ASUS Vivobook 15 Review: function over form

Review Summary

Expert Rating
7.0/10

Design
★  
7.0
/10
Display
★  
7.0
/10
Performance
★  
7.0
/10
Battery
★  
7.0
/10

Pros

  • Decent performance
  • Spacious keyboard with a dedicated Numpad
  • MIL-STD-810H rated
  • Lots of ports

Cons

  • Average Display
  • Bulky
  • Average battery backup

Broadly speaking, most gadgets can be sorted into two categories: those that prioritise style and those that prioritise practicality. The ASUS Vivobook 15, which features Intel’s Core 120U processor, falls firmly into the latter category. Unlike the company’s dazzling ZenBooks, the new Vivobook opts for a simple and practical design. At the same time, the laptop features a capable processor that performs reasonably well under load. Given its potential strengths (and drawbacks), does it justify its price tag of Rs 49,999 in India? Let’s find out. 

Design and Display 

ASUS’ Vivobook is not cut out for the red carpet. The laptop’s humble appearance is more suited to an office setting. Don’t get me wrong—the laptop’s silver finish does look elegant. The embossed ASUS Vivobook logo also adds some character to its monolithic chassis. That said, the laptop’s plastic build feels inferior to competing devices like the IdeaPad Slim 5i, which sports a metal casing. 

The lid and keyboard deck offer a lot of flex, too. I was also not overtly drawn by the rubberised legs at the bottom. While they improved the airflow, they poked into my lap when I used the device on the go. I’m sure ASUS could’ve come up with a better design approach here. At this point, it’s worth noting that the VivoBook 15 gets MIL-STD-810H military-grade rating, which furthers its durability tenfold. 

Although I didn’t drop the laptop during my stint with it, I have heard promising things about ASUS’ toughened notebooks. As a buyer, the rating is bound to put your mind at ease, too. I should also add that the laptop offers a healthy number of connectors. These include one USB 2.0 Type-A and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, a 3.5mm combo jack, a USB 3.2 Gen-1 Type-C port, and an HDMI 1.4 connector. 

Despite using plastic for construction, the ASUS Vivobook 15 weighs 1.7 kg, making it somewhat bulky. Additionally, unlike some competing 15-inch notebooks fashioned out of a compact chassis, the Vivobook 15 sports a conventional layout and features a dedicated numpad. Lastly, you should note that the device doesn’t come with a fingerprint sensor or an IR camera, so you’ll have to log into your account the old-fashioned way. 

The laptop’s display, while serviceable, is nothing to write home about either. Spec-wise, the 15.6-inch screen offers a Full HD resolution and refreshes at 60Hz. While that’s fine and dandy, the display’s peak brightness maxes out at 250 nits, making it quite dull, especially when used in brighter environments. The viewing angles could’ve been better, too, and I noticed a drastic colour shift when I glanced at the screen off-axis. The display also suffers from perceptible backlit bleeding. As such, while the screen is adequate for work purposes, it falls short in other areas, such as when consuming media on the fly. 

Keyboard, Trackpad, and Webcam

At the expense of sounding like a broken record – a laptop’s keyboard is extremely crucial to my workflow. I type thousands of words per week, and having a comfortable keyboard can make or break my experience with the laptop. On that note, the ASUS Vivobook 15 offers a surprisingly good keyboard with adequately spaced keys and a backlit LED. The keys offer satisfactory travel and don’t feel too mushy either, which is excellent. 

The laptop’s trackpad is a touch too small (no pun intended), though. Additionally, it’s positioned a wee bit off-centre. While it takes some getting used to, it offers a smooth surface and supports multi-finger gestures. The webcam is serviceable, too. Although it offers a modest 720P output, the video quality is good enough for taking Zoom meetings on the go. It also supports a privacy shutter for added security. 

Performance and Upgradeability

The ASUS Vivobook is powered by Intel’s Core 5 120U processor. The processor comes with 10 cores, including two performance and eight efficiency cores. The P-cores and E-cores can turbo up to 5GHz and 3.8GHz, respectively. Note that the Core 5 120U doesn’t come with dedicated NPU or LPE cores. For RAM and storage, the device features 16GB of DDR4 RAM, which can be further upgraded up to 24GB, and a 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD.

Of course, the burning question on everyone’s mind is whether the hardware translates to acceptable everyday usage. For the most part, it does. My workflow includes web browsing and using communication and project management applications such as Teams, Basecamp, Slack, and Asana. Despite running a handful of apps, my productivity didn’t take a hit when I was using the Vivobook 15. While I did run into the occasional stutter, the laptop could hold its own. Rest assured, if you dabble with Microsoft’s Office suite or use some other word processor in conjunction with instant messaging apps, you’ll not be disappointed with the laptop’s performance.

I did run some benchmarks to give you a better glimpse at the laptop’s performance chops. Starting with PCMark 10 and PCMark 10 Extended tests, the laptop logged 5,328 and 4,643 points, respectively. In CineBench, the Vivobook 15 netted 421 and 103 points in the multi-core and single-core test runs. In addition, the laptop benched 12,958 points in 3DMark’s Night Raid test, which, by the way, gauges the performance of a laptop’s integrated GPU. The results put the laptop squarely against devices like the HonorBook X14 and the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 5i, both of which are powered by Intel’s 13th Gen Core i5-13420H processor.

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Now, I know Intel’s nomenclature is more confusing than an episode of Dark, but bear with me. The Core 5 120U is, in essence, a souped-up version of the Core i5-1335U from last year. With that said, unlike its ‘Core Ultra’ counterparts (like the Core 7 Ultra 155U or the Core 5 Ultra 125H), the Core 5 120U doesn’t ship with a dedicated NPU. Instead, it offers a frequency bump over the 1335U from last year. As such, the Core 5 120U’s P-cores and E-cores turbo higher than the 1335U.

Consequently, the processor’s performance is decidedly better than last year’s U-series processor (1335U), and it is neck-and-neck (if not better) with a comparable 13th Gen H-series chipset (13420H, for instance). However, it is inferior to the current crop of Core Ultra processors, including the Core 5 Ultra 125H and the Core 7 Ultra 155U. I should also add that, unlike Intel’s Core Ultra ‘H’ lineup, the Core 5 120U doesn’t ship with Intel’s powerful Arc-integrated graphics. 

The comparison outlined above should help you form a semblance of a baseline for Intel’s crop of processors. Additionally, it should also come in handy if you want to scope out other laptops in the Vivobook’s price range. Since we’re on the subject, let’s take a quick look at the laptop’s gaming chops too. Now, bear in mind that, unlike processors with Arc graphics, the Core 5 120U’s integrated Intel graphics is not cut out for AAA gaming. That said, you can get playable FPS on some older AAA games or new-age eSports titles like Counter-Strike 2 and Valorant. 

GTA V, for instance, averages around 28FPS on the laptop at 1080p resolution and High settings. You must play the game at low-medium graphics settings to get playable FPS. Similarly, Valorant netted 80FPS on the laptop. As for the battery backup, I could get about 5.5-6 hours of work out of the Vivobook 15 in one sitting. PCMark 10’s Battery Video loop test painted a similar picture, with the laptop shutting down after seven hours.

I was honestly expecting the laptop to offer better battery backup, considering the Core 5 120U’s core cluster, which features a handful of efficiency cores. I suspect running the laptop’s display at full tilt could’ve had an adverse effect on the laptop’s battery life. In my defence, the laptop’s display is pretty dull, so there’s no escaping from it.

On the upside, the Acer Vivobook 15 offers some headroom for performance, and buyers can upgrade its RAM and storage. The laptop’s innards can also be accessed easily, which is excellent. 

Verdict

The ASUS Vivobook 15 cuts a few corners to keep its cost down. The laptop’s display is dull, and its design would benefit from more premium materials and lively colours. On the other hand, the laptop’s performance is right up there with laptops that cost a couple thousand bucks more. It’s clear then, that the Vivobook 15 is geared toward folks who want the most bang for their buck.

I, for one, always implore budget-conscious buyers to prioritise a laptop’s performance as it will make or break their experience. For everything else, there’s an accessory you can upgrade to down the line. As such, the Vivobook 15, despite its niggles, gets a thumbs up from me. 

Editor’s Rating: 7 / 10

Pros: 

  • Good performer 
  • Spacious keyboard deck with a dedicated Numpad
  • MIL-STD-810H rated
  • Lots of ports

Cons:

  • Display could’ve been better
  • Bulky
  • Average battery backup