ASUS promises the 12.5-inch B23E to be a reliable business netbook with good performance and user-friendly features. Our review unit is packed with the kind of hardware you'd find in a mainstream business desktop...except in a tiny, 3.4 pound form factor. It has an Intel Core i7-2620M processor at 2.7GHz, Intel HD graphics, and a 500GB Seagate Momentus hard drive at 7200rpm. Read our full review below for more information!
Build & Design
The first thing you'll notice about the ASUS B23E is that it doesn't have a particularly stylish design. It looks like any other standard business notebook - there's nothing outlandish about it - it's soft black and has smooth matte surfaces. The important thing to cover here is the build quality, though, as this is supposed to be a durable business notebook that is essentially the size and shape of a cheap netbook.
And at 3.4 pounds and a small form factor, it is very portable. It also has pretty decent durability without being heavier - ASUS states that it's been drop tested to withstand "more than double the drop height of consumer notebook standards." ASUS also states that the hinge as well as lid panel have been tested to surpass consumer notebook standards. We'd like to point out that this isn't a consumer notebook, though - it's a business notebook. That being said, the only problem we had with the durability was with the lid.
When we pressed down in various spots around the chassis, we found that the B23E was solid - it barely budged. The cover and chassis are both made with a sturdy magnesimum alloy construction. ASUS claims that the keyboard is also spill-proof and that the hard drive has anti-shock cushions.
When we bent the lid at its corners, however, the lid twisted very easily and ripples appeared across the display. It might be made of magnesium alloy, but perhaps it isn't quite thick enough. Although, as another editor pointed out, when you press on the lid cover from its center, it doesn't show any noticeable flex. This is a good thing, as you probably won't have to worry about the B23E's lid cracking under pressure from someone shoving their carry-on baggage into your netbook on the airplane, for example.
Like most netbooks, the B23E isn't easily upgradeable. Users can replace the wireless network adapter and upgrade the memory by removing two simple covers off the bottom panel. It can hold a maximum of 8GB-1333 RAM.
Ports and Features
The ASUS B23E actually has a great port selection. Despite the fact that there are only three USB ports in total, it has one SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port for fast flash storage transfers. The selection also includes a physical Wi-Fi power switch, a USB/eSATA combo port, ExpressCard and SmartCard readers, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader (SD/MS/MS Pro/xD/MMC). It also has HDMI, VGA, a fingerprint reader next to the touchpad, and a switch on the screen bezel to turn your webcam on or off.
Front: Mic jack, headphone jack, Wi-Fi on/off switch, memory card reader, activity lights
Left: USB 2.0, USB 2.0/eSATA combo, exhaust vent
Screen and Speakers
The B23E has a 12.5-inch matte display with LED backlighting and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The only available resolution is the low 1366x768, which is pretty much the standard for netbooks and notebooks of this size. We measured a contrast ratio of 167:1. This isn't surprising either, given the small screen; coupling that with the fact that this is a business notebook. You can tell the contrast isn't that great in the photos below. We're glad ASUS decided to go with the matte surface for it though; glossy, reflective screens are harder to work on in bright office settings. The viewing angles are very narrow all around.
The B23E has VIA HD speakers and drivers. The audio is what you'd probably expect: it doesn't reach very high levels and although the definition is fine, that doesn't matter much when you can't hear it that well. The volume levels could have been improved by placing the speakers on the top of the chassis rather than on the bottom of the netbook. We'd recommend a good pair of headphones and/or external speakers if the muffled sound is a nuisance. The drivers allow users to enable loudness equalization, sound equalizer, environment modeling and room correction.
Keyboard and Touchpad
If you've purchased a netbook before and didn't really think too much about the ease of use of the keyboard and touchpad and were disappointed with it, you know how important it is to buy one that doesn't feel "cramped" and uncomfortable. If you're still considering the B23E up to this point, you're in luck: this Chiclet-style keyboard is great. We made very few typos while using it over the course of the week that we had it. It didn't feel cramped at all, probably because the spacing between the keys is well-proportioned. There are dedicated home, end and page keys. The keyboard is also spill resistant and features a fingerprint reader to the right of the touchpad. To top it all off, the keyboard is extremely silent; so you won't be bugging others in your office or classroom while typing away.
The ELAN touchpad isn't bad, we just wish it were bigger. There is a lot of horizontal space, which is nice, but only a couple of inches of vertical space. It doesn't even make sense to make it small - there is a lot of space above the keyboard that could have been utilized to make more room for the touchpad. We will say, however, that the usability is good - the surface is smooth matte, and our fingers slid over it effortlessly.
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