“The VivoBoo 14 X403 is a very compelling laptop and scores high on most aspects. Here’s our review”
After focusing on higher-end gaming laptops with the ROG series, ASUS is turning its attention to its budget-centric VivoBook lineup. Known to offer an attractive mix of specs and high-end features at a price that’s not too heavy on the wallet, the series clearly stands out from the competition in the affordable category. And the latest device in the series comes as a scaled-down variant to the VivoBook 14 X412, which was launched in June this year. With a starting price of Rs 54,990, the VivoBook 14 X403 comes across as a compelling choice for students or executives on the go. I spent almost two weeks with the rig, and here’s what I make of it.
Specs at a glance
- Measures 322.86 x 208.48 x 16.5mm
- Weighs 1.3kg
- 14-inch display, FHD resolution
- Intel Core i5-8265U
- Intel HD Graphics 620
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- 512GB SSD
- 2 x USB Type-A ports, 1 x USB Type-C port, 1 x HDMI port
- SD card slot
- 4-cell battery
- Windows 10 Home
Design and display
The ASUS VivoBook 14 is one of the best examples of minimalism taken to the extreme, ala MacBook. That’s a strong statement, but you have to see it to believe it. Built with aluminium, and available in one uniform colour of Silver Blue, the device looks classy and feels solid too.
Furthermore, with a weight of 1.3kg, the VivoBook 14 is quite lightweight, especially when compared to the other laptops of its size. With a frame which is mere 16.5mm thick, the machine is quite slim too.
On the lid of ASUS’ VivoBook 14 X403, you’ll find just the ASUS logo, and upon opening it (which can be done single-handedly), you’ll find well spaced out keys and a trackpad with an embedded fingerprint sensor. I’ll discuss the keyboard and trackpad in the next section, but I have to mention that fingerprint reader, when combined with Windows Hello, makes it extremely easy to login to the system, instead of typing in your password or drawing a pattern.
Thankfully, the VivoBook 14 X403 isn’t following the minimalistic ideology in the port department. On the left, you’ll find a USB Type-A port, a Type-C port and a proprietary charging socket. The right edge on the other hand, houses a Type-A port, a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm audio socket. I’d have certainly appreciated if the brand had used a Type-C charger and ditched the barrel-type charging port, however.
Considering the palm rest area is made out of metal, it’s quite robust and doesn’t show any signs of flex. On the flip side however, the metal surface will be cool to touch in colder environments and hence one might not type as fast they are usually able to.
While ASUS has been a huge proponent of bezel-less laptops, the VivoBook 14 seemingly didn’t get the memo. Even though it doesn’t have extremely thick bezels, they could’ve been shaved off further, especially the one on the bottom which isn’t serving any functional purpose apart from sporting the ASUS VivoBook branding. That said, the device does offer a screen-to-body ratio of 87 percent. Moreover, the hinge is really strong and allows the laptop to be used at up to 270-degree angles. Interestingly, when you look closely at the hinge, you’ll notice that it has left a wide space open and that’s because there are ventilation grilles here.
Coming to the 14-inch screen, the IPS panel bears a resolution of 1,080 x 1,920 pixels. The display offers good visuals and impressive viewing angles of 178-degrees. Brightness levels are impressive as well, and you can use the notebook outdoors too, in bright sunlight. ASUS has also implemented its Tru2Life video technology on the VivoBook 14 X403, which claims to “optimise sharpness and contrast of every pixel in every frame to product vivid and realistic visuals“.
With MIL-STD 810G certification, the ASUS VivoBook S14 is durable and should be able to survive accidental fall(s).
Keyboard and trackpad
The ASUS VivoBook 14 X403 has a simple keyboard layout, but there’s enough gap between the keys which ensures that typos are a thing of the past. The metal keys offer tactile feedback and 1.4mm travel, which allowed me to type fluently on the machine in almost no time. The backlit keyboard supports three levels of brightness, making it easy to use even at night.
The glass-covered trackpad on the laptop also works well. It’s really smooth and immediately responds to clicks, double taps and multi-touch gestures.
Hardware and software
The VivoBook 14 is meant for professionals on the go, and hence packs specs to match that requirement. The device is fuelled by Intel’s i5 8th-gen chipset. The i5-8265U octa-core processor is clocked at 1.6GHz, which can go up to 3.9GHz in the Turbo mode. It’s ably supported by 8GB RAM, though it’s odd to see the brand going for DDR3 technology. Having said that, the hardware combination ensures quick app opening times, and no lag while switching between apps, among other things. This was revealed by benchmark scores as well, as the ASUS laptop managed to get 3,729 on PCMark 10. In the case of Cinebench R20, the device scored 1,361cb.
Sadly, the ASUS VivoBook 14 X403 misses out on a dedicated graphics card, and comes with the built-in HD Graphics 620. That means it’s not meant for intensive gaming, and even casual titles like Rocket League don’t run all that smoothly.
Taking care of your storage requirements is a 512GB SSD, but there’s another variant with 256 gigs of memory. Per CrystalDiskMark, the VivoBook S14 was able to achieve read and write speeds of 1,727.4MB/s and 978.3MB/s, respectively.
For software, the VivoBook 14 ships with Windows 10 with a couple of apps preinstalled from ASUS. AS usual, my only issue with the hardware on the brand’s offerings is persistent notifications from apps like McAfee.
One particular issue that I faced on the laptop — which perhaps is only there on my unit of the X403, is the frequent disconnection of Wi-Fi. This not only happened when the device went to sleep, but also while it was being used actively and was connected to a stable network. I also think that the speakers could’ve been better. Despite featuring ASUS’ SonicMaster tech, the output could be described as tinny, and the quality wasn’t that impressive either.
Despite its compact profile, the ASUS VivoBook 14 packs in a large 72Whr 4-cell battery, which the brand claims can offer up to 24 hours of battery life (while playing a full HD video stored locally). While that does seem like an exaggeration, in my regular usage, I didn’t miss the wall socket the entire working day, which is quite impressive. Putting it in numbers, I got around six hours of runtime with my usage consisting of running multiple apps and a secondary monitor being connected all the time. According to BatteryEaterPro, the machine was able to go on for two hours and 40 minutes, which is more than many of the laptops we’ve tested recently.
Even though I expressed my disappointment with the use of a proprietary charging socket, I must say that it’s one of the most compact charges I’ve ever come across. However, that also means that it wouldn’t be able to juice up the machine quickly, as it took more than two hours for the X403 to go from 10 to 100 percent levels.
Solid build quality? Check. Compact and classy design? Check. A good display? Check. Decent internals? Check. A long-lasting battery? Check.
You see, with its starting price of Rs 54,990, the ASUS VivoBook 14 X403 offers everything that a prospective buyer is looking out for in the affordable segment. In fact, it’s hard to find a flaw with the rig, unless your use case is gaming, in which case, this isn’t the laptop for you.
With regards to the competition, the VivoBook 14 goes up against the likes of the Dell Inspiron 15 5370, Acer Swift 3 and MSI Prestige PS42 Modern, all of which come with similar specs and a lightweight build, so perhaps what differentiates the VivoBook 14 X403 is its durable build and powerful battery life. In sum, ASUS’ VivoBook 14 X403 is one of the strongest options in the sub-Rs 60k price bracket.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Minimal design with solid construction
- Great keyboard
- Good performance
- Long-lasting battery life
- Not meant for intensive usage or playing games
- Takes time to charge fully
Photos by Raj Rout