A colorful and bright performer
The number of laptops launched by Asus in the last three months may exceed the number of rainy days I have seen in my hometown Bangalore this October, and that says something. The VivoBook 14 X412 / X512 and VivoBook 14 X403 / X409 / X509 have the same price but more stylish VivoBook S431. Unlike what we saw at Computex 2019 earlier this year, it doesn’t get a ScreenPad 2.0. It does, however, come in a few funky colors.
Enter VivoBook S431
In the last two VivoBook models (VivoBook X412 and VivoBook X403) that we reviewed, we noticed significant improvements in the construction and configuration of the laptop. The bezels around the display are really thin this time around, the keys have more travel, and many variants now sport a solid-state drive instead of a deadly lazy hard drive. Can all those improvements do the same for new entrants? Let’s take a look at the Asus VivoBook S431.
Around the same time Dell launched its refreshed XPS and Inspiron models with Intel’s 10th Gen chips, we got our review unit of the VivoBook S431, which was powered by 8GB RAM with an Intel 8th Gen Core i5 (Whiskey Lake refresh) CPU. Storage comes in the form of an Intel 512GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive. To our dismay, the review unit had no separate graphics and only an Intel integrated UHD graphics 620 GPU. To add to our frustration, the review unit doesn’t seem to have an empty SO-DIMM socket, meaning RAM was limited to 8GB. However it does have an additional M.2 slot, which means there seems to be more optional storage.
Inside Intel Core i5-8265U
The VivoBook S431 received a decent score on our software benchmark test. In PCMark 8’s Accelerated Creative Test, the review unit scored 3551 points, which is about 200 points less than the points obtained by VivoBook X412 and VivoBook X403 in the same test. Even in 3DMark’s Fire Strike (1147 points) and Cloud Gate (8579 points), the VivoBook S431 did not have an edge over the integrated graphics-powered VivoBook X403. Although the VivoBook X403 is virtually the same device, it is difficult to predict how the VivoBook S431 will lag behind.
Stable 8GB RAM, sadly
The daily performance of the VivoBook S431 was as good as expected. I’ve been able to simultaneously run countless examples of applications like Chrome, File Explorer, OneNote, Word, Excel and WhatsApp for PC across multiple virtual desktops and have been able to run through them at regular intervals. The response was sometimes slow when I opened more than a dozen active windows and tried to create a new workbook in Excel but it didn’t last more than a second or two.
In other words, the VivoBook S431’s performance is perfect for everyday tasks such as composing documents, editing spreadsheets, watching online videos, browsing with video playing in the background, and so on. That being said, you don’t want to choose this laptop for gaming. . It’s a shame that the laptop doesn’t get the MX-Series graphics card from Nvidia like its other cousin, the Asus VivoBook X412.
The VivoBook S431 is shipped with a 47Wh dual-cell lithium-ion polymer non-removable battery. In our standard battery benchmark test, the review unit won a respectable 4 hours, 15 minutes. This score sits somewhere between 2 hours, 25 minutes on the VivoBook X412 and 6 hours, 16 minutes on the VivoBook X403. Of course, it is unfair to compare the battery life of the VivoBook S431 with that of the VivoBook X403 because the latter ships with an unusually large 72Wh battery pack. That is, a score of 4 hours, 15 minutes is not bad at all.
On a daily basis, the review unit lost about half the charge (100 to 53 percent, that is) about half the normal working day (from 10:20 a.m. to 2:22 p.m.). At the time, more than a dozen windows were open (mostly Chrome instances), Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were enabled, and the screen was set to about 70 percent brightness. Oh, and a USB mouse and headset were attached to the laptop. A YouTube window was open with on and off music playing in the background When I played a Netflix video for about twenty minutes, I noticed a four percent drop in charge, which is not bad.
Display, audio and IoT
The VivoBook S431’s display is a 14-inch IPS LCD unit with a 16: 9 aspect ratio and full HD resolution. The color reproduction of the screen is fairly accurate but after a few days with the review unit, I was left with the feeling that everything looks a bit whiter when the brightness is turned on. In other words, the colors go through some noticeable washouts in contrast to the fairly bright LED backlit on the screen. Fortunately, the panel appears to be evenly illuminated without any uneven bleeding. What’s more, the matte finish of the screen is a boon for long lessons in direct light. All things considered, it is still a fine panel for everyday work, movie watching and web browsing.
Anti-glare full HD display is good for everyday use
The sound from the VivoBook S431’s two down-firing speakers can be described as the most frustrating, especially if you have no plans to use an external pair for everyday music playback. Maximum volume may be insufficient in a typical office setting where you need to play a video or join a video call without it. The low sound is hollow but the middle and height make it with fairly decent clarity. If you are serious about audio quality, you should consider investing in the right pair of headphones or PC speakers.
Bottom-firing speakers on the S431
VivoBook S431 is not ashamed to connect with its users. On the left side of its body, we see several status indicators, including a proprietary round-pin power port, a full-size HDMI port, a USB-A 3.1 port, and a USB-C 3.1 (Gen 2) port. On the right, we see a USB-A 2.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack for the headset, and a full-size SD card slot. A Kensington lock slot missing from the side of the laptop for physical desktop security.
Port on the left …
… and the port on the right
The VivoBook S431 eliminates the traditional touchpad-integrated fingerprint scanner for an IR webcam, enabling face recognition through Windows Hello. In my experience, Face Unlock has only worked three times out of five in the review unit even when I was sitting at the optimal distance directly in front of the laptop display. Unlocking the laptop from a higher angle (for example, while standing) was more difficult, so I resorted to using pin-based unlock more often than I liked. I don’t think a regular fingerprint scanner would go wrong with this device.
IR cameras for face unlock do not always succeed in recognizing
Keyboard and touchpad
The VivoBook S431’s keyboard is ideal for long hours of typing. Its keys have enough travel and the right amount of resistance, which makes it less likely to type or strain while working. The key-caps curve slightly towards the center, making it easier to find the center of each key on the keyboard. There are no separate keys for Home, End, Page Up and Page Down functions, but they can be used by pressing the Fn key together with the arrow keys. I hope Asus didn’t put the power button next to the Delete key because it could easily trigger an unintentional sleep or hibernate session.
White backlighting as opposed to silver keycap is a bad idea on any laptop
I also hope that Asus would have gone with a different color for the key-cap than the same silver skin seen on the base of the laptop. I say this because the three-step bright-white backlight under the keyboard keys becomes useless against any ambient light. In other words, the backlit keys of the VivoBook S431 are virtually impossible to read unless it is dark all around. The Touchpad, on the other hand, is a Windows 10-recognized precision unit, easy to use for clicks, taps, and multi-finger swipes. The left and right mouse keys at the bottom of the touchpad are fairly easy to click.
Yet the key to comfort on the S431
Neat touchpad response too
Construction and design
The VivoBook S431 differs from the 2019 siblings in that it is more colorful and a little more stylish. While Asus has said that the laptop will be offered in Gun Metal, Moss Green, Energy Orange, Punk Pink and Cobalt Blue, we’ve got our review unit in the same annoying transparent silver option. If you have any differences, the top cover of the VivoBook S431 has the company’s refreshed VivoBook logo. Unlike previous models, the logo is now offset to the right of the cover, which, according to the popular Taiwanese electronics maker, emphasizes “detachment from the standard laptop mold”.
VivoBook S431 in Transparent Silver
According to Asus, the VivoBook S431 employs a metal chassis made of solid aluminum alloy. The base panel of the laptop is made of plastic but the keyboard island and top cover are made of metal. If the VivoBook S431 is actually a direct descendant of the VivoBook S14 S406UA that we reviewed earlier this year, then the build quality of the device has increased significantly in the right direction. The VivoBook S431 panel is hand-crafted and feels gripy while showing almost no signs of flex. At 1.4 kg, the laptop is also quite light.
The serrated base panel enables better grip
Thanks to Asus’ ErgoLift hinge design, opening the laptop lid allows the base panel to be tilted 3.5-degrees from the user’s side, making typing a bit easier. Opening the laptop reveals a 14-inch matte display with a fairly thin bezel on the top (9.95mm) and side (6.3mm). An IR camera setup adorns the top bezel. Keyboard Island has a plain touchpad with a clear chiclet-style keyboard and neat rounded edges. Surprisingly, the base panel sees a fair bit of serenity, which is probably present for the extended grip. Overall, the VivoBook S431 is an attractive laptop that seems to be built to stand the test of time. At least you didn’t go down without explaining yourself first.
The last row
With a fairly wide array of VivoBook models to choose from, it’s hard to peg Asus’s new entrant if it’s priced at 54 54,990. It doesn’t help that the VivoBook S431 doesn’t have any distinctive features or features compared to the VivoBook X412 and VivoBook X403, save for that exploded IR webcam. You should also keep in mind that the RAM is not upgradeable from the built-in 8GB and there is no discrete graphics card on board.
Despite its flaws, it is by no means a bad choice. The VivoBook S431 is ideal for everyday computing, online video playback, and heavy web browsing. What’s more, the battery lasts a long time (though not as long as the VivoBook X403). Even if it suffers from a mild identity crisis, the Asus VivoBook S431 is an excellent choice for students and working professionals alike. Do yourself a favor and buy it in a color that is not as simple and boring as the transparent silver we got.