ASUS VivoBook X509 Review: modern upgrades for the budget segment

Rating: 8.5/10

Yay:

  • Base variant also comes with PCIe SSD storage
  • Reinforced chassis ensures durability
  • New thermal design performs surprisingly well

Nay:

  • The keyboard could be better
  • The display is downright bad
  • Battery capacity is too low

Introduction

ASUS just launched their latest Vivobooks here in India, and I for one am very happy. The entire Vivobook lineup has been extremely successful in changing the face of the budget segment here in the country. Now, with the Vivobook X509, the company has managed just that. The laptop, which starts at a measly price tag of just Rs. 30,990, comes equipped with some pretty amazing features that you would usually associate with higher-priced devices. However, are those features in itself enough to make the device worth a recommend? Let’s find out.

Also read: ASUS ROG GA502 Review: for the AMD lovers

Design And Build Quality

Speaking about the design of the ASUS Vivobook X509, there are things that I like, and things that I absolutely despise. It is a mixed bag, but with the context of its price tag, I am willing to let side with things. For starters, the overall design feels bulky. At 1.9kg, the laptop is definitely lightweight. However, considering everything inside is mobile-variant hardware, I feel ASUS could have made things thinner or reduced the weight a tad bit. There isn’t anything unique to the design, and that’s fine since this design language has become synonymous with the ASUS VivoBook lineup. It is built out of plastic, which is something you’d expect from a laptop in this price segment.

Despite the plastic build, ASUS has ensured that the system maintains its sturdiness. It comes with metal reinforcements around the frame of the display that allows for smoother lid opening and closing while also reducing the flex. There is also a metal plate underneath the keyboard, which the company claims lessens the damage in time, while also protecting the motherboard. It also claims to offer extra stiffness to the keyboard for better typing, however, I disagree with that. I will get to that in the keyboard section of this review, so keep reading. Also, should you get install an HDD inside, there will be a metal bracket around it as well for better shock reduction.

All in all, the VivoBook X509 looks just like you’d expect a budget laptop to look. It’s basic, with a few tricks up its sleeve to make it more durable. It doesn’t get any extra points for its design but doesn’t lose any either.

Ports And Connectivity

The I/O is one department where ASUS has really upped the ante. On the left side, you get a DC charging port, a USB Type-C, a full-size HDMI port, and a USB 3.1 Type-A port. 

Over to the right side, you get a Kensington lock, two USB-A ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSD card slot, which is followed by the LED indicators.

The fact that you get a USB Type-C port in this price segment is something that literally blew my mind. Sure, the base variant which comes with an i3 processor isn’t a powerhouse, but having a Type-C port does still enable you to make use of modern peripherals. I do wish the SD card slot here was a full-sized one, which would have made this an even better recommendation. However, even the way things are, the X509 has a pretty good port selection and should satisfy almost every user looking for a laptop in this price segment.

Display

The display on the VivoBook X509 is pretty bad, and I’ll be very upfront about it. The laptop packs in a 15.6-inch display inside a 14-inch chassis, thanks to its NanoEdge design. However, the panel itself isn’t that great. Sure, you get a Full HD IPS display, but the color accuracy here is just bad. The display feels quite warm from the get-go, and even after spending a good amount of time trying to calibrate/tune it using the company’s TrueTone software, the result was still pretty bad. 

I mean, for most users, it should do the job, if the job refers to office work or web browsing. However, if you’re planning on buying this laptop for watching a movie every now and then, you should look elsewhere. The company claims that it offers a wide viewing angle of 178-degrees, but when the panel itself is so bad, I don’t really see a point of it. 

The display is one of the biggest let downs, and even after considering the price tag, it feels like a disappointment.

Keyboard

Okay, working as a full-time writer and a part-time video presenter means having to spend the entire day on the keyboard. Even in a lot of budget laptops these days, the keyboard game has improved a lot. In fact, the VivoBook X507 remains one of my favorite budget laptops primarily because of its great keyboard. Which is why I was pretty excited to try out this keyboard. However, my experience with the Vivobook X509 has been rather disappointing. Not because it is a bad keyboard per se, but simply because the previous variants had set the bar pretty high.

Let’s talk about the keyboard design itself first. Thanks to its size, ASUS has managed to fit in a full-sized keyboard here, with the Numpad here. The overall layout isn’t bad either. It doesn’t take someone that long to get accustomed to the key sizes, which, to be fair, are pretty decently sized. However, my major issue with the keyboard was with the overall feedback. With a key travel of 1.4mm, there are no complaints there. However, remember that metal plate I talked about in the design section? Well, while it does ensure that there is no flex to the keyboard, the feedback offered is pretty bad. The keys feel rather stiff, and if you are someone like me who types fast and likes to mash the keys, the sound is another thing that might irritate you.

I am averaging at a pace of 67 words per minute with an accuracy of 99% on this keyboard, which isn’t bad. However, the audio feedback offered to me because of my speed makes me want to use earphones every time I work. As an individual, you might not mind it that much, but trust me, people around you are bound to get irritated. It’s a good keyboard which is also quite durable, but that metal sheet does take a toll on the overall experience offered by the keyboard.

Touchpad

The touchpad here is pretty much the same as we’ve seen from previous budget Vivobooks, and that is both a good and bad thing. Speaking about the positives first, you get a Windows Precision Drivers supported touchpad, to ensure all your gestures work just fine. There is also a fingerprint scanner to the top-right corner of the touchpad. Thanks to Windows Hello, you can easily log in to your device. 

Now, all things aren’t that merry. First off is the obvious factor which is the surface. It isn’t quite smooth and offers a recession. That said, such is the case with all budget laptops, so I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. However, if you look at the chassis, you can see that there was a plethora of space available. As such, I just wish that ASUS would have offered a slightly bigger touchpad since that would have really made the gesture experience a whole lot better. In my daily usage, while everything worked fine, switching between desktops did prove to be a hassle, since it is hard to fit all four fingers here. It’s not bad, but there is a scope for improvement.

Audio

For a budget laptop, the audio on the VivoBook X509 is surprisingly good. It features a dual speaker setup that is actually bottom-firing. However, the speakers themselves are quite powerful. And by powerful, I primarily mean loud.

There is a decent amount of bass, but the sound levels are not that good. That said, the overall output feels fine for most use cases, and you shouldn’t have any major issues with the device. There’s also the company’s SonicMaster software to tune the audio as per your liking. It doesn’t bring about any massive changes, but it mostly works for its part. The 3.5mm headphone jack works just as well, but I was actually making use of the Type-C port to plug in my OnePlus Wired Bullets. With Type-C being the future, the audio department also benefits with the inclusion of this port.

Camera

In terms of the camera, the X509 comes equipped with a VGA camera, which is pretty basic, to say the least. There is no clarity here, and even for video calls, you’d have a tough time.

Yes, it is in the right position, and I’ll give ASUS credit for that. However, based on the quality, its best we don’t talk about it. Here’s a camera sample for you to judge for yourself.

PS – that’s the original image without any compression, and the resolution of the image is 640×480 pixels.

Performance

Now performance is a segment where I cannot fully comment about. On one hand, you get the base variant with the latest Intel Core i3-7020U processor, which is a pretty decent processor. However, for our review purposes, ASUS gave us the full-fletched i7-8565U processor. On my review unit, the performance was top notch. However, the laptop is targeted towards the budget segment with its i3 and i5 offerings. While I cannot comment exactly on the performance of each processor per se, I can still confirm that the overall experience wouldn’t be that bad. That is because, for starters, you get an SSD storage as a default across all variants. Additionally, the RAM here is a high-performance DDR4 RAM clocked at 2667MHz. 

Our review unit also comes equipped with the Nvidia MX230 GPU which allows for some lightweight gaming on the side. In my testing, games like Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Rocket League ran well above the 60fps mark with Medium settings. However, the GPU is an optional upgrade. For most users, they would have to stick with the Intel HD Graphics. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, coz lowering down to Low settings would still allow you to play the same games.

Thermals

Okay, now this is a very interesting section. When I was using my review unit, which mind you comes with a dedicated graphics chipset, I hardly noticed it heating up. Yes, I didn’t push it that hard, but even after playing Rocket League for about 30mins straight, the peak temps were around the 64-degree mark, which is pretty fine. However, when I opened this laptop up, I was quite taken aback. As you can see from the image below, there is a single heatsink that connects both the CPU and the GPU, which is fine. However, the fan is located about two inches away, which was honestly mind-boggling at first.

But what’s more mind-boggling was the fact that this works. So, as it turns out, the way this works is similar to a blower system in a desktop-grade graphics card. Basically, the fan sucks in the air from the bottom of the laptop and throws it towards the motherboard. There are plenty of grooves on the motherboard’s surface to allow for easy passage of the air. As a result, the entire motherboard is cooled while also keeping the fan spinning at a quiet pace. Yes, this is a design that would work only for mobile chipsets, but it works pretty well. It is sad that this is a feature that wasn’t well highlighted by the company itself, but that’s why you come to read the reviews at Mr. Phone right?

Upgradability

In terms of upgradability, the laptop once again is great. You get an M.2 slot that is pre-occupied (would be in the retail units) which you can easily swap for a different SSD. The SATA port is also there which can accommodate a 2.5-inch HDD. ASUS does have certain options but those are 5400RPM drives, so I’d recommend getting a 2.5-inch disc on your own and installing it yourself. As for the RAM, 4GB of RAM is soldered on to the underside of the motherboard. However, you still get another RAM slot, that you upgrade with up to 8GB of RAM, taking the total supported memory of the device to 12GB. Even the WiFi card here is swappable. However, considering that this is a WiFi 5 dual-band card, I don’t really see the need to upgrade it.

Battery Life

If you just scroll up a bit to take another look at the internal layout of this laptop, you’ll understand for yourself how the battery life of this laptop would be. The VivoBook X509 houses a 2-cell 32Wh battery inside. 32Wh, which for you mobile users, comes out to be about 4,000mAh. Yeah, that’s about it. I have a smartphone that has a bigger battery than this. As you can judge, battery life isn’t amazing. In my testing, the laptop was able to last for about 3 hours before dying out on me. This includes web browsing, listening to songs on Spotify, and playing a game of Rocket League and PUBG Lite on the side. Do note that this is with the i7 and the MX230 GPU. If you get the entry-level variant, you should get nearly an hour more, since it is a more power-efficient chipset, and the SSD would use less power as well.

Nonetheless, you’d still need to carry a charger with you, which shouldn’t be an issue, since the charger here is pretty small. Also, the laptop comes with support for fast charging. ASUS claims that the VivoBook X509 can be charged up to 60% in under 49 minutes, and that claim does hold true. However, the charging rate does trickle down, and the laptop takes a full 1 hour and 36 minutes to fully charge.

Should you buy the ASUS VivoBook X509?

The only question that remains now is whether you should buy the VivoBook X509 or not. To answer that question, you’d have to look at things objectively. There are multiple configurations of the X509 available. The i3 variant starts at Rs. 30,990, the i5 variant starts at Rs. 42,990, and the i7 variant starts at Rs. 59,990. When you consider its competition, the i3 variant is an easy recommendation. It acts like a great starting point, which also keeps the door open for future upgrades. With the i5-variant, you do get some competition in the form of Acer Aspire 3 and the Dell Inspiron 15. In that segment, it comes down to your preference over portability, power, or battery. Depending upon that, you can choose either of the options. However, with the i7 variant, the VivoBook X509 has no market, considering that at just 5 grand extra, you can get the Acer Nitro 5, which is a full fletched gaming laptop with way better specifications.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a good budget laptop, the ASUS VivoBook X509 is a great choice. However, only the i3 and the i5 variants make sense, for once you cross the 60K price tag, there are much better options available.

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Varun Mirchandani
varun.mirchandani@u2opiamobile.com

Varun is your go-to guy for everything related to technology. Someone with a keen interest in the Android world, he installs a new custom ROM every week and is always living on the bleeding edge of technology. When not writing for Mr. Phone, you can find him gaming on his beastly gaming rig which is also his prized possession.