Asus is one of the big names when it comes to the best laptops, and while the Zenbook is the company’s premium range of laptops, the Asus Vivobook S14 is aimed squarely at the mid-tier with everyday users like students in mind.
We’re covering the latest 14-inch version of the Vivobook, the Asus Vivobook S14 433FA here, but there is also a 15-inch model which is largely identical in specs outside the bigger screen. While it’s bigger, more expensive cousins, such as the Asus Zenbook 14, usually come packed with wacky features and cutting edge tech, the Vivobook sticks to its everyday mantra as an affordable ultrabook that looks great, runs well and won’t break the bank.
But how does it compare to other cheap laptops out there? And does it strike the balance between affordability and practicality that we look for in a mid-range laptop? And does this make our rankings as one of the best laptops for college? Read on for your Asus Vivobook S14 review to find out.
Asus Vivobook S14 review: Design
- Four colors: Dreamy White, Indie Black, Gaia Green and Resolute Red.
- Very stylish design.
We don’t want to say that the Asus Vivobook is a case of style over substance, as there is certainly a lot of substance here too, but it’s clear that Asus put aesthetics and design at the top of the whiteboard when it was putting together the Vivobook. It has a sleek, ceramic-esque colored cover on the top lid with the Vivobook name displayed proudly on the right side.
The Asus Vivobook S14 comes in two different color options: Dreamy White and Indie Black. Some S14 models and the larger S15 have two extra color options on top of this: Gaia Green and Resolute Red. All four options look fantastic, but we have to say that the White version that we were sent is our favorite of the bunch - it just looks striking and modern.
The focus on visuals continues when you open up the laptop, with a silver metallic finish across the keyboard, broken up by the accented Enter key, which has a stark yellow outline to draw your attention. The keys themselves are backlit with a white light, but when this is combined with the bright silver background and screen glare, they can actually be quite difficult to make out at some viewing angles.
The keyboard itself is comfortable to use, and the keys have a satisfying 1.4mm travel distance. Small laptops often have very shallow key travel, which can make typing on them an unsatisfying experience, but there are no such issues here. The trackpad is solid too - nothing really to report here, other than the fingerprint reader in the top right.
The Asus Vivobook S14 is pretty well stocked for ports too. The left side of the laptop features the power cable port, along with a HDMI port, USB 3.2 port, Thunderbolt USB-C port, and headphone jack. The right side has two further USB 2.0 ports and a MicroSD card reader. We couldn’t really ask for much else on a laptop this size.
Asus Vivobook S14 review: Screen and Audio
- Screen is fine, but nothing special.
- Audio is lacking punch.
The screen on the Asus Vivobook S14 is a 14-inch FHD (1920x1080) display with a matte finish. It’s not a bad display by any means, but we found that it lacks a little bit of pop in the bright colors. On the flip side though, we noticed good blacks and it was easy to differentiate details in dark areas on screen. Viewing angles are good too and you can comfortably watch the screen at an angle without losing detail or getting glare off the screen. In general we’d say that the screen is fine, but it doesn’t do anything particularly impressive.
On the audio front, the Asus Vivobook S14 makes a big song and dance about its Harman/Kardon audio solution, but in reality we were a little underwhelmed by the sound output. Don’t get us wrong, the clarity and quality of the sound was excellent, but it just lacks punch. The bass is incredibly flat and the volume doesn’t reach levels we’d like to see - if you’re cooking in the kitchen and watching videos or listening to music, you may find it struggles to push through the background noise.
Asus Vivobook S14 review: Performance
- Good specs for price.
- Go for the new model with 11th gen CPU.
The version of the Asus Vivobook that we tested came with a 10th gen Intel I5-10210U processor, but there is actually a newer model that has just been released which features the 11th generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, along with the updated Intel Iris Xe onboard graphics solution. This is a huge upgrade to the performance of the Asus Vivobook, and with the MSRP of the newer model staying the same, there is no reason not to go for this newer, more powerful laptop.
This leaves us in a strange position when it comes to reviewing the performance of the Asus Vivobook S14, as the version we tested is less powerful than the version you’d likely be buying. Thankfully, we are happy to report that even the older, less powerful model that we tested was able to handle most day-to-day tasks that we threw at it with ease.
We were able to browse the web and load up multiple web pages using Microsoft Edge without any stuttering or performance issues. We also ran the screen through its paces by watching several of the best TV streaming services including Netflix and YouTube, and ran into no issues.
Even with the new Iris Xe onboard graphics from Intel, we wouldn’t call this a gaming machine. You could run smaller, less graphically intensive games without any issues, but trying to run something like Cyberpunk on here is just asking for your laptop to melt. Some light gaming is fine though, as we had no issues running indies like FTL and Binding of Isaac.
Outside the chipset, the Asus Vivobook S14 S433FA is packing 8GB or 16GB of DDR4 RAM. The model we reviewed has 8GB of RAM and while it performed fine, we’re approaching the point where 8GB is pushing its luck as even the bare minimum for a decent laptop. We’d really recommend you stump up the cash for the 16GB version.
On the plus side, the Vivobook S14 also comes with either a 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB PCIe SSD, so it is able to load and run programs quickly. Again, we’d recommend you go for one of the larger storage options - you’d be surprised how quickly 256GB of storage gets used up these days.
Asus Vivobook S14 review: Battery life
- Battery easily lasts through a day's use.
- Charging speeds don't quite match claims.
The Asus Vivobook S14 has a 50WHrs lithium ion battery which is enough for somewhere between 9-11 hours of usage, depending on what you’re using the laptop for. We never came close to running the battery down in a single day which means this is an ideal laptop if you need something to take out with you during the day.
It also features a fast charging technology, with the website claiming that it will go from “low battery to 60% in just 49 minutes”. Our own testing found this to be somewhat variable though. We ran the battery down and the Asus Vivobook took around 3.5 hours to charge back up to full battery.
Asus Vivobook S14 review: Price and warranty
- Starts at $699/£699.
- One-year warranty.
The Asus Vivobook S14 has a starting price of $699/£699. As we mentioned previously, there is a newer version with an 11th Gen Intel chip which costs the same as the previous version, which is also still on sale. Unless you find the older version on a significant discount, there is no reason not to go for the newer version.
It also comes with a one year international warranty with coverage against accidental damage too. Asus offers repairs and there is a 24/7 tech support service should you run into any issues.
Should you buy the Asus Vivobook S14?
If you’re on the market for a mid-range workhorse laptop that can do a bit of everything, then the Asus Vivobook is certainly one of the most stylish options on the market. The specs are good for the price (especially the newest model), but the screen is a little basic. The battery life is solid too, and the fast charging means you should never be caught short when you’re using the Vivobook on the go.
At just $699, the Asus Vivobook S14 is certainly good value for money and if you’re looking for an entry-level laptop then you’d do well here. We think this is a laptop best suited to students who need a lightweight laptop that won’t break the bank.