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ASUS X202E Review

I had my laptop (before the tablet) a Dell Lattitude D610 for a long time. It really had some great longevity. In the end the weight, heat and noise drove me squirrely. I sit with a laptop on my lap all the time. One of the design flaws on this Dell was that when it was sitting on your lap the intake vent for colling often gets blocked leading to the laptop becoming so hot you couldn’t keep it on your lap. Especially in the summer when your wearing shorts.
Dell-Latitude-D610

With that in mind I bought and reviewed a Samsung XE500t Atom powered Windows 8 tablet. I was impressed with the device. Great battery life, silent, light and for the first time it is a tablet that isn’t just another gadget, it could replace a laptop. And finally I could see a point to Windows 8’s Metro interface. The limitations of the tablet became clear. 2G of memory (max on an Atom) was a definite limitation. The Atom processor (dual core) is good but there are times it would struggle. Playing back movies especially not hardware accelerated (such as XBMC) was a challenge. Even using the built in movie player that was hardware accelerated HD 1080p movies were a little jerky. Yes I am being picky. Some java heavy web sites (believe it or not gmail for example) were quite noticeably sluggish. But the biggest limitation of the platform is connected standby. Microsoft implemented a new power management scheme called connected standby that tries to keep the device just alive enough to keep current on things like emails. IMHO this has been very poorly implemented. With the keyboard attached 3-5% per hour was used for connected standby. And it’s frail, and buggy. I’m not sure if this is a Microsoft issue, a Samsung issue or an Intel issue. But in the end I just don’t care who’s fault it is. Couple this with the fact that I had a virus a while back that went right through Windows Defender and infected Windows leaving me with a need to recover the tablet. (leading to this post) Well it was never the same. I couldn’t get all the proper drivers to work right. I was never able to back it up so I don’t even have something I can restore. And all the Windows utils to do that just haven’t worked. Of course now I found a tool that can do that for next time. I contacted Samsung to get a recovery CD/image, nope no joy. Send it back to us and 6-8 weeks later we will get around to sending it back. That’s service?

Of course now the second generation of Windows Atom tablets is now out, for 1/2 the price and a new quad core Atom. The price you pay for being an early adopter 😦

Ok so with that ramble enters this new notebook. My requirements were Core i3 (better battery life, lower heat, lighter than a core i5) processor, small (11″), light, good battery life, and a touch screen. On the positive side this spec meets systems that have been around for a while So I looked at refurbs to save a few bucks. I found one on nMicro and bought it. Regularly 550 and got it for 350. It meets the specs. The ports are all the right things. USB 2/3, HDMI (full size), SD slot, kensington lock port, wired ethernet port (only 100M), bluetooth, GPS, and even a VGA port. Physically the device is exactly what I was looking for. Small, reasonably light albeit a bit plasticy. I wouldn’t be dropping this much, it won’t survive. The keyboard is excellent. I wish it has a IBM style joystick instead of a glide point but I know I am in the minority there. The screen is ok 1366×768 resolution. Reasonably bright and moderately responsive. This is not the best screen on the planet (frankly the Samsung was better) but it is not bad at all. When I read the reviews this was one area they slagged. Maybe it put my expectations low enough that this one is good enough! They also complained about the rigidity of the screen when touching it but it was fine as far as I am concerned.
X202E_DH31T__97120.1371759110.1280.1280

The SD slot is a bit of a curious thing, it is only half deep leaving it hanging out the side of it. Bizarre design and means you can not leave the card in the system. One of the few what I would consider design flaws of the laptop. I looked for a half slot card or adapter. First off I found one at MCM electronics. I have to admit I didn’t pay enough attention to the pic of it. It’s way too thick to fit in a normal slot. It’s designed only for a Raspberry Pi. Do not buy one of these:
83-14394
Then I looked into an item called a mini drive. It is designed for MacBooks. This one actually works and just barely sticks out of the notebook. Little enough to not be an issue. They put a little piece of tape on it to be able to remove it. Which is a good thing. It would be a challenge otherwise. I got it on Amazon.
mini-drive

One of the limitations of this laptop is memory. It comes with 4G and it is not upgradeable. It is soldered onto the planar with no socket.

The laptop is reasonably easy to take apart, remove the 7 screws (note: there are 3 one size, 3 another size and one unique in the center of the laptop) and then use your finger nails to pry it apart. It seems reasonably brittle so don’t expect to be doing this often. The easiest place to pry with your nails is in the center by the hinge.
vivobook-dissected
Once apart you can remove the hard drive easily and likely replace the battery. As mentioned before you can not upgrade the memory. You can replace the HD with an SSD which I highly recommend. Once the hard drive is replaced with an SSD start up time is much faster as is response time. SSDs are also more tolerant of temperature variations as well as bumps a laptop gets.

The Core i3 processor has enough horse power to be able to easily playback movies including using XBMC native player. No need to screw around with external players (as I did with Atom). Over the dual core atom of the Samsung this is a definite step forward. It’s definitely hotter than the Atom and has a fan present. Since the processor is in the base the heat is again near your lap. The fan even when it is on, is quiet, well for now it is. Heat is manageable but noticeable. The fan only really comes on when the processor is pushed for a while and goes off reasonably quickly as well. The intake vents are long and across the bottom so unlikely to be completely cut off even with it’s on your lap. The exhaust has been cleverly routed along a narrow path down the entire length of the display and directed upward. A nice design.

Getting rid of the connected stand by is a huge step forward. Once in standby the device can last a long time, days! Much better. If there was a flaw in connected standby it’s that they do not allow a choice for the user between normal standby and connected standby. Or perhaps allow it to stay in connected standby for a period of time and then enter standby. Battery life is definitely not as good as the Atom. Pushed hard 4-6 hours seems to me to be about what it gets. But for me that is mostly good enough.

The extra memory (4g Vs 2G on the Atom) is noticeable and means you can keep more open.

The power adapter is very small and light and charges the device from dead quite quickly.
asus-power

With a USB 3 port it means things like USB docking (like the UD-3000) stations to additional functionality and convenience are possible.
718BowCw96L._AA1500_

The system came with Windows 8 64 bit and upgraded to 8.1 no problem.

For the money this is a great choice. With the hard drive upgraded to an SSD the device powers up and resumes quickly. Battery life is good. I’m happy with the purchase and with the service from nMicro.

Here’s another review on this notebook and one more review.

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December 31, 2013 - Posted by | Other reviews

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