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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Small, sleek, and portable
Solid battery life
Overly basic performance specs
Slightly soft display
The Asus Vivobook 11 isn’t the fastest laptop around, but it is a good deal better than you might expect for the price.
The Asus Vivobook 11 sits at nearly the lowest end of the market in terms of price, but that doesn’t seem to detract from the power of the laptop you get. Considering you can often pick up this machine for well under $200, you’ll likely be expecting a bargain basement laptop with bargain basement performance. That isn’t the case.
That said, this isn’t a lightning-fast computer, and there are a few corners Asus had to cut to bring it down to this price point. But when you factor in the Herculean battery life and the decidedly un-Herculean levels of space this takes up in your bag (the notebook is tiny), you might just be ready to live with the lower-end speeds and specs. I spent a week with this laptop, and broke down what I think it does well, and what it definitely doesn’t.
Much like a lot of other budget PC manufacturers, Asus has decided to add a bit of flair to the Vivobook 11 by going for a dark blue color scheme. Most of the plastic chassis is a solid, matte blue, with a textured black plastic bezel around the screen. I even like the blue accent separator line on the trackpad that gives the laptop a little bit of a standout nod.
The real key differentiator here, though, is the top of the laptop when it’s closed. While the rest of the machine has a matte finish, this top part has a very shiny, gloss finish with a gradient color that goes from the dark blue of the rest of the shell to a lighter blue, almost gray finish. Underneath the gloss finish is an interesting geometric pattern that only shows in certain light. It’s all rounded out with a shiny Asus logo.
At first, I thought all of these textures were a little on the overdone side, as I tend to lean more toward the simplistic aesthetic of Lenovo, but after spending a bit of time with it, I grew to like seeing Asus flexing some design chops. Plus, because this laptop is only about a half-inch thick, and barely over 2 pounds, its insanely portable footprint is arguably the real design focal point here.
Much like the other Windows 10 laptops I set up, the Vivobook has a smooth, guided walkthrough to get you started with the computer. Windows has built the setup of their laptops around Cortana, the Siri-style voice assistant, and for the most part this works well. After selecting your region, logging into a Windows account, and agreeing to some privacy settings, the computer gets everything kicked off in around 10 minutes.
This is a far cry from the old days of PC setups, and this is largely because the laptop employs Windows 10 S Mode (I’ll get to that in the software section). I did notice that the computer took a few minutes after landing on the home screen to get into a fully, smoothly running state. But otherwise, there are basically no hiccups here.
The 1366x768 LED panel used on the Vivobook seems largely the same as most of the other panels I’ve come across in this price point. That is to say, it isn’t the sharpest around, nor does it offer the best color representation, but, it does offer plenty of brightness. If you play with the color temperature a bit, it can be really effective. The Night Light mode that Windows provides lets you warm up the display between certain hours—a feature that aims to help filter blue light out when trying to wind down at night.
However, I’ve found that if you set up a slightly warmer color profile around the clock, it makes the display look much more natural. That’s because, out of the box, there’s a lot of washy blue which actually serves to soften up the already slightly soft resolution. Otherwise, basic video viewing and web browsing look perfectly fine, just don’t expect to work on design projects.
The (probably obvious) thing to keep in mind with the Vivobook 11 is that its processing power will likely leave something to be desired. That is most certainly the case here, but because of a few interesting choices on Asus’s part, I was very pleasantly surprised with how well it works. The dual-core Intel Celeron N4000 chip at the center of the laptop offers base speeds around 1.1GHz, obviously lacking in the raw power department.
The (probably obvious) thing to keep in mind with a laptop of this level is that processing power will likely leave something to be desired. That is most certainly the case here, but because of a few interesting choices on Asus’s part, I was very pleasantly surprised with how well this thing works.
As a result, the attached Intel UHD Graphics 600 card can’t offer much in the way of pure gaming. But, this likely isn’t why you bought this travel-friendly machine. In fact, I was very pleased to see that Asus is calling this processor setup an “entry-level chip for web browsing and email.” And that right there is the use-case I recommend. If you plan on doing basic tasks and watching some light videos, this computer is actually surprisingly effective.
The 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and the 32GB of flash-style memory, paired with the lighter Windows 10 S, makes the machine feel pretty fast once you get everything set up. It does slow down when you try to load too many tabs, and other than light mobile-style games like Angry Birds, you won’t find much in the way of gaming here.
Like most of the other Asus laptops I’ve tried at this price point, the keyboard and trackpad are pretty good, but definitely don’t feel premium. First, the good stuff: the actual action on the keyboard is completely useable for power typers. The chiclet-style switches feel a little soft at first, but once you get the right force down, you’ll find very few mis-presses, and you’ll get into the rhythm very easily.
The clickiness of the trackpad is pretty good, and some gestures are supported, but I had more accidental right-clicks than I’d like. The main negative with these components is that they feel cheap and plasticky. That’s to be expected considering the price, but if you like the feel of premium keys and a substantial glass trackpad, you won’t get that here.
One other note on productivity is that, due to the small screen, it is difficult to juggle multiple windows, and of course the lower-grade processor won’t allow for a ton of simultaneous programs anyway.
I won’t spend too much time on the audio components of this laptop because, well, they’re just not worth considering as a key feature. Asus has opted to put the speakers underneath the keyboard, firing upward through the keys. This directionally makes sense because the keyboard is pointing at you, but it also means that the speaker components are too small to offer any substantial sound.
There’s very little in the way of bass response, and the speakers lacked more clarity than I’m used to from laptops. There’s obviously a headphone jack and there are plenty of USB options for an external sound card. All in all, audio is definitely a negative for this machine.
For a laptop that’s this tiny, I was really surprised to see so many ports are available. There are two full-sized USB 3.1 ports and a USB Type-C port, giving plenty of options that offer decently substantial transfer speeds.
There’s also an HDMI port and a microSD card slot, allowing for expanding the admittedly small monitor size and giving you the option to boost the storage from the minuscule 32GB on-board right now. There’s dual-band Bluetooth 4.1 available, and the connection was really stable with both headphones and peripherals. There’s also a Wi-Fi 5 card (802.11ac), meaning you’ll have the most modern set of options, with the ability to connect to both 2.4 and 5GHz bands of routers. All in all, I was very pleased with the level of connectivity on board here.
I find it hard to review webcams on laptops of any sort when even mid-level Macbooks don’t offer the best in webcams. So, I wasn’t surprised to see grainy, lackluster low-light performance out of the one available on the Vivobook. Like many other laptops in the category, this unit is called a “VGA camera”, which tells you nothing about the resolution or focal length. But, I can say from experience that this camera does work for basic video calls, but will look notably cheap and dated to the average user. It’s nice that it’s here, but definitely not a good feature.
A key use case for a laptop of this size is portability, and as such, you’d want the battery life to keep up with an on-the-go lifestyle. In the case of the Asus Vivobook 11, that battery life is among the best I’ve tested. There’s a 32Whr two-cell lithium-ion battery on-board, which is actually no better than you’ll find on most other laptops at the price range. However, it’s the battery handling of the operating system itself that I found most impressive. I was able to get well over 8 hours on this laptop with regular use—actually trending closer to 10 or 11 hours on some days.
I was able to get well over 8 hours on this laptop with regular use—actually trending closer to 10 or 11 hours on some days.
This is great because you could conceivably get about a day and a half of work done on the laptop before needing to be tethered to a wall outlet. I think these battery savings are owed largely to the small, efficient LED screen as well as the Windows 10 S operating system. The light software burden on the battery, along with the ability to easily toggle your performance to favor battery savings, gives you a lot of control over how much power you’re using. This little powerhouse is a great machine for the travel-minded.
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this review already, this laptop features Windows 10 S, rather than a full build of Windows 10 Home. This means a few things—first, there’s the added inclusion of first-party file encryption from Microsoft, and the natural security that comes inherent with the fact that you can only download apps through the Microsoft store.
This is sort of Microsoft’s take on the fully controlled ecosystem of something like a Chromebook. This does mean, however, that you can’t download apps like the Chrome browser, which will limit your choices. I think this comes out as a net positive, though, because the S build of Windows is a much lighter OS, maximizing the already low power of the processor and takes the battery much further than expected.
Even when you’re talking budget laptops, when the price dips below the $200 mark, you’re actually talking ultra-budget. The Asus Vivobook 11 can be had for around $160 regularly on Amazon (though MSRP is $250), and for that price, it really is an amazing deal. You get reasonably good performance for basic tasks (when many laptops at this price range are borderline unusable), and you have a decent screen and amazing battery life. All of this amounts to something that really should blow away your expectations, even if it isn’t a premium build or a marquis name brand.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve tested a variety of budget laptops, and my two favorites are easily the Asus Vivobook 11 and the Lenovo 130S. These laptops both run Windows 10 S, they both feature similar processing power and the same amount of RAM. Their screens are also both the same LED panel. This makes it a natural comparison, but hard to differentiate.
The key distinguishing factors here are the design—the Asus is glossier with a flashy blue color, and the Lenovo is sleeker and more professional—and the way the software is handled on each machine. I like how little bloatware Asus has put on their laptop, but I also like how well the Lenovo handles battery life (just barely edging out the Asus). In addition, Lenovo’s screen somehow feels just a bit better. This is a really close comparison though, so I recommend just buying whichever laptop is cheaper at the time.
One of the best budget laptops in a slim and portable form-factor.
The Asus Vivobook 11 is one of the best budget offerings for those who put a premium on slim, portable machines. To go with that portability is solid battery life, making it an ideal choice as a secondary travel laptop. That means, of course, that this computer really isn’t powerful enough to be your main workhorse. It’s a reliable note-taker for college students that don’t want to lug around a brick, and it would even be great for a younger user as their first laptop. But the slightly washy screen and slow speeds do mean you’ll have some trade-offs for the budget price.