Asus looks to be differentiating itself in the increasingly overcrowded netbook market with something containing a little more poke, but will the N10J laptop be anything more than a jazzed-up netbook?
Virtually every netbook (including those that say they aren’t – Sony) bear the same specifications. That being an Intel Atom N270 processor, 1GB of memory and Windows XP (usually the Home Edition). You could even add a 10-inch display as that is fast becoming the standard screen size for these types of devices.
Of course you can diverge from the script a little with the choice of solid state disk or normal hard drive but aside from the there are a thousand clones of the original eee PC. What makes the N10J a little different is the use of a discrete graphics card. The Nvidia GeForce 9300 marks a diversion away from the cheap and cheerful, but you pay with increase power requirements. Here at least you can switch between power modes and use the integrated graphics instead to save power and battery life.
The only reason to have a discrete card of this nature is for casual gaming or maybe video playback. Normally netbooks are the preserve of emailing, internet surfing and the odd bit of word processing.
The device is, design-wise, very much in the mold of a netbook, but constructed well enough to take the knocks of everyday use.
The keyboard is ok and usable, but not something we’d want to use to pen a novel with frankly – but much, much better than normal netbooks. However, the right shift key, while in the right place is a little too small for our fat fingers and so we often got a typo in writing stuff.
Display capabilities are a bit wanting. It has a 10.2-inch screen (1024 by 600 resooution) and with some webpagees that are bigger than the display this makes life a little more difficult. And it is not because the display goes right to the edge of device itself. There is a large black bezel around it and this made us wish that the display took up all available real estate so we had more room to be productive and cut down on the amount of scrolling we had to perform.
Making it less of a netbook is the inclusion of an HDMI and an ExpressCard port. There is also a VGA-out as well for hooking up to a projector. Truth here is that while the computer sports a graphics card and HDMI, there is little reason for anyone to wathc HD content either on a small screen or connected to a telly. The Atom processor is taxed by playback of this nature and playing web videos can be a daunting task for the chip if it happens to have an anti-virus scan running in the background.
The battery life is excellent and turning off the graphics card can increase life by around ninety minutes.
Overall, it is possibly one of the few netbook-like devices that you can play casual games on but could be better if the display filled out the entire notebook. Also, its price at £499 may leave you to consider buying a humble cheap laptop instead.