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ASUS N10Jc, A Performance Netbook
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Date: Nov 17, 2008
Section:Mobile
Author: Michael Lin
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Introduction & Overview


ASUS is one of the key drivers of the netbook arena, at least in the sense that they are often the first to bring new features and platforms to market. Not only did they launch the very first commercially available netbook, the Eee PC 701, they can also lay claim to having the first Intel Atom powered notebook, the Eee PC 900A, as well as the first 10" netbook, the Eee PC 1000. Since the first Eee PC hit the market just over a year ago, we have seen a relatively constant stream of new products flow out of the Eee PC team at ASUS; both a blessing and a curse.

Oddly, ASUS has actually been criticized for their massive, burgeoning netbook product line. In a period of about a year, they have released over a dozen netbook models and sub-models, but the real problem is that there is often very little to distinguish one model from another. However, ASUS doesn't seem to be bothered by the criticism since the netbooks just keep coming. In fact, the stream of new models coming from ASUS may have just doubled.

Until recently, all ASUS netbooks have come from the Eee PC team, but now the ASUS notebook team seems to be joining in on the fun. They have released the new N-series of business notebooks which range from the full-size N50 15.4" and N80 14" models powered by 'proper' Intel Core 2 processors down to the N20 12.1" ultraportable. The smallest model of the range is the N10, a tiny 10.2" model powered by an Intel Atom N270 processor on the 945GSE chipset. Sound familiar?



The ASUS N10 - The First Corporate Performance Netbook

While at least on paper, the ASUS N10 looks like a standard netbook, is priced like a netbook (albeit a high-end one), and has the key specifications of a netbook, according to ASUS it isn't, exactly. ASUS is calling the N10 the first "Corporate Netbook".

"Because of its small size, long battery life, advanced functionality and all-encompassing warranty, ASUS is positioning this model as a new class of netbook – a corporate netbook that offers advanced security features and the best warranty in the industry – including one year of accidental damage coverage."   -  ASUS

In fact, the N10 sports the same warranty package as ASUS' high-end ultraportable business notebooks. In terms of security, the N10 has a biometric fingerprint scanner and ASUS SmartLogon facial recognition technology. The N10 also supports ASUS' Express Gate technology, which is a quick-boot Linux environment that boots from cold in about 8 seconds. The last and perhaps most interesting feature that makes the N10 more than just a standard non-corporate netbook seems to be the inclusion of switchable discrete graphics in the form of NVIDIA's GeForce 9300M.

While the 'Corporate netbook' moniker sounds like a lot of marketing fluff, there is no doubt the N10 offers up some interesting features for a netbook, like the discrete graphics, Linux quick-boot and full-sized warranty. We got our hands on an ASUS N10 and put it through its paces. Read on to find out if it's the netbook you've been waiting for.

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Specifications


Before we get into the nitty gritty of hands-on evaluation, let's see what the N10 looks like on paper.

ASUS N10Jc-A1
Specifications & Features

  • Intel Atom N270 Processor @ 1.6 GHz
  • 1 GB of DDR2-533 Memory
  • Intel 945GSE / ICH7 Chipset
  • Integrated Intel GMA 950
  • Discrete GeForce 9300M 256MB
  • 160 GB 5,400 RPM Hard Drive
  • 802.11 B/G and Bluetooth Wireless Networking
  • 10/100/1000 Wired Ethernet
  • Realtek High Definition Audio
  • 1.3 Megapixel Bezel Camera and Microphone
  • 8-in-1 Memory Card Reader
  • Biometric Fingerprint Scanner
  • 3 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • HDMI-out video port
  • VGA-out video port
  • ExpressCard Expansion Port
  • 10.8" x 7.6" x 1.2"-1.4" (W x D x H)
  • 3.5 Pounds (w/ Battery Pack Attached)
  • 6-Cell 4800mAh Lithium Ion Battery
  • 10.2" Widescreen Display, 1024 x 600 Resolution
  • Windows XP Home Edition (32-bit)
  • Price: $649 USD MSRP @ launch


For the most part, the ASUS N10 is like any other netbook. It sports the ubiquitous Atom N270 processor on the venerable Intel 945 platform complete with DDR2 and integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics. Things get interesting when we start to look at the trimmings however. Packed into the N10 along side the integrated graphics is a discrete GeForce 9300M unit with 256MB of dedicated memory. This secondary graphics processor can be enabled via a toggle switch on the side of the laptop for additional graphics processing power when needed (more on this later). Other features like networking and available ports also seem to be beefier than usual for a netbook. The N10 features both a standard VGA output port as well as a much welcome HDMI-out port. All N10's also get a media card reader and ExpressCard port for added expandability. Wireless-N networking and biometric security are available as optional features.

The ASUS N10Jc we received for review is one of three N10 sub-models currently listed by ASUS. Also available is the cheaper N10E which is missing the secondary GeForce chip and the N10J which has extra options such as more memory and bigger hard drives (up to 320GB). ASUS seems to be offering all three sub-models with either a 2400mAh 3-cell or a 4800 mAh 6-cell battery. As for real-world availability, the N10 is currently being offered in a variety of configurations by many retailers, so finding one that fits you shouldn't be hard. Real-world pricing currently ranges from about $580 to a very un-netbook-like $800, depending on sub-model and configuration.

The remainder of this evaluation will focus specifically on the ASUS N10Jc-A1, as configured above.

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Presentation & Warranty


The N10 comes packaged with a large bundle of accessories and plenty of reading material. The N10 bundle is quite different from the usual Eee PC bundles and has much more in common with the bundle included with the high-end ASUS U6S ultraportable, which is the standard bundle for ASUS ultraportables. Amusingly, ASUS has even included the S-video-to-component video adapter from the U6S bundle, despite the fact that the N10 lacks an S-video port. Obviously a HDMI-to-DVI adapter would have been much more useful here, since the N10 actually has an HDMI port for the adapter to plug into. Other than the missing HDMI adapter, all of the essential items are included to get you started. Packaged accessories include the power adapter, micro-fibre cleaning cloth, reusable velcro cable tie driver disk, utility disk, recovery disk and the aformentioned S-video adapter. Reading material includes a user manual, quick installation guide, warranty booklet, ADW registration card and Express Gate manual.


  
ASUS N10 - Packaging, Accessories, Notebook Sleeve

Like most ASUS notebooks and netbooks, the N10 comes with a notebook sleeve. The sleeve included with the N10 has a binder-like design. Zippers run on three sides of sleeve, like a binder and a large flap can also hold the sleeve closed with a button. If it wasn't for the large ASUS logo, the notebook sleeve could easily be mistaken for a binder by colleagues and would-be theives alike.

The sleeve itself is semi-rigid but does not have any padding. It will protect your N10 from scratches, bumps and the elements but will likely be useless in the event of a drop. The inside of the sleeve is one large compartment with a small flap off to one side for holding accessories. However fitting both the N10 and the power adapter into the sleeve makes for a very tight fit. This is dissapointing since there are no external pockets. Overall the sleeve is a nice addition that should serve most people well, but the accident prone will want to invest in something with more padding and pockets for accessories.



 ASUS N10 Warranty
 Full-size Coverage On A Mini-size Netbook

For some time now ASUS has offered a fairly impressive warranty package, called ASUS 360, on all of their notebooks sold in the US and Canada. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Eee PC line-up isn't eligible for this package presumably because they are "netbooks" and not "notebooks". However, possibly as a result of the ASUS notebook team's involvement, the N10 will receive full coverage under the ASUS 360 plan. To sweeten the deal further, N10's bought in the US or Canada are also eligible for a full year of ASUS' Accidental Damage Warranty (ADW) coverage, for free. All you need to do is register your N10 online within 60 days of original purchase. So what exactly do you get with ASUS 360 and ADW coverage?

The ASUS 360 warranty package gives ASUS owners to a two year global warranty which entitles you to free service at any ASUS service center, in person or via shipping. The battery, AC adapter and any ASUS branded accessory included with the notebook also receive one year of warranty coverage. The ASUS 360 package also includes a 30-day zero bright-dot guarantee which means if even a single bright-dot (stuck on pixel) is found within 30 days of purchase, ASUS will replace the entire screen free of charge. All warranty service includes free overnight express shipping, both ways. Additional details and instructions on how to make a RMA claim can be found on the ASUS 360 promotional page.



Register your US/Canadian ASUS N10 to receive one year of Accidental Damage Warranty


Register your ASUS N10 within 60 days of original purchase to receive one year of premium Accidental Damage Warranty (ADW) for free. This is an very comprehensive offer. If your registered ASUS notebook becomes damaged due to a power surge, fire, drop or spill, ASUS will take care of it. You can either register online or using the notebook warranty registration card included with all eligible ASUS notebooks.

There are some caveats to ADW coverage, however. It is not transferable. You will be required to pay for shipping to the repair facility although return shipping is free. ADW does not cover scratches and dents, incorrect or inadequate customer installation, it being lost or stolen, intentional damage, recovery or transfer of data stored on the notebook, or damages caused by acts of God or nature. ADW also doesn't apply to the battery or accessories.

The ASUS 360 warranty package with ADW coverage is some of the most comprehensive warranty coverage you can get on a notebook for "free" and in the past ADW was only available on higher-end ASUS business class notebooks like the ultra-portable U6S. This surely gives the N10 the top spot among netbooks for most comprehensive warranty coverage. For some people that alone may put it above the rest and it will surely be a major attraction for any company thinking about making the N10 live up to it's moniker of "corporate netbook".

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Build Quality & Features


The N10 takes obvious design cues from other ASUS notebooks and ultraportables but it doesn't have much in common with the Eee PC designs. Most noticeably, the N10 isn't painted in a single solid color. The N10 is only available in a one color and we'd describe it as a very light Champaign. We want to emphasize that the color of the N10 is really dependent on the lighting conditions. In most lighting conditions the N10 appears to be a medium silver but in a brightly lit room or outside on a sunny day, it is obvious the paint job has just a touch of color tone. In our pictures, we tried our best to bring out as much color as possible but during normal everyday use the N10 spent most of its time in silver skin.

The entire top of the N10's lid and the palm rest area are covered by the light Champaign color while the rest of the laptop is black, with a single silver accent strip along the hinge area parallel to the battery. The N10 also doesn't share the tubular hinge design of the Eee's, instead sporting a more conventional and subdued design.



Ports & Expansion: The ports are spread out on the left and right side of the N10 while the rear is dominated by the battery. Our review sample came with the extended 6-cell battery which juts out from the rear of the notebook by about half an inch. The standard 3-cell battery should sit flush with the notebook. On the left side of the notebook are USB ports and the HDMI video port. The N10's only cooling vent is also located on the left side next to a Kensignton lock port, along with two mini switches. One of the switches toggles the wireless chip while the second switch toggles between the Intel integrated graphics and the discrete GeForce 9300M (requires reboot).

The right side of the has a third USB port, a VGA-out as well as the network (RJ-45) and AC-adapter ports. Also located on the right side is the ExpressCard slot and the headphone and microphone ports. Note that the microphone port also doubles as an optical S/PDIF port. This functionality can be enabled through the audio drivers. Lastly a 8-in-1 media card reader is located on the front of the laptop, under the left palm rest.

   
ASUS N10 - Right Side, Rear, Left Side

Webcam & Facial Recognition: The N10 is equipped with a 1.3 megapixel webcam which is built into the screen bezel above the screen along with an array microphone. The N10 is also equipped with facial recognition capability thanks to the ASUS SmartLogon utility. This allows you to optionally enable facial recognition via the webcam to log onto the system. While facial recognition is a neat feature, webcam implementations shouldn't be taken for a serious security measure since it can be simply compromised by a picture of your face. However, for home users, facial recognition could prove to be an entertaining alternative to the standard typed password or fingerprint reader.

Touchpad & Fingerprint Reader: Unlike some netbooks which use the cheaper and less functional Sentilic touchpads, the N10 sports a Synaptic touchpad with full feature support. The touchpad was responsive and scrolling works a charm. Located below the touchpad area are the left and right buttons and in between is a biometric fingerprint reader. The fingerprint reader is an AuthenTec unit with TruePrint technology with the capability of reading the live layer of skin located under skin surface. This allows for greater accuracy since the fingerprint reader bypasses the skin surface which may be altered due to various common skin conditions. The fingerprint reader can also double as a virtual scroll-wheel, although this functionality is disabled by default.





Keyboard: The N10 features a "full-size" keyboard in the sense that all of the primary letter, number and symbol keys are of standard size. Key layout is pretty typical and we like that the 'Fn' key was placed between the 'Ctrl' and Windows keys. However, some may find the right-shift key a bit on the small side and it could take some adjusting to. The keys have great tactile response and typing felt natural. Overall the keyboard never seemed cramped and we found it pleasant to type on. Score one for ASUS.

Power4 Gear: Located on the silver accent area above the keyboard are three buttons. The right-most is the power button and when the system is on, the bottom edge of the button lights up blue. The next button pulls double-duty as the Express Gate launch button when the system is off, and the Power4 Gear toggle button when the system is on. Power4 Gear is ASUS' power management utility. It allows you to create and customize power profiles and toggle between them.

   
ASUS N10 - Labels, Touchpad, Buttons

One Touch Magnification: The last button enables the One Touch Magnification tool. Pressing the button opens an always-on-top rectangular magnification window that follows your mouse around the screen. While the magnification is enabled, your mouse acts within the magnification window, so you can still click on things and interact with the environment. Pressing the button once enables 2x magnification, pressing the button a second time brings it to 3x. Pressing the button a third time causes the magnification window to go full-screen and a fourth press turns the magnification feature off. Overall it is a handy little tool to have, especially with a screen as small as the N10's.

Speakers: The ASUS N10 is equipped with Altec Lansing speakers, which is prominently advertised by an inlaid Altec Lansing logo above the keyboard. However hi-fi this is not. The sound quality of the speakers is fairly par for the course, for a notebook. The sound had a very noticeable hollow quality, as if the sound was coming from the inside of a tin can. Equalizer settings within the sound driver utility can greatly alleviate this issue. However what these speakers lack in sound quality, they make up with sound volume. The N10 gets plenty loud for a 10.2" netbook. The sound is also free of distortion, even at full volume, which is somewhat rare for a portable device.

The actual speakers are located on the bottom of the notebook under the palm rests. They face downward and fire down into the desk when placed on a table. An advantage to this design is it mutes the overly harsh, ringing highs common with small speakers like those in most notebooks. Indeed the N10 doesn't suffer from harshness. However this design can also lead to distorted sound and it also means the sound quality will be somewhat dependant on the surface you place them on.

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ExpressGate & Software


The ASUS N10 is equipped with their ExpressGate embedded OS. We have seen ExpressGate in action in the past on several ASUS motherboards like the P5E3 Premium and the P5Q Deluxe. ExpressGate also made an appearance on the Eee Box, but is not available on any other ASUS netbooks.

ExpressGate is ASUS' custom version of the Splashtop Linux distribution, developed by DeviceVM. Splashtop and its derivatives are designed to be run from read-only memory embedded on motherboards and in this case, a notebook. Since it is run from read-only memory, the Splashtop OS isn't quite a full-function Linux distro and has some limitations, similar to a LiveCD.

   
ASUS ExpressGate Instant-boot Embedded OS

ASUS' ExpressGate derivative of the Splashtop OS features six seperate applications; Web, Music, Online Games, Photo, Chat and Skype. The Web application is a full-screen web browser based on Mozilla Firefox 2.0 with support for flash so you can watch YouTube videos to your heart's content. The Photo application is a simple photo browser and viewer while the Music application is an audio player with basic playlist support. The Chat application is based on the open source Pidgin project and supports the AIM, Google Talk, MSN, QQ and Yahoo networks.

The primary advantage of ExpressGate is its ability to boot in about 8 seconds since it boots from read-only memory instead of the hard drive. In this way, you can have "instant-on" internet and basic multimedia functionality without having to wait for Windows to boot. A very handy feature when you need to quickly look up a Wikipedia entry or make a quick call with Skype.

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ASUS N10Jc First-boot
Pre-installed Software & Utilities

The N10 comes pre-installed with a bundle of software and utilities, mostly related to the use and management of the N10's various features. Pre-installed software includes:

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader 8
  • ASUS DVD (rebranded CyberLink DVD player)
  • ASUS LifeFrame
  • ASUS Live Update
  • ASUS Splendid Utility
  • ASUS Power4 Gear
  • ASUS VirtualCamera
  • ASUS Wireless Console
  • ASUS Zoom In (enables magnification function)
  • Atheros Client Utility
  • CyberLink LabelPrint
  • CyberLink Power2Go
  • LightScribe Direct DIsc Labeling
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 Redistributable
  • NB Probe
  • Protector Suite QL (fingerprint reader utility)
  • WinFlash v2.24


ASUS N10Jc - Default Desktop Screenshot

This results in a very busy taskbar on first-boot with around 50 processes running according to a quick peek in Windows Task Manager. Most of the pre-installed software has to do with enabling various functionality like the magnification ability (ASUS Zoom In), the power management utility (Power4 Gear), Athros wireless control utility and color profiles (ASUS Splendid Utility). However we question the inclusion of CyberLink software. While having CyberLink DVD player might still make sense despite the N10's lack of an optical drive, the inclusion of LightScribe is a bit puzzling.

Overall, the N10 didn't feel too burdened by the pre-installed software although some would consider much of it, especially the DVD related utilities, to be excess bloat. Thankfully all of these utilities are easily removed should the user desire.

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General Performance


For general performance testing, we used SiSoftware's SANDRA (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant). We compared the ASUS N10 with it's 10" ASUS brethren, the EeePC 1000H and the Lenovo Ideapad S10. All three netbooks are equipped with the same 1.6Ghz Atom processor and Intel 945GSE chipset so performance will likely be similar, especially in the processor benchmarks. However the netbooks utilize different memory and hard drives which will impact overall system performance. We'll explore the N10's discrete graphics on the following page.






In SANDRA's CPU arithmetic and multimedia tests, all three netbooks are tied up with effectively identical performance. This is as expected since all three use the same Intel 1.6GHz Atom N270 processor.






The memory bandwidth test gave a similar result as the CPU tests. All three netbooks utilize the Intel 945GSE chipset and all three also use DDR2-667 memory. Due to this, the three have similar memory bandwidth, although the ASUS netbooks seem to have a slight advantage here. The memory latency benchmarks suggests that the N10Jc is using memory of similar performance as that used by the Ideapad S10 while the EeePC benefits from slightly quicker memory.



The last SANDRA benchmark is the disk storage test. While all three netbooks use standard platter-based hard drives, the N10Jc and Ideapad S10 have the performance advantage. The EeePC has a 80GB Seagate Momentus 5400.3 drive, which is clearly slower than the 160GB Western Digital Scorpio 5,400RPM drive used by the Ideapad and the 160GB Seagate Momentus 5400.5 drive in the N10Jc.

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Gaming & Video Performance


The ASUS N10 is the first netbook to be equipped with discrete graphics. Sporting a GeForce 9300M, the N10 is the first netbook that can take a crack at modern games. But lets not kid ourselves, the GeForce 9300M is a multimedia chip at best. However the N10's native resolution of 1024x600 may be low enough to give the little 9300M a chance. Why you would want to play games on a 10.2" 1024x600 screen is an exercise best left to the reader.

We put the N10Jc through a few games at its native resolution of 1024x600. We only tested with the discrete graphics enabled since the performance of the Intel GMA 950 in games is very well documented, and frankly it isn't meant for modern gaming.



We start off with a bit of an oldie, but a goody; FEAR. Unfortunately FEAR doesn't support the N10's native resolution and we had to resort to using 800x600 for our benchmarks. However the resolution can most likely be set manually via the configuration files to the native resolution of 1024x600, although we did not try this. FEAR ran superbly well on the N10. Even with all of the image quality settings cranked up, the GeForce 9300M still managed playable frame rates.



Performance in Company of Heroes was respectable, although you'll need to turn down all the graphics settings to get playable frame rates. This obviously compromises image quality, which was already an issue due to the screen's low resolution. Even when set to a high image quality level, Company of Heroes doesn't look very good on the N10. There just seems to be many more jaggies than normal, probably due to the low resolution of the screen.



The last benchmark we ran is none other than Crysis. We know at least some of you had a "but will it run Crysis?" question tucked away and ready to let loose on the message boards, so we thought we'd answer it for you. The answer is yes, the ASUS N10 does indeed run Crysis, but not especially well. At its native resolution of 1024x600, our sample unit was able to chug along in Crysis at an average FPS of 19.37 with the graphics set to 'low' and AA/AF disabled. At these settings the game was technically playable although its not exactly an amazing experience. However, if you ever had the urge to play an incredibly graphically demanding game on a tiny portable device, now you can.


ASUS N10 Video Performance
HD Video Playback

With its limited 1024x600 native screen resolution, the N10 isn't exactly HD ready. However it does sport both a VGA-out and a HDMI output port so HD video playback is still relevant.  While the N10's GeForce 9300M may be up to some lite gaming with the N10's native resolution of 1024x600, the 9300M is really a multimedia chip best used for HD video playback. To that end, we decided to check out some HD videos on the N10.

  
ASUS N10 HD Video Playback

After testing both a WMV HD file in Windows Media Player and a H.264 file in Quicktime, it's pretty clear that the GeForce 9300M is more than up to the task of HD video. During WMV HD video playback at 720p, the 1.6GHz Atom processor averaged about 50%-55% CPU utilization which is quite high, but not bad for a netbook. We also tested  a 720P video encoded with H.264 and played back using Quicktime. The H.264 video averaged about 75%-80% CPU utilization. In both cases the CPU was never pushed to 100% utilization, as would be the case if no video card acceleration was available, given the Atom's meagre single 1.6Ghz core. Overall, despite the high CPU utilization, HD video playback worked flawlessly using the GeForce 9300M without a single dropped frame and no video playback imperfections. The ASUS N10 will definitely handle your multimedia viewing tasks without hiccups.

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Battery Performance & Upgrade Options


The N10 has the option of two lithium-ion batteries, a 3-cell 2400mAh unit or a 6-cell 4800mAh unit. Our review sample came with the 6-cell unit and all of our battery benchmarks were performed with it. Unfortunately we do not have a 3-cell unit on hand for comparison.



The N10 comes with a very compact 65W power adapter unit. The power adapter is slightly longer than a credit card and about 1/2" thinner. If it wasn't for the cord which could get messy, it would be easily pocketable. With the 6-cell battery installed, the N10 weighs 3.5 lb (1.59 kg), up from 3.1 lb (1.41 kg) with the 3-cell installed. An extra 0.4 lb for double the battery sounds pretty reasonable and for the most part the 6-cell battery pack delivers the goods.

We tested the N10's battery life using the Battery Eater Pro utility. We tested with the Classic test modes. In Battery Eater Pro's Classic test the system is stressed to full-load with the screen set to full brightness with the wireless adapter turned on and connected to an access point. This test should represent the most punishing battery discharge scenario possible, since the processor, memory, and graphics subsystems are all stressed simultaneously. We ran the test with both the integrated graphics and the discrete GeForce 9300M.



As you can see, disabling the discrete graphics does have a significant real-world battery performance effect. With the discrete graphics switched on, the N10 was able to stay running for about 3.2 hours. Keep in mind that this is with the Battery Eater Pro classic test and the system was stressed to 100% CPU and GPU utilization the entire time.

On the other hand, with the discrete graphics turned off and using the onboard chipset, the N10 was able to keep going for about 3.7 hours. Using the onboard graphics "saved" an entire 30 minutes of battery life. Well worth it in many situations.

Overall, battery life was quite good. Over three hours of battery life while the system is stressed to the max is very respectable and battery life during less intensive tasks with the screen brightness lowered to a reasonable level, the N10 should be able to easily reach the 4 hour mark and beyond.


ASUS N10 Upgrade Options
Under The Hood




Nearly all of the user serviceable goodies are accessible by removing a single panel from the bottom of the N10. The panel is held on by three screws and is very easy to remove. Under the panel are the hard drive, memory and wireless adapters.

The wireless adapter is a standard mini-PCI unit. Our review sample came with a 802.11b/g model but b/g/n models are also available for the N10. The memory comes in the form of a single mini-DIMM slot. The N10Jc came with a single stick of 1GB DDR-667 memory. The Intel P945GSE chipset supports up to 2GB of memory so there is some room for upgrades if you replace the memory with a 2GB stick.

   

The N10's hard drive has a metal drive cage attached to it. The drive cage serves two functions. It acts like a large heatspreader and it also provides a handle for removing the drive from the N10 and places for screws to the drive can be secured easily. The drive cage is compatible with any standard 2.5" drive.

These are pretty much your only options for easy upgrades. The Atom processor and GeForce 9300M are both hidden away deep within the body of the N10 and accessing them requires the dissassembly of the whole chassis.

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Conclusion


The ASUS N10 is being billed by ASUS as the first "corporate netbook". Overall, the N10 seems to fit the description well. If your company was looking for a netbook for corporate use, it would likely choose the N10 above the rest simply due to the comprehensive warranty and security features alone. While biometric fingerprint readers aren't exactly the defining feature they once were since they have become standard equipment on business notebooks, they are still a unique feature for a netbook, as is the N10's excellent warranty.

The ASUS N10 also has two more defining features that help to distinguish it from the rest of the clone-like netbook market. The N10 is the first and only netbook to sport discrete graphics, in the form of NVIDIA's GeForce 9300M.  It's also the first netbook to feature DeviceVM's Splashtop instant-boot OS, rebranded as ExpressGate. While the first distinction will likely hold well into early 2009, the second distinction is no longer the N10's alone. Lenovo has recently announced the Ideapad S10e, which is just a standard S10 with the addition of Splashtop support.

The inclusion of discrete graphics is really interesting and we've shown that at the N10's low native resolution of 1024x600, the GeForce 9300M can crank out enough power to chug through many recent classics and even tackle Crysis, albeit just barely. While playing games on a tiny 10.2" screen isn't our idea of fun, the N10 is currently one of the only ways to have your favorite PC games with you on the move in a relatively portable format, especially for under $1000. The N10's tiny screen doesn't quite cut it for fast paced games like many in the FPS and RTS genres, but it should be fantastic for slower paced games with a strategic bent, such as the Civilization series for example.

While the N10's screen is very small, it doesn't lack in quality. The little 10.2" LED backlit screen is very bright and has great contrast. It uses a TN panel so viewing angles aren't amazing, but with such a small screen, you probably won't be using it to watch movies with a group anyway. The N10's other facets are equally high quality. The chassis is sturdy, well built and the materials don't feel or look cheap. The N10's keyboard is also quite good and pleasant to type on. It offers full-sized key caps with good tactile response and standard key placement. The touchpad is equally pleasant to use, as the N10 sports a Synaptic touchpad with all the bells and whistles.

The only truly notable disadvantage to the N10 may be its relatively high price. The N10Jc-A1 sample we received for evaluation has a very un-netbook like $649 MSRP. Real-world pricing is slightly lower and those who don't care for the switchable descrete graphics can save some money by going with the N10E, which can currently be found for about $580. The N10E offers all of the same features as the N10Jc except for the missing GeForce chip, so you still get to enjoy the warranty and instant-boot capability. Those that don't mind spending a bit more can check out the N10J (without the c) which comes with extra features like wireless-N networking, 320GB hard drive, Bluetooth and the option of Vista.

In a market where nearly every single product is built on the same Intel Atom platform, it's hard to distinguish yourself from the competition. The ASUS notebook team has managed to do this with the N10 by offering up a slew of hardware features and an excellent warranty, all of which are unique to the N10 at the time of original product release a few weeks ago. The N10 brings several interesting ideas to the netbook market that will interest nearly every category of user. Gamers may find ultra-portable gaming reality in the N10, while business users will certainly appreciate the comprehensive warranty and security features. Everyone will enjoy the incredible convenience of the instant-boot Express-Gate feature. Overall there is something to like for just about everyone in the N10 and it's worth a look if you're in the market for a compact notebook. 


 

  • Excellent Warranty Coverage
  • High Build Quality
  • Great Keyboard
  • Good 10.2" LED Backlit Screen
  • Discrete Graphics
  • Pricey
  • Thick Screen Bezel



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