Asus Vivobook S 14X review: Lovely display, sad performance | Digital Trends

2022-06-18 17:13:20 By : Ms. Wendy Wei

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OLED laptops are not only becoming more common, but the displays themselves are also getting faster.

The new Vivobook S 14X (S5402) from Asus is the first OLED laptop to include a blistering 120Hz refresh rate. That’s pretty noteworthy, especially for a laptop in Asus’ budget to mid-range line.

I reviewed the high-end Vivobook S 14X configuration, $1,100 for a Core i7-12700H CPU and a 14.5-inch 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800) 120Hz OLED display. It’s an odd machine in that it features a fast, 45-watt CPU without a corresponding discrete GPU, relying instead on the integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics. The display is indeed spectacular, but my enthusiasm was tempered by this Vivobook’s inconsistent performance and cooling.

Simple lines and a minimalist aesthetic. That seems to describe so many laptops lately that I feel like I could cut and paste from one review to another. The Vivobook S 14X fits that description as well, with just a few exceptions. Its chassis is one solid color, with no chrome accents and only a new, more elaborate Vivobook logo adorning the lid. Color choices include Midnight Black (my review unit), Sand Grey, and Solar Silver.

The keyboards are color-matched, which is a nice look, and a vent along the left-hand side lends some aggressiveness to the design. Otherwise, the angles are pedestrian, and overall, the aesthetic is quite conservative. Two other touches stand out on the keyboard, namely a red Esc key and white stripes along the bottom of the Enter key — although frankly, those look odd and unnecessary. The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon is another simply designed 14-inch laptop, while the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 stands out with a rounded and much more stylish look.

The 14.5-inch display is an unusual size, making the Vivobook S 14X slightly larger than others.

The Vivobook S 14X is constructed entirely of aluminum except for plastic display bezels that stand out as less than premium. There’s some bending in the lid and flexing in the keyboard deck, making the chassis feel less than rigid. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 is a much more solid laptop, as is the Yoga 9i Gen 7, but of course, both of those are significantly more expensive than the Vivobook. And it’s not that the Asus feels cheap; it’s just not as solid as I like to see in a laptop over $1,000.

The 14.5-inch display is an unusual size, making the Vivobook S 14X slightly larger than other 14-inch class laptops. Its bezels are small on the sides and on top, but the bottom chin is large and that adds some size as well. For example, it’s about half an inch wider and taller than the IdeaPad Sim 7 Carbon while being thicker at 0.70 inches versus 0.59 inches and heavier at 3.53 pounds versus 2.4 pounds. The IdeaPad is a very thin and light 14-inch laptop, though, so let’s compare it to the Yoga 9i Gen 7.

In that case, the Vivobook is again about half an inch wider and taller, and the Yoga 9i Gen 7 is 0.60 inches thick and weighs 3.09 pounds. The Vivobook S 14X isn’t the smallest, lightest, or thinnest laptop in its class, but even so, it doesn’t feel overly large or heavy.

The Vivobook S 14X enjoys a solid selection of modern and legacy ports. On the left-hand side is a single USB-A 2.0 port. On the right-hand side are two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The only glaring omission is an SD card reader, which would have been welcome.

Wireless connectivity is up to date with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.

Up to now, every laptop we’ve reviewed with the 45-watt, 14-core (6 Performance and 8 Efficient), 20-thread Intel Core i7-12700H has been equipped with a discrete GPU. The Vivobook S 14X is the first we’ve seen that relies exclusively on integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics. At the same time, every other thin-and-light 14-inch Intel 12th-gen laptop we’ve looked at has used the 28-watt, 12-core (4 Performance and 8 Efficient), 16-thread Core i7-1260P. That makes the Vivobook an outlier on a couple of fronts.

I can imagine what Asus was trying to do: Provide a faster CPU for tasks that can utilize it while minimizing power and heat by skipping a discrete GPU. The problem is that despite the Asus IceCool thermal technology with a liquid-crystal polymer fan and dual heat pipes, the Core i7-12700H throttled during every benchmark with temperatures reaching as high as 97 degrees C (still less than the chip’s 100 degrees C maximum) and CPU frequencies often dipping down below 1GHz. As a result, the Vivobook S 14X’s performance was inconsistent and, in some cases, downright bad for the class of CPU.

For example, it was the slowest laptop in our comparison group running Geekbench 5, with only the Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED being slower in single-core mode with its 8-core/16-thread AMD Ryzen 7 6800U. In fact, the Vivobook was much slower than even the Core i7-1260P laptops in the table below. I’ll also note that the Asus thermal tuning utility wasn’t terribly effective, with performance mode offering only modest increases over balanced mode but with very loud fans. I’ve reported results from both modes.

The powerful, 45-watt chip seemed wasted on the Vivobook S 14X.

In our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, the Vivobook S 14X was slower than the other Core i7-12700H machines and more in line with those running the Core i7-1260P. Its Cinebench R23 score was faster, still behind the other laptops with the same CPU but at least within the same range. And then, it scored a little low on the PCMark 10 Complete benchmark that tests a variety of productivity, multimedia, and creative tasks. Only the Dell XPS 15 9520 was slower (an unusually low score for that laptop).

Finally, I ran the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark that uses a live version of Adobe Premiere Pro. That benchmark leverages discrete GPUs, so we don’t typically test machines with integrated graphics. But I was interested to see how the Vivobook would perform. In a word, its performance was abysmal. It scored just 190 in balanced mode and dropped significantly to 137 in performance mode. That compares to the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 with a Core i7-1260P and Iris Xe graphics that scored 265 in balanced mode and 332 in performance mode. Laptops with discrete GPUs tend to score 700 or more in this benchmark. It seemed like the Vivobook was severely throttled in this real-world test.

Overall, the 45-watt chip seemed wasted on the Vivobook S 14X. Yes, its Cinebench scores were decent, but its Handbrake scores were mediocre and its Pugetbench results were terrible. It’s a fast enough laptop for productivity workloads, but it’s not a creator’s laptop. And as we’ll see below, there was a price to pay in efficiency.

The Vivobook S 14X was an even worse performer in our gaming benchmarks. In the 3DMark Time Spy test, it scored well below the rest of the Iris Xe field. That translated to a poor showing in Fortnite, where it hit just six frames per second (fps) at 1200p and epic graphics. I didn’t even bother running the game at 1600p. Perhaps it’s a driver issue with the Core i7-12700H, but the laptop was fully updated, and it simply performed atrociously. We don’t expect great gaming from integrated graphics, but we expect better than this.

The Vivobook S 14X’s hallmark feature is its 14.5-inch 16:10 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800) OLED display running at a refresh rate of 120Hz. Asus also touts the panel’s incredibly fast 0.2ms response time. Put those two together and you have a display that’s buttery smooth in running Windows 11, with no cursor ghosting, clear text scrolling, and windows that fly across the display. It’s a noticeable difference over standard 60Hz displays, and if the Vivobook were capable of gaming, it would make for a pleasant experience there as well. Of course, the colors were bright and plentiful as always with OLED displays, and the blacks were inky and deep.

According to my colorimeter, this is a phenomenal panel to find in an $1,100 laptop. Its colors were wide at 100% of sRGB, 99% of Adobe RGB, and 99% of DCI-P3, and they were accurate at a DeltaE of 1.07 (1.0 or less is indistinguishable to the human eye). Its contrast ratio was incredibly high, as is typical of OLED displays, and it was bright at 403 nits. It competed well against our very strong group of comparison machines in all metrics.

It’s a spectacular display that will please productivity workers, media consumers thanks to the VESA DisplayHDR True Black 600 high dynamic range (HDR) support, and creators who can live with the laptop’s performance.

Two downward-firing speakers at the front bottom of the chassis provide the sound, backed up by Harman Kardon tuning and DTS Audio Processing. I found the sound clear and bright, with nice highs and mids but minimal bass. The volume was just loud enough to be usable, and I could see myself watching some Netflix without pulling out a pair of headphones.

As mentioned above, the keyboard is color-matched with the chassis and presents a nice appearance. The red Esc key and white stripes on the Enter key are distracting, but I suppose I’d get used to it. The keycaps are large and slightly sculpted, and the key spacing is generous. The switches are light and bouncy, with a nice snap and a precise response. My only complaint is that the bottoming action is a little abrupt, which might get uncomfortable over exceptionally long typing sessions. It’s a good but not great keyboard.

The touchpad is adequately sized, although there’s room on the palm rest for a larger version. It was smooth and responsive, with Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers providing full support for Windows 11’s complement of multitouch gestures. An optional NumberPad 2.0 LED touchpad provides a virtual numeric keypad, which is available on the Solar Silver model only. The display was not touch-enabled, which is always a disappointment.

The webcam is 720p, so it hasn’t kept up with the move to Full HD on many other laptops. It does feature the Asus 3D Noise Reduction technology, which I found to be effective in making a clear image. It’s a fine webcam, but a higher resolution would have made it more effective for today’s hybrid workers. The webcam also features a physical slider that covers the lens for some extra privacy.

Finally, Windows 11 Hello passwordless login is provided by a fingerprint reader embedded in the recessed power button. It was fast and reliable during my testing.

There are 70 watt-hours of battery packed away inside the Vivobook S 14X, which powers both a high-res OLED display and a fast 45-watt CPU. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but what I got was still disappointing.

The laptop lasted just 6.3 hours in our web browsing test that runs through some popular and complex websites, which is a couple of hours less than we like to see. It also made it to just 8.25 hours on our video test that loops a local Full HD Avengers trailer, which is again several hours short. And in the PCMark 1o Applications test, which is the best indication of productivity battery life, the Vivobook S 14X made it to just seven hours.

Across the board, the scores were less than our comparison group, some of which also had power-hungry OLED displays. The Dell XPS 15, for example, had both the same CPU and a larger 15.6-inch OLED panel. Although it had just 23% more battery capacity at 86 watt-hours, it lasted 50% longer in our web browsing test, 53% longer in our video test, and 60% longer in the PCMark 10 Applications test. The Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 also lasted considerably longer with its own 14-inch OLED display.

The Vivobook S 14X is unlikely to make it through a full day of light productivity tasks, and if you push the CPU, you’ll be plugging in by noon. That’s not great, even for a laptop with an OLED panel.

There will be two configurations of the Vivobook S 14X when it ships in July 2022. My review unit will be a Costco exclusive priced at $1,100 with a Core i7-12700H, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), and the 14-inch WQXGA+ OLED display. The other model will cost $900 with a Core i5-12500H, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and the OLED display.

The Asus Vivobook S 14X is a challenging laptop to rate. Its performance is inconsistent and generally slower than it should be given the fast CPU, and its battery life is poor. Its build quality is also a bit less rigid than I like. But it’s only $1,100 with a competitive configuration and a spectacular 120Hz OLED display that’s better than those on much more expensive laptops.

In the end, the performance and battery life hold me back from recommending the Vivobook S 14X. You might have to spend more money, but there are better 14-inch laptops available today.

We haven’t reviewed it yet, but the HP Pavilion Plus 14 looks like a solid alternative. It’s $1,190 for a more robust configuration with the same CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 2.8K OLED display. You can spend a little more and get a discrete GPU, albeit the entry-level Nvidia GeForce RTX 2050.

If you’re willing to spend more money, Lenovo’s Yoga 9i Gen 7 is a great option. It has a stunning design, performs similarly, has better battery life, and enjoys a lovely OLED display. It’s also a convertible 2-in-1, so it has some additional flexibility.

Finally, you could slightly drop down in display size to the new Apple MacBook Air M2. Although it’s $1,200 with less RAM at 8GB and storage at 256GB, it will be significantly faster and with much better battery life. And its display should be more than good enough.

Although I dinged the Vivobook S 14X for being a little less rigid than I like, it should still last for years as long as it’s taken care of. The one-year warranty is industry standard.

No. There are better 14-inch laptop options available with more consistent performance and better battery life, and it’s a shame because that 120Hz OLED display is awesome.

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