Windows 8-powered laptops equipped with touchscreens are becoming increasingly common by the day. One such model is the recently launched Asus VivoBook S550CM that packs powerful hardware and exudes class to boot. Here’s our take on what it has to offer.

Windows 8-powered Ultrabook with a touchscreen

Windows 8-powered Ultrabook with a touchscreen

Design and features

You can easily tell that the VivoBook S550CM looks very different from other similar-sized laptops. It’s slightly less than an inch thick, which is quite impressive for a laptop with a 15.6-inch display. However, its fairly large footprint and 2.6 kg of heft deters us from recommending it as a travel companion—it’s better suited to be a replacement for a desktop PC.

The VivoBook S550CM scores high on aesthetics—it’s simple, yet looks very elegant. The black colour lid is of aluminium with fine brushed finish. To add contrast, Asus has gone in with a light colour for the palm rest and the area around the keyboard, which again is of aluminium. It’s the generous use of metal that makes this laptop stand out from the crowd. The base of the chassis is black and made of good quality plastic.

Less than an inch thick with the lid closed

Less than an inch thick with the lid closed

At the heart of the laptop is the third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocked at 1.7GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 750GB hard drive. Paired with the hard drive is a 24GB solid state drive to improve the responsiveness of the operating system. Unlike laptops that use only integrated or discrete graphics, the VivoBook S550CM features switchable graphics courtesy Nvidia Optimus. In idle state or while using applications that don’t need discrete graphics, it uses the integrated Intel HD graphics. But when applications demand, Nvidia GeForce GT635M (with 2GB of dedicated memory) kicks in. Alternatively, you can force programs to use integrated or discrete graphics via Nvidia’s control panel. The discrete GPU suffices for accelerating media playback and casual gaming at native resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.

Video outputs, Gigabit Ethernet port and USB 3.0 port

Video outputs, Gigabit Ethernet port and USB 3.0 port

All the ports and I/O are placed on the sides for convenient access. The left side has D-sub and HDMI video outputs, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a USB 3.0 port. Over to the right side, you have a tray-loading DVD writer, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a headphone/mic combo jack. That said, the VivoBook S550CM is one of the few Ultrabooks to feature an optical drive.

USB 2.0 ports and DVD-writer

USB 2.0 ports and DVD-writer

Oops…did we just say Ultrabook? Even though this laptop has a large footprint and clearly isn’t ultra-light at 2.6 kg, it still qualifies as an Ultrabook because it meets all the criteria laid down by Intel to be marketed as one. This includes being up to 21 mm thick (for models with 14-inch and larger displays) and featuring ultra-low voltage processor and USB 3.0 connectivity among other requirements. That said, the VivoBook S550CM is the first Ultrabook we’ve come across to feature removable battery and user-upgradeable memory and hard drive; a common feature in laptops.

Build quality and ergonomics

You better get top notch build quality and ergonomics for the price that this Ultrabook… errr laptop commands. The quality of the hinges, chassis and input devices is very good—it does have a premium feel. The keyboard is of the island-type with large and well-spaced keys. The large display paves way for a numeric pad. The oversized touchpad is a treat to use. It’s of the click-pad type, devoid of separate buttons for left and right-click at the bottom.

LED indicators on the front

LED indicators on the front

Performance

An overall score of 2905 and 17315 in PCMark 7 and 3DMark Vantage (Entry mode) puts the VivoBook S550CM in the mid-range segment when it comes to pure performance. It isn’t extraordinary, but is quite respectable for a dual-core ultra-low voltage processor. It should suffice for basic everyday apps, media consumption and casual gaming with visual effects set to low or medium. However, note that intensive multitasking and very demanding applications can bring this laptop to its knees. We expected the read and write speed to cross the 100MB/s mark, but it didn’t. The hard drive reported sequential read and write speed of 84MB/s and 80MB/s respectively. The only thing we found impressive were the speakers. There are two drivers housed in a compartment between the hinges, and two more are housed on the base of the chassis. The speakers are neither too loud nor too soft. They’re just perfect and sound very good—way better than the ones usually found in laptops.

We assessed the battery life using Battery Eater Pro in Classic mode, which stresses the processor by rendering a 3D model. On a full charge, the 2950 mAh battery lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes, which is quite commendable for a laptop with discrete graphics. You should easily get around 3 to 3.5 hours of battery life with light to medium load. Much of the power saving comes thanks to switchable graphics that prevents discrete graphics from guzzling all the juice.

Verdict and price in India

The Asus VivoBook S550C is priced at an MRP of Rs 57,999. It’s clear that the premium is for the slim form, touchscreen and switchable graphics. However, we still feel that it’s priced quite steeply. Full HD display, backlit keyboard, Core i7 processor and more powerful discrete graphics would have completely justified the price of this laptop.

Quite expensive at Rs 57,999

Quite expensive at Rs 57,999

If you have a budget of Rs 60,000, then we say it would be wiser to go in for the Asus K55VM-SX086D (quad-core Core i7-3610QM, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive and GeForce GT 630M discrete graphics) or the HP Pavilion G6-2236TX (quad-core Core i7-3632QM, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, Radeon HD 7670M  discrete graphics).

Publish date: April 30, 2013 6:00 pm| Modified date: December 19, 2013 11:17 am

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