Asus' VivoBook Pro N552VW is a great-value desktop-replacement laptop for work and play.
High-powered laptops tend to fall into two distinct camps these days. You have your big, brash gaming laptops, which go for all-out power and don't give a fig for portability. And then you have more practical, elegant machines. The Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW falls into the latter category.
Although the VivoBook Pro’s core specifications have more in common with gaming laptops (they’re almost the same as Asus' Republic of Gamers GL552VW), it cuts a more refined and elegant figure.
On the outside, there's Asus’ trademark brushed metal concentric circle finish, resembling the grooves of a vinyl record, while inside you've got a classy silver keyboard tray. There’s a rather thick bezel around the screen, we did notice a little flex on the keyboard base, but it wasn't particularly worrisome. The rest of the build and design are quite good, though not up to the high standards set by Dell’s XPS range or Apple’s MacBook Pro.
For all its classy good looks, the VivoBook Pro isn’t small, weighing 2.5kg and measuring 29.9mm thick. In other words, it’s a typical full-size notebook. And with its 15.6-inch display, 1TB hard disk drive, full complement of connectivity options and built-in DVD drive, it’s clearly designed to be desktop replacement rather than an ultra-portable.
Keyboard, touchpad and connectivity
There's plenty else here to recommend the VivoBook Pro. The keyboard, in particular, is incredibly comfortable to type on. The keys have a good amount of travel with a positive-feeling action to each keystroke, and they all sit precisely where your fingers would expect them to, so there’s very little acclimatisation period
The large touchpad is equally comfortable to use and its smooth, slick surface allows your fingers to glide across it without much resistance. It felt lovely and responsive during testing, with integrated that mouse buttons worked well.
Being a full-size laptop, there's plenty of room for ports and sockets. For data, you get three USB 3 and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. There's also both a full-size HDMI output and mini-DisplayPort for hooking up external displays. The aforementioned DVD-RW drive is on the right side and there's also room for an SD card reader and Gigabit Ethernet. Wireless, meanwhile, is covered by 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Display and speakers
The VivoBook Pro comes in a number of models, including one with a standard Full HD screen and another with a 4K display. We reviewed the latter and in our testing, the VivoBook Pro’s screen was significantly brighter than your typical laptop’s screen, had darker blacks and displayed a broader range sRGB colours.
Overall, it’s an impressive screen. There are better displays available, but you’ll generally have to pay significantly more or compromise other specifications. And that 4K screen is ideal for those who like to multi-task and work on multiple documents simultaneously, and it's also a good fit for digital creatives.
As for the speakers, they're distinctly average, but since they fire upwards they don't sound as muffled as other laptops with downwards-firing speakers. They're perfectly adequate for watching films on Netflix and the odd YouTube video, but for a more enjoyable audio experience, you will need to plug in some headphones or external speakers.
This is where the VivoBook Pro really shines. For your money, you get a top-end, sixth-generation quad-core Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor running at 2.6GHz. This can Turbo Boost to 3.5GHz when thermal conditions allow for it. Just make sure you to check this, because we’ve seen an older model with a previous generation chip still on sale.
In our application benchmarks, the VivoBook Pro produced outstanding results – right up there with Dell’s XPS 15. This makes the VivoBook Pro an excellent choice for a wide variety of desktop tasks, including high-end applications such as video editing.
With a 1TB hard disk drive, there's plenty of storage, though it appears you’ll need to pay extra for the extra 128GB solid state drive (SSD) that was in our test machine. Just be aware that not having the SSD will have a significant impact on its performance.
And then there's the dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU) – a mid-range Nvidia GeForce 960M. In our benchmarks, it couldn’t match the best gaming laptops and in our high-end test game we had to reduce some graphics settings for it to run smoothly. Still, it’s light years ahead of your typical laptop with integrated graphics, and should allow you to play most games, even if you have to tweak the settings. The Nvidia GPU may also help out a little on applications like Photoshop, where graphics acceleration is supported.
The one area where the VivoBook Pro falls behind is battery life, largely due to that high-resolution screen. It only lasted a very disappointing 3 hours 34 minutes in our video playback test. However, with a laptop this big and bulky, it isn't something you're going to be wanting to use on the move that often.
There's a lot to like about the Asus VivoBook Pro N552VW. It's good value considering the specifications on offer, and it's a halfway-decent gaming laptop, too, although that's not its main purpose in life. It's just as quick as the considerably more expensive Dell XPS 15, too, even if its design doesn't quite live up to the same expectations.
Still, for under $2,000, you're getting a good 4K display, good application performance and solid games performance, making it ideal for those who want a desktop replacement for work and play. If you don’t need to lug it around all day or long battery life, the VivoBook Pro is a great all-rounder.