The Asus VivoBook E403SA is a top-notch work companion for budget-minded business users. For $400, you get a 14-inch notebook with long battery life, snappy performance, a gorgeous display and a much sleeker, sturdier design than you'd expect from a system this affordable. You also get a comfortable keyboard that's good for marathon work sessions. The VivoBook E403SA is not as fast as some rival systems, but it's still good enough to be a top pick for workers on a budget.
Who says an affordable notebook has to look cheap? The VivoBook E403SA has a lovely aluminum shell that looks like it belongs on a much pricier system. Its silver lid sports a slick, brushed-metal effect, as does the keyboard deck.
Perhaps more important, the VivoBook E403SA feels sturdier than most laptops in its price range. The aluminum construction feels rigid and durable, which is a perk for commuters who need to lug it back and forth between home and the office.
Commuters will also appreciate the system's lightweight design. At 3.18 lbs., it's noticeably lighter than rivals such as the Lenovo Ideapad 300S (3.6 lbs.), the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 (3.8 lbs.) and the Toshiba Satellite Radius 14 (4.5 lbs.). I barely noticed the VivoBook E403SA in my work bag while I toted it around during my testing period.
The notebook also offers a pretty good selection of ports, considering its thin design and low cost. The left edge includes a USB 3.0 port for connecting accessories; an HDMI port for linking the notebook to a desktop monitor or projector; and a USB Type-C port, which supports fast data transfer and can be used to connect many newer accessories. No competing machine offers a USB Type-C port, which helps future-proof the system.
Meanwhile, the notebook's right edge adds a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot for expanding the system's 128GB of internal storage.
Low-cost laptops usually come with low-res displays, which makes it difficult to get any serious work done. That's another big reason the VivoBook E403SA stands out: Its full-HD, 1920 x 1080-pixel display is a real rarity on notebooks in this price range. The higher screen resolution is essential for split-screen multitasking, and it lets you see much more of a document you're working on at once.
The 14-inch display could be a bit brighter, though. Topping out at 201 nits, it's dimmer than the Ideapad 300S (225 nits), as well as the thin-and-light-laptop average of 245 nits. A brighter display would be easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight, though the VivoBook E403SA's screen is fine for typical indoor use.
The VivoBook E403SA provides a more comfortable keyboard than you'd expect on such a slim laptop. You get a decent 1.4 millimeters of key travel and snappy feedback on each stroke, which makes for a pretty nice typing experience overall, even though I prefer a layout with slightly deeper key travel.
The touchpad also felt pretty good, with a nice smooth finish that let my finger glide easily. The pad itself clicks down firmly for left and right clicks, without making too much noise.
Don't expect any special security options on the VivoBook E403SA. As is typical for notebooks under $600, it lacks features like hardware-enabled encryption and a fingerprint reader for more secure sign-ons. The notebook does have a security lock slot on its right edge, though, which is handy for physically securing the notebook at your desk.
The VivoBook E403SA bucked my expectations in the battery department, effortlessly outlasting rival laptops. It ran for an impressive 9 hours and 2 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That blows away the competition, including the Satellite Radius 14 (6:22), the Ideapad 300S (6:25) and the Inspiron 14 3000 (6:33). The bottom line is that the VivoBook E403SA is one of the only notebooks in its class that can last through the end of the workday and beyond.
Workers who need a little extra processing oomph may decide that the VivoBook E403SA can't give them what they need. Still, I found that the system provides pretty decent performance during everyday productivity tasks, such as editing documents and spreadsheets in Microsoft Office, and browsing the web. The system sped along nicely during moderate multitasking, and I didn't notice any slowdown when I juggled more than a dozen tabs in my Chrome web browser.
The VivoBook E403SA is equipped with an Intel Pentium N3700 processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That configuration allowed the system to rack up a pretty respectable score of 3,341 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That middle-of-the-road mark is about on a par with the Pentium-powered Inspiron 14 3000 (3,413), but lags behind some rival systems, such as the Core i3-equipped Satellite Radius 14 (4,671) and the Core i5-powered Ideapad 300S (5,753).
The VivoBook didn't fare particularly well on our OpenOffice test, taking 13 minutes and 31 seconds to match 20,000 names and addresses. That's not terrible considering the price of the machine, and it even outdid the Inspiron 14 3000 (13:33). The Ideapad 300S (4:31) and the Satellite Radius 14 (6:31) finished much more quickly, though.
For $400, it's hard to do better than this. Asus' VivoBook E403SA is a seriously solid work machine, offering a slew of features you'd generally expect on a pricier model. Those features include a sturdy aluminum design, a full-HD display, long battery life and a comfy keyboard.
Lenovo's Ideapad 300S offers faster performance, but it also costs $130 more and doesn't last nearly as long on a charge. The VivoBook E403SA is the more well-rounded system, and I highly recommend it for budget-minded business users with only basic computing needs.