Who says the netbook is dead? With its 11.6in screen, Intel Pentium processor, and £350 price tag, the Asus VivoBook S200E almost harks back to the brief heyday of the netbook. Take a look at Group test: what's the best netbook?
Back in 2008, people were drawn to the cheap netbooks, then around £300 with 10in screens and Intel Atom processors. See all laptop reviews.
This VivoBook is more than an exercise in nostalgia, though. The touch-sensitive screen means that the S200E can use the Metro interface of Windows 8.
Build-quality of the S200E is good for such an affordable machine. It's sturdily built and certainly doesn't look or feel as flimsy as most of the sub-£400 laptops we've seen recently.
It can't match the slimline elegance of more expensive rivals such as Apple's 11in MacBook Air. And in size and weight, it lands as 1.5kg and measures 22mm thick, compared to 1.1kg and 17mm for the MacBook Air. But you can still pick it up with one hand and slip it into a backpack or briefcase with no trouble.
Where it does follow the Air is its 11.6in display, a 16:9 panel packing the same 1366 x 768 resolution. It's very bright and clear – in fact, we were able to run our battery tests with the brightness set to just 50% while streaming video on the BBC iPlayer.
One complaint here is that the keyboard can feel a little cramped. The keys have the same 15.6mm width as those on the MacBook Air, but are just 13mm deep when measured from the front edge of each key to the back. That could be a problem for less nimble-fingered users.
In contrast, the 105 x 60mm trackpad is large and comfortable to use – and, of course, you've got the touch-sensitive screen to play with too.
The S200E has a different range of connectors to
the MacBook Air too, including HDMI and VGA for video, ethernet, SD card slot and three USB ports (only one of which is USB 3.0).
Inevitably, the low price of the S200E means internal components have been skimped and it can only offer modest performance.
It's a while since we've seen any Windows PCs with Pentium-branded processors. But the dual-core Pentium 987 the VivoBook S200E packs was released in late 2012, so it's certainly no antique.
There's no Turboboost or Hyperthreading of Intel's Core processors here, and the 1.5GHz Pentium could only manage a dawdling score of 1740 points in the PCMark 7 benchmark.
Even so, that's adequate for basic work such as running Microsoft Office, web browsing and a spot of streaming video.
It also handled the touchscreen controls in Windows 8 perfectly well, with the big Start screen responding quickly and smoothly as we flicked from app to app. The 4GB of memory and 500GB hard disk are also fine for basic computing tasks.
Needless to say, gaming performance isn't up to much, and the Intel HD graphics built into this Pentium processor could only manage single-figure framerates in Windows games like Batman: Arkham City.
That's only to be expected at this price, of course. But we were more disappointed by the S200E's battery life.
We only got 3.5 hours of streaming video in our tests, which was lower than we'd anticipated given the slow processor and limited screen size.
It may be fine for tapping out a few emails when you're in a coffee shop, but the S200E won't keep you entertained all the way through a long plane or train journey unless you're lucky enough to find a power socket.