ASUS F505ZA-DH51 VivoBook Review
When Asus decides to challenge the would-be usurpers in the ‘prosumer’ laptops category, they always have a way of doing it with class. In the wake of the Dell XPS 15 (2018)’s release that coincided with newer MacBooks, Asus threw into the mix the ultra-thin VivoBook S (S510UA-DS71): A surprisingly powerful ultraportable with an excellent feature set. Now, they have an AMD Ryzen R5-powered version, the VivoBook F505ZA-DH51 that is targeted for college students and office users. with the same features except for an icicle gold keyboard and palm rest.
The VivoBook F505ZA-DH51 does look a lot like the VivoBook S S510UA-DS51 that is powered by a Core-i5 processor and boasts a Full HD display. And, that does mean that the same sharp display and slick design carry over into the new iteration, with an appealing icicle gold keyboard deck and palm rest.
However, the new VivoBook still beats most competitors in terms of sheer value, particularly the premium design and vibrant 1080p display, especially those who like to watch their movies on a laptop. Here is how, despite the same issue of battery and poor webcam, the F505ZA-DH51 boasts a robust feature set that represent real value than most ultraportables in the market in 2018.
Year over year, the VivoBook’s styling hasn’t changed much but the VivoBook S line is fairly trimmer now. The product still comes wrapped in an aluminum unibody shell with an icicle gold finish. The underside sports a black sheen, while the keyboard deck and palm rest maintain the body’s icicle gold color.
It has a 15.6-inch display, with an overall footprint that’s on the large side of ultraportables. Measuring 0.7 by 14.2 by 9.6 inches (HWD), the VivoBook DH51 is in the same ballpark as the XPS 15’s 0.66 by 14.1 by 9.3 inches and fairly trimmer than most 15.6-inch laptops.
Our Editors’ Choice budget desktop-replacement laptop, the Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM), for example, measures 1.2 by 15 by 10.2 inches, which is pretty standard for the category.
This VivoBook weighs just 3.5 pounds, noticeably lighter than the XPS 15’s 4 pounds and the HP Notebook 15’s 4.7 pounds. It has a nicely brushed-aluminum lid with a chrome Asus logo at the center, while the plastic keyboard deck, sides and bottom sport the same gold shade.
An IPS full HD (1,920-by-1,080) non-touch screen is perhaps the VivoBook’s best features yet. It has spot-on brightness, colors aren’t saturated, rather look full and rich especially if you decide to adjust them via the supplied Splendid utility which lets you choose from various modes: normal, vivid, eye-care or manually choose the color temperature. The FHD display shows sharp detail at Windows’ default 125-percent zoom out-of-the-box.
If you need a laptop that you can carry around on daily commute, this one is in the cusp of being almost large for easy portability. You’ll definitely feel it in your backpack than you’d do with a MacBook Pro, but is a little less heavy than notebooks, with some little flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the middle of the keyboard. It isn’t flimsy, though. It can easily be carried on one hand, but it will take two hands to open.
Keyboard and Touchpad
On the F505ZA is a non-backlit chiclet-style keyboard, that does nothing to impress. It has a shallow, flat typing feel, and the plastic keys have a stiff feedback, which derails from an otherwise awesome layout. That’s for perfection typers, the rest of us will find the keyboard just fine and can get going after an hour’s practice. For excel and spreadsheet jockeys, the lack of a numeric keypad is painful enough, just like on the XPS 15.
Beneath the keyboard is a buttonless touchpad that responds smoothly to taps, although I prefer simply tapping the pad’s surface to left-click instead of pressing deeply into the lower left corner. There’s a fingerprint reader in the upper right corner that works well with Windows Hello gestures.
There are two bottom mounted speakers that are good enough for daily use and a not-so-good built-in webcam. Even in broad daylight, shots taken at 640-by-480 are excessively grainy, smudged and pixelated
For a laptop labeled for office users, students and casual users, the F505ZA-DH51 does offer excellent connectivity. On the left edge, there are two USB 2.0 ports, alongside an SD card slot. On the right edge. You’ll find one USB 3.0 port, a USB-C (USB 3.1 Gen 1) port, a single HDMI video output and an audio jack. We’re not sure why they didn’t trade the USB 2.0 ports for USB 3.0, but it’s still OK.
A Thunderbolt 3 would make the VivoBook more versatile, but the main causality would be the pricing. As is, there are more than enough ports to connect to up to two external displays, either through HDMI or the USB-C port, and the USB ports are sufficient for accessories and other peripherals, you should be covered no matter the setup.
With its Ryzen R5-2500U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state-drive (SSD), our review configuration of the Asus VivoBook is powerful enough to handle mot productivity tasks you may have in the office, college or even at home. It is one of those systems that can have a dozen of tabs open and a video playing on another window, without a hint of lag when switching between tasks.
A few days ago, we reviewed the Asus VivoBook S (S510UN-EH76) – another premium iteration of this model designed for career artists. The VivoBook sports the same design but has better features like a pair of storage drives (256GB SSD, 1TB HDD) and Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 graphics card.
If your computing needs involve spreadsheets, the lack of a number pad might be limiting. That notwithstanding, the F505ZA-DH51 has the muscle to complete MS Office tasks faster than most mainstream notebooks in the same category.
It’s rare to get a value consumer laptop with SSD storage as the primary option, and to see that the VivoBook comes with a 256GB solid-state-drive to run Windows and important apps is impressive and gives you the option to extend the storage via an external drive.
With its integrated Radeon Vega 8 graphics card, this VivoBook suffices for casual games, you can also do light video editing, but creative professionals and serious gamers should simply consider a system with a discrete graphics system like the Dell G5587-7866BLK-PUS. With the Vega 8 graphics, all you’re getting is smooth playability on low-end games like Dirt 3 (46 fps), which is in the same ballpark with most integrated cards.
On battery life, the VivoBook F505ZA-DH51 does struggle a little against the Dell XPS, managing just over 4 hours 14 minutes, while the Dell XPS 13 hits 4 hours and 7 minutes. On movie tests, the VivoBook S registers 5 hours 43 minutes, which is almost a day of use. With this, the battery if enough for a movie over a short flight, it might struggle to keep awake on a cross-country flight.
If you’re coming from a traditional notebook, the Asus VivoBook F505ZA-DH51 may seem like a clear winner, thanks to its premium design, lightweight profile and a sharp, colorful display. Unfortunately, this gorgeous laptop makes a couple of annoying tradeoffs that compromise the user experience, including short battery life, a shallow keyboard, laggy touchpad and has one of the worst webcams we’ve tested lately.
However, not only do we hold Asus to a higher standard, but there are a few flaws that they ought to address in the VivoBook, namely the webcam and battery life performance. Neither are deal breakers, but they somehow snatch a few points from an otherwise superb laptop. If you’re on a budget and need a laptop for college or office tasks, the F505ZA-DH51 is worth a look, so does the Asus VivoBook S S510UA-DS71 – our top pick for budget ultraportable laptops.