In recent months we've seen plenty of slim laptops and ultrabooks adding Windows 8 and touch to the portability and performance that ultraportables are known for. While the Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T($689.28 at Amazon UK) may look like more of the same at first glance, it ups the ante with Intel's new fourth-generation processor, discrete Nvidia graphics, and all-day battery life, offering even more of the performance and portability you expect in an ultraportable. But with these sort of slim designs becoming the new normal, the Asus VivoBook V551LB takes top spot for touch-enabled mainstream desktop replacement laptops.

DesignThe VivoBook V551LB-DB71T is styled like an ultrabook, measuring 0.9 by 15.0 by 10.2 inches (HWD), meeting the 23mm thickness requirement but differing in the internal components enough that it doesn't get Intel's standardized ultraportable designation—and it's powerful enough that it leads as a mainstream system. Despite these minor differences, the VivoBook V551LB is still comparable to other 15-inch systems, like the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4010nr($689.28 at Amazon UK), the Dell Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV)($689.28 at Amazon UK), but in some ways, it's closest to the Sony VAIO E15 (SVE15116FXS)($689.28 at Amazon UK), our Editors' Choice desktop replacement for last summer. With a metal-clad lid and palmrest and durable molded plastic chassis, the VivoBook V551LB is just a little heavy, weighing 5.3 pounds.

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Aside from the portable design, there's another element in common with current Ultrabooks: the touch screen. The VivoBook V551LB features a 15.6-inch display with 10-digit capacitive touch. Unlike the 1080p displays seen on the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4010nr and the Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS)($689.28 at Amazon UK), the VivoBook V551LB offers a basic 1366-by-768 resolution display. For Web browsing and office productivity this shouldn't be much of an issue, but you'll definitely notice the difference between the full HD picture on those laptops and the boilerplate 720p quality that you get on the VivoBook V551LB. While the display may be a little lackluster, the audio quality was fairly decent thanks to Asus SonicMaster sound and Waves MaxxAudio audio enhancement.

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The keyboard is a standard, well-spaced chiclet design, with an all-metal palmrest and deck that offer a solid feel and no flexing while typing. The adjacent 10-key numeric pad doesn't feel quite as spacious due to a compact design with slightly narrower keys, but it will still be a big help anytime you need to enter in a lot of numbers. The trackpad has a cool metal surface, which is smooth and comfortable. Right and left clicking occurs in the lower corners, but the entire trackpad is clickable, and offers support for Windows 8 gestures.

Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T Review

FeaturesThe VivoBook V551LB-DB71T is outfitted with a three USB ports (two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0), an SD card slot, full-size HDMI out, a stereo headset jack, Ethernet, and a Kensington lock slot lets you tether the laptop for security. A tray loading DVD+-RW optical drive lets you read and burn to DVD—a feature that's become increasingly difficult to find as manufacturers jettison the drives to offer slimmer designs. Inside the laptop you also have 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for all of your wireless needs.

A 1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive offers plenty of storage space, but unlike an ultrabook, you won't get the additional cache of flash-memory needed for faster boot and wake times. Preinstalled on the drive is Windows 8 (64-bit), along with a selection of programs and apps, like a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 365, Intel Anti-Theft, Skype, FreshPaint, and Asus Vibe 2.0. The VivoBook V551LB also comes with Asus WebStorage, providing 32GB of free cloud storage for three years. Asus is also generous with its warranty, with a one-year international warranty and accidental damage protection, with 24/7 technical support and a 30-day "no-bright spot" warranty on the display.

PerformanceThe VivoBook V551LB-DB71T boasts a fourth-generation 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U processor—also seen in the Sony VAIO Pro 11 (SVP11215PXB) —which is one of the first of Intel's new Haswell CPUs to hit the laptop market. With the combined might of a fourth-generation processor and Nvidia GeForce GT740 graphics (with 2GB of dedicated memory), the Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T offers category-leading performance in almost every test we ran.

The only test that it didn't top was PCMark 7, where the VivoBook V551LB scored 3,176 points, topping the previous Editors' Choice Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51($689.28 at Amazon UK) (3,013 points), but falling behind the Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS) (4,112 points) and the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook 15-4010nr (4,720 points) thanks largely to the fact that those systems boasted faster solid-state drives, while the VivoBook V551LB does not.

In every other benchmark test, however, the VivoBook V551LB shot to the top. It scored 2.92 points in Cinebench, just ahead of the Dell Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV) (2.89) but nearly a full point ahead of the HP 15-4010nr (1.97). It also zipped ahead in multimedia tests, finishing Handbrake in 1 minute 10 seconds and Photoshop in 4:17.

It also stood out in graphics tests, thanks to the Nvidia GeForce GT740 discrete GPU. It's 3DMark 11 scores (2,900 Entry, 520 Extreme) were well ahead of systems using Intel integrated graphics, but even the Nvidia-equipped Acer Aspire V5-571PG-9814 fell behind (1,981 Entry, 358 Extreme). It didn't produce playable scores in our gaming tests—serious gaming is out of the question—but it again led the category.

The VivoBook V551LB also led in battery life, lasting an impressive 7 hours 47 minutes on our battery rundown test with its 65Wh battery. This is a significant lead over comparable systems—the closest was the Dell Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV), with 4:49—the dramatic difference in battery life can be laid entirely at the feet of the new fourth-gen Intel processor. The new processor design utilizes more power efficient microarchitecture, so these sorts of gains aren't unexpected.

Compared with other slim systems, like the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T($689.28 at Amazon UK) or the budget-friendly Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51, the Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T is impressive. It may not bring a lot of new features or radical design changes to the 15-inch laptop space, but with a fourth-generation Intel processor, Nvidia graphics, and category-leading performance, it doesn't have to. This 15-inch laptop may look like an ultrabook, but it's more of a desktop replacement, and succeeds the Sony VAIO E15 (SVE15116FXS) as our Editors' Choice for mainstream desktop replacement laptops.

Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T

4.0Editors' ChoiceSee It$740.00 at AmazonMSRP $999.99ProsConsThe Bottom Line

The Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T desktop replacement laptop is deceptively sleek and slim, offering category leading performance and battery life that will carry you through the day.

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