- Processor: The N3050 and N3060 Braswell Celeron processors were poor and struggled with basic tasks, e.g. rendering complex websites, editing larger Google Docs documents and moving between browser tabs. Intel then introduced the Apollo Lake N3350 that improved performance but the processor still struggled to keep up with moderate workloads. The Gemini Lake N4000 goes further than previous generations and offers adequate performance.
- The ASUS VivoBook E203MA weighs only 0.99 grams - this makes it the lightest laptop in its category.
- The trackpad is serviceable but is inferior to trackpads you get even with the cheapest Chromebooks. The chiclet keyboard, on the other hand, is positive with its good key travel.
- Entry-level laptops are designed as mobile devices and usually, in comparison to other laptops, you expect a minimum full day usage from one charge cycle. The ASUS VivoBook E203MA hits the standard but falls short in comparison to HP’s Stream laptops. I found the laptop just goes over the eight-hour of mixed usage when running in battery saving mode and at around 40% screen brightness. Similar to other vendors, ASUS overestimates the battery to ‘up to 10 hours’.
- HP is known for good audio output and the HP Stream laptops, based on my experience, produce the best audio in this category. The ASUS VivoBook E203MA’s audio does not match HP’s level but is clear and loud enough.
- Subscriptions: The VivoBook comes with a one-year Office 365 subscription but there is no one-year 1TB OneDrive cloud storage subscription (HP bundles both subscriptions with their HP Stream laptops). The bundled Office 365 subscription is a positive as not all vendors in this category bundle the subscription.
- Storage & RAM: The VivoBook, following the positive trend in this category, is configured with 4GB RAM. Similarly, keeping with the trend in this category, ASUS decided to keep the 32GB as the default storage option. A 64GB option is available but is restricted, it appears, to North America. The available 32GB storage is workable but you need to constantly monitor storage and select which software package is necessary. The available SD Card slot is useful but is no substitute for internal storage, e.g. Microsoft has not, so far, supported the syncing of OneDrive files to an external storage drive. However, workable is not a good user experience and vendors should up the minimum storage to 64GB.
- Mediocre glossy screen: The VivoBook E203MA’s screen - a glossy non-IPS panel - is mediocre. It is similar in quality to the HP Stream 14’s glossy screen. Colours and viewing angles are poor and to get optimal viewing it is necessary to set the screen angle to 90 degrees. Tilt the screen slightly and colours shift. I don’t think that the VivoBook being an entry-level laptop justifies ASUS’s screen choice. Acer, for example, fit some of their cheapest Chromebooks with an IPS display. Even the HP Stream 11’s matte non-IPS Screen is more colourful.
Due to availability, I haven’t tested the N4000 HP Stream 11. However, it is a better choice, considering the previous generation’s screen and excellent battery life, coupled with an improved N4000 processor. I don’t understand why HP decided to restrict its availability to selected countries.
- Very light.
- Improved performance.
- Good keyboard.
- One-year Office 365 subscription included.
- Mediocre screen.
- 32GB storage is not enough.
- Battery life acceptable but could be better.