Impressions, Performance Analysis and Conclusion
Overall Impressions: First and foremost, the LCD screen that comes with the C90S is one of the strongest features of this laptop, with a clear, glassy look that is simply a pleasure to work with. The keyboard has a nice fit with plenty of room to rest your hands, while the touch pad is positioned so that your thumbs don't accidentally touch the pad while typing. Unfortunately, one issue that caused some discomfort was a fair amount of heat build up under the left hand area, stemming from the hard drive. At times, it got downright hot, which also seeped over to the touch pad area as well. The finger print reader was a useful feature that worked as promised with simple configuration options, which brings us to the speakers. Even at full volume, the speakers were difficult to hear, lacking in power while their positioning doesn't direct the sound to the listener's ears.
Performance Analysis: Performance of the C90S isn't as critical with a review of this type as this system can come configured with a variety of hardware and software options. Nonetheless, we did compare performance of our sample to a number of different desktops and a high-end gaming laptop as a frame of reference. In the end, we found the C90S performed in line with what we would expect for a system with its configuration. PCMark Vantage demonstrated that the C90S was a well balanced system, but it did struggle in some areas due to its relatively low-clocked memory and its hard drive. On the gaming front, the 8600M GT offered average performance but we'd recommend keeping Anti-aliasing for anisotropic filtering disabled with most current games.
In closing, we feel the Asus C90S is a double edged sword. There is no denying that the easy access to the inner workings of the C90S for upgrading its hardware, is a major plus and something ASUS clearly spent a lot of time on to ensure they got it right. We had no difficulty removing any of the components and found we could completely strip the unit down in 15 minutes. We were also impressed with all of the features the unit comes with, including HDMI output, a gorgeous LCD, and a full sized keyboard to name a few. But we question other decisions. First, why go with the Intel 945G chipset? One would think that if this notebook is designed with the future in mind, perhaps a newer chipset would help give the C90S a bit more longevity. Couple that with promised overclocking that doesn't function all that well and excessive heat build up under the left hand area of the keyboard, and our fondness for an initially impressive laptop begins to wane.
In the end, in our review unit's current configuration, the C90S was a decent desktop replacement with a potent processor. But keep in mind, our opinion is reflective of the experience with our particular sample's configuration and retail models will vary in hardware, software and name depending on the reseller branding it as their own. Ultimately, we think those looking for a portable desktop replacement with decent upgrade potential may find the C90S quite interesting. One thing is certain, with the broad array of setup options available, potential consumers should be able to configure this unit just about any way they want it, which is really what it's all about in the end.
Searching for pricing can be tricky as retailers can end up rebranding the C90S as their own. We did find a base model at Gentech starting at $979 while our review unit weighed in at around $1500 without an Operating System installed. At KillerNotebooks we found the C90S marketed as the "Uchigatana" with more configuration options and a base price of $2399, which includes Windows XP and included software.