The Vivobook 15 is a 15-inch budget alternative to the Acer Aspire 5 but with some of the same problems.
Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales
When I first opened the Vivobook 15 at 9AM on a Thursday, I worried I might’ve opened the wrong box. Given the product’s $549 price point (MSRP, it’s currently going for $299 at Office Depot), I’d been expecting a much more plasticky and cheap-feeling build. This is a nice computer. It would be nice in the $800 category; it’s undoubtedly the most premium build you will find for $300. I literally texted a friend, “Look how nice this Vivobook 15 is,” alongside a photo, as I was turning it on. (This is just a thing that will happen to you if I have your phone number; consider yourself warned.)
The chassis, it would turn out, is far and away the best thing about the Vivobook 15. I spent a full day using the test unit, which includes an 11th Gen Core i3-1135G4, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. It’s a very functional 15-inch Windows laptop with a lot of great things about it. There’s even a backlit keyboard and a numpad, which are bonuses at this low price. But ultimately, the battery life was a major letdown, and I wish it had held up to this gorgeous chassis.
My first order of business for this morning was to get one of our buying guides updated, which involved rounding up and reading through a bunch of my old reviews and scrolling through large spreadsheets of benchmark results, measurements, and other features. The Core i3 processor was more than capable enough to keep this workload going. I could layer Google Meet calls overtop of that with no issue, slowdown, or significant fan noise. I even tried to open something in Premiere Pro (mostly for fun), and while it took a couple of minutes, it did not freeze and crash, which is something I often see on budget laptops (as well as some pricier ones).
I liked the keyboard a lot. (I’m solidly on the record as a fan of Asus’ keyboards, which often have the perfect combination of click, travel, and readability.) The numpad on the right side was also quite handy for said spreadsheeting, affording a quick and easy way to enter the data I needed to. There’s even a fingerprint reader, which was more reliable than the one on the 15-inch Acer Aspire 5.
I was so focused on my work throughout the morning that I didn’t even realize how low the battery was getting. I took a bit of an early lunch break just before noon and, while I prepared my food, left the Vivobook blasting some music (a Spotify playlist called “Party Hits,” as one does). The music sounded clear and balanced, although volume was a bit low — even at full blast, I couldn’t really hear the tunes from the next room over.
And then, while I was boiling water for my ramen, the battery died. I cannot give you the exact time, as I was very focused on the ramen, but it was very close to noon, the three-hour mark, give or take a few minutes. Which is… well, three hours of battery life, on my browser-based workload, is not what one would hope for. It’s shorter than what I saw from the Acer Aspire 5, and that was the lowest result from a laptop that I’d seen in some time. It means that if I were to buy this computer, I’d need to charge it several times a day. (Realistically, I’d probably just leave it plugged in all the time.) You can get budget laptops and Chromebooks out there with three times this lifespan. All around, that is disappointing.
Once work had concluded, I sat down to catch up on the latest episode of Yellowjackets using the Vivobook. The display was colorful enough and did a good job of depicting various dark, spooky nighttime scenes. It reached a maximum of 316 nits in testing, which — while not particularly bright — should be more than enough for most uses and is a good deal brighter than the Aspire 5. (The Vivobook is slightly more color accurate as well, though the difference wasn’t noticeable to me.) This display does have a vertically challenged 16:9 aspect ratio (at 1920 x 1080 resolution), but that’s less bothersome on a 15-incher than it would be on a 13. I also began to make use of Asus’ Eye Protection mode (accessible in the MyAsus software) as the night wore on. I have no idea how well this actually protects your eyes, but it does eliminate some of the harsher blue lights to make night gazing more comfortable.
However, the Vivobook’s speakers let me down again here. I kept needing to rewind here and there because, despite having the Vivobook at full volume, I had missed what was said. This was an even bigger problem after Yellowjackets, when I moved on to watching a K-drama. Since I’m not as proficient at understanding Korean, I really had to lean in to catch what was being said at various times. There were points where I just found myself aimlessly mashing the volume button just in case the Vivobook had any more to give.
All in all, my day on the Vivobook had its ups and downs. It is a really pretty and well-built device, and it had all of the functionality I needed to get me through my browser-based workload. But the speakers weren’t my favorite, and the battery life was just too short.
If this device had the lifespan of, say, the $289 Gateway 14, it would be a slam-dunk recommendation in the 15-inch category. As is, I think it’s a fairly close competition between the Vivobook and the Acer Aspire 5. The Aspire is not nearly as well built or nice-looking as this device; it doesn’t have fancy accents around the touchpad or the shimmery blue color. But it has a more powerful, newer processor, and it lasted close to an hour longer on battery. And for students and other users who are doing a lot of work on the go, that may be a big consideration.