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.