Keywords: x202
Description: This VivoBook occupies the no-man’s land between laptop and tablet. It looks like Asus is bringing the netbook back.

Asus’ VivoBook x202E-DH31T is a curious beast. It’s a small, cheap-ish touchscreen notebook with an Intel Core i3 processor. This 11.6-inch laptop’s performance scores are somewhere in between regular all-purpose laptops and wannabe tablets—in other words, it’s a netbook with a touchscreen.

The VivoBook x202E-DH31T, which costs $500, sports a third-generation Intel Core i3-3217U processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive spinning at 5400rpm. The VivoBook also has built-in Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, and an 11.6-inch touchscreen. It runs a 64-bit version of Windows 8.

The VivoBook x202E-DH31T is on its own little island when it comes to performance. In our WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, the VivoBook scored 33 out of 100, which means it’s 67 percent slower than our baseline testing model (which sports a desktop-class i5 processor). Compared with similarly-sized tablet-laptop hybrids such as the HP Envy x2 (18), the Acer Iconia W510-1422 (17), and the Samsung XE500T1C-A01 (17), the VivoBook’s score is very good.

Then again, the VivoBook is 100 percent laptop—it’s not using an Intel Atom processor, but an actual Core i3 CPU. It’s also not a tablet with a dock, like the aforementioned systems.

And, of course, compared with larger, i5-powered laptops, the VivoBook falls short. It’s closest to the Toshiba Satellite P845-S4310. which scored 43 on WB8 and sports an i5 processor, 14-inch touchscreen, and 750GB hard drive.

The VivoBook’s graphics performance isn’t much better—after all, the system relies on Intel’s integrated HD graphics. While the VivoBook can play PC games, it plays them at a not-so-impressive frame rate of 15 frames per second (or lower). In our Dirt Showdown graphics test (1366 by 768 pixel resolution, maximum-quality settings), the VivoBook eked out 14.1 fps. By comparison, the Satellite P845-S4310 managed 47.7 fps on the same test.

In our battery life tests, the VivoBook lasted just four hours and 22 minutes. Considering the VivoBook’s biggest selling point is its portability, this isn’t very good—many similar-sized laptops boast over six hours of battery life.

The VivoBook x202E-DH31T is sturdily-built, with a good-looking but boring design. It features premium components, such as brushed aluminum finishes, a sturdy hinge, and a soft-touch bottom, but it’s just not visually exciting.

The VivoBook’s cover features a dark gray brushed aluminum finish (which is prone to fingerprints) and a mirrored Asus logo in the center. Inside, the glossy 11.6-inch touchscreen is surrounded by a thick black bezel, while the wrist-rest area is clad in bright silver brushed aluminum. There’s a black island-style keyboard and a large, smooth touchpad. The keyboard has small, stiff keys, but offers decent tactile feedback. The one-piece touchpad is large and perhaps a little too responsive—I often found myself inadvertently brushing the touchpad while typing on the keyboard.

The VivoBook has a small footprint—it measures just 11.9 inches long by 7.9 inches wide, and is 0.9 inches thick, but it feels bulkier and heavier than other similarly-sized laptops. It weighs three pounds, but because the bottom of the laptop is much thicker than the cover and screen, it feels like more.

The laptop’s ports are located along the sides of the machine. The left side sports a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI out, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and a Kensington lock slot, while the right side sports an SD card slot, microphone/headphone combo jack, another USB 2.0 port, and a VGA out port.

The VivoBook x202E-DH31T’s glossy 11.6-inch touchscreen has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. As a touchscreen, the VivoBook’s screen is nice: it’s snappy, responsive, and the touch capacity appears to extend beyond the screen and onto the bezel, which means you can start swiping from the glass-covered bezel. As a display, the VivoBook’s screen is terrible: even at its brightest setting it’s extremely dim, colors look washed out and skin tones look burnt, and there’s a quite a bit of glare.

Video looks and sounds acceptable, but barely, on the VivoBook. HD streaming video plays back with quite a bit of artifacting and noise, and high-motion scenes look a little stilted, but audio sounds better than average. The speakers, which are located on the bottom of the laptop, produce full sound with decent bass.

The Asus VivoBook x202-DH31T is unique, in that it’s the perfect notebook for a very specific demographic: the demographic that wants a small, portable, touchscreen laptop for a relatively cheap price. The VivoBook is just $500, which makes it about half the price of an Ultrabook or a MacBook Air. Since there aren’t a ton of ultraportable options at this price point, the VivoBook does have a niche to fill.

So, if you’re looking for a notebook that you can pop into your purse—and you definitely don’t want a tablet—the VivoBook might be worth a look.

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