ASUS just announced their brand new lineup that was just added to the VivoBook series. This is the new VivoBook Ultra A512 – comes with a colorful appearance while maintaining a lightweight body. Yet for some reason, ASUS manages to pack in some serious hardware for a laptop of this price.
It’s a new dawn of laptops from ASUS as they are redefining what it means for laptops at this price. Honestly, I was shocked as well. And in this in-depth review, we’re telling you why.
The box in itself is pretty thin to begin with. But it is actually more than enough to protect the laptop inside.
Opening up the lid reveals that the laptop is sitting there in a protective fabric cloth sleeve, waiting for your hands. We can also see that the unit of VivoBook Ultra A512 we have for review is in the Transparent Silver color option since its brilliance is shining through the fabric.
Digging out everything we found that ASUS included the usual documentation, power brick, and something unique – a HDD upgrade kit.
This little HDD upgrade kit is where we’ll find a 2.5-inch hard drive mounting rail together with a heat spreader and ribbon cable to connect the SATA III disk to the motherboard. More on this later, since the VivoBook Ultra A512 only comes with a PCIe NVMe SSD inside.
Starting off with the design of this laptop, we obviously need to talk about the colors of this laptop. It is available in a total of 4 different colors – Transparent Silver, Slate Grey, Peacock Blue, and Coral Crush. Essentially, it is somewhat like silver, black, dark blue, and bright orange.
These colors are bright and striking. By just looking at them, you can feel its colors just shine to your eyes. I unboxed the VivoBook Ultra A512 outdoors and the brilliance of the color shocked me.
The ASUS VivoBok Ultra A512 is a very lightweight laptop and that is because ASUS opted for a full plastic body. It can get scuffs and scratches very easily, and it is also somewhat fragile as ASUS used soft plastic for the entire laptop body. It is a trade-off that ASUS has made this time around. Just be careful as any scratches will show up prominently because of its shiny, colorful body.
ASUS also maintained a fairly thin body for this laptop together with its iconic ErgoLift hinge design. By lifting the keyboard up by the hinge area, it allows additional cooling and maximizing comfort for typing as well.
Combined with the NanoEdge bezels on this laptop, the VivoBok Ultra A512 feels like a 14-inch laptop and I thought this laptop was a 14-incher… until I realized that nope, ASUS managed to cramp in a 15.6-inch display in this super compact 14-inch body – which is a nice segue to the next section.
Even with a fairly thin body, ASUS still retains most of the ports that we commonly use. On the left side we have a total of two USB 2.0 ports, a power indicator LED and another battery indicator LED.
On the right side, we have a microSD card reader, a 3.5mm combo audio jack, a USB-C port, HDMI, USB 3.0 port, and also the power jack.
The only missing port on this laptop is honestly, the Ethernet port. I can safely say that an Ethernet port on laptops is not particularly important since WiFi is good enough for day-to-day use and even for movie streaming.
Both the speakers are placed on the two sides of the laptop, below the wrist rest area. Though the speakers to look tiny, they actually sound pretty good for what it is. They are not particularly loud, but they actually sound decent.
Coming back to the screen itself, ASUS packed a massive 15.6-inch 1080p display into the VivoBook Ultra A512. Honestly, the laptop’s body is so tiny that I originally thought it’s a 14-inch laptop instead.
That happened thanks to ASUS’s NanoEdge bezels which are only 5.7mm at both the sides of the screen. ASUS achieved 88% screen-to-body ratio with this thinner bezel design, and still managed to fit in the webcam above the screen too. Say no to nose cams!
Through my eyes, the display used here is actually pretty good in terms of colors. There is no sign of oversaturation while maintaining good white balance. I did try doing a bit of Lightroom work on the VivoBook Ultra A512 and yes, the display is good enough for some creative work.
My only problem with the screen here? Definitely its brightness while using it outdoors. The screen here while is beautiful for indoor use, it’s not bright enough to use outdoors – even under a gloomy day and under some shade. Though if you don’t use it outdoors, it’s a great display.
The ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512 does come with a pretty good trackpad. It’s something that is actually fine to use. I wouldn’t complain as it is using Windows precision touchpad, hence all of the settings and gestures are built into Windows 10 itself.
Not only that – the trackpad comes with a fingerprint sensor at the top right corner too. Not the most ideal position as ASUS could have placed it on the power button itself. While on the subject of buttons, let’s move on to the next part.
Surprisingly, the VivoBook Ultra A512 does come with a pretty good keyboard. I found myself enjoy typing on the keyboard more than I should have as its travel is pretty deep and has enjoyable tactile feedback on each key press. The key press is quite soft, yet springy, and does not tire out my hands after hours of typing.
The keyboard layout, however, is certainly something special. It is a full-sized keyboard with physical number pads on the right side of the keyboard, but with a twist. The keyboard is not edge-to-edge and the number pad lacks the humongous plus/minus and enter keys.
It also caused the trackpad to be shifted to the left side by a little so that the trackpad is always is just below the spacebar. Depending on personal preference, you might like this offset. For me personally, ASUS did a good job on cutting down the number pad size so that the trackpad wouldn’t get shifted too far off like some other laptops.
Let’s not forget that the ErgoLift hinge is surprisingly comfortable to type on, too. While on that subject, the heat radiating from within the laptop while gaming is coming from around the number pad “4” and enter key area – and that is good since no games ever utilize those keys anyway.
Before we begin talking about the performance, let us just talk about the specs for one moment. The ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512 is created to be a laptop that is oriented for those who want long-lasting battery life with sufficient performance for web browsing, some Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and a perhaps a little bit of Spotify.
That makes this laptop actually very decent for students and for general purpose since it is rather lightweight and thin, yet comes with a fantastic keyboard with ergonomic ErgoLift hinge design too.
As for the specs, the one we have here for review is specifically powered by:
|ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512|
|Display||15.6-inch 1920×1080 resolution with NanoEdge thin bezels|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-8265U|
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 620
NVIDIA GeForce MX250 with 2GB VRAM
|RAM||4GB DDR4 2400MHz
Upgradable to up to 16GB DDR4 2400MHz
|Storage||512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD
2.5-inch storage bay (empty)
Surprisingly, the Core i5-8265U and NVIDIA GeForce MX250 are quite powerful here – relatively, of course. We put the VivoBook Ultra A512 through our usual test and revealed that the scores are quite decent.
In day-to-day use, my only complaint is the 4GB RAM. That is clearly insufficient for the number of apps and Chrome tabs that I work on concurrently, and definitely not enough for Adobe suite of software. You can still work on Lightroom and Photoshop with just 4GB RAM, though it is sluggish and advisable to get at least 8GB RAM.
As for benchmarks, here are a few for reference on how the ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512 performs.
Though, ASUS outdid themselves by including a speedy 512GB NVMe PCIe Gen 3 x2 SSD in this laptop. I never would have guessed that ASUS would put an NVMe SSD inside a laptop of this price range. Its speeds are pretty much similar to the Kingston A1000.
For a closer-to-life test, we tried a few games here. Here are the games we used to test and the results.
|ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512 game tests|
|Game title||Graphical setting||FPS|
|A Hat in Time||High performance preset||About 40 to 50|
|Apex Legends||Lowest||Above 30|
|CS:GO||Highest possible settings||About 55|
|Dota 2||Highest possible settings||About 30 during team fights|
|HITMAN 2||Lowest possible settings||Consistently drops to 18|
|Overwatch||Medium preset||Above 55|
I’d say the MX250 is actually fairly decent here as it manages to run some high-end games at a rather high frame rate with decent graphical quality. Of course, Dota 2 and CSGO can run smoothly without any issues at all – and that is great news as these two games are still rather famous. Fortnite on the other hand, is able to run beautifully on this machine.
From the specs, we can see that the VivoBook Ultra A512 comes with a 37Wh battery. On paper, it might seem tiny in comparison – but let’s not forget that this laptop is meant not that power-hungry.
Overall, we got about 4 hours and 20 minutes of use with a few hours of sleep in between the usage. We were using it with lots of heavy browsing on Chrome together with some YouTube videos, some light Photoshop work, and lots of typing.
As for charging, it took us about 2 hours to charge the laptop from 15% to 100% while turned on but idling.
Also, the power brick is pretty tiny – yet manages to push out the maximum of 65W. However, it is still not as tiny as the j5create’s tiny little 65W charger.
Opening up the ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512 is actually pretty simple. There are some standard Phillip screws at the back and requires some plastic bending magic to release the plastic clips. Very simple and easy to do.
Once the backplate is off, we can see everything there is on the motherboard, including the fans, RAM, SSD, and HDD bays. ASUS laptops are pretty easy to open up for servicing and upgrades, except for the Zephyrus series.
From here we can see that the cooling solution on this laptop is pretty simple. A single large heatpipe that runs through both the CPU, GPU, and leads to the heatsink and single fan. Once again, the heatpipe is easily removable and you can reapply thermal paste easily too. Learn more about why you should do that here.
Opening up reveals that the VivoBook Ultra A512 is actually quite simple to maintain and upgrade – which is certainly something we insist on.
Firstly, the RAM situation. ASUS left a slot for you to pop your own RAM inside, but there is only one visible slot. The pre-installed 4GB RAM is nowhere to be found. Popping in another 16GB RAM means you get a total of 20GB. A weird number but certainly better than the current 4GB RAM. We highly recommend adding more RAM.
Then comes the empty slot part at the bottom left corner. This is where the 2.5-inch storage devices go in, be it a 2.5-inch SSD or HDD.
The reason why I avoid the word “HDD upgrade kit” here is that it allows a 2.5-inch storage device to be installed inside the laptop. You can opt to get another 2.5-inch SSD if you like – then it invalidates the “HDD” moniker in the upgrade kit. Though, the general consensus is to get a 2.5-inch HDD to pair with an M.2 SSD for the best of both worlds in terms of storage capacity and speed respectively.
ASUS provided an upgrade kit for you to do it yourself and it is actually pretty simple to do. Just make sure you follow the instructions and be careful with the ribbon cable which connects to the J5101 connector on the motherboard.
If you want to swap your M.2 SSD for something else, you can do that too as it is easily accessible.
Let me just conclude by saying that the ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512 is actually a very good laptop on paper. The specs that make up this lightweight yet powerful laptop is a stunning feat – especially given the price. A 512GB NVMe SSD at this price is unheard of – but they give you an upgrade kit for you to slot in another 2.5-inch storage disk on your own.
This laptop really packs a punch with its Intel Core i5-8265U processor and the NVIDIA GeForce MX250. The keyboard good and the trackpad is decent. I was able to get work done and yet play some games on this laptop! The battery life is not bad either, together with the fairly decent charging time with a small charging brick.
My minor complaint is obviously, the RAM. Out of the box, you get 4GB and there is an empty slot for you to upgrade on your own. Honestly, I’d say the minimum is 8GB these days.
As for my biggest complaint, that is going to be the full plastic build quality. Sure, ASUS gave it a sheen but it can get scuffed up easily and ruin the beautiful paint job that ASUS has done.
Overall, for the price of RM2,899, it is actually quite good for its price. The ASUS VivoBook Ultra A512 is a great buy for those who want something portable yet with decent performance for this price range. Heck, I can actually play some games using this lightweight laptop!