Over the past couple of weeks I have been taking a look at the ASUS 11.6-inch Ultra Portable Laptop supplied to us and available from Argos in the UK. Although sitting squarely in the budget range of Netbooks, with a retail price of £249 this compact laptop offers a range of features and great portability.
Although the packaging is rather bland and does not reveal too much about the enclosed laptop, it is certainly functional and offers adequate protection.
Other than the Netbook itself the only other contents to be found within the box is the units power lead, there were no instruction books, guarantee cards or install discs with our review model.
On removing the laptop from the box for the first time, it becomes clear that the Asus is built to be tough and feels solid and weighty to hold, in fact weighing in at 1.5kg. I have been taking a look at a black model although the box claimed it to be Matt Gray and the Argos site only seem to sell a Silver or Red option.
Adjacent to the various ports on the edge of the laptop is a chrome strip, within minutes of handling the Netbook both this trim and the black finish where covered in fingerprints, which is not only unsightly but I’m left wondering why ASUS don’t include a cleaning cloth.
Further inspection reveals the Laptop to be equipped with various ports including HDMI socket, Ethernet port, 3 X USB 2.0 ports, Microphone and Headphone facility, a SD card reader slot and a VGA out port ready for use with projector units.
The right-hand side also has the facility to attach a Kensington lock to secure the device when it is not on the move. One thing I do have concerns over, is the delicacy of the power lead pin that fits into the laptop and the potential for damage to such a small jack plug.
Mounted above the screen you will find the laptops Smart Camera that allows use as a webcam and features zoom of up to 4 times. This is achieved by sliding the zoom switch across manually but this feels the weakest part of the computers build, the slide switch feels cheap and almost gritty when used. The resolution of the image is good although each time you increase the zoom you do loose some picture quality.
It is worth mentioning the lack of CD/DVD drive built within the laptop, so the potential purchaser must be aware that they will need to source an external drive to enable CD/DVD use. There is also no Bluetooth capability built within the Netbook.
ASUS claim the internal battery offers up to 8 hours of battery life, but in reality with constant use I found this to be more like about 6 hours — still pretty good and perfect to facilitate use on the hoof.
Internally the laptop features a Radeon HD 6290 graphics card and is powered by a 1.0GHz dual-core AMD Fusion C60 CPU. Memory wise the laptop offers 4 GB of RAM and includes a 320GB/SATA hard drive. The 11.6-inch screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels and the LCD is LED backlit, the screen images are crystal clear and bright although there is not a huge range of adjustment of the screen brightness.
The build quality of the laptop is very good and feels rugged when held and designed to be used out in the field. The screen hinges feel strong and tight and allow a wide range of adjustability.
The keyboard is well spaced out, although to type in the Pitman’s taught finger positioning is a little tricky, with wide hands, but for one finger tappers the keyboard is fine. The keys feel well made and are responsive to the touch returning to position with a reactive bounce.
Pre-loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium, you would expect to be able to turn on the laptop and get started but unfortunately for me this was not the case. On initial power up an error message popped up instructing me to restart the laptop. After about ten attempts I then had to do some Internet searching to find a solution that involved initiating a command prompt and having to follow online instructions to alter a few hidden settings.
When this initial issue had been resolved I was able to run through the few basic Windows set up requirements and was then able to start using the laptop in earnest. If I were asked to describe the Netbook in one word it would have to be “slow”. I seemed to be constantly waiting for the laptop to do something, from turning on and waiting for the home screen to appear to general web browsing or watching media. This could be improved possibly by ploughing through and removing any unwanted pre-loaded programs.
Using the laptop is easy and navigating around the preloaded programmes is easy, especially for anyone who is used to the Windows software. Graphics and sound are all very good and when the laptop is actually operating instead of thinking, it is a joy to use.
Overall the ASUS Ultra Portable laptop is a sturdily built and is an ideal size with good battery life and this makes it a great laptop to use when on the move. The biggest complaint would be the fact it is sometimes sluggish to get its act together but then for the money I would have to admit that you do get what you pay for and it is an ideal student Netbook or is ample for simple web browsing and staying in touch when on the move. For further details or to purchase the ASUS Ultra Portable Laptop then check out the Argos website here.
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