With the Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T, you get approximately the look and feel of the higher-end Asus Zenbook UX51VZ-DH71, but for a lot less money.
However, if you look closely at the specs and construction of the two, it's easy to see why the V551LB is much less of a notebook than the UX51VZ. Screen resolution and quality, for example, are sacrificed on the V551LB and, although it has a 1TB hard drive for plenty of storage, it doesn't have a solid-state drive or secondary flash memory to help boost performance.
Those things might not be deal breakers for you, but for its price of around $1,000, we've come to expect a bit more. It's not a bad deal, but it's not a great one, either.
Design and features
The V551LB is an attractive notebook. That might not be a priority for everyone, but it's nice that it's not an ugly, plasticky mess, nonetheless. The lid's brushed-metal finish gives it a premium look and the whole body seems well constructed. The bottom of the system is a single piece of polycarbonate, with just a small fan vent and two slits near the front for its stereo speakers.
Though the laptop is relatively thin (it measures 15 inches wide by 10.2 inches deep by 0.9 inch thick), it isn't exactly lightweight at 5.8 pounds. With its small power adapter, the travel weight tips the 6-pound mark. Depending on how strong you are or what else you have to travel with, for a daily commute or carrying around campus, that might be a bit too much.
Lift the lid and you'll find a large touch pad with no discrete buttons for right and left clicks; there is, however, a vertical line at the bottom so you don't have to guess. It's set up for multitouch use, for things like two-finger pinch-to-zoom and scrolling and three-finger swipes for showing open applications or the desktop. Fingers glided smoothly on its surface and it generally didn't misbehave if a palm accidentally landed on it.
It has a full keyboard with a number pad and Asus managed to keep all the important keys large enough for comfortable and accurate typing. Considering how shallow the body is, the keys of the chiclet-style keyboard have very good travel. Plus, there's plenty of room below the keyboard to rest your wrists (though the left side could use a bit more).
It is not backlit, however, and at this price it really should be. Also, there's a key just right of the Backspace key that launches a VivoBook interface for doing things like seeing system information, turning on a power save mode, adjusting audio quality and display color, and learning about gesture support, among other things. It's nice to have, but really easy to accidentally hit instead of the Backspace key and since it actually takes over your screen, it can be frustrating.
|Asus VivoBook V551LB||Sony Vaio Flip 15||Toshiba Satellite S55t-A5277|
|Price (as reviewed)||$999||$1,199||$999.99|
|Display size, resolution||15.6-inch, 1,366x768 touch screen||15.5-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||15.6-inch, 1,366x768 touch screen|
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U||1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U||2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ|
|Memory||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||12GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 740M||1.8GB Intel HD Graphics 4400||2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 740M|
|Storage||1TB 5,400rpm hard drive||1TB 7,200rpm hard drive||1TB 5,400rpm hard drive|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||None||DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless|
|OS||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)|
If there is one thing that would keep me from recommending this laptop, it's the screen. For starters, its pedestrian 1,366x768-pixel resolution is typical of more budget-friendly 15.6-inch laptops like the Acer Aspire E1-572-6870. Like that laptop's, the Asus VivoBook V551LB's display doesn't get all that bright and the screen is very glossy. Trying to work on it outside in daylight or in bright indoor lighting may leave you struggling to see what's onscreen or, at the very least, regularly adjusting your screen angle.
Color is decent for casual use, but washes out some when you're viewing from the sides. Similarly, colors invert when the screen is viewed from above or below. If color accuracy or off-angle viewing is critical to what you need day to day, it's probably time to start looking at other laptops.
The V551LB's built-in speakers aren't great, either. They don't get terribly loud and they sound a bit hollow. They're passable for casual listening, but they don't match the quality of Asus' higher-end laptops. For regular use, you'll probably want to hook up some external speakers or headphones.
|Audio||Stereo speakers, 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 burner|
On a more positive note, the V551LB offers a good amount of ports and connections spread out on both sides of the system. On the left you'll find an Ethernet jack, an HDMI output, and two USB 3.0 ports.
All the remaining connections are on the right along with an SD card slot and, yes, a DVD burner.
Performance and battery life
As mentioned earlier, the V551LB-DB71T has a 5,400rpm 1TB hard drive. If you're looking for the fastest performance these days, you'll want a computer with either a solid-state drive or a hybrid drive that combines a small amount of flash memory with a larger hard drive. That said, a hard drive offers more storage space for your money, so if that is what is most important to you, the V551LB's 1TB is ample, and Asus throws in an additional 32GB of cloud-based Asus WebStorage for three years.
Bolstering the performance of the slow-spinning hard drive are a 4th-gen 1.8GHz Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a discrete 2GB Nvidia GT 740M graphics card. The combination proved pretty effective for typical everyday tasks and did well against similarly configured systems in our benchmark tests.
So, from a performance standpoint, this VivoBook is no slouch and about the only time it felt a little slow was with cold boots or when launching applications or opening large files. We're talking seconds, not minutes, though. Also worth noting is that if you decide down the road that you want to put in an SSD to improve those things, the bottom comes off easily for access to the hard drive (the battery is not user-replaceable, though). You can also find other configurations of this model with a 24GB solid-state hybrid drive.
For gaming, the midrange Nvidia GPU does keep frame rates fast enough for games at reduced settings. Basically, as long as you're not planning to connect to an external display to play at higher resolutions, you should be OK. For basic photo and video editing, it's sufficient, too.
Battery life was better than expected for the V551LB. Though Asus estimates battery life for the laptop at up to 5 hours, it blew past that on our video playback drain test, reaching 6 hours and 15 minutes. With some power management you should be able to hit 7 hours of less intensive tasks, such as wireless Web use.
Lastly, Asus includes coverage for accidental drops, spills, power surges, and fire damage for the first year as well as a standard 1-year warranty. You also get the company's "30-day zero bright dot display guarantee," free two-way standard shipping, and 24-7 technical support for the first year.
The V551LB-DB71T is an overall very good laptop with nice looks and performance and battery life to match its just-under-$1,000 price tag. It's missing a couple of bells and whistles we expect at that price, though, and its display is disappointing for the money.
Find out more about how we test laptops.
Asus VivoBook V551LB
Windows 8 (64-bit) 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 740M; 1TB 5,400rpm Seagate hard drive
Acer Aspire E1-572-6870
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4400: 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive
Sony Vaio Flip 15
Windows 8 (64-bit) 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRA 1,600MHz; 1792B (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive
Toshiba Satellite S55t-A5277
Windows 8 (64-bit) Intel Core i7-4700MQ; 12GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 740M; 1TB HGST 5,400rpm hard drive