When it comes to providing alternatives to Windows-based PCs, we can’t fault HP for a lack of trying. Not only has the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company brought a couple of Chrome OS-based Chromebooks to market of late, but it has also rolled out a few such lean machines based on all-out Android. One was the 21-inch Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop PC we looked at last year; the second is the subject of this review, the $429.99-MSRP HP SlateBook 14-p010nr PC.
Now, mind you, the Slate 21 was an unmitigated flop. (It wasn’t just us who thought so; our sister site, PCMag.com, concurred in its even harsher review.) While hardware issues related to performance, design, and construction kept us from recommending the Slate 21, the software was also to blame: Android itself was a big, or even bigger, problem. An operating system meant primarily for use on smartphones and tablets, it just wasn’t prime-time ready to drive a full-fledged desktop PC.
That was 2013. Now, here we are about 10 months out, with a brand-new Android-based laptop.
This isn’t the first attempt at such a thing. Lenovo has an Android laptop, the Lenovo A10 (not to be confused with the Lenovo A10 Tablet), being sold in markets outside the United States, and Asus pioneered the Android/Windows laptop hybrid in machines like the mixed-bag Transformer Book Trio. And HP did try its hand at an Android tablet with a detachable keyboard dock, the SlateBook 10 x2, some months back, in the vein of earlier Asus Transformer Pads. But it’s still a pretty lean group.
The hardware itself is not a problem, this time: The SlateBook 14 is a darn nice machine. Its chassis is sleek, loaded with productivity and convenience options, and, due primarily to its Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor and 2GB of system RAM, it performs quite well. The other components are no slouches, either; the raw numbers we gathered on this laptop say nothing about the SlateBook’s sharp-looking 1,920×1,080 (full HD) screen and ear-pleasing Beats Audio speakers and sound system. Together, the display and speakers make for a superior device for watching videos and listening to music.
This is, decidedly, a laptop, though. Unlike the several Android-based tablet/laptop convertible systems we’ve tested, such as the $299 Asus Transformer Pad TF103C that debuted around the same time as this machine, the SlateBook 14 does not detach from its keyboard. It also cannot flex in the way that Lenovo’s various Yoga machines and HP’s own Pavilion x360 can, with the keyboard rotating 360 degrees to bend back on itself, so that the display panel (which is touch-sensitive) becomes a de facto tablet. Was that a missed opportunity? Maybe, though many will say a 14-inch tablet would be unwieldy, anyway.
Then again, even if the SlateBook had that tablet mode, you might not want to touch certain apps on it, in any case. Sure, there are a million or so Android apps out there. However, because Android is designed foremost as an operating system for smartphones and tablets, a significant number of them do not format properly on high-resolution screens like this one. (It’s a problem on very high-resolution Android tablets, too.) Sometimes, the app won’t use the entire screen, which looks funny. In other, rarer cases, the app itself is rendered in a manner that makes it unusable.
While Android on a laptop makes more sense and has a more natural feel than Android on an all-in-one desktop, there’s no getting past the fact that the OS just wasn’t designed to run on high-res screens and in this form factor. (You have to reach across a keyboard to touch the screen, which you’ll want to do much more than you would, say, in Windows 8.) Still, Android looks better on this smaller, high-resolution 14-inch screen than it did on the much bigger all-in-one displays in essentially the same resolution. (HP’s Slate 21 has a 21-inch screen, while AOC’s mySmart AIO we recently tested comes in 22- and 24-inch varieties.)
Android appropriateness, then, becomes the real question. Is there a viable need for an Android laptop when it costs as much as a Windows one, and, more to the point, is Android robust enough to serve as your primary computing device’s OS? As we’ve said a few times in the past about these outlier Android machines, it really depends on what you plan to do with it.
Overall, this is a well-built machine, and we can think of many applications for which it would work seamlessly. But it all depends on your expectations. The SlateBook works well for media consumption. If your aim, however, is any kind of real content creation—editing images or video, doing spreadsheet work, and the like—this model only makes sense if you’re already familiar with (and satisfied with) the generally lighter-weight Android apps that handle these tasks. And you won’t save much money by opting for it, given that you can find Windows laptops with local storage and even bigger screens starting for around the same money.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
One aspect of computer technology that has remained relatively constant is the resolutions of the monitors and display panels we use. Think about it: while the display and the graphics processing hardware that drive them continuously get faster and more powerful, the underlying resolutions of the devices themselves haven’t gotten notably higher in quite some time.
However, researchers at Oxford University and the University of Exeter in England recently came up with nanopixels, a new display technology that could increase screen resolution as much as 150 times higher than current tech.
And you thought 4K displays were crazy.
Read the entire article at Digital Trends.
Since the emergence of ultrabooks a few years ago, designers have been making laptops slimmer and trimmer, while new CPUs and speedy solid-state drives continue to make them faster and faster. From that perspective, Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 bucks several trends: It’s a little bigger and bulkier than today’s average 15.6-inch notebook, and its 5,400-rpm hybrid hard drive—a 1TB mechanical drive with 8GB of flash cache—makes it a bit slower to boot or wake up than a true SSD. But its fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and a generous complement of RAM make it a more than adequate performer.
The number 7000 indicates that our test model is at the top of the Inspiron line, between the middle-of-the-mainstream Inspiron 15 5000 and the ritzy XPS 15. As with most Dell laptops, you can buy the Inspiron 15 7000 in several different configurations, starting with a $649 model equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive.
Our top-of-the-line review unit, priced at $1,149, flaunts a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of memory, the 1TB hybrid drive, and Nvidia GeForce GT 750M discrete graphics instead of Intel’s integrated graphics. It also comes with an impressive 1,920×1,080 touch screen instead of the minimal 1,366×768 display of the $649 system.
While this Inspiron is a good-looking, well-performing machine with an excellent display and a better-than-average sound system, it reminds us in some ways—mostly its weight and thickness—of portables we looked at three or four years ago. But again, it’s still a fine laptop.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Here we are smack dab in the middle of the second round of Windows 8 hybrid devices. Lenovo’s Yoga convertible laptops, with their 360-degree hinges that allow them to double as tablets (with a couple of useful positions in between), continue to be some of the most sensibly designed and versatile hybrids we’ve seen.
Last year, in addition to the original 13-inch Yoga, we looked at two 11.6-inch models, the IdeaPad Yoga 11 and Yoga 11S. The former, while it was the most affordable Yoga, was a Windows RT system, which means that it couldn’t run standard Windows applications. The latter was built around Intel’s Core i5 processor, making it a lot more powerful and capable than its RT sibling.
Today, except for Microsoft’s Surface and Surface 2 tablets, Windows RT has virtually vanished in favor of low-priced tablets and convertibles that run “real” Windows, such as the Asus Transformer Book T100. Lenovo has boarded this bandwagon with the Yoga 2 11 we’re reviewing today—a full-fledged member of the versatile Yoga family that, with a “Bay Trail” Pentium CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, is just $499 at Best Buy.
Like the first-generation Yoga 11 and 11S, the Yoga 2 11 has 360-degree keyboard hinges that let it flip all the way back from laptop to tablet mode, with inverted-V “tent” and easel-like “stand” modes in between. We’ve discussed these articulating hinges and the modes they enable in several previous Yoga reviews, so we won’t go into detail here except to say the modes, illustrated here, are genuinely handy options to have…
An interesting feature Lenovo added this time around is that, when you place the Yoga in specific modes, the device’s Yoga Picks software suggests apps that benefit from that position. When you flip the system into tent mode, for example, a small notice appears in the upper right corner of the screen telling you that there are apps available conducive to that mode. Clicking the notice brings up a page listing the titles available at the Windows Store.
While we’ve liked the flexibility of Yogas we’ve tested, we haven’t liked the way their keyboards remain exposed, hanging out in the breeze, when we flip the convertibles into tablet mode. When you fold the keyboard back until the bottom of the laptop meets the back of the screen, the keyboard essentially becomes the back of the tablet. Not only do you feel the keys when you hold a Yoga laptop in tablet mode, but the keys themselves (though deactivated) give way beneath your fingers, making the entire arrangement doubly distracting.
Lenovo addressed this issue with its high-end, business-optimized ThinkPad Yoga. As you fold that device into tablet mode, the keys lock into place and the keyboard deck rises until it’s flush with the keys, all but eliminating the awkward sensation caused by the protruding keys giving way beneath your fingers as you hold the tablet.
Alas, the budget-friendly Yoga 2 11 doesn’t include the rising “lift ‘n’ lock” keyboard of the ThinkPad Yoga. Due to a keyboard redesign, however, the protruding keyboard is not quite as pronounced—although that, as you’ll see on the next page, has caused another productivity-related issue. Otherwise, the Yoga 2 11 is well-built and attractive, with a good-looking display. It provides good value for the price.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
With everyone kvetching about its controversial interface, one thing Windows 8 perhaps hasn’t gotten enough credit for is its efficient performance on lesser hardware. Windows devices used to demand much more CPU horsepower and memory, and hence higher prices, than Android. Today, only $70 separates Dell’s Android-based Venue 8 tablet ($229) from the Windows Venue 8 Pro ($299), each with an Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM.
Granted, the two slates don’t use the same Atom processor—the Venue 8 packs an older “Clover Trail” chip, while the Venue 8 Pro features the faster “Bay Trail” iteration of the Atom. The latter offers performance that, while not in the same league, is at least worthy of discussing in the same sentence as Intel’s Core laptop CPUs.
That makes Dell’s flagship tablet, the Venue 11 Pro reviewed here, particularly interesting. Aside from its larger 10.8-inch, full HD screen, our $499 test unit’s “Bay Trail” Atom and 2GB of RAM make it resemble the Venue 8 Pro. But if you crave a truly laptop-class computing experience, you can get a Venue 11 Pro with a Core i3 ($799) or Core i5 ($849) processor. Those models come with 4GB of memory and 128GB of solid-state storage, double the amounts of our “Bay Trail” version.
Whichever Venue 11 Pro version you choose, Dell offers some handy optional peripherals, such as a detachable keyboard that turns the tablet into a de facto laptop and a docking station that, when teamed with your own keyboard and mouse, lets you use the slate as a desktop PC.
From left to right, the Venue 11 Pro’s three operating modes—desktop, laptop, and tablet. The first two require optional docking add-ons, and the stylus for the third is optional as well.
An advantage of purchasing the Atom-based model over one of the Core tablets is that the former comes with a fully licensed copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). That’s a $139 value.
However, as we noted in our review of the Lenovo Miix 2 8, there’s a disadvantage to purchasing a current Atom tablet, as well: Today’s “Bay Trail” Atoms ship with 32-bit, not 64-bit, Windows 8.1 and can’t access more than 4GB of RAM (the reason devices using them typically come with just 2GB). Heavyweight apps like Autodesk’s 3D Max or some in Adobe’s Creative Suite CS6 collection need more memory than that to execute some processes successfully. Intel is due to ship 64-bit Atoms soon—HP has already announced it’ll offer a tablet with one, the ElitePad 1000, in March. So shoppers who want to run such potent programs may wish to wait.
But who wants to run high-end multimedia editing applications on a tablet? The “Bay Trail” Venue 11 Pro is perfectly fine for productivity work and enjoying your multimedia collection, especially considering that you can turn it into a relatively well-performing laptop with the add-on keyboard—and if you do require sumo-sized content creation apps, you can buy the Core i3 or Core i5 version, something you can’t do with the Venue 8 Pro or Miix 2 8. That makes the Venue 11 Pro a viable alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2.
We suspect, however, that you probably don’t need to run high-end 64-bit programs. And in that case, we suggest that you put this Venue on your short list.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
Last year, we watched as two-in-one convertible laptops battled for dominance, making 2013 the first round of the Windows hybrid wars. Laptop makers trotted out machines that twisted, turned, and bent over backwards to switch to tablet mode. Some were highly inventive and useful, while others (Acer’s Iconia W700 comes to mind) were well-intentioned but awkwardly implemented.
Over the past months, few convertibles have impressed us as much as Lenovo’s Yoga series, whose screens fold a full 360 degrees to bring the display and keyboard back to back, turning the laptop into a tablet, with handy “tent” and “stand” modes in between. Since testing the Yoga 13 in November 2012, we’ve reviewed several Yoga models, most recently giving an Editors’ Choice to the Yoga 2 Pro, with its fourth-generation “Haswell” processor and ultra-high-resolution 3,200×1,800 screen, in December 2013.
A Lenovo illustration of the Yoga series’ four operating modes.
One complaint those reviews have had in common, however, is that we haven’t been thrilled with the way the downward-facing keyboard hangs out in the breeze while using the Yoga in tablet mode. Although the keyboard’s disabled as the screen swings past 180 degrees, feeling the keys give way beneath your fingers as you hold the tablet is distracting and awkward.
Dell’s Yoga-like convertible, the XPS 11, addresses the exposed-keys issue by making the keyboard a flat surface, similar to the touch-sensitive slabs Microsoft sells for theSurface Pro. We found holding the XPS 11 in tablet mode less awkward than Lenovo’s approach, but when it came to comfortable typing, Dell’s hybrid was far from ideal.
Enter the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, which is not only the first Yoga to bear the Chinese computer giant’s famous business brand but the first with a so-called “lift ‘n’ lock” keyboard that elevates the keyboard deck as you open the lid past 180 degrees. The deck slowly rises until it’s flush with the (disabled) key tops, making the bottom of the tablet a flat surface—and, in our opinion, successfully and cleverly addressing the distraction caused by the keys protruding and giving way beneath our fingertips while using the device as a tablet or in stand mode.
So the question now becomes, how well does this ThinkPad hold up to the competition as a business-centric PC? In addition to the signature ThinkPad keyboard and TrackPoint and touch pad pointing devices, this Yoga is built around a powerful fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, making it one of the better-performing ThinkPads to date. We also liked our review unit’s great-looking 1080p HD screen. Then, too, there’s the exceptional ThinkPad build and materials quality.
Our bottom line? We loved last year’s Yoga 2 Pro, except for the exposed keys in tablet and stand modes. The ThinkPad Yoga resolves that issue, but at a price. To get one configured similarly to our review unit, with a 1,920×1,080 display and stylus support, you’re likely to spend upwards of $1,500. Our test model rang up at $1,669, which is frankly a lot for a 12.5-inch notebook.
Still, this is one well-performing, well-built laptop. That it seconds as a tablet, with a couple of other useful positions between that and laptop mode, provides significant additional value, making this not only our new favorite ThinkPad, but also one of the better business-oriented convertible notebooks of early 2014.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
It wasn’t that long ago that 8-inch Windows tablets were rare. In fact, prior to Windows 8 and its by-design touch capabilities, the few Windows tablets available in any form were inconsistent in terms of comfort and usability—and compact models just didn’t exist. (We consider tablets with screens 9 inches and under “compact” models, and between 9 and 11 inches “full-size” slates.)
In mid-2013, Acer was the first out of the 8-inch gate with its lukewarm Iconia W3 (soon to be supplanted by the Iconia W4, shown at CES 2014), and a few other major tablet makers have followed suit. Among them are Dell, with its recent release of the Venue 8 Pro, and Lenovo, with its $299-MSRP Miix 2 8, the subject of this review.
In many ways, the Miix 2 8 reminds us of the full-size (10.1-inch) Miix 10 tablet we looked at back in November of last year. However, in our tests, thanks to a much more powerful Intel Atom CPU (a member of the chip maker’s new “Bay Trail” family), this compact Miix ran circles around slates running on previous (“Clover Trail”) iterations of the Atom chip. (We’ll talk more about processors and benchmarks in the Performance section later on.)
Meanwhile, though: Yes, the latest Atom chip in this Miix (the 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740) is much faster. But there’s a caveat: The Miix 2 8 (and all other Windows slates built around that CPU, for that matter), still can’t execute 64-bit applications and are precluded from accessing more than 4GB of RAM. Because of that, these tablets typically ship with 2GB. Programs like Photoshop, for example, require more memory than that to execute most processes successfully.
According to Intel, 64-bit Bay Trail chips won’t be available until early 2014 (i.e., soon). So where does that leave this last round of tablets built around this Atom processor? As our charts in the Performance section attest, this Bay Trail chip is certainly faster than the “Clover Trail” Atoms we saw in a few tablets, but, alas, it still has most of the same shortcomings we discussed in our review of the Miix 10. According to several reports, support for 64-bit processing—in both Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4—on Atom processors should happen early this year. However, since you can’t update the RAM in this or most tablets, the point is somewhat moot. What you buy now is what you get.
You can buy the Miix 2 8 with either 32GB or 64GB of storage, for $299 or $339, respectively. This Miix is light, thin, and attractive—not to mention well-built and durable. Beyond the restrictions placed on it by virtue of its processor, it’s not a bad little tablet, especially considering it sells for under $300. The fact that it’s a full-Windows slate at that price and comes with a full license for the Home & Student version of the Office suite makes it an even better value.
Plus, you can accessorize this tablet pretty cheaply. For an additional $20, you can pick up Lenovo’s optional “smart” cover, which also comes with a stylus. The cover protects the tablet, of course, and it also lets you position the Miix 2 8 upright for video viewing or screen sharing…
Unlike the optional cover for the Miix 10, however, this one does not include a physical keyboard. (Our review unit did not come with the cover and stylus, so we weren’t able to review them.)
Overall, the Miix 2 8 felt good in our hands, performed reasonably well, and delivered decent battery life. Our primary concern? Bay Trail may support 64-bit code before too long, and that might be worth waiting for. Otherwise, this tab is a solid buy.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
With the debut of its radically thin and light XPS 11 ultrabook, Dell has taken direct aim at a couple of Lenovo’s convertible PCs, namely the IdeaPad Yoga 11S and Yoga 2 Pro. Like those two Yogas, the 2.5-pound Dell comes with a pair of articulating hinges that allow you not only to open the lid for laptop use, but to keep folding it back a full 360 degrees, until the screen and keyboard are back-to-back—thereby transforming the device into a tablet. Indeed, Dell likes to call the XPS 11 a tablet that can serve as an occasional ultrabook, while the slightly larger XPS 12 is vice versa.
While last year we lauded the Yoga’s overall design, Lenovo’s decision to include a full-sized, chiclet-style keyboard caused a couple of comfort issues. It made, first, for a very thick tablet. Second, we found that feeling the keys (even though they’re disabled) beneath our fingers as the “back” of the tablet was just plain, well, weird.
For the XPS 11, Dell addressed this issue by going with a flat, capacitive touch keyboard, similar to the thin, flat keyboard covers Microsoft sells for the Surface Pro. The upside of this approach is that you get a very thin ultrabook, but then you also get a keyboard that provides little to no feedback, not to mention a lot less comfort, during typing. In fact, the keyboard is such a drastic difference from what most laptop users are used to that it just may be this device’s Achilles’ heel. We’ll look at the keyboard in greater detail in the Features section.
Despite where you come down on the keyboard issue, the XPS 11 is otherwise one thin, light, attractive, and well-built 11.6-inch ultrabook. It comes with a nice-looking, high-resolution (2,560×1,440) screen, and it performed reasonably well on most of our benchmark tests.
Dell offers three different models of the XPS 11, starting with a fourth-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and an 80GB solid-state drive for $999. The next model up comes with a Core i5 CPU and a 128GB SSD and sells for $1,249. Our review unit was the $1,449 flagship, which is the same as the previous except for a 256GB solid-state drive.
Mostly, we liked this laptop. Granted, the flat keyboard will undoubtedly turn off many would-be buyers, but then, this hasn’t been much of a deterrent for Surface Pro shoppers. Our opinion? It was bold of Dell to experiment like this. Whether you should buy the XPS 11 or not probably depends on whether you can live with the keyboard—so we suggest that, if you can, you give it a try before you buy.
Upon removing the XPS 11 from the box, we were impressed with its light weight and super-slim profile (0.4 inch at its thinnest point). Both the lid and the underside of the chassis are made up of a carbon fiber weave and aluminum frame that look and feel not only durable, but also quite elegant and substantial. It’s just a hair heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air (2.4 pounds), and therefore very easy to carry.
Despite the system’s thinness, Dell managed to work in several expansion ports, including two full-size USB 3.0 ports. You’ll find one of these, the AC power jack, a mini HDMI port, the audio jack, a speaker vent, and the volume toggle located on the left edge. The other USB port, another speaker vent, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, and a security lock are all located on the right edge.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
We’ve watched over the last year or two as mainstay business laptops gradually inch closer in design to their ultrabook competitors—as we saw when Lenovo bolstered the ThinkPad T430 with the thinner, lighter T430u and T431s. Now Toshiba is doing the reverse, making its ultrabook more businesslike.
Compared to its Portege Z835/Z935 predecessor, the Portege Z30 delivers more of the security and office-friendly features you’d expect to find on a business machine, such as a SmartCard slot and a docking connector for a $199 desktop port replicator shared with Toshiba’s Tecra enterprise laptops. However, since it’s an ultrabook, you also get an extra-slim profile and light body (albeit a fractionally heavier one—the Z835 was 2.4 pounds and bordered on feeling flimsy, the Z30 is 2.6 pounds and feels solid). Unlike some ultrabooks such as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus that aspire to elegance and high-end looks, though, the Portege focuses more on practicality than glamour.
The Z30′s optional port replicator provides Ethernet, USB 3.0, and assorted video (VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI) ports.
You can buy the Portege Z30 in several different hardware configurations with your choice of processors, memory, and storage options. Our $1,279 review unit, the Z30-A1301, was built around a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, along with 8GB of system memory and a 128GB solid-state drive. Build-to-order options include a Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to a 512GB SSD, as well as the Windows 8-suitable touch screen which our Windows 7 Professional test unit lacked.
One component you can’t change is this laptop’s mediocre, low-resolution 13.3-inch, 1,366×768 display, which frankly we found disappointing, especially considering that we liked nearly everything else about the Z30, right down to its relatively strong performance in our benchmarks and its exceptional showing in our demanding battery-rundown test.
Thinner, lighter, and faster than most competitors, the Portege Z30 is a well-built ultrabook with some nice extras numberswiki.com
and stellar battery life. Aside from its lackluster screen, we think it makes a great road companion.
Unlike high-end, consumer-grade ultrabooks, the 0.7-inch-thick Toshiba is not made of chic brushed aluminum. Instead, the Z30′s chassis is made from a very light and durable magnesium alloy that looks and feels like plastic, but it’s much lighter and tougher than that.
Furthermore, as you can see in the image at left, the new Portege appears, compared to several other ultrabooks we’ve reviewed, a little boxy, devoid of the sculptured bodies and sleek lines we see on so many consumer models. Instead of style and sex appeal, though, we say again that this laptop offers durability and business-friendly features, such as a fingerprint reader to help keep out intruders.
Any office-oriented laptop needs lots of connectivity and expansion options, and the Portege Z30 won’t let you down there. For example, it supports two types of video output, both VGA (RGB) and HDMI. You’ll find these two ports, along with the AC power jack and a USB 3.0 port with Sleep and Charge for recharging handheld gadgets, on the left edge. Meanwhile, on the right edge you’ll find an SD Card reader, another two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a security lock slot.
The Z30′s left and right profiles and ports.
On the underside of the chassis, up near the front edge, are two stereo speakers. The pair, with the help of DTS Studio Sound software enhancement, played back with decent tonal quality and stereo delineation, but we weren’t able to get enough volume out of them.
A supplied software utility offers hi-fi fine tuning.
As you can see in the image above, the DTS utility provides extensive control over audio playback. When we turned DTS on, our test videos and music samples sounded full and rich.
Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.
Just as touch screens first appeared on deluxe, high-end systems after the debut of Windows 8 and rapidly moved into the mainstream, Intel’s fourth-generation “Haswell” processors have migrated from ritzy systems like Sony’s VAIO Pro 13 ultrabook to more affordable models in their six months on the market.
Notebooks don’t get more mainstream than the 15.6-inch desktop replacement class—or than Asus’ consumer VivoBook line. The VivoBook S500CA-DS51T we tested in May 2013 was a solid example, with a third-gen Core i5-3317U processor with Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Like the Acer Aspire R7 and other laptops with that configuration we’ve sampled, the S500CA offered ample performance for everyday computing tasks such as Web browsing, social media, office productivity, and content consumption, but fell short for high-end multimedia rendering tasks and resource-intensive gameplay.
But today, the $999-list VivoBook V551LB-DB71T flaunts not only a fast “Haswell” Core i7-4500U CPU but Nvidia GeForce GT 740M discrete graphics. While more expensive than the $679 model S500CA, the new VivoBook performs head and shoulders above its predecessor on most of our benchmarks, including the demanding battery-rundown test.
Still, we have some of the same complaints about this VivoBook as we did the last one. For example, as you’ll see below, it’s uncomfortably big and heavy to carry around with you. In addition, considering its price tag, we think it should provide a full 1080p resolution display, instead of the meager 1,366×768 pixels typically found on lower-cost or smaller-screened models.
Furthermore, while the Nvidia chip does boost performance enough to make this machine better than most for serious graphics tasks, such as working with high-resolution images in Adobe Photoshop, it does not deliver enough oomph for playing several of today’s toughest 3D gaming titles—at least not at or near their highest display quality settings, anyway. And that’s despite this laptop’s relatively low native resolution.
Overall, though, especially compared to several slightly cheaper systems, the V551LB is one of the strongest-performing mainstream touch-screen laptops we’ve seen, and the new Core i7 processor and discrete graphics definitely enhance its overall value.
With its classy-looking slim profile, single-hinge design, brushed aluminum lid and metallic texture on the keyboard and palm rest, this VivoBook reminded us of the high-end Asus Zenbook UX51VZ we looked at in February. On the other hand, at 15 inches wide, 10.2 inches from front to back, and weighing well over 5 pounds, it’s a lot clunkier than that ultrabook, or even the 4.3-pound VivoBook S500CA. Call it a cross between the company’s elegant ultrabooks and its entry-level machines.
As mentioned, the V551LB uses the same single screen hinge, spanning almost the full width of the laptop, as Asus’ Zenbook UX51, which is plenty sturdy enough for normal laptop operation. As we’ve seen a few times now, however, relying on the same hinge design for touch screens as for non-touch displays can be a bit problematic. Here, for example, when we touched the screen—especially when performing multi-finger gestures—the panel wobbled a little more than it should, which sometimes interfered with our accuracy.
Granted, it’s difficult to design a laptop hinge that doesn’t move a little when the screen is touched, and we’re not saying that this one travels unacceptably. We’ve seen worse, but we’ve also seen better—much better, such as the Ezel hinge on the Acer Aspire R7 we tested in June. The Ezel hinge allows you to position the R7′s screen so that it doesn’t wobble—period.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.