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Bought my first PC in 8 years: ASUS VivoBook S550 wins in the budget + specs department


I’ve been an exclusive Mac user since 2005. It’s a phase I guess. Most of my friends went through the whole PhilMug pilgrimage and you gotta admit that at some point till about OS X Tiger, Macintosh spelled ultimate productivity. One thing though — although I was on the “Mac and will never go back craze” at the time, I had not abandoned Windows, which was precisely why Bootcamp was a boon in OS X Leopard. The drill was the same for all my MacBooks after my circa 2005 iBook to have Windows installed on the side. And for what? The games of course. It was always about the games.

The thing is, dual booting into BootCamp was always a chore and I’ve been seeing pretty epic touch screen hardware all running Windows 8 and it was really just a matter of choosing a rig off the shopping mall to update myself with what’s new in the PC hardware department. As someone who’s been reviewing computers for more than 10 years, I’ve grown quite agnostic to specs and I really need to see something out of the box to be genuinely surprised.

And so begins my little story.

Anyone who would look through an ASUS catalog will find the VivoBook S550 series to be a pretty versatile little number. The model itself has three iterations — I’ll get to this later — but what’s important to note is that on the store shelves, the standard display unit usually sold is the VivoBook S550CA or as it is simply labeled, the VivoBook S550. From the specs list, it’s quite impressive: metal finish, Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB Hard Drive and a full keyboard with numerical pad thereby pushing the screen real estate to 15.6 inches. It also has the usual bells and whistles found in most modern day laptops such as a 1.3MP webcam, HDMI port, 3 USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0), SD card reader, Super DVD writer, VGA out, and your RJ45 LAN cable slot. Oh and did we mention touch screen for Windows 8? Yeah pretty epic. And guess how much? Around PHP 35,000. Boom.

But that’s the standard package and as a gamer, I was a bit disappointed to see that this stock model came with an integrated graphics card found in most ultrabooks. The Intel HD Graphics 4000 will run Portal 2 but if you’re going to get geared up for next-gen gaming, you’ll definitely need a more powerful graphics card from NVIDIA or ATI. Which is where the story gets interesting.

asus vivobook s550

asus s550__1

asus s550__2

It seems that ASUS keeps some stock of a second iteration, the VivoBook S550CM, which is everything I just mentioned above, but comes with a pretty doped up graphics card — the NVIDIA GeForce GT 635M (with 2GB DDR3 VRAM). That’s an upper-middle range video card right there. And guess what? It costs almost the same.

I usually configure my devices at a local 3rd wave coffee gallery called Magnum Opus. If you read some of my work on 8List, you’ll see how I give this place heavy praise for its great coffee and well, the really fast LTE signal that permeates throughout the BF Homes area. Full bars. 1 megabyte per second downloads. Yay. OK so there’s a point to all of this. When I posted the box on Facebook, it appears that Jonathan Choi, head bean of MO also had the same rig and we compared notes as to how “special” it was to find such a unit. It’s the perfect computer for the price and specs. It’s too generous to be honest and that’s the amazing thing. It seems that ASUS doesn’t keep a huge stock of this higher end model (where “higher” really just means a better video card) and Jon had to really search for it. It was the same experience with me as I got the unit directly from ASUS and had to inquire further about the model with the built in GT 635M video card. If you bump up the stock 4GB RAM to 8GB, it would perform much better. As it is with the stock RAM, you’re getting 58fps on Borderlands 2 and 34fps on medium settings for Skyrim. So that will definitely boost your performance.

asus s550_1

If anything, I really would like to urge ASUS to re-market this fine piece of work to gamers on a budget and not let its less powerful sibling take the center stage. Jonathan tells me he got his unit for around PHP 35,000.00 but ASUS’ official SRP is at PHP 36,995.00 so yeah, it is still quite a deal! As I said, it’s almost too generous: you get the widescreen real estate of 16:9 plus you get to run most games between middle to high graphics settings. And the finish looks fantastic.

Buy it. It comes with a nice bag. Go.

Full Specs

Intel® Core™ i5 3317U Processor
Windows 8
Intel® HM76 Express Chipset
DDR3 1600 MHz SDRAM, 2 x DIMM socket for expansion up to 8 GB SDRAM
15.6″ 16:9 HD (1366×768) LED Backlight Glare panel
NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 635M with 2GB DDR3 VRAM
2.5″ SATA // 500GB 5400
Super-Multi DVD
Card Reader
HD Web Camera
Integrated 802.11 b/g/n
Built-in Bluetoothâ„¢ V4.0 (Optional)
10/100/1000 Base T
1 x COMBO audio jack
1 x VGA port/Mini D-sub 15-pin for external monitor
1 x USB 3.0 port(s)
2 x USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert
1 x HDMI

By Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast and sitting Techbology Editor for The Philippine STAR.

He is also an EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

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