As with most laptops and nearly every affordable Windows 8 device, the VivoBooks sport a 1,366 x 768 resolution. On the 11.6-inch model, this really is plenty to be getting on with, though on the 14-inch model it’s a tad on the low side.
The screen is, unfortunately, where Asus has cut the most noticeable corner. Rather than the IPS panels found in most of the Windows 8 tablets and Asus’ own Vivo Tab, the cheaper VivoBook uses a TN panel, and viewing angles suffer accordingly.
However, it’s important to remember that the screen of this Asus is no worse than that found on many laptops at twice the VivoBook’s price. Especially on the sub-£400 base config, it’s perfectly acceptable thanks to a nice brightness, punchy colours and decent enough blacks.
The £399 Asus VivoBook will come with a dual-core Pentium processor, backed by 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 5,200rpm hard drive. To be honest, we’re quite envious of the US configuration, which swaps the latter for a hybrid 320GB HDD/32GB SSD instead.
Adding £50 to the base price will get you a dual-core Intel Core i3-3217U 1.8GHz with the same base specs. Meanwhile the 14-inch model will come with your choice of Core i3- Core i5 CPUs. To be honest, we found the Pentium base model nicely responsive, except for those bits where the traditional hard drive slowed it down. We can’t wait to see if you can fit your own drive when we get a VivoBook in for full review.
Only battery life is an unknown factor at this stage, though the VivoBook’s 500mAh/38Wr unit seems a little on the low side. Still, we’re hoping for at least five hours of regular usage.
The 14-inch VivoBook starts at £499 for the Core i3 version, while the Core i5 model will set you back £599 and the i7 one costs £699. However, it’s the 11.6-inch Asus VivoBook that truly represents one of the bargains of the decade, easily on a level with Asus’ Google Nexus, which offers the same kind of ‘too good to be true’ value.
For £399 (or £449 for the Core i3 model) you’re getting a Windows 8 touchscreen laptop that’s built like a gorgeous brick with a design that wouldn’t shame an ultraportable costing twice as much. Quite how Asus crammed this much quality into its chassis for so little money is a mystery, though the pinch can be felt just a little with the slow hard drive and TN screen.
Based on our hands-on time with the VivoBook, Asus has a real winner on its hands. Especially the 11.6-inch model offers astonishing value, giving you the kind of metal build and attractive finish that puts many more expensive ultraportables to shame – especially when combined with the glass screen front and soft-touch base. The Asus VivoBook also offers good usability, decent connectivity and adequate specs, all of which makes it a veritable bargain.