Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
ASUS Vivo Book F202 touchscreen notebook
The ASUS Vivo Book F202 brings the Windows 8 touch experience to the low-end of the PC market
- Well built
- Good touchscreen
- Convenient size and overall package
- Sluggish performance
- Screen angles and reflections
- No Bluetooth
The ASUS Vivo Book F202 is a good entry point if you're after a cheap and well built Windows 8-based laptop with a touchscreen. Its performance is sluggish, but it's adequate for media consumption, Web browsing, and some document creation tasks. You can even play some games on it (ones downloaded from the Windows store).
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
We're not going to dwell too much on the ASUS Vivo Book F202 laptop. It's a cheap 11.6in model that's aimed at students and anyone else who wants a small, touchscreen-enabled laptop for under $500. The design of the notebook is strong considering the price — in fact, it looks a little like a baby Zenbook — and it's a small and easily mobile device that you can chuck in a backpack. But there is no escaping the fact that it doesn't have a fast processor.
The Vivo Book F202 is based on an Intel Celeron CPU, which supplies performance that's about twice as fast as some of the last netbooks we reviewed almost two years ago (some of which were based on the AMD C-50 APU, for example). You won't want to use this laptop to perform media encoding tasks or anything else that will tax the CPU, and multitasking will have to be undertaken in moderation as well if you don't want to notice too much of a slowdown in performance.
Basically, the Vivo Book F202 is a good machine for browsing the Web, using social media, typing up documents, listening to music, viewing photos and watching videos. The screen has 10-input capacitive touch that you can use to move around the Windows 8 Start screen, but the hardware is a conventional clamshell — and at 1.4kg, it's a little bit on the heavy side for its 11.6in size, but it ships with a small and relatively light adapter, which offsets that somewhat.
You can't really use this model as a tablet — it's just a regulation laptop with a touchscreen. The most you can do is tap on the screen every now and then to select something, move the cursor or hit a Live Tile and, of course, play touch-based games. We've slowly gotten used to doing just that on these new touch-enabled laptops, to the point where we now use our fingers to place the cursor at a particular place within a document we're editing, in addition to using touch gestures for the Windows 8 Start screen and other features. The screen does rock back and forth when it's touched though, and coupled with reflections off the glossy finish, this can be very annoying. It works best when you hold the screen with one hand while using the other hand to perform the touch action.
You'll still want to use the keyboard and touchpad for the majority of your navigation, and the keyboard isn't too bad as far as cheap laptops are concerned. The keys feel solid to hit and they are responsive. Typing on the Vivo Book didn't feel like a chore, but we did have to get used to the relatively cramped nature of the keyboard on the 11.6in form factor. The touchpad is large (105x61mm) and it supports Windows 8 gestures for accessing Charms, flicking through apps and bringing up context menus. However, its software is very limited; you can't adjust aspects of the two-finger scrolling function, such as speed and coasting, and we couldn't get three-finger flicks to work at all.
The 11.6in screen has a native resolution of 1366x768, and it's a panel with narrow viewing angles, which is standard for this segment of the laptop market. You'll have to adjust the tilt regularly in order to fix brightness and contrast issues in photos, and even in Google search results as, in some cases, it can be hard to see the shaded background behind sponsored results verses organic results.
The Celeron CPU is an ultra-low voltage model that runs at 1.1GHz and has two cores. It's joined by 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 320GB hard drive, and it performed sluggishly in our benchmarks — and also when trying to load new-style Windows 8 apps. We've not seen a laptop with a CPU that hasn't been an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 for a while, which makes us quite spoilt really. In the Blender 3D rendering test is took 2min 45sec to complete a two-thread render. The iTunes MP3 encoding time was 2min 33sec. These results are about twice as fast as a netbook based on the AMD C-50 APU, for example, such as the Toshiba NB550D, which debuted at a similar price point to this ASUS model back in early 2011. We ran our AutoGordianKnot DVD-to-Xvid conversion test on the ASUS as well, and it finished in a time of three hours. This makes it clear that the Vivo Book F202 shouldn't be considered if you want a laptop for converting or creating media files.
Graphics are integrated in the CPU and they recorded 1177 in 3DMark06. It's a slow result, but the Vivo Book F202 can be used to run games obtained through the Windows store. Titles such as Fruit Ninja will run with little fuss. The hard drive is a Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 model with a 5400rpm spin speed. Its result of 19.08 megabytes per second (MBps) in our file duplication test is also something we have not seen since the netbook era and the slow performance was also highlighted in CrystalDiskMark, where a read rate of 68MBps was achieved, along with a write rate of 64MBps.
Boot up time was 37 seconds, which is the time it took to cold boot to the Windows Start screen and allow us to click on the Live Tile for the Desktop. A top-flight Windows 8 laptop such as the Acer Aspire S7 took just eight seconds in the same scenario. System resume time was about two seconds from the time the lid was lifted until the lock screen was shown.
As for battery life, you can get a little over five hours when you use a balanced power profile and medium screen brightness while performing tasks such as browsing the Web, typing up documents and looking at photos. The battery is sealed in the chassis, which is 22mm thick when you take the rubber feet into consideration as well (it's 20mm without them). It contains USB ports on both sides of the chassis (one USB 3.0 on the left side along with a USB 2.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port on the right side), as well as VGA, a combination headphone/microphone port, an SD card slot, a full-sized HDMI port, and a 100Mbps Ethernet port. You also get a webcam and 802.11n Wi-Fi (single-band using an Atheros AR9485 adapter).
While the unit ran well enough in order to be useful for everyday tasks, we did experience one large annoyance related to Windows updates. The machine crashed upon trying to install updates and it went into repair mode on its own after stalling during these updates. This whole process took a very long time and we're hoping it's just a teething problem with the new operating system and the way it handles updates.
Overall though, the best part about this laptop is its build quality, and that includes the responsive touchscreen. It feels very well made and also looks great in comparison to past laptops in this price point. If you can get over the fact that its speed is not up to the standard of an Intel Core i-series processor and that you can't do much more than Web browsing, office document creation, social media and media consumption on it, then go for it.
If you want to learn a bit about Windows 8 before purchasing a Windows 8 laptop such as this one, check out our beginner's guide to Windows 8, which shows you how to get around the Start screen and much more.
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