As part of my coverage of laptops for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students, I was given the opportunity to review the Asus Vivobook 16 K6602 laptop. In the past, some of the laptops from lesser-known Taiwanese companies tended to be a little bulkier, heavier, or less feature rich than the industry leaders Dell, HP, and Lenovo. But that is not the case with the Asus Vivobook Pro 16. This is a power-packed PC that is perfect for the STEM college student at a very reasonable price.
The Asus Vivobook product line spans a wide range of configurations and price points. Many consumer reviews focus on the lower priced and less configured models. The model I received to evaluate is not that. This is a review of the state-of-the-art powerhouse Vivobook Pro 16 laptop.
At first glance, the Vivobook Pro 16 is a sleek looking thin and light Windows 11 PC. Because of the angles of the base of the PC, it looks even thinner than it actually is at about 20mm. Even at those dimensions, that thinness still packs a discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and a wide assortment of interface ports not available on most laptops, including Ethernet, two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, two USB Type-A, HDMI, and an audio jack. The Vivobook 16 Pro also comes configured with the latest Intel Core i9-13900H processor, 16GB of DDR 5 4800MHz memory, a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), Wi-Fi 6E support, and a beautiful 16” OLED display. A version is also available with a 1TB SSD.
I am not the ideal STEM student, but to put it to the test I started by running a several games, music videos, social networking apps, productivity apps, and even a Zoom call simultaneously in an attempt to mimic my own over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, attention-deficit STEM college students. When running STEM applications like MATLAB and Solidworks, the Vivobook offers the performance of a desktop PC. The Vivobook Pro 16 met all my performance demands with a few caveats.
On the positive side, I like the feel of the size and feel of the keyboard. The keyboard has full-sized keys with a good haptic feel and a full numeric keypad with slightly smaller keys. The palm pad rest and the touchpad are large and practical for all-day use. The OLED display is big and bright with a thin bezel, which is good for viewing but it does make the display more sensitive to being dropped in a backpack. For this reason, I always recommend buying a padded case for college students even when they have a good backpack. Despite having a plastic case, the laptop’s display hinge does appear to be rather rugged, another positive for college students always transporting a laptop. The fan noise is minimal, which is a huge plus given that the laptop will be used in environments like classrooms and study rooms where noise can be disruptive. The weight of the unit as configured came in at 4.7 lbs., equivalent to many of the competing products. I would prefer a PC of 4 lbs. or less, but that is hard to accomplish with a high-performance processor and GPU. And the Vivobook Pro 16 comes with some cool stickers if you are interested in decorating your laptop.
On the less than positive side, the battery life was shorter than the 4 hours I would have expected under a heavy load, even with battery saver mode enabled. In addition, the bottom of the unit became uncomfortably warm, which is not uncommon with units configured with the highest performing components. I have two other issues, but they are just my own nitpicks. One was having the power button on the top right hand of the number pad. Although the power button is naturally lower than the other keys, I did accidentally hit it while trying to speed through entering numbers in a spreadsheet. The other nitpick is the audio. The speakers are located on the lower side of the case and the frequency range of the speakers is average for a PC. Some of the competing solutions do offer top facing speakers with broader frequency ranges for us audiophiles.
Despite these limitations, there is one overriding positive – the price. As configured, the Asus Vivobook Pro 16 is currently available on the Asus website for just $1399, which is the lower end of the $1200 to $2000 range for a STEM laptop. It is also available with the 1TB SSD for $1799, but the easy alternative would be to purchase the Vivobook Pro 16 with the 512GB SSD with a 4TB SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD for $240. It’s a little more than half the cost of the upgraded internal SSD with 4 times the capacity.
Overall, the Asus Vivobook Pro 16 hits the mark for a high-performance STEM laptop at a great price. And rather than just being marketed for gamers like many other laptops I consider STEM PCs, it is positioned as a high-performance PC for students and creators. It would be just as useful for gaming, watching movies, and networking with family and friends as it would be for programming, scientific modeling, and number crunching.