ASUS VivoBook (F505ZA-DH51)

August 19, 2019

The Review

 

 

This was a tough one to review. I feel I understand the goal of ASUS with this laptop and if I am right, it’s absolutely perfect for what it is. Anyone who wants to skip ahead to benchmarks and a simple re-cap – shoot down to the “OTHER” section where I will post brief findings to hopefully help you.

 

 

 

This laptop is spectacularly lightweight, portable, and “powerful enough.” It’s snappy, smooth and just good enough to deserve the price tag.  The 45w charge block is a simple small wall adapter that completes everything this laptop is going for. No more giant bricks with multiple plugs to accompany unnecessarily bulkier laptops of ‘just a few years ago.’ The entire thing is so light I have had to check my backpack on multiple occasions to make sure I actually put it in there.

 

It doesn’t stop there. I expect something so light to feel somewhat cheaply made. While there may be some minor issues, the whole laptop is very well constructed. The lid is a very thin brushed aluminum (gold) and is relatively fingerprint resistant. It gives a very quality heavy duty feel to such a light laptop.

 

 

 

Under the lid is a well laid out non-backlit ten-keyless keyboard featuring the same design as the lid. The only difference is it is a brushed plastic design meant to represent the continuation of the outside brushed aluminum lid. The super thin display is surrounded by an incredibly thin bezel - listed as ASUS’s “NanoEdge” design. The trackpad is centered below the keyboard and emulates the screen perfectly on mine. This makes using it extremely easy. All gesture controls I use work perfectly.

 

The keyboard is a slightly raised chiclet style keyboard. The caps feel like a light-weight thin plastic. While different from the more standard rubbery-ABS material caps, they feel fine and I enjoy typing on them. There is a light flexing on the keyboard that is noticeable while typing.

 

The webcam is nothing spectacular, but in well-lit spaces is where it works best. On the right side of the laptop are two USB 2.0 inputs. While I would have expected to not see any 2.0 inputs, here they are, existing. Next to these 2.0 inputs are a 3.5mm input, and an SD card reader. The SD card reader is only ‘middle of the line’ transferring at an average of 30 MB/s.

 

On the left side of the laptop is where the muscle is. There is an expected ethernet port, HDMI (1.4), USB 3.0 and USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 (also called USB 3.0) inputs. I’m always a fan of USB-C personally, no matter what standard it is.

 

The speakers on the laptop are decent and get fairly loud. The speakers also provide some mild bass that can be detected. A downside is they are down firing, so it ultimately ends up sounding a little muffled despite having a large volume range.

 

The Ryzen 5 2500U is a great mobile quadcore processor, it is low power and powerful all in one. The battery life will really depend on what you do with the laptop. If you are like most people and browse the internet with Chrome, you may encounter battery drains more frequently than someone using FireFox or Edge. Six hours may turn to three-four hours for instance. The three-cell lithium ion battery can be quickly taxed depending on the task. Average usage just shopping online or watching YouTube generally gets me about five hours. Not bad for the lightweight low capacity battery.

 

The laptop is near silent, while I can hear it during benchmark testing, playing a game, or testing export from premier – it is quiet. It also does not get very warm while having the hardware taxed for resources. This is largely in part to the not demanding, low TDP hardware itself.

 

This got me at first. The general hardware choice is interesting. There are 8GB of DDR4 2400Mhz soldered to the PCB. I have seen this before (Xiaomi Notebook Pro) and was never really a fan of this, BUT, there is also a single slot for expansion (and to go dual channel). This feels weird to me, but I assume this is a proponent of the stock light-weight design.

 

The GPU used is the Vega 8 – I assume this choice falls in line with everything this laptop is, and not what it isn’t – meaning this choice was based on 'better than having nothing at all'…it runs cool, does not require much, but also does not deliver much. The Vega 8 is ‘okay’ and just ‘okay.’ You can do light low res – low graphics gaming, and use intensive software such as Photoshop, Premier After effects – but expect non-perfect and sometimes problematic results. I’d recommend small projects.

 

 

 

 

The AU Optronics display somewhat surprised me. On my black crush test I can identify every box. I did not expect this. The panel states it only covers 45% NTSC – I anticipated a poor experience testing both LG and Sony’s demos…I ended up satisfied with what I saw. Viewing angles are great, and watching side by side with other monitors I see mild differences in temperature, but overall, I was not displeased.

 

The SSD is an M.2 SATA III – Solid, snappy, quick enough. No need for anything more, and glad it’s nothing less (see the results in OTHER).

 

 

The BAD

 

The bad about this laptop are MOSTLY understandable “bads”. In order to keep this laptop as light weight and comfortable as possible things need to be excluded, and hardware selected carefully. Take SOME of these gripes with a grain of salt.

 

-Non backlit keyboard – I like a backlit keyboard personally.

 

-Flexing on the keyboard when typing – It is mild but unfortunate. This makes the keyboard feel weak/cheap.

 

-Weak GPU – I understand the reason for the Vega 8. I get it, but it leaves me wanting more. More would surely require more than one fan cooling, additional heat pipes, this would cause it to be notably heavier.

 

The (non 2.0) USB is listed as 3.1 Gen 1. USB 3.1 Gen 1 IS USB 3.0. USB 3.1 Gen 2 is true USB 3.1. I just found it odd to list any USB as 3.1 Gen 1, instead of just USB 3.0 as it is commonly known, while listing the other USB as 3.0 (also known as 3.1 Gen 1). Did I confuse you? It’s the same thing (3.0 and 3.1 Gen 1). Maybe a simple oversight, I doubt it was intended to mislead. Just odd.  

There are some laptops that are easy to open and work in. ASUS allows for expansion by including an un-populated 2.5” drive bay, and an un-populated DDR4 SO-DIMM slot.  This is great! But getting to it is a pain, maybe the biggest pain of any laptop I have ever opened.

 

 

Going inside (still 'The BAD')

 

Firstly on mine, three of the removable screws were over tightened (and stripped). I had to use a rubber band to create friction and remove them. Once I had all screws removed I took a plastic card and gently popped the chassis loose. Despite gently doing this, the thin plastic (that makes it so great) now shows signs of mild pressure damage. Once the chassis is popped loose you learn the ASUS-X505ZA Rev. 2 Mobo is designed to face down. SO…in order to access the SO-DIMM slot to add additional RAM, you need to detach all ribbons, and connectors, as well as some more screws (and the speakers). Once you have done this you can lift the mobo out with some gentle pulling and populate that RAM slot.

 

This is not an impossible process, this is not beyond anyone to do. This is also not something a vast majority of consumers is going to want to do. It’s a taxing, overly complicated process that has earned ASUS my ‘Most Irritating Laptop to Upgrade' award. What a pain. They took ‘over-complicated’ and raised the bar to ‘They must be trolling us complicated.’

 

 

 

The OTHER

There are things I am left wishing were included. There are things I am left wishing it could do a little better than it can. Despite what I wish, this is still one of the better laptops I have ever had. No…It doesn’t check every box for me, but it comes close. Everything ASUS did here has clear indications of their intention to deliver one of the best all-around laptops within a reasonable price range. They nailed it. Shortcomings are easily overlookable in my opinion.

 

Here are a sample of the benchmarks I have collected for anyone interested:

Unigine Super Position:  720P Low settings – 3032

Unigine Super Position: 1080P Low settings – 2086

Unigine Valley: 720P High settins – 882 (MinFPS 11.6/MaxFPS 43.3)

CrystalDiskMark: Seq Read – 460.1 Seq Write – 421.3

Geekbench CPU Single Core: 3600

Geekbench CPU Multi Core: 9522

Geekbench GPU Vega 8: OpenCL Score – 26164

SD Reader Transfer rate: Avg: 30MB/s

HDMI 1.4 Max Resolution: 2160p @ 30Hz

 

The monitor is an AU Optronics B156HAN02 IPS Panel.

The m.2 SATA III SSD is a Micron MTFDDAV256TBN

 

This laptop is not for the intensive creative professional, and it’s not for the demanding gamer – but it can give you a little taste of both for the casual of either.

 

This laptop is perfect for the everyday user. The lightweight portability, and the simple design make this laptop not only extremely comfortable and usable, it also makes it very easy to recommend.  I don’t think I have ever been quite so pleased with such a simple well-rounded laptop.

 

Have a great day, night, whatever it is!

-Matt

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