ASUS N10 User Review

by X2P Reads (53,216)

The ASUS N10 is a 10.2-inch widescreen notebook featuring an Nvidia 9300m GS graphics card.  Based on the Intel Atom chipset, the N10 is technically a netbook, but ASUS claims the N10 is a notebook due to its large keyboard, track pad and power.  Dropping the Eee PC tag was the first step but does this netbook deserve to be called an ultra-portable notebook?

Aimed at the business sector, the ASUS N10 comes in a sleek light gold color and can be bought through a retailer or reseller.  Buying it from a retailer will limit your choices as upgrading memory and/or hard drives or any other component will void the warranty.  Buying through an reseller may let your configure components such as the memory and hard drive.  It is just as customizable as any other netbook.

For this review I will be reviewing the ASUS N10JC.  It was purchased at Yodobashi Camera Akihabara (retail) in Japan for \64800 ($706).  Prices will vary depending on retailers and reseller.

Specifications:

  • Screen: 10.2” WSVGA (1024 x 600) Glossy LED, w/Ambient Light Sensor
  • Processor: Intel Atom N270 processor at 1.66Ghz
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
  • Nvidia 9300m GS 256MB DDR2
  • Memory: 1GB DDR2 PC-5300 667
  • Hard Disc: 160GB 5400 rpm w/Freefall Sensor (Seagate)
  • Wireless: Atheros AR92X Wireless Network Adapter (A/B/G/N), Bluetooth V2.0 + EDR
  • Optical Drive: N/A
  • Ports and Slots: 3 USB 2.0, HDMI,VGA monitor out, headphone jack, microphone input, 8-in-1 SD card reader (SDHC compatible), Kensington lock slot, Ethernet 10/100, ExpressCard/34, Microphone-in, and Line-out/ S/PDIF
  • Operating System: Windows XP Home SP3 + Express Gate.
  • Features:  Built in 1.3Mp Camera/Microphone/Fingerprint reader
  • Battery: 11.1v 4800mAh 53Wh 6 Cell Lithium
  • Dimensions: 27.6 cm (W) x 19.5 cm (D) x 2.99-3.71 cm (H)
  • Weight: 1.40 kg with 3-cell battery
  • Warranty: 2-Year Limited Global Warranty

Build and Design
The N10 shouts class.  Like a drop top Phantom it demands attention while providing tranquility and comfort.  The champagne gold has sparkle and shine which is accented by a chrome-looking hinge area and touchpad buttons.  The gold follows suit with the black bezel with a high-gloss design which is a magnet for dust and fingerprints.  The blue status lights are a bit off during the day but when dark out they give the notebook a gaming edge.


A close look at the glossy surface that shows dust and fingerprints

The N10 feels solid like a small notebook should.  It can be held by one hand though it is heavier, bigger and thicker than a traditional netbook.  The chassis is composed completely of plastic.


Bottom to top: Vostro 1500, Asus N10,
Casio EX-word XD-SP6700, Sharp 922SH

15.4”, 10.2”, 4.9”, and 3.5” Screens

The screen when twisted does flex but is easily in the acceptable range and does beat out many notebooks.  A downside is the N10 was designed without a latch to keep the lid closed.  The hinges feel like they move a little too easily but at the end of the day unless shaken vigorously the screen holds the angle you set it at.

Like a business notebook the battery sticks out the back rather than underneath like other 10.2 inch notebooks.  Nevertheless the major upset for me in the build quality was the battery.  When I had opened the notebook from its packaging the battery had been chipped and taped up by the factory.  I received a replacement and learned how it could have been chipped during shipping even while packed protectively.  After receiving the replacement battery I had dented it with my hand.  Yes, by grabbing the battery I had dented it.  I am a strong guy but I should not be able to dent a notebook battery with my hand.  I have honestly never seen such poor plastic on a PC component that is so essential to the notebook.  I lack the words to describe how disappointed I am in the build of the battery.

Display
The glossy 10.2” WSVGA LED backlit screen reflects like a mirror.  Unlike many netbooks ASUS decided to go with a glossy screen.  For outdoor use it is generally recommended to have an antiglare screen in order to view the screen.  The backlighting on the screen can become ridiculously bright.  I have no troubles using the notebook in direct sunlight without having to boost to maximum brightness.  There is some reflection due to the gloss but if you do not get headaches from the reflections of glossy screens in general it should not be a major issue. For general use at home I recommend you turn the brightness down, otherwise the colors begin to wash out.

I personally found the screen to lack vividness.  I feel the color is a bit dull and lacks liveliness.  When ASUS decided to market the N10 as a notebook one would expect they would offer a higher resolution choice but the limiting WSVGA resolution may make some web pages hard to view and multi-tasking virtually impossible.

Speakers
The N10 features a pair of Altec Lansing speakers.  The sound was not exactly what I had expected: quiet maximum volume, lack of crispness, bass, and energy.  They are not terrible by any means but display that this notebook is intended to be portable.  In short if you care about quality, headphones are a must.

Performance and Benchmarks
Using an Nvidia 9300m GS was a bold move by Asus.  The 9300m GS slots in between the 9200m GS and the 9400m GS, all which beat out Nvidia’s 8400m GS in terms of performance.  It is enough to play general games though in the N10 the card is bottlenecked by the Intel Atom processor.

A major feature of the N10 is its ability to play 1080p Content, and HDMI makes the deal even sweeter. One catch is that the 1080p content you plan on watching must support DXVA or it will have trouble playing smoothly.  DXVA will take load of the Atom processor and use the dedicated 9300m GS to accelerate the video.  The software for playback is also a bit picky due to this.

General start up was snappy and the Atom processor beat out my expectations.  It has run anything I have thrown at it.  Microsoft Office 2007, Adobe Photoshop CS3, and iTunes all run.  The only issue I find is the lack of memory.  At 1GB one would expect it s enough to run Windows XP nice and smooth, however I notice while attempting to run multiple tabs in an Internet browser or rendering some of the heavier filters in Adobe Photoshop CS3 the notebook tends to hang and possibly freeze.

Games tend to be quite playable.  Everything from Grand Theft Auto San Andreas to Crysis will run on this 10.2” notebook.  Do not expect great frame rates from newer games nor high settings.  I recommend you visit www.youtube.com where there are many videos of how specific games run on the N10.

Heat and Noise
With its dedicated graphics card and small form one would expect it to be a hot little notebook.  I was startled; when using the notebook in class or in the library it made little no zero noise, and heat overall while running graphic benchmark software was quite low.  To be specific, in a room that was 18C every component was at or below 50C.  The bottom does get warm and at times the keyboard and palm rests may heat up as well, but it is not a major issue.  The hard drive does cause a bit of vibration which is more annoying than the heat.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard shown here is a Japanese keyboard.  Many Japanese keyboards feel cramped and messy.  A Japanese keyboard is the same size as an English keyboard but keys such as the space key are spit up into multiple other keys in order to fit more functions that are required. I can honestly say it is the best Japanese keyboard I have ever typed on.  Everything was easy to reach without making mistakes.

With large fingers I find it difficult to type on many keyboards and impossible to type on most netbook keyboards. But with the sharp edge key design I found it very comfortable and easy to strike individual keys.

The Synaptics touchpad is rather large for a netbook.  It is a full sized touchpad that beats out some notebook touchpads.  Asus did cut a corner on the touchpad.  Part of the outer edge of the touchpad is actually non-responsive; the actual touchpad appears to be smaller than the space provided.

Input and Output Ports

Right side:

USB 2.0, Headphone(S/PDIF) out, Microphone in, VGA out, Ethernet (10/100/1000) AC power jack and ExpressCard 34 slot.  The ExpressCard slot dummy can be used to store an SD(HC) Card

Left Side:

Wireless On/Off, two USB 2.0, HDMI out, Graphics Toggle switch, Kingston lock

Front:

SD/MMC/MS/Pro Card reader

Back:

No I/O ports

Wireless
The N10 features an Atheros wireless card.  With compatibility from A to N this card connects to almost anything.  It is quite easy to get it going and has decent range.  The Bluetooth so far has been a bit confusing but does work.

Battery
The ASUS N10 features switchable graphics: To conserve battery power, the N10 has the ability to switch from the Nvidia 9300m GS to the integrated Intel GMA950. The 6-cell battery in the N10 pushes just over the 7 hour mark.  I was able to get 7 hours and 11 minutes by switching to the Intel GMA 950, turning off Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, and dimming the screen.  I am actually quite satisfied.  ASUS does sell a 9-cell battery for the N10 if desired.

Operating System and Software
This specific model comes with XP preloaded.  Unfortunately it is full of bloatware.  Much of it is not needed and can be easily removed by the user.  There is a hidden recovery partition which can clean install XP in 5 minutes flat.  All drivers would be loaded and the bloatware as well.  Asus does provide Recovery disks for those who would like to install XP via external optical drive without installing the bloatware.

Like many other recent ASUS products, Express Gate is included.  It did not feel very “express” as it was slow to get going.  The resolution is rather off from the actual resolution of the screen making the image rather blurry.  It is not a very attractive OS as it is hard to generally read content.  It is possible to connect to the Internet, use Skype, and a few other apps when booting up with Express Gate.

Customer Support
I had initially received the notebook in used condition.  Part of the chrome was scratched as well as imprints and scratches on the screen, bezel and stickers peeling.  The battery had already been installed in the notebook and it was cracked and re-taped by the factory.

I had several calls with ASUS Support here in Japan and every time the same man answered.  It appears there is only one person on shift making call waits pretty long.  Furthermore the operator was rather impolite, unhelpful and did not really care about what was being said.  I had told him about my issue and was sent to the store where I had purchased the notebook.

There I was told there was nothing that could be done.  I instantly began to get annoyed and started to point everything out.  Eventually the manager came and said he will call Asus to see what he could do.  An hour later he returns and says the operator was Mr. X, the same man which I had been talking to in the past.  I was told that I could get a replacement battery and that was it.

I pointed out the legitimate evidence that the notebook appears to have been used previously and the employee and manager agreed but I was told to contact Asus though not recommended.   I was told if I did indeed contact ASUS I would lose the notebook and may end up in a trial as they do not replace systems with any cosmetic blemishes upon arrival.

I must say I am quite displeased and disappointed by ASUS’s business practices here in Japan.  They are surely not “No.1 in Quality and Services.”

Conclusion
Overall the ASUS N10 qualifies as a notebook.  With more power than the average netbook it is a great solution for those looking for a secondary computer and for some such as myself as their main notebook.  Personally I do not own any other computer at this time other than the N10.  If you plan to use this as your main notebook an external monitor with a higher resolution is a must.  I would recommend this notebook for those who would like to have a very portable, light gaming notebook with good battery time.

Pros:

  • Switchable graphics
  • Easy to type keyboard/Large touchpad
  • Long battery time
  • Size and weight
  • Low heat and noise
  • Sleek Design

Cons:

  • Dull Screen
  • No eSATA port
  • Battery build quality
  • Customer support


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