ASUS Vivobook OLED M3500 review: Good but there’s no avoiding the design quirks

Quick Verdict: For beginner creators looking for a fantastic, vibrant screen on an easily portable laptop, the Vivobook 15” Pro OLED delivers a solid experience. However, it’s always at risk of being lost in the shadow of some bizarre design quirks and multitasking hardware limitations.

Pros

  • Great OLED screen
  • Lovely keyboard and big touchpad
  • Solid battery life vs performance
  • Value for money in lower spec variants
Cons

  • Bizarre port choice and placement
  • Centralised touchpad is annoying
  • Advanced creatives will be left wanting higher specs
  • Speakers are nerfed

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It's no easy feat keeping across the range of ASUS laptops. There are Zenbooks, Chomebooks, Vivobooks, Studiobooks and ExpertBooks (with a capital B). There are ROGs and TUFs too, as well as stacks of variants of each. So, who is the ASUS Vivobook 15 OLED for?

It fits into the "creatives" category, at least in terms of the way ASUS divvies up its audience. But more importantly, it's for creatives on a budget. Or beginner creatives if you like.

My immediate reaction when I picked it up was that it felt quite light and portable for a 15-inch screen. It's not pushing the crazy levels of the LG Gram's featherweight approach, but it's still only 1.65kg. With that in mind, I was surprised when I opened it up to see a stunning OLED screen and realised how much power it had under the hood.

So, does the ASUS Vivobook 15-inch Pro OLED live up to its potential? Will it make the cut for our best laptops for 2022?


ASUS Vivobook OLED M3500 review: Features

Asus Vivobook OLED review

Buying ASUS laptops in Australia is annoying. The official site has no store, so you can't go on there and play around with the different specs to see how it impacts the price. It's more of a dog's breakfast jumping between retailers and trying to see what the mix of CPU, RAM and SSD is and how that impacts the price.

Most models share the same Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card, although the lowest-end variants opt for integrated AMD Radeon GPU. You should avoid that if possible if you intend to work with video and Photoshop, or play modern games. The RTX 3050 is a middle tier laptop card in regards to might. However, it is supported by a fast m.2 PCIe 3.0 SSD hard drive and speedy Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 connectivity. Sound is handled by Harman Kardon.

Interestingly, you can toggle between 3 power modes: Whisper, Balanced and Performance, via the ASUS app. The Whisper mode may be particularly useful for when you're in a meeting, shooting direct from your webcam or simply in a crowded area.

The built-in 720p webcam comes with a privacy shield so you can walk nude around your studio with confidence. Plus, there is now AI driven noise-cancelling technology that ensures the mic provides a clear voice during calls and conferencing.

ASUS Vivobook OLED M3500 review: Design

Asus Vivobook 15

While we're talking chassis, there's a badge on the front with the ASUS branding. It doesn't look bad, but it is raised as opposed to etched into the lid. This creates an unnecessary catch point when pulling it in and out of bags. Plus, the cooling vent underneath the keyboard feels very open and I wonder how it will collect dust over time.

Inside the laptop are 2 cooling fans and what ASUS calls IceCool Plus thermal technology. I was happy with both the fan sound the ASUS Vivobook 15-inch Pro OLED produced, even under load, and the temperature. I have read of others hearing high fan sound under load, but I didn't experience it.

The touchpad is large at 5.9 inches and offers multi-touch support. It's significantly bigger than pre-2021 models and the boost in working space is appreciable. It does make the cardinal sin of being positioned centrally to the full keyboard, rather than centred to the space bar. This means that the wrist of your right hand awkwardly sits over the touchpad. I always find myself subconsciously typing with my wrist slightly up in the air, which is tiring.

There are 2 colour choices: Quiet Blue (which is effectively charcoal) and Cool Silver.

Poor form on ports

Asus Vivobook OLED review

There's a wide range of ports available, but they're curious in their selection and placement. By curious I mean, "What the hell were they thinking?"

The HDMI 1.4 port is the only port I'd call modern. And even then, its superpowers are nerfed by the fact that this is a 1080p machine. There is a USB-C 3.2 port which is modern-ish, but it provides no upstream power on the AMD model, and only enough on the Intel mode to run at low performance. Lame. Then, of the 3 USB-A ports, only 1 is gen 3, with the rest being the now ancient gen 2.

In 2022, I'd argue you should have gone with 2 or 3 USB-C ports, and maybe 1 USB-A 3.2 port.

Also, a questionable design decision sees ASUS put all the fast ports on the right side of the laptop. Well, for the 90% of us that are right-handed at least. This is because content creators will almost certainly be using a Type-C external HD for storing large video files and the like. Or docking the laptop on occasion to bigger monitors via the HDMI port. When you do this, you have cables going directly through your mouse zone.

I fear this alone could be a deal-breaker for many users.

There's a micro-SD slot, which at least makes sense from the perspective of this being a laptop for creators, and a headphone jack. All the laptops come with Windows 11, as you'd expect in 2022.

All in on OLED

There's plenty to like about the ASUS Vivobook 15" Pro's OLED screen. While the design of the laptop is poor in general (more on that in a tick), the OLED NanoEdge screen almost makes up for it. It's vibrant and sharp, delivering brilliant colours made doubly impactful thanks to its deep blacks. As a laptop designed for creators, the value of this screen can't be underestimated. But it means the laptop also doubles nicely as a multimedia device.

The 1080p HDR display delivers 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, a fantastic 0.2ms response time, up to 600 nits of brightness (but you should assume 400 nits from what I could see) and achieves 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut. It does well on blue light emissions as well.

However, it offers no touch support, which is unfortunate for creatives. Especially those using Adobe software.

It's not the most elegantly positioned screen. The blocky bevel is a bit on the thick side. The camera is very discrete, but the shield feels flimsy and clumsy to operate. In fact, there's a very plasticky feel to the entire chassis, which is actually aluminium. It may help make it light, but it doesn't feel expensive. It does feel sturdy though, and the hinge holding the screen in place offers good support and minimal flex.


ASUS Vivobook OLED M3500 review: Performance

Asus Vivobook OLED review

The ASUS Vivobook 15" Pro OLED is a perfectly serviceable laptop for basic browsing, multimedia, gaming and the kind of activities beginner creatives would get up to such as photo and video editing, digital art and design, music arrangement and streaming. I found it performed responsively in most situations, even gaming.

However, given it caps out at 16GB of RAM, and that it's soldered onto the motherboard, there is no upgrading it yourself. You can't operate multiple demanding software programs at once, for example Photoshop and Indesign, or After Effects and Premiere, and expect a seamless experience every time. Or to play high-end games at their highest quality.

Any serious content creator will also chomp through a 500GB SSD hard drive. Meaning that you're either moving stuff to the cloud or external storage constantly, or looking at upgrading that internal storage space.

This isn't necessarily a fault of the ASUS Vivobook 15-inch Pro, as much as an indicator of who it is targeted at. If you can't fit beneath this ceiling with your anticipated activities, then you'll be stepping up to the Pro 16X.

Sound

What I can't cop is the speaker placement. Downward firing, unless you're holding the laptop in the air in front of you or balancing it on the edge of a desk, it's muffled by the surface it's on. A waste of the Harmon Kardon partnership in my opinion. There's more than enough space on the upper side or edges for the speakers to be surfaced a bit better.

Great keyboard

The typing experience is luxurious. The buttons have a soft, rubbery feel to them and a concaved top that encourages your fingers to dance across the keys. They are all silent to the touch too, except for the spacebar, the key you probably hit the most. That makes an audible click for some reason, and it stands out given everything else you press makes no sound. The fingerprint entry on the power button is a great addition; I love how easy this makes logging in.

ASUS describes its own battery life as "good enough". Is it? You may be able to stretch it out to 6 or more hours if used on low demand activities. But used as intended, for "creatives" software, then you'll be getting around 4 hours for the most part.

One aspect I'm not impressed with at all is the sound quality. I think the speakers are muffled due to being downward firing and have a low maximum volume. For a creatives-focused laptop with a screen that is so perfectly suited to double as a multimedia player, this is a big fail. Yes, you can sync up a Bluetooth headset or use the jack, but should that workaround be required?

Watching audio-rich experiences like Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker lacked any wow-factor, for example. And games, especially atmospheric titles like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, were faint.


Should you buy it?

  • Buy it if you're new to the content creation game.
  • Don't buy it if you need more from a content creation rig.

There's plenty that the ASUS Vivobook 15-inch Pro OLED does right. I like its weight and portability for a biggish laptop. The typing experience and touchpad work great. Wi-Fi 6 is a boon. There's good battery life for the performance it can offer. The lightning-fast HD can't be ignored. And the OLED screen provides a fantastic palette on which to create.

For beginner creators not looking to multi-task several high-end software apps at once, there's a good deal to be found in the low to mid spec variants.

However, there's no avoiding the design quirks. The poorly placed and dated ports. The centrally located touchpad. The protruding badge on the lid. Downward facing speakers. The large air vent. Even being 16:9 as opposed to 16:10 is a bit unfortunate for creatives who need plenty of screen real estate.

You can't also avoid the fact that if you want to get serious about creating content, by which I mean multitasking between many demanding software suites, you'll need to up-spec this model to its max. At that point, you're looking at paying early to mid $2,000s. If you get to that figure, you might as well get the Pro X.

It makes this a challenging laptop to recommend. There's a market for it, but if you don't fit its narrow capabilities, you'll be left wanting more.

Vivobook Pro vs Pro X

As you do your due diligence, you would have come across the Vivobook Pro as well as a Pro X model. You'll recall I mentioned the Pro is for creatives on a budget. Indeed, the Pro X comes in at around $1,000 more for similar spec upgrades. That extra investment gets you a bigger 16" screen, and with the resolution upscaled to 4K at 16:10 aspect ratio, which is massive. The Pro X also has about 30% more battery life, and importantly, you can opt for up to 32GB of RAM.


ASUS Vivobook OLED M3500 review: Pricing and availability

The ASUS Vivobook 15" Pro OLED laptop is available now, as is its 14" sibling.

It comes in 2 forms: the K3400 (Intel) or the M3500 (AMD), both of which retail from $1,499. This is a compelling price for the technology on offer. But realistically, you'll be convinced to spec-up your CPU, RAM and SSD a bit, so you'll likely end up nudging (or going over) the $2,000 mark by the time you've settled on your ideal rig.

My review unit was the M3500 AMD model. It came with the Ryzen 7 5800H CPU, 8GB RAM and 500GB SSD. It also came with an integrated AMD Radeon GPU, as opposed to the dedicated Nvidia RTX 3050 on other variants. I've seen this going for between $1,500 and $1,800 in Australia. If you step up to Ryzen 9 with 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and the RTX 3050 GPU, can you expect to pay around $2,200 to $2,400.

It's worth noting that the Vivobook 15" Pro OLED comes with 3 months of free access to Adobe Creative Cloud, even if you're already a CC subscriber. That's a win valued at $231.

Asus Vivobook 15-inch Pro OLED M3500

How we tested

I used the laptop through the course of a week, experimenting with software apps and games, as well as typing components of this review on it. I used third-party apps to put it under load and see how it performed. I've also reviewed numerous other competing laptops in this category. As my side hustle, I run a children's book creation studio and a Finder YouTube channel, spending a lot of time in Adobe's creative suite.


Specifications

Asus Vivobook 15-inch Pro OLED M3500

General

Processor Clock speed
up to 4.6 GHz
Processor Cores
8-core
RAM
16GB

Display


Features

HDMI Ports
1
USB-C Ports
1
Bluetooth
v4.2
Card Reader
SD card reader
Webcam
Yes

Images: Chris Stead

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