With the new school and college year under way, it’s time to focus on the new ‘back-to-school’ offerings in the laptop market. The mid-range and mainstream laptop segments these days offer a good mix of features and performance and you can find various form factors as well to suit your working style.
Today, we’ll be testing Asus’ newly launched VivoBook Max X541UA, which is a mainstream laptop targeted at students or anyone looking to buy a budget laptop for general work. With a large display and a full-sized keyboard at hand, let’s see if the new VivoBook Max makes for a worthy contender.
Given its mainstream target, the body of the X541UA is mostly plastic. The fit and finish are decent, but the quality could have been better. Take the lid for example, which flexes very easily and isn’t very thick. Despite this, we didn’t see any major warping when we applied pressure on the lid, but we did notice a slight ripple at the left edge of the display when we opened and tilted the lid, which isn't a very good sign.
The lid of the Asus VivoBook Max X541UA has a textured pattern that doesn’t attract fingerprints. We have more plastic on the lower half of the laptop, but it feels more durable. The palm rest area is spacious and has a similar texture as the back of the lid. You get a full-sized keyboard but the cutouts for the chiclet keys feel a bit crude as there’s visible excess plastic. The keys themselves are well spaced and are pretty comfortable for typing. Despite the 2.3mm travel distance, they don’t feel floaty or spongy.
All the ports are placed on the left. We have one USB Type-C (USB 3.1, Gen1) port, two standard USB ports (1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0), 10/100 Ethernet, VGA, HDMI and a headphone/ microphone combo socket. The SD card reader is placed on the front, just below the power and battery status LEDs, and there is a DVD writer on the right. While a Type-C port is a nice addition, there are only two full-sized USB ports, which, in our opinion, are a lot more useful for most people. The bottom is completely sealed off and the battery is not removable. There are intake vents underneath while the hot air is vented out from the vents on the left.
The Asus VivoBook Max X541UA comes with a full-HD resolution screen, which we appreciate, as more often than not we have to settle with a 1366x768 display at this price point. With a 15.6-inch screen size, text and icons are a lot less jagged, which makes reading a lot better. However, colours and viewing angles range from average to quite poor. This anti-glare panel produces slightly pale colours and there’s visible banding across gradients, even with high-resolution 4K video files. Vertical and horizontal viewing angles are also very narrow, so if you’re not sitting dead centre with the lid tilted to the optimal position, you’re going to see distorted colours. Even with the Asus Splendid screen tuning software, we couldn’t improve this. It’s also important to note that the display only supports 45 percent of the NTSC colour gamut so this is not the best tool for photo editing or any other colour-sensitive work.
Physically, the VivoBook Max X541UA is like any other mainstream laptop. The nearly-all-plastic construction doesn’t give you any sense of premiumness. Like most 15.6-inch laptops, it is a bit on the heavier side at 1.9kg and a thick too at 27.6mm. We also would have liked better spacing between the USB ports as you could run into an issue with thicker devices or dongles.
The VivoBook Max is powered by Intel’s Core i3-7100U CPU, which is based on the Kaby Lake architecture. This is a dual-core CPU with a maximum frequency of 2.4GHz and HyperThreading. Along with this, we have a single 4GB stick of DDR4 RAM and a 1TB 2.5-inch mechanical hard drive. Graphics duties are handled by the CPU’s onboard HD Graphics 620 capabilities. Since this is a low-end CPU, we didn’t encounter any overheating and the exhaust fan ran silently. However, the vibration of the hard drive can be felt across the palm rest area and the keyboard, which is quite distracting when you’re trying to type. The hard drive in our unit also made an annoying intermittent ‘ticking’ sound, which was faintly audible even when the drive was idle.
The rest of the specifications include a VGA webcam, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, stereo speakers and a 3-cell, 36Whr battery. Asus ships the X541UA with Windows 10 Home 64-bit and like always, there are a bunch of programs pre-installed with it. There’s a limited-time subscription to McAfee LiveSafe, a trial version of Office 365, and a suite of applications from Asus including Spendid, ICEpower for audio, USB Charger+, Live Update, and Giftbox, which shows a curated list of apps that you can download.
As a general-purpose laptop, the VivoBook Max is good for those who need to type a lot. The well-spaced-out keys and good tactile feedback make this a very comfortable experience. We used the laptop for a few hours over the course of our regular work day and didn’t have any fatigue issues. The high-resolution screen also helps here as text and smaller images don’t have the usual jaggedness that you typically find in HD displays around this price point. We also like the fact that you can use the VivoBook Max comfortably on your lap even when it is charging as it doesn’t get too hot.
Having said this, Windows performance is quite sluggish, which could be down to having just 4GB of RAM. On average, we found roughly 900MB of free RAM available, that too with only a few browser tabs open and small apps such as Paint running in the background. According to Asus, the laptop supports a maximum of 12GB of RAM so an upgrade should help smoothen things out.
Performance in synthetic benchmarks is just about average. We got scores of 2600, 2284, and 2500 in PCMark 8's Home, Creative, and Work test suites. In Cinebench R15, we got a CPU score of 235 and OpenGL score of 30fps. While this laptop isn’t suited for gaming, less intense titles from the Windows Store do work. The trackpad works well with Windows 10 gestures too. We found the quality of the VGA webcam to be quite poor as the footage was noisy even in a well lit room.
The laptop boasts of stereo 3W speakers and Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio enhancement. The AudioWizard app lets you cycle between equaliser presets. Audio quality is actually pretty good, especially for movies. Vocals are distinct and loud, and sound isn’t all that tinny. Since the speakers sit above the keyboard, audio is always clear no matter where you place this laptop.
In our Battery Eater Pro test, we managed to get around 2 hours and 17 minutes of runtime, which is not great. PCMark’s battery test, which cycles through a bunch of media and browser related tasks, ran for 3 hours and 39 minutes. With actual usage, we managed to get a little more than 4 hours. This is still below average and won’t get you through a full workday.
Asus’s new VivoBook Max X541UA is one of the least expensive laptops available with a full-HD screen and 7th gen Core i3 CPU. It’s is currently available at retail chains such as Croma as well as smaller local shops, but you might not have much luck finding it online.
Its closest competition is the Dell Inspiron 15 5567, which is priced slightly higher. The VivoBook Max scores well for its comfortable keyboard and decently loud speakers. The full-HD display also delivers relatively sharp text and images. However, performance is a bit sluggish overall in apps and in the Windows UI, which is to be expected with just 4GB of RAM. The quality of the display is also not that great and we expected much better battery life. The fit and finish could use some finesse too. If budget is your primary concern, this is a choice you can consider.
Price (MRP): Rs. 37,990
Ratings (Out of 5)