Best budget laptops
Asus VivoBook S200 - £450 (around AU$685/US$715)
* Superb price
* Excellent build quality
* Responsive screen
* Great keyboard
* Decent trackpad
* TN screen has its limitations
* Could be a bit lighter
* Battery life could be better
The Asus VivoBook S200 offers supreme good looks, touchscreen operation, slick performance and excellent portability, all for a reasonable price. This laptop runs on an Intel Core i3-3217U processor, which means it provides more than enough grunt to power Windows 8 through any day-to-day tasks, while keeping power consumption to a minimum. For a long time it was hard to get excited about laptops. They all had the same features, they all ran the same software and they all looked exactly the same as the ones we all had five years previously. But the arrival of Windows 8 has changed all that, and no device showcases this fact better than the Asus VivoBook S200. It's a fantastic little 11.6-inch touchscreen laptop that offers pretty much everything you could want from a portable device, and what's more, it costs a thoroughly reasonable £449.99. The brain of this laptop comes in the form of an Intel Core i3-3217U CPU, which means it provides more than enough grunt to power Windows 8 through any day-to-day tasks while keeping power consumption to an absolute minimum.
* 3DMark06: 2,774
* Cinebench: 4,198
* Battery life: 3 hours 5 minutes
You don't get any fancy graphics – if playing 3D games is on your to-do list, look elsewhere – but again, the integrated Intel HM70 EXPRESS chip is good enough to keep everything on the 11.6-inch screen running creamy smooth without pulling too much juice out of the battery. The Li-Polymer 38 WH battery itself consists of two cells and is good for two weeks on standby and a maximum of five hours' constant use. In our test, it lasted fractionally over three hours when looping video, which makes it about average for a device of this size. A bigger battery would only add to the weight, which would negate the main benefit of going for a device this size – portability. As it is, it already weighs in at a distinctly normal 1.3Kg which we think is about right if a little weighty. We're talking about premium materials here too, none of that faux-metal plastic rubbish. The S200 is graced by a lovely brushed-metal finish with aluminium base – you can thank Apple for pushing industry standards this high. The screen is standard TN fare, so if you're looking for an IPS panel you're going to have to spend a bit more money. But it's decent enough, and for most people we imagine it would be absolutely adequate. Viewing angles are what always suffer from this display technology but actually this screen does pretty well. Colours are accurate enough and under normal circumstances you shouldn't be bothered by its limitations. On the touch side of things, it can handle 10 inputs at once, which puts it up there with the best and it works flawlessly in this regard. Touch inputs are registered without delay - there's no lag when exploring Windows 8 or swiping between menus. It's a joy to use, a real computing pleasure. Of course, while a machine of this size and spec could never be described as a media machine, the fact that it's so portable means you may wish to load it up with music and movies. If that's you, you'll be pleased to find that the supplied 500GB internal hard drive should be more than enough for all your programs and content. There's no SSD on this model; it's not an ultrabook after all, and so the SSD option is reserved for the much more expensive Core i7 version, which also comes with a full HD IPS display and a price tag more than three times as high. Gulp. Sound is provided by Asus' SonicMaster brand which is really just a fancy way of saying, "It's got a sound card and some speakers". The speakers really aren't that bad, either. Many laptops like this can sound quite...
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