You’d be surprised by the sheer number of laptops that pass through the Stuff offices. We see everything from top-spec gaming machines valued at over R100k to super entry-level sub-R3k machines, from all of the major (and a few minor) brands. Some of those brands have a specific slice of the market they target, while others have a more broad approach. When it comes to Asus, there’s have something on offer in every segment.
Enter the Asus VivoBook 15 X512 — a mid-tier machine that comes in at a pretty affordable price. The colourful VivoBook offers a stylish twist to this segment, which tends to deliver greyed-out blobs of boring. The VivoBook 15 X512 offers up to an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia discrete graphics, if you’re arranging your own spec. We got our hands on a slightly less powerful model, which was fitted with an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Which sounds pretty meh on paper, but this little dude had some processing chops.
Proud as a peacock
The most striking feature of the new VivoBook? The interesting colour variants. We had the chance to test the peacock blue/purple option and it looks pretty in purple, if we say so ourselves. It’s available in transparent silver (aka boring), slate grey (also boring), peacock blue (a Stuff fave) and coral crush (also a Stuff fave).
Although the screen is one of the less impressive features (in spec and in visibility), the display sits in a ‘NanoEdge’ bezel, which looks good. Like, really good for a lappie in the R10k price range. It’s also got Asus’s signature ErgoLift hinge that elevates the whole machine when folded open. Why isn’t this implemented in every laptop on earth? It really does make the laptop feel more ergonomic and comfortable to use on any surface. Except maybe your actual legs, but nobody uses a laptop like that.
It’s also reasonably small in size and should be ideal for someone who travels and uses their laptop on the road. We experienced no issues fitting it in a variety of backpacks, and lugging it around. The plastic chassis is pretty robust, although it has some flex in the lid. If you’re one of those people who likes to measure things (no judgement, we are those people), the VivoBook clocks in at 357mm long, 230mm wide and 19.9mm thick.
Let’s turn our attention down to the bottom panel and that keyboard. The keys are rounded around the edges, which makes key real-estate smaller than we’d like it to be. They also have too much give for our tastes. It’s all… squidgy. This is especially problematic for people who type a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Keys with too much give take more time to press, which could make typing take much longer than it needs to. It’s also a little rough on the ol’ hands.
Also — keys don’t have a noticeable ‘click’. It’s not problematic to use, but in comparison to higher-end keyboards, it is disappointing. Our review unit also lacked a backlight — something you should definitely opt for if you like to work at night/in bed or dimly lit hotel rooms. And if you’re the sort to take your notebook on the road, those are the situations you’re going to encounter often.
The touchpad is smooth and responsive, and you can toggle it on or off with an Fn key — but there’s no light to indicate whether it’s off, so we had a few ‘wtf’ moments when the touchpad wasn’t working. But that one’s on us.
No, I don’t want Cortana to be my assistant
Ah, Cortana. If there’s one gripe we have with Windows… On first boot, you have to sit through a tedious and annoying Windows setup, which starts out with Cortana blabbing your ears off. That may be a Stuff hazard since we’re constantly setting up or wiping Windows machines, but there have to be network administrators out there who throw toys at the sound of Cortana’s cheerful chirping.
Let’s say you live through the century-long setup prompts, and get to the Microsoft account login page. The VivoBook setup forces you to log in. There is no ‘skip’ option, and the prompt says that you’ll be able to remove your Microsoft account from this machine after you’ve already logged in. But… but what if you don’t want to log in?
We don’t know why there is no option to skip the Microsoft account login step, as we’ve seen it on other machines running Windows 10. We think it has to do with the fact that this Vivobook range is aimed at students. Students have Microsoft accounts, right? And they love staying logged into everything, right?
Our recommendation is to log in with any ol’ Microsoft login (that you know the password for), and go ahead and remove the account once the machine is fully set up. And disable Cortana. Definitely disable Cortana.
TheVivoBook 15 X512’s display is a Full HD (1,920×1,080) 15in LCD with a… wait for it… matte finish. But that’s not as great as it sounds. The anti-glare IPS screen’s colours are washed out and viewing angles are not great. We would have loved a better display on this notebook. The asking price demand more from the screen and so do we.
It’s not all bad, though. The screen sits within Asus’ lovely NanoEdge bezel, that measures just 5.7mm on the edges. The upper bezel, which houses the webcam, is slightly deeper at 8mm, while the lower edge, which houses that ErgoLift mechanism, is around 18mm.
If you’re in the market for a media-viewing machine, this may not be a great pick. The display is lacking in motion picture punch but will be fine for work. If your day job consists of endless Excel spreadsheets or coding, the screen’s softer matte finish may be more comfortable on your eyes. Your ears, though…
When there’s any sort of activity in the X512’s lap, the fans turn on. Not when you’re gaming, not when you’re crunching all the numbers — when you’re opening YouTube. It’s not loud enough to be particularly distracting but you still have a fan kicking in because the notebook is streaming video. That’s not something we’re pleased about. At all.
That’s not all, though
When we get to the ports, there’s no doubt it’s an interesting mash-up of connections. Let’s start over on the right side. There you’ll find the trusty old power port, one (yes, only one) USB 3.0 port, a USB-C port (not for charging, though), a full-sized HDMI for external displays, a MicroSD slot, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. Move on over to the left-hand side, and you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports. Strange. we would’ve liked the USB 3.0 standard (at least) all-round.
One thing we can give this VivoBook, is that it really doesn’t skimp on battery life. You’ll get a good portion of a working day out of this 2-cell, 37Wh battery. That’s especially true if you’re not planning on doing super-strenuous work. Normal browsing and work-based tasks (promise we’re not browsing YouTube) lasted us anywhere between 4-8 hours, depending on the ‘work’load.
Asus VivoBook 15 X512 Verdict
Despite the obvious drawbacks, there are a few features that make the Asus VivoBook 15 X512 a brilliant little mid-level laptop. We’ll give it to Asus that it managed to implement the ErgoLift system into its entire range of laptops. The Vivobook looks good with its minimal bezels and colourful design and is comfortable to use pretty much anywhere. Luckily, the battery will last you a decent portion of a days work if you do decide to travel with it, which is a big bonus.
When it comes to price, we would have placed it closer to entry-level with the specs delivered. It’ll cost you anywhere between R9,000 and R13,000 depending on the spec, and although it is a super-reasonable cost for a laptop, we expected better quality base features. We’re looking at you, lacking display and keyboard.