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A cheap 15-inch laptop with strong performance is never easy to find. Most budget models sacrifice screen size – offering 11- or 12-inch display – in the pretext of hitting the lowest price point. And granted, the Asus X540UA-AB31-CA doesn’t technically meet our criteria of a budget laptop ––especially on pricing– but it doesn’t fall far off to call it something else.
This VivoBook X540UA appeals with a stylish design, packs strong components including an eighth-generation Intel Core i3 processor. We only wish that its battery life was better.
The X540UA shares the same design as last year’s VivoBook, coming in a both lighter and thinner that our favorite Asus F510UA from last year. It manages to significantly cut on price, too. It weighs just over 2 kgs (4.4 pounds) and will easily slide into any backpack with its 28mm (1.1-inch) profile. In the same league are 15-inchers like our Editors’ Choice Acer Aspire E15 and the Dell Latitude 3490, that don’t look as sleek as Asus’ latest notebook.
Its gunmetal blue color looks unique an attractive, but you are not getting an aluminum chassis at this price point. Still, the VivoBook’s plastic enclosure in thin and fairly rigid with a textured lid that feels a tad premium. Acer includes an optical drive on their Aspire 15 which is an added benefit; like most modern laptops, the VivoBook X540UA lacks a read or write CD or DVD, of which you need an external drive.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The laptop gets a full-size keyboard that is comfortable and allows you to type in near silence. While the laptop is billed as a budget system, the keyboard doesn’t feel cheap or clacky, something most college users will smile at. The plastic keyboard has some flex when typing, around the middle, but it isn’t that bad. However, as with all common laptops, the keyboard lacks backlighting, a feature you often find in spendy models.
Below the keyboard is a 4.1 x 2.9-inches deep touchpad, gracing the expansive palm rest. Just like the keys, the touchpad is responsive and offers a soft click when pressed. We didn’t expect a fingerprint reader at this price point, but if you need one for biometric sign in and interaction with Windows Hello, the Asus F510UA-AH55 is worth a look.
Display and Sound
A 15.6-inch full HD (1,920-by-1,080) LED-backlit display with narrow bezels is yet another reason to like this laptop. The display produces bright, vibrant images, in as much as it doesn’t support touch. Asus delivers an IPS screen with matte finish that keeps reflections at bay, something most budget laptops lack, opting for glossy screen coatings. While the display’s viewing angle is narrow, it remains crisp, considering that the laptop is meant to be used solo and not as a shared screen.
Audio quality is average, with the sound lacking in the bass department. The laptop’s audio output is enough to fill a small room, making it a good candidate for YouTube video and occasional video chats and conferencing.
Connectivity is varied, with both USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports, which means you can connect all your USB devices without a separate dongle. On the left edge, there are two USB Type-A 3.0 ports and an SD card slot. The right side holds a USB Type-A 3.0 port and a USB Type-C port, alongside an HDMI port, a headphone/mic combo and an AC power connector.
Powering the Asus X540UA-AB31-CA is an eight-generation Intel Core i5-8130U CPU, 4GB RAM, a 128GB solid-state-drive (SSD) and the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620. The Core i5-8130U has two processing cores, four processing threads and operates between a base of 2.2GHz and a turbo frequency of 3.4GHz. Its other model the Asus VivoBook F510UA-AH55 features a quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD for loading apps and an additional 1TB hard drive storage. The difference is quite pedestal on performance, so is the pricing of the two VivoBooks.
The system feels snappy on daily Windows tasks, with capability to run multiple apps without getting bogged. As you increase the multitasking load, the system’s cooling fan kicks in, especially when you stream videos. It isn’t overly loud, but it is still noticeable. The processor in this unit is the lowest-cost model in the group and relying on speedy SSD is a step or two ahead of competitors with slower hard drives.
The integrated UHD 620 graphics is common with budget notebooks, that aren’t not cut for gaming or media creation tasks. As such, with the limited gaming capabilities this system can only manage the very basic aspect of gaming at low resolutions and settings. If you need something affordable for gaming, the MSI GV62 8RD-200 is worth a look.
With all the right features, reasonable pricing and stellar design, we wish the Asus X540UA-AB31-CA’s battery was equally great. The laptop lasts only 6 hours 34 minutes, which isn’t worse, only that we have competitors lasting for hours and hours on a single charge. If you’re getting any of the VivoBooks in this line, plan to keep it tethered to a wall outlet at least once a day, which is something you might plan to do with a large 15-inch laptop, anyway. It will easily last a day at school or at the office with moderate use.
If you can do with its short battery life (something common with budget laptops), the Asus X540UA-AB31-CA provides a great deal of bang for your budget buck. It brings to the competition a roomy display and comfortable keyboard in a stylish, sleek package. On the inside, it packs an 8th Gen., Core i3 processor, along with ample RAM and speedy storage space. For sure, it comes close to snatching the Editors’ Choice award from the Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-576-392H), only that it falls short on battery life. That aside, the VivoBook X540UA-AB31-CA is a well-packaged, good-looking budget laptop.