Over the next week or so, you'll be able to see a slew of new Ultrabook reviews. The first system to come into our lab was the ASUS VivoBook S500C, a midrange Ultrabook and one of the first to pack in Intel's new requirement: Touch.
With four different Ultrabook systems in the lab, we are able to update some of our tests. Notably, PCMark 7 and Powermark have been updated to their latest versions. Previous PCMark 7 scores are not comparable to the new version so all old results have been archived. We've gone ahead and archived Powermark's results at the same time to be sure that results in our charts are all comparable.
The ASUS S500C will definitely be on the cheaper side of the onslaught of Ultrabooks, but should you spend a little more and get something a bit more powerful? Or is the added cost not worth the additional performance or features?
Keep reading to find out!
Specifications, Configurations, Pricing and Packaging
Specifications, Configurations and Pricing
The ASUS S500C in the lab today features one of Intel's ultra-low voltage Ivy Bridge processors. Specifically, the S500C comes with a dual-core Intel i5-3317U clocked at 1.7GHz. When loaded, the processor can dynamically clock all the way up to 2.6GHz.
Coupled with the 3317U is 6GB of DDR3-1600 RAM. 6GB of RAM is more than enough for most users and applications. Graphics are provided via Intel's somewhat capable HD4000 integrated graphics processor.
The screen features a resolution of 1366x768, which is a bit on the low side for a 15.6-inch machine. However, having a lower resolution on a touch-enabled laptop isn't as bad as it makes on-screen items larger - perfect for touch systems. As you'll find out in subsequent reviews, high-resolution screens make using Windows 8 Desktop Mode much more difficult.
The system features a 500GB 5,400RPM hard drive for mass storage, coupled with a 24GB mSATA SSD. The small SSD is used for caching, allowing for speedy start-ups and shutdowns.
The laptop box was packaged inside another larger box.
The laptop box is the same that we've seen other ASUS notebooks come in. It's made from recycled cardboard and printed with soy ink, ASUS' contribution to being green.
Temperatures, Cooling and Noise
The ASUS S500C isn't as small as other Ultrabooks, so we should expect cooling to be better than average. It's also aided by the lack of a discrete video card, further making heat less of an issue.
As you can see, on the front of the system, we logged a maximum temperature of 91 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature was located directly in the middle of the OKL keys. The palm rests stayed a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moving around to the back side, temperatures were even higher. The maximum observed temperature was 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the system ranged from 73 degrees to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures shouldn't prove to be too troublesome for users who like to set their laptops on their lap.
The maximum observed GPU temperature was 105 degrees Celsius, which is the same as the CPU because they are on the same die. The CPU reached a maximum of 105 degrees Celsius, a temperature that is on the extreme high-end of what a CPU should be running at. The processor would be exercising thermal throttling at the observed temperatures.
The ASUS S500C produced a sound level of 43 decibels in our measurement. ASUS seems to have sound under control as they are the quietest systems in our graph. Our measurement is taken in front of the laptop at roughly head level. For comparison, 30dB is a totally quiet night time in the desert, 40dB is whispering and 60dB is a normal conversation.
Keyboard, TouchPad, Screen and other User Interfaces
Keyboard and TouchPad
The ASUS S500C features an island-style keyboard that has become popular of late. It's one of the worse keyboards that my fingers have used during my reviewing career, though it will pass as a keyboard for users who don't type much.
There is quite a bit of flex present across the entire keyboard, so much so that it was noticeable during typing. This, coupled with a short throw, yielded inaccurate text input and an unpleasant typing experience.
The keys have a matte texture on the surface and appear to be perfectly flat. The keys feature a very short throw, as noted above, and this is something that throws the normal typist off his or her game.
This being an entry-level touch-enabled Ultrabook, it's not surprising to find that the keyboard is not backlit. My readers are probably getting tired of hearing me say how great a backlit keyboard is, but it is something that needs to be said.
The touchpad is made from a single piece of material, with all sections touch sensitive and able to be pushed down for a left click. At the bottom, a small line delineates where left clicks stop and right clicks begin.
The touchpad is ever-so-slightly recessed down into the palm rest of the machine. The surface is perfectly smooth and provides a nice experience. Around the edge of the recessed touchpad, a shiny silver beveled edge helps to visually set the touchpad apart from the palm rest.
The ASUS S500C features a touch-enabled 15.6-inch panel. The rather small resolution of 1366x768, usually a resolution I hate, actually works in the ASUS' favor because of the touchscreen. I found on some of the other systems that had higher resolution screens that using Windows 8's desktop mode was nearly impossible without the touchpad.
The screen features a giant edge-to-edge piece of glass to enable touchscreen functions. When I first received the touch-enabled S500C, I wasn't completely sold on the idea of touch. After using it for a while, I've come to want touch on my personal notebook.
One drawback to having a touch-enabled system is that the screen is often smudged with fingerprints, causing reading to be a pain.
Color reproduction on the S500C is decent, though colors start to stray when moving too far out of center. Vertical movement results in wider fluctuations of color, while horizontal movement is a bit more forgiving.
View our full testing methodology article.
- Accessory Port Testing
Ports to which an external storage device can be connected to are tested using HD Tune Pro to obtain their maximum, minimum and average read and write speeds. USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and eSATA ports are tested using a Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD that is capable of saturating the theoretical bandwidth available.
The Corsair Neutron GTX is housed inside an Icy Dock external enclosure which features a SATA I/II/III to USB 3.0 and eSATA converter.
- Gaming Tests
3DMark Vantage is ran on the Performance preset to get a feel for how the computer would manage gaming. The CPU, GPU and combined scores are reported. A higher overall score is the best and a high GPU or CPU score shows particular prowess with tasks that use that part of the computer.
3DMark 11 is run on the Performance preset and the Physics, GPU and combined scores are reported. This test is only run if the system supports DirectX 11. A higher overall score is the target, though a high individual result shows prowess in a particular area.
3DMark is the latest benchmark by Futuremark. The Cloud Gate test is ran with all of the default settings and the score, GPU score, and physics score are all recorded in the chart. The Cloud Gate test is intended to be run on home desktops and notebooks.
- System Tests
PCMark 7 is run to get an overall idea of how the system performs as a whole. It tests all aspects of the PC and puts a score on how well it performs overall. In this test, a low scoring area can affect the overall score, so it's important to read the analysis. A higher score is better.
MobileMark 2012 is another test run to get a feeling for the system performance taken as a whole. MobileMark 2012 uses real-world applications as part of the benchmark. We use the Office Productivity suite which includes applications like Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word. The test also reports battery life as all tests are run on battery. Higher is better for both results.
CrystalDiskMark is run to put a number on how well the system hard disk drive / SSD runs. It measures five different metrics, of which higher is better for all. The higher the numbers, the snappier the operating system will feel, especially if the "4K" number is high, as most operating system files are small files.
- Battery Life
PowerMark is used to measure battery life of the system when set to the "Balanced" power plan. This test simulates several different activities, but uses custom built applications.
Accessory Port Layout and Performance
The left side, from back to front, features the Kensington lock, two USB 2.0 ports, a combination headphone/microphone port and SD card reader.
The right side, from back to front, features the power port, the Ethernet port, VGA port, HDMI port and one USB 3.0 port.
The ASUS S500C has average USB 2.0 performance in terms of read speed. It averages out to be roughly even with the other systems and falls somewhere near the middle of the pack.
Again, the ASUS S500C's USB 2.0 write performance is nothing to write home about, either good or bad. It averages out to 23.4MB/s, again in the middle of the pack.
In terms of USB 3.0 read performance, the ASUS S500C is pretty close to the top, though it still has a number of systems ahead of it, though not by much. It manages to eke out an average of 110.8MB/s.
In terms of USB 3.0 write performance, however, the ASUS S500C finishes in second place, 27MB/s slower than the Gigabyte P2542. It averaged 140.9 MB/s in our testing.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmarkvantage
3DMark Vantage tests both processor and graphics performance and is a good indication of how systems compare. The results are generally more repeatable and consistent than other forms of benchmarking. Vantage uses DirectX 10 and can handle multi-core CPUs.
The ASUS S500C is an Ultrabook and falls in line about where you would expect it to. It manages an overall score of 3284, which is in line with the other Ultrabooks that have come through our lab. Individual scores are also in line, with the S500C managing a GPU score of 2736 and a CPU score of 8223.
3DMark - Cloud Gate Test
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmark
Cloud Gate is a new test that is designed for Windows notebooks and typical home PCs. Cloud Gate includes two graphics tests and a physics test. Cloud Gate uses a DirectX 11 engine limited to Direct3D feature level 10 making it suitable for testing DirectX 10 compatible hardware. Cloud Gate will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.
You can see in the chart that Ultrabooks just aren't designed for gaming. The HD 4000 only manages to put up a score of 3740, which is bested by the Eon 11-S' 650M.
Version and / or Patch Used: 126.96.36.199
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com/benchmarks/
PCMark 7 is a great utility for testing a PC's all-around capabilities. It tests all aspects of the computer, from graphics performance to hard disk performance and attempts to put a score on it, which is not an easy task.
Likely due to the S500C relying on a spinning 500GB hard drive, it doesn't fare so well in our PCMark 7 test. You'll notice that our results have been cleared out due to us updating the test to the latest version. It manages a score of 2970, which is below the two Acer Ultrabooks we have in the lab. A solid state drive would likely boost this score in line with those other systems.
Mobile Mark 2012
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
Product Homepage: http://bapco.com
MobileMark 2012 is a premier benchmarking tool produced by BAPCo. It has several different scenarios built-in and allows you to choose which to run. It runs the test on battery life so that it produces both a score for the performance aspect and a run time for battery life.
For our testing, we chose the Office Productivity line of testing. The "Performance Qualification Rating" and battery life (in minutes) is reported below in the charts.
The ASUS S500C isn't exactly the most powerful system we've had through our lab. In fact, it scored the lowest we've ever had a system score on our MobileMark 2012 benchmark. Again, I would venture to guess that the score was hampered by the use of a spinning hard disk to keep costs down.
Battery life comes in at a respectable 250 minutes, or 4 hours and 10 minutes. Some systems, such as ASUS' S56C manage to outperform the S500C in battery life, but not by too much. 250 minutes is a good amount of runtime, especially considering the price of the system.
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://www.crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
CrystalDiskMark really shows how a spinning hard drive just doesn't perform at the same speeds as a solid state drive. The ASUS S500C's HDD manages a sequential read speed of 94.5MB/s, faster than the S56C, but not faster than any other machine.
Write speeds follow the same trend. The S500C outperforms the S56C, but fails to beat the other systems due to their inclusion of a solid state drive.
Battery Life Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/powermark/
Download here: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/powermark/
PowerMark is a benchmark produced by Futuremark that simulates different usage scenarios in order to determine battery life. It loops these different scenarios infinitely until the battery hits 15% and then gives us an estimated battery life time. For our testing, we use all four different scenarios. These are video playback, gaming, web browsing and word processing.
The test is ran once with the computer's Power Options set to Balanced. You'll notice our graph has been cleared. PowerMark was updated to the latest version for testing, so we removed the test results created with a past version.
Glancing back at our archived results, the S500C preformed quite well. In comparison to the two Acer systems we have in our lab, the S500C performed directly in the middle of the pack, though it likely would have come out on top if the Acer S7-191 didn't feature an extended battery.
With the hard data out of the way, let's do a bit more analysis and figure out who, if anyone, this Ultrabook is good for. Throughout the testing, we saw that the budget S500C fell towards the back of the pack, though this is not unexpected considering the price.
The system is good looking. It's got a sleek profile and is made from attractive materials. It's on the large size for an Ultrabook. It's a bit thicker than most Ultrabooks and a bit heavier, too.
Let's pull in the factor of price into this discussion. The ASUS S500C can be had for under $700, making it affordable on most budgets. It also makes the S500C one of the lowest priced Ultrabooks to include touch capabilities, a nice addition.
A few hundred dollars will get you an upgraded machine with a higher resolution screen and solid state drives for storage. These will help your everyday usage and make the system snappier and more usable. Whether or not this is something you need will be something you'll have to decide for yourself. The system is adequate for the price, though it's probably not something I would buy for myself. It's a bit too heavy and unwieldy for an Ultrabook. Battery life is more than adequate, but not outstanding.
Performance of the S500C is plenty for most users. If you're planning on doing some heavy duty rendering or other CPU intensive tasks, you're better off with a full size notebook or desktop. For web browsing and general use, however, the S500C fits the bill.
1366x768 is still the bane of my existence, but with a touchscreen, it makes much more sense. On systems with higher resolution, Windows 8's desktop mode becomes nearly unusable. If you're going to use the system for lots of typing, you're better off looking elsewhere as the keyboard on the S500C is only adequate at best. It's not backlit and it's not the most comfortable keyboard to be typing on.
For the weight and size, I'd also expect an optical drive to be included, which it isn't. There is also a limited selection of connectivity ports, which could be a problem depending on your needs.
Now, I know I've badmouthed the ASUS S500C quite a bit above, but the fact still remains that it posted decent battery life times, performance numbers, and the price can't really be beat, especially when you consider that it has a touch screen.
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