, in spite of the proliferation of smartphones and



Asus VivoBook S451LA

The Good

The Asus VivoBook S451 looks like a premium machine, and offers a responsive, 14-inch touchscreen for just $700.

The Bad

The VivoBook S451 offers a middling experience: it's heavy, slow, and the keyboard and touchpad are lackluster. The screen has a low resolution for a midsize laptop.

The Bottom Line

Some might call the midsize Asus VivoBook S451 attractive, and it's certainly inexpensive, but too many sacrifices were made to hit that budget price.

Some devices try to offer the best of both worlds, splitting from keyboard bases or bending over backward for our comfort. Others, like the $700 Asus VivoBook S451, graft a touchscreen onto a run-of-the-mill laptop chassis and call it a day. While this has a relatively budget price, it doesn't justify the compromises you'll have to make to make this machine a worthwhile.

Note that like many Asus laptops, our exact version of the VivoBook S451 can go in and out of stock at online retailers, and you may find slightly different sets of components at different prices depending on when and where you look. Our review unit has a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB HDD. Keeping it firmly in the budget zone is a low-resolution 1,366x768-pixel native screen resolution.

PC Geekbox

Asus VivoBook S451LADell Inspiron 14 7000 SeriesAcer Aspire E1 472G-6844
Price as reviewed $699 $1,049 $599
Display size/resolution 14-inch, 1,366 x 768 screen14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 touch-screen14-inch, 1,366 x 768 screen
PC CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U1.8GHz Intel Core i7 4500U1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U
PC memory 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics 32MB Intel HD Graphics 44001792MB shared Intel HD Graphics 44002048MB Nvidia Geforce 820M
Storage 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive32GB SSD 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive500GB 5,400rpm hard drive
Optical drive NoneNoneNone
Networking 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit)Windows 8.1 (64-bit)Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Design and features

Sarah Tew/CNET

Let's take a step back: it is kind of pretty, isn't it? In a deceptive sort of way, with a brushed-metal lid that gives it the appearance of a much pricier machine. And the height -- a mere 0.97 inch thick -- makes it look eminently totable, the sort of svelte machine you could just toss into a bag. But the VivoBook S451LA weighs 4.8 pounds, which is well on the onerous side.

The notebook has a 14-inch touchscreen, which seems rad. But then you open it up, and see that it offers a measly 1,366x768 pixels of screen real estate, and it's also not very good: viewing angles are incredibly limited, with colors inverting and looking washed out with the smallest shift in angle. I find myself constantly adjusting the hinge, hunting for that mythical perfect angle where I can sit comfortably and still see clearly -- this will prove problematic if you like to move about much. That said, it is a touchscreen. It's responsive and handles

gestures with aplomb, but its hinge isn't very rigid, wobbling rather annoyingly as I tap through menus.

I've grown accustomed to glass or matte touchpads, so the overly glossy one on this VivoBook feels a bit too slippery for my taste. Gestures are problematic, as the touchpad is occasionally imprecise. This is compounded by the extra tricks included to emulate Windows 8's touch gestures: swipe in from the right edge of the touchpad, and you'll bring up the charms menu. Swipe in from the left to quickly switch between running applications, while swiping down from the touchpad's top edge calls up Windows 8's context-sensitive menu bar. You'll also get the typical pinching and panning to manipulate photos that we've come to expect from modern machines.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My fingers have admittedly grown accustomed to sliding rather lazily across the

touchpad, but getting Asus' gestures to work requires a bit of finagling, with swipes that are too fast or not close enough to the edge simply failing to register. Fortunately, most of this is customizable: fire up Asus' Smart Gesture menu and you can disable just about every touchpad function and enable some new ones, including three- and four-finger gestures. Things don't get much better on the keyboard. The chiclet keys are suitably wide and comfortable enough to type on, but they're also very shallow: my fingers are constantly bumping into the laptop's frame, which doesn't necessarily affect accuracy but is rather annoying.

Worst of all, the keyboard isn't backlit. I'm a capable touch-typist and won't go so far as to call backlighting mandatory, but I'd be hard-pressed to recommend any notebook keyboard that becomes all but invisible should you choose to work or play in dark spaces. You'll also need to hold down a Function key to access media controls and the like -- many keyboards give those important controls priority, so it's a shame Asus hasn't followed suit.

The rest of the VivoBook S451LA's hardware isn't spectacular, but par for the course at this price. It's powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor, with 6GB of RAM. There's 500GB of storage via a 5,400rpm spinning platter drive, sorely disappointing in the era of the SSD (but to be expected at this price). The S451LA also offers a DVD burner, a relic from bygone days when most data came on discs instead of the Internet. In all seriousness, it probably doesn't add much to the overall weight, so it's a welcome addition. You'll also get 3GB of free cloud storage care of Asus' WebStorage platform, which is nice.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There's a Gigabit Ethernet jack running along the left side of the machine, a feature that'll become harder to find as Ultrabooks continue their race to thinness. The other option for getting online is 802.11n Wi-Fi, and you'll also find Bluetooth 4.0 built-in. The rest of your connectivity options aren't too bad: two USB 3.0 ports sit alongside an HDMI output jack on the left side of the machine, while the right offers an SD card reader, a combination microphone/headphone jack, a USB 2.0 port, and the aforementioned DVD burner.

There are speakers, but as is generally the case with laptops on the lower end of the price spectrum, you're going to want to go ahead and stick to

or an external pair. Despite Asus' SonicMaster branding and a few equalizer presets, the speakers can sound a bit hollow.

Ports and connections

Asus VivoBook S451
Video HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combination headphone/microphone jack
Data 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD+RW drive

Connections, performance, and battery

The VivoBook's Core i5-4200U processor sits in that illustrious "good enough" category. While it lags behind competitors on every single one of CNET's performance tests, I didn't have too much trouble with day-to-day usage.

remains appreciably zippy, with applications loading in a reasonable amount of time and always moving at a steady clip. Starting the machine up takes about 12 seconds, which feels a bit long but not exactly a deal breaker -- that's more of a credit to the operating system than the hardware, as an SSD would certainly improve things.

Unfortunately, you also can't do much better: the S451LA can be configured with up to a Core i7-4500U, but there are no SSD options. The fastest storage option is a 750GB 7,200rpm drive, while the largest is a 1TB 5,400rpm drive. You'll also find a dizzying array of prices for the model we tested, though Amazon currently has it for $669.69 (as of this publication date).

The VivoBook's reliance on Intel's integrated graphics means that any sort of high- or medium-end gaming is out of the question. Fortunately, there are plenty of games on the Windows 8 store and around the Web that'll chug along just fine on this hardware.

As far as battery life is concerned, Asus estimates the VivoBook will last about 5 hours on a single charge. We saw 6 hours and 13 minutes on our video playback drain test. While that's in line with what you can expect at this price point, it still isn't all that great if you plan to use it all day.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The display, keyboard, and touchpad on this Asus VivoBook are essentially phoning it in, and it's (relatively) heavy, but it'll get you moving about the Internet, play your HD movies (although not at full-HD resolutions), and help you get work done -- thanks to a fairly responsive touchscreen -- for just $700. At this price, you'd be hard pressed to find a real gem.

But if you're willing to spend just a bit more, you can do better. The larger, nigh-identical 15.6-inch Asus VivoBook V551LB weighs an extra pound and costs about a hundred dollars more, but offers twice as much storage, more RAM, a faster CPU, and a discrete Nvidia GPU. You're getting many of the same drawbacks, but at least you can get a spot of gaming done, and tackle some photo editing, too.

If your budget is tight and your needs are simple, you might also consider a Chromebook -- we liked the Acer Chromebook C720p. You'll generally be limited to the what the Internet has to offer, and will lose support for Windows apps, but it packs a decent keyboard, a fair number of connectivity ports, and you can snag one for just $300. It even has a touchscreen! Though there's decidedly less to touch on Chrome OS. And that brings us back to Windows 8's fundamental image issue: do we really want to touch our PCs?

I do. With devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro I fall into a sort of rhythm, gliding between touchpad and screen without much in the way of conscious effort. I've always felt that's the best way to tackle Windows 8, as the OS opens up new -- and generally faster -- ways to get around without mucking up what works, what's familiar. But you really need a touchscreen, and if you're going for a hybrid design, you absolutely need to nail the fundamentals. Asus hasn't done that here.

Find more shopping tips in our Laptop Buying Guide.

Handbrake multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)

Acer Aspire E1 472G-6844 596Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 594Asus VivoBook S451LA 480Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series 455
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)

Asus VivoBook S451LA 275Acer Aspire E1 472G-6844 269Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 254Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series 250
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)

Acer Aspire E1 472G-6844 150Asus VivoBook S451LA 131Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 124Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series 110
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)

Acer Aspire E1 472G-6844 258Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 429Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series 463Asus VivoBook S451LA 373
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Asus VivoBook S451LA

Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.6GHZ Intel Core i5-4200U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 500GB HDD

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14

Windows 8 (64.bit); 1.6GHZ Intel Core i5-4200U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 128GB SSD

Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series

Windows 8 (64.bit); 1.8GHZ Intel Core i7-4500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 32GB SSD, 500GB HDD

Acer Aspire E1 472G-6844

Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2,048MB Nvidia GeForce 820M; 500GB HDD


Asus VivoBook S451LA

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 6Battery 7