Asus has launched the VivoBook 14 X403 just a few months after the VivoBook 14X412† At first glance the two might end up as similar products in terms of how they look and what they offer on the inside, but a closer look will reveal that there is quite a bit of difference. While the X412 is a typical mainstream mid-range laptop from Asus that comes in multiple variants, the X403 is a mid-range offering that comes in just one variant. But that’s only because it helps Asus push the X403’s USP: long battery life.
Asus has equipped the VivoBook 14 X403 with a whopping 72Wh internal battery. Other laptops in the same 50,000 rupee range, on the other hand, have a battery that delivers 35-50 Wh, depending on the make and model. The VivoBook 14 X412 that we rated a while back packs a 37Wh unit, which in our review lasted 2 hours 25 minutes on our standard battery benchmark test. So what about the new VivoBook 14 X403? Let’s find out.
In the only true variant in which the Asus VivoBook 14 X403 is available, it features an Intel Core i5-8265U (Whiskey Lake) CPU with 8GB of RAM and integrated graphics. Storage is provided by a 512 GB PCIe NVMe solid-state drive. While the spec sheet looks healthy for the Rs 54,990 Asus charges, there is one concern with the new Asus laptop: the RAM simply cannot be upgraded as it is a soldered chip with no empty slots around it on the motherboard. Thus, the X403 is intended for customers who are fairly confident that their memory requirement will not exceed 8 GB in the present or future. Fortunately, the M.2 solid-state drive chip can be upgraded to a maximum of 1TB, although Asus warns that the battery is optimized for the included 512GB chip.
The review unit did well in our CPU benchmark tests, but lost points on our GPU benchmark tests. In PCMark 8’s Accelerated Creative test, the X403 achieved 3724 points, which is slightly lower than the 3758 points the X412 achieved. Not having a discrete graphics card, the X403 lost out to the MX250-powered X412. On 3DMark’s Fire Strike and Cloud Gate, the X403 scored 1175 and 9401 points, respectively. The X412, on the other hand, scored 2079 and 10065 points respectively on the same two tests. The drive speeds on the X403 were comparable to those on the X412.
They are neck and neck here
I was able to open many everyday applications such as Chrome, Explorer, Microsoft Store, Word, Excel and WhatsApp for PC on multiple virtual desktops on the review unit. Opening a dozen copies of Chrome with multiple tabs open in each window didn’t seem to make any difference to the laptop’s vibrancy. I was pleased to find that switching quickly and frequently between Windows and virtual desktops during a busy work day showed no signs of slowing down or stuttering. Unfortunately, gaming was not possible on the X403 due to the lack of a dedicated graphics card. Both Doom and Metro: Last Light ran at an average frame rate of 16 frames per second in Medium graphics settings (one level above the lowest).
X403 loses on GPU testing of the MX250-powered X412
The VivoBook 14 X403 has a fairly large 72Wh quad-cell lithium-ion polymer non-removable internal battery, which Asus says is good for up to 24 hours of uninterrupted local video playback. On our standard battery benchmark test, the review unit scored 6 hours and 16 minutes. Compared to the X412’s score on the same test, it’s an impressive triple jump. The only other laptop to beat the X403 in the mainstream category of our books is the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Book 2 with a score of 6 hours 55 minutes.
A stunning 6 hours, 16 minutes on our benchmark test
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how long the review unit could run off the wall. With Wi-Fi + Bluetooth enabled and the screen set to about 70-80 percent brightness on the X403, I’ve put together several documents, scrolled through countless Chrome windows, music played in the background, a ten-minute YouTube movie in Full Viewed HD, downloaded files, and installed some lightweight applications. After four hours of doing all that, I noticed the battery had dropped from 82 percent to 38 percent. On another such run, I noticed the battery dropped from 82 percent to 61 percent in about 2 hours and 45 minutes. As you can probably see, the Asus VivoBook 14 X403 is definitely designed for users who are constantly on the go.
Windows tends to be too optimistic with that remaining time figure
Build and design
The VivoBook 14 X403 looks neat and presentable in an office environment, but not particularly attractive or different. In a sea of equally priced mainstream laptops, it is sure to get lost. In fact, I initially had some trouble distinguishing it from the X412, but that’s probably because both models are offered in the same unexciting silver. That said, the construction of the X403 is a lot better than that of the X412 as it uses an all aluminum chassis certified to MIL-STD 810G standards. In short, the VivoBook 14 X403 is built solidly for work and play. You can expect yourself to pick it up and carry it around with a sense of pride and confidence.
Clean, slate-like metal top cover
The silver-colored metal top cover of the X403 feels smooth and has a lot of grip. With a thickness of 16.5 millimeters and a weight of 1.35 kilograms, the X403 is comfortably compact for a 14-inch model. Opening (or closing) the lid with one hand shows no signs of flex. On the inside we see a matte display surrounded by rather thin (4.1 mm) matte black bezels. The color of the keyboard island (including the touchpad and keys on the keyboard) matches that of the rest of the laptop, which in my opinion oversimplifies the overall look of the laptop. This VivoBook could certainly have used a little more variety in its color scheme.
Thin bezels around the screen
Screen, audio and IO
The screen on the Asus VivoBook 14 X403 is predictably a 14-inch LCD with LED backlighting and Full HD resolution. Asus notes that it can reproduce 45 percent of colors in the NTSC color space. In my experience, the device is both bright and colorful for everyday browsing and video playback. The screen is bright enough and works well in both a sun-filled balcony and a conference room with bright lights directly above the laptop. The anti-glare finish makes a huge positive difference to the overall readability of text in a browser window. In other words, this screen is perfect for users who want to read and browse a lot.
14-inch LCD screen is bright and colorful
The two speakers at the bottom on the VivoBook 14 X403 work fine for casual music playback and quick video calls in a quiet office space, but are asking to be replaced with a good set of external speakers in noisier rooms. Highs and mids come through without sounding too muffled or distorted at maximum volume, bringing out the lows better. As with most Asus products, a small notification asks if you’ve switched to a different audio output source every time you plug in a pair of headphones. This can be a bit annoying with frequent use of headphones.
Speakers face down as usual
I am happy to say that there is no shortage of IO ports on the VivoBook 14 X403. On the left side of the laptop we see a power port with round pins, a full-size HDMI 1.4 port, a USB-A 3.1 port and a USB-C 3.1 port along with a number of status indicators. On the right we see a USB-A 2.0 port, an SD card slot and a 3.5mm audio jack for headsets. A small, quick-to-read fingerprint reader is located in the upper-right corner of the laptop’s touchpad.
Gates on the left
Gates on the right
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard of the Asus VivoBook 14 X403 is comfortable for typing long documents and emails. Like the ones on the X412, the keys on the X403 have just the right amount of travel and resistance. It looks like Asus has finally nailed the feel of the keys on its latest VivoBook series. That said, the keyboard layout itself could use some improvement.
For example, the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys are combined with function keys on the top row. Users who need them and the function keys will be forced to use the Fn key. In addition, the power button could have been moved away from the Delete key to avoid accidental sleep or hibernation.
Comfortable keyboard despite some minor layout issues
In addition, Asus could have chosen a slightly darker color for the keys on the X403 while retaining the silver base, as the white backlighting under the silver keycaps often results in reduced contrast when viewing the lettering on the keys. In other words, it’s like looking at white text against a white background: unreadable and therefore useless.
The touchpad on the X403 is a precision unit, meaning multi-finger taps and swipes work right out of the box with no need for a third-party utility or driver on Windows 10. The surface is smooth yet grippy, making it is easy to tap, click and swipe. The left and right buttons, which are below the touchpad, are a little hard to press, but they shouldn’t be a problem in the long run. In summary, the touchpad on the X403 is fine for everyday use.
Smooth touchpad accompanied by a fast fingerprint reader
The Asus VivoBook 14 X403 is a finely developed product with many special features. The comfortably compact fourteen-incher offers a remarkably long battery life, making it ideal for users who need to be away from the mains for many hours at a time due to their work. It also delivers top-notch performance for users who want to edit long documents, work on spreadsheets, browse intensively, and watch online videos. That said, it’s not good for anyone who wants to play video games on it.
You can’t go wrong with this Asus laptop
While the VivoBook 14 X403 has many positives, the single and perhaps biggest flaw is a painful deal breaker for users who want a memory upgrade in the future. As mentioned before, the X403 is for customers who are confident that their memory needs will not exceed the soldered 8GB in the present or the future. Aside from that one crucial limitation, the Asus VivoBook 14 X403 turns out to be a fine mainstream laptop for Rs 54,990.