Today, Windows 8 is officially released for sale and the very first computers with the operating system should be available for purchase in stores. During the fall, news about the computer manufacturers’ upcoming Windows 8 models has been like a stick in the back, and it’s mainly three computer types that have been at the center: All-in-one computers like the Dell Inspiron One 2330 that we tested recently, portable hybrids with the screen detachable tablet, and portable PC with touch screen.
All of these have the touch screen in common. Windows 8 is a major investment in touch interfaces from Microsoft, and touch screens are expected to become the new “normal” on many new computers in the future.
This has caused some concern on the part of buyers. Aren’t touch screens quite expensive? Especially since Microsoft makes high demands on quality and things like multitouch functions for it to work well with Windows 8? Will it be possible to get a good Windows 8 computer at an affordable price?
May exist with a different name
The answer is apparently yes. While all other manufacturers, at least initially, release notebooks in the slightly more expensive price range, Asus presents a couple of budget models. The Vivobook S200E is one of these. Asus changed the model name of it at the last minute, so if you find a Vivobook X202E in stores, it is the same computer. It is about a notebook in the format we once used to call “netbook plus”, that is, with a 12-inch screen. Or in this case 11.6 inches.
But we have retired that term, because performance and quality are far from netbook class. This is a lively and competent everyday PC with a stylish, slim design and performance like any regular notebook. The price is a clearly affordable five thousand Swedish kroner.
From the outside, it is a compact and slim notebook with an elegant aluminum shell and a plastic chassis with a matte finish. Asus has been good at building computers that feel more luxurious than their price tag and this is no exception.
It’s not quite ultrabook thin, but almost. Which is impressive given that the screen is thicker than usual. The build quality is generally very good, but here and there it shines through that it is a cheaper computer. The button feel in the keyboard, for example, is not completely clear, if you are picky about such things.
Fast enough but not faster
In terms of performance, it is a typical modern but cheaper utility PC. Here sits an Intel Core i3 with dual cores, four gigabytes of memory and Intel’s built-in graphics circuit HD Graphics 4000. It is more than enough for most things when it comes to surfing, office work and media playback. The battery life is what we expect. A couple of hours at full speed, or at most up to seven hours.
The hard drive is a traditional mechanical one and also quite tough, so we’re not offered things like super-fast boot times, although Windows 8 itself represents some improvement there compared to Windows 7.
In any case, we can state that the new interface behaves excellently on a computer with slightly more moderate hardware like this one. The interface with its quick side swipes, two-finger zoom in documents and browsers, and often visually impressive apps flows without a hitch for us. But given that we previously tested a preview version of Windows 8 on a year-and-a-half-old Atom computer, it’s not a big surprise.
So how does it work with a touch screen in a laptop? And more specifically how good is the Asus touch screen in this cheap model? The screen panel itself is a cheap tn panel with the limitations in color and poor viewing angle that this entails, i.e. the kind of notebook screen that everyone was up to a little over half a year ago when several manufacturers, including Asus, finally introduced ips screens or other similar technology. But it’s still only available in some more expensive computers.
In other words, the Vivobook S200E is no better or worse than other computers in the same price range. Vertical color shifts can cause film viewing to not be optimal, otherwise it is fully approved. The resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels on an 11.6-inch screen provides an enjoyable point density and good overview in the Windows 8 interface.
However, it is the point that is the most interesting here. The very fact that this is a small screen makes it feel and behave much like the Windows tablets on the way. We’ve previously tested Windows 8 touch on a 23-inch screen with mixed feelings, but here it feels more right.
It is easy to think of the notebook screen as if it were a tablet and get the same feeling and the same distance for the hands when they have to move between different menus and the like. It feels like Windows 8 is designed specifically for screens around 10 to 13 inches, and maybe the 11-inch format can get a new lease of life.
Point out good and bad
The touch control is generally good. It took a while to figure out how to do certain things (like moving the app tiles around in the start menu) that we previously mostly did with the mouse pointer, but after a couple of hours it mostly felt just as natural to lift your hands from the keyboard and tap the screen as if reaching down to the mouse pad underneath. It very quickly became a natural way of working. Screen peeking in the “new” Windows 8 interface and apps, and mouse control in the Desktop and on web pages.
Unfortunately, it also meant that after just one afternoon of use, we had lots of small fingerprints on the glossy screen. But it’s something you’ll be allowed to live with in the future and have a cleaning cloth in your back pocket. Unfortunately, a notebook is also not really built for screen poking, and even though the S2000E is more stable than many, the screen is easily swayed.
If you are going to buy a new laptop PC from now on, there is a very high chance that it will contain Windows 8. Then we think that a computer with a touch screen is clearly preferable. Given that Asus right now seems to be alone in offering it in this price range and in a generally good quality computer, the immediate future looks bright for the Vivobook S200E.
Asus Vivobook S200E
Manufacturer: Asus, www.asus.se
Processor: Intel Core i3 3217U, 1.8 GHz dual core.
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000.
Memory: 4 GB ddr3.
Storage: 320 GB hdd, 5400 rpm.
optical unit: No.
Memory card: Sd, sdhc, mmc, ms.
Connections: Usb 3, 2x usb 2, lan, hdmi, vga, headset.
Wireless: 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.
Screen: 11.6 inch glossy tn, 1366 x 768 pixels, 10 point touch.
Operating system: Windows 8.
Sound level: 35-38 dBa.
Battery life, high load: 1 hour 57 minutes.
Battery life, low load: 7 hours 5 minutes.
Size: 30.2 x 19.8 x 2.1 cm.
Weight: 1.38 kg.
Award: SEK 5,000.
Plus: Good build quality. Good touch screen. Very affordable.
Minus: Slow hard drive. Half screen. Fan whirring.
Grade: (8 out of 10)