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.