Great value if you need a laptop packed with power, even if it can’t match the Dell XPS 15 for beauty.
High-powered laptops tend to fall into two distinct camps. You have your big, brash gaming laptops, which go for all-out power and don’t give a fig for portability. And then there’s a breed of more elegant, more practical machines. The Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW falls into this latter category.
The outside is decorated by Asus’ trademark brushed metal concentric-circle finish, resembling the grooves of a vinyl record, while inside is a classy silver keyboard tray. Its build quality falls a little behind the high standards set by Dell’s XPS 15 – there’s a little flex in the keyboard base, for instance – but it’s a high-quality machine nevertheless.
It’s also hefty, measuring 30mm thick and weighing 2.5kg. That’s partly due to its built-in DVD-RW drive, reminiscent of the “desktop replacement” laptops that used to be the norm.
The size of the laptop has one obvious benefit: there’s plenty of room for ports and sockets. For data, you get one USB 3.1 Type-C and three USB 3 ports, plus an SD card reader and Gigabit Ethernet port. For connecting external displays, there’s both a full-size HDMI output and a mini-DisplayPort.
Not that you’ll need to rely on external displays, thanks to Asus’ choice of a fine 15.6in 1920 x 1080 screen. A low black level of 0.49cd/m2 and maximum brightness of 288cd/m2 are decent figures, and it covers a highly respectable 81% of the sRGB colour gamut. There are better displays out there, and many 4k resolution models are available which offer better clarity than this Full HD display – most notably on the Dell XPS 15, once again.
The keyboard is exceedingly comfortable to type on. The keys have a good amount of travel with a positive-feeling action to each keystroke, and the keyboard itself is backlit. The large touchpad is equally comfortable to use, and its smooth surface allows your fingers to glide across it with little resistance.
The speakers are average, but since they fire upwards they don’t sound as muffled as laptops housing downwards-firing units. They’re perfectly adequate for watching films on Netflix and YouTube videos.
If the design and ergonomics are a mixed bag, the core specifications more than make up for it. For $1,699 you get a top-end, sixth-generation quad-core Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor running at 2.6GHz. This can Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz when thermal conditions permit, and Asus backs it with a generous 16GB of RAM (or 8GB for a $125 saving). There’s plenty of storage, too, with a 128GB PCI Express SSD and 1TB hard disk (yet another benefit of that large chassis).
In our benchmarks, the VivoBook Pro managed a score of 111, a straight match of the similarly specified Dell XPS 15. This makes the VivoBook Pro an excellent choice for a wide variety of desktop tasks, whether that be video editing or music production.
Then there’s the graphics card. It’s a mid-range Nvidia GeForce 960M unit, so not one for hardcore gamers, but there’s enough oomph here for light gaming, and it will help out a little on desktop tasks where GPU acceleration is supported.
In our Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark it couldn’t handle a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, Very High graphics and SSAA turned on, producing only 18.5fps, but turning off SSAA resulted in a much smoother 32.8fps. Dropping the quality to High saw that rise to 43.8fps – a result that indicates you should be able to play most games as long as you tailor the graphics settings accordingly.
The one area where the VivoBook Pro falls behind is battery life. It lasted a disappointing 3hrs 34mins in our video playback test (the Dell managed 5hrs 40mins).
Considering the specification on offer, this is a great-value laptop. It’s just as quick as the considerably more expensive Dell XPS 15, even if its design doesn’t quite match that of its rival and of course the Asus falls short in screen resolution compared to the XPS 15’s 4k display. Still, for $1,699, you’re getting a decent Full HD display and speedy performance, making it a great all-rounder for anyone looking for an old-fashioned desktop replacement.