The 2016 Newest ASUS VivoBook X540SA is a full-featured Windows 10 laptop that lets you replace that old desktop for far much less. It doesn’t come with the fancy features and luxury of premium laptops, but it gets the work done if you stick to the basics like schoolwork, basic image and video editing, or simply surfing the Web.
PROS: Solid performance for desktop. Full-size HDMI output. Quite inexpensive. Good battery life.
CONS: Narrow viewing angles. VGA webcam.
Sometimes what you want is a really simple, competent and not-too-expensive laptop with a decent-sized screen for college work, basic image and video editing, or simply surfing the Web. The ASUS X540SA checks all these boxes; it’s among the few budget systems we’ve seen with a 720p display, so it’s a good choice if you need to replace an old desktop that is getting tired each day. It comes with Windows 10 pre-installed, 4GB memory and 500GB of storage that vouch for the VivoBook X540SA as a good selection for an everyday-use PC.
Design and Features
When the ASUS VivoBook X540SA is closed, the first thing you’ll notice about it is its silver hairline finish. Both the top lid and keyboard deck are covered in the material that mimics the aluminum feel of premium laptops. The bottom is clad in black-colored polycarbonate, so it isn’t as cool as the all metal ultraportables we’ve seen in the market lately; it’s sort of the same thing when you buy a car advertised as having leather surface, but all they actually have is vinyl on their sides and backs. Nevertheless, the system is compact for a desktop replacement, measuring 1 by 15 by 9.92 inches (HWD) and weighing 4.5 pounds.
For the budget desktop-replacement category, we don’t expect any luxurious features, no Full HD displays, no touch panels–all we need is basic computing. The 15.6-inch non-touch panel has a 1,366-by-768 (720p) resolution which is standard among budget laptops. Sure, the ASUS E200HA-UB02-GD and Acer Aspire ES 15 all have screens with the same low resolution, but the Asus F555LA-AB31 has a 1,920-by-1,080 (full HD) resolution.
The Asus F555LA-AB31 ‘s screen is therefore better if you’re planning on editing website layouts, working on large spreadsheets, or watching HD movies at native resolution. The screen is clear and has excellent detail when you’re viewing in its sweet spot, but colors wash out a bit if you tilt the screen too far forward or backward. Thankfully, it’s easy to find a comfortable screen angle. The webcam above the screen has a has a disappointing VGA (640-by-480) resolution, but not everyone uses conferencing apps like Skype, though its s a very common activity with consumers. The stereo speakers output distortion-free sound, and they’re loud enough to fill a small- to medium-size room.
The chiclet-style keyboard lacks backlighting, which is a luxury seldom seen at these prices. It is, however comfortable to use, and there’s even enough space for a numeric keypad, as on the larger Dell Inspiron 15 (3558). The one-piece touchpad is tall and quite responsive.
Port selection is just Ok, not excellent: Here you get one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, a headset jack, a DVD burner and a SD card reader. Nothing fancy like USB-C on this system, but placement of the ports is excellent if you want to use a wired USB 2.0 mouse. We’d welcome multiple ports (two USB 3.0 ports instead of just one, for example), but it’s still a wide selection for a budget PC.
Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are present for wireless communications—much better than the single-band Wi-Fi found on some inexpensive laptops like the HP 15-ba010nr.
The VivoBook X540SA has GB of memory alongside 500GB (5400rpm) hard drive storage. This is quite sufficient for a budget laptop, but we’d be happier if it came with a relatively faster 7200rpm HDD, since SSDs are a rarity in the budget category. Still, it’s much space than what you get from rivals like Acer’s Aspire One Cloudbook 14 and Chromebook 14.
With an Intel Pentium N3700 quad-core processor (with Intel HD Graphics), the ASUS VivoBook X540SA is an average performer on basic computing tasks. The 1.6GHz processor with an Average CPU Mark of 1,896 points can only survive simple computing, and nothing extraordinary like image or video editing. In our tests, we only managed to resize and crop images, surf the Web, stream movies YouTube, that was all.
To be sure, the Core i3 CPU in the Asus F555LA-AB31 makes that system faster all around, but the VivoBook X540SA is certainly capable of doing everyday tasks in a timely manner. As on all the budget laptops, 3D gaming test scores were low and frame rates in the single digits. Stick to video and regular websites, and you’ll do fine.
Battery life is notable, since the VivoBook X540SA lasted 5 hours, 26 minutes, on our rundown test. That’s good enough to watch movies on a cross-country flight before you plug in to a power outlet for additional juice. The class leader is the Acer Aspire Cloudbook (13:59), with the Asus F555LA-AB31 (4:13) significantly behind the VivoBook X540SA. Other desktop-replacement laptops we tested barely broke 5 hours, so the VivoBook X540SA ultimately has exceptional stamina.
The Bottom Line
The ASUS VivoBook X540SA strikes a sweet spot with enough features and performance, all of which make it shine as an above-average entry among budget desktop-replacement laptops. For users on a budget, it delivers good battery life, good build quality and design, a decent amount of storage space, and a 720p screen that’s easy on the eyes. The Acer Aspire E5-576-392H remains our Editors’ Top Pick award, for having much better performance, an eighth-generation Core i3 processor, and a 1,920-by-1,080 (full HD) resolution. That said, if portability is more important to you than power, keep the VivoBook X540SA on your short list.