Top critical review
92 people found this helpful
Not recommended; not good for Linux
on June 20, 2012
Ordinarily the the 1025c would be an attractive but average netbook (with performance at or below previous generation models but with less energy consumption), but the poor graphics rendering in combination with the lack of RAM options took the 1025c from a four-star netbook down to a one-star rating.
I can't think of anybody who would benefit from the ASUS 1025c. It is sub par out of the box, which means mainstream users will be frustrated. While it can do the things it advertises, it doesn't do many of them well. The geeky among us who are brave and knowledgeable enough to turn sub-par devices into something usable will also be disappointed. Manually providing the much-needed RAM upgrade voids the warranty and the drivers necessary to take advantage of many of this netbook's features in other operating systems are poorly supported or non-existent. To find out why I've come to that conclusion, read the details below.
Otherwise, consider a Kindle Fire or smartphone for a cheap internet device, an AMD Brazos-powered netbook for an energy-saving multimedia device, or... well... if I had another productivity netbook to recommend, I would have purchased that instead.
- attractive casing
- solid build and keyboard
- perfect size for me
- decent price
- power-sipper/battery life
- lack of productivity = low value, despite decent price
- Intel chipsets fall short/aren't ready
- Poor support for OSes outside of 32-bit Windows 7 Starter
- Poor Intel graphics within 32-bit Windows 7 Starter
- 1gig RAM is not enough to be productive in Windows 7 Starter
- no USB 3.0
- Did I mention that the Intel chips fall short?
Before I get into details I want to qualify my review by stating why I chose the 1025c...
I was in the market for a netbook under $300. I work as a web developer from home but travel and backpack regularly. My primary foci were on size, weight, battery life, and the ability to type comfortably. Performance was secondary. I feel that netbooks are not the right systems for gaming and multimedia, so those two items never crossed my mind.
I envisioned swaying in my hammock in the middle of a national park, getting work done, powering my netbook with a solar panel, and returning to civilization to upload my completed projects to my clients. Web development doesn't require much processing power - the back end of web sites/apps are just text documents. Typing up a web site takes roughly the same resources as typing up a Word document.
So even though I expected any netbook to feel and behave a lot slower than my desktop computer that I built, I also expected any netbook to meet my needs (hence the modest budget; I didn't feel like I needed the very best netbook). If it could handle rendering web pages, it can handle making web sites. Games, HD video/multimedia, and working with graphics would have been nice to have, but did not influence my decision.
I purchased this netbook on May 20 because the 1025c seemed like the right choice.
...the battery life!
This was probably the most important purchasing factor and it didn't fail to disappoint. I'd never expect to get the battery life that any manufacturer posts in their ads, and true to form, I've never seen Windows estimate a full battery life of 12.5 hours like ASUS claims. It's in the 8-9 range on power-saving mode, low brightness, muted (I am often commuting and don't have room in my pack for headphones) and not playing video. Ubuntu (more about my dual-booting below) consistently notes less battery life, (likely due to less support for ASUS's Windows-based proprietary energy controls) but is still in the 7-8 hour range.
Yet I regularly take four-hour bus/train rides and regularly have 80-85% battery at the end of the trip. If you do the math, that suggests the battery will last longer than 12.5 hours, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's not a linear decline (the longer you work, the more the RAM fills up; the more RAM fills up, the more the computer needs to use the hard drive as virtual RAM; the more your hard drive runs, the more power is used... thus, the longer you use your computer, the faster the battery drains). I have no expectations of ever counting on the ability to work for 12.5 hours straight without a charge. It's nice, however, to never have to look for one of the few train seats with an electrical outlet.
...the "instant on" feature.
It is truly around the 2-second mark... at first. If the RAM is full, the instant on creeps to 10+ seconds... just to get back into Windows. More time is needed to show whatever programs you were running. Still, if the RAM isn't full I am impressed by how quickly it boots and returns from sleep/hibernation. It actually lives up to the 2-second claim.
...it's a sexy beast!
Appearance neither influenced my purchase decision nor my rating but I have to give it credit: the satin finish and the materials for the base are attractive. I like looking at her. The matte screen is a huge plus, too. My only gripe is the trim around the screen. It looks like 70s era wood paneling painted black... only plastic and fake. The fit and finish of the plastic frame is a bit uneven, but since the rest of the casing exceeded my expectations, it is not something that will lower my rating.
...the 1025C is solid.
The casing is good and the keyboard isn't mushy. It's not bomb-proof, but I'm more concerned with scratches on the finish rather than the casing getting crushed in my pack.
When you press a key on the keyboard, only that key goes down. The keyboard panel doesn't bow like in other netbooks. Keyboard layout is decent. The ?/ key is smaller than the rest and a bit difficult to use, but I expected a learning curve when transitioning from desktop to netbook. I also feel like I have to press a lot harder in order for the key to register, but again that may be a learning curve deal. I was concerned that my wrists would get sore when typing so close together for extended periods, but this has yet to happen.
...YouTube, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger with web cam work just fine.
'nuff said about that.
THE UGLY ("flaws" that don't bother me but may bother you)...
...difficult/impossible RAM upgrade.
A lot of people complain that the RAM isn't upgradable and/or they expected a RAM panel on the bottom that they saw one on a YouTube video... well...
a.) ASUS's US site makes it clear that the RAM isn't upgradable
b.) ASUS's generic site makes it clear that models will vary from region to region
c.) I've never seen a video where ASUS claimed that the panel will exist in final US production
d.) all the videos that I've seen that show the RAM panel are either in other countries and/or
e.) are previews (pre-US-production/pre-release) at tech shows, and
f.) none of them actually show the use of the panel or otherwise prove that RAM swapping is possible, and
g.) all the people that point out the panel are not ASUS employees making RAM claims
so I think some people assumed too much.
ASUS consumer tip! ASUS tends to release their products to the Asian market first. If you're on the bubble about a new ASUS product, find out what Koreans are boasting or complaining about and assume it won't get fixed for the Americas... because history indicates that ASUS tweaks, but not necessarily fixes, their products between releases to the Asian, American, and European markets.
a.) portable computers are notorious for being difficult or impossible to upgrade. One should expect a lack of RAM panel as standard.
b.) rumor has it that the RAM actually is upgradeable (ie, not soldered to the motherboard). I have yet to try so I cannot confirm, but I've read forums where US users have claimed to have successfully upgraded their 1025C's RAM to 2gigs.
c.) even though that voids your warranty, rumor has it that ASUS forgot to use any sticker or tape that rips when you've opened the case (again, opening the case and voiding the warranty is standard - that is not an ASUS thing), so if you do upgrade and later have a problem, just be careful not to rip any evidence sticker and pop the old RAM back in before sending it off for repair. ASUS will never know.
RAM TIP! IF YOU PLAN ON UPGRADING THE RAM, DON'T USE THE CRUCIAL-BRAND RAM THAT AMAZON SUGGESTS -- IT WON'T WORK. AMAZON DOES NOT SELL THE 2GIG CRUCIAL RAM THAT WORKS IN THE ASUS 1025C. FOR THAT, GO TO CRUCIAL'S WEBSITE AND GET ITEM #CT2880876 (currently $14.99 + tax + free 5-9 day shipping)... or do your own research on other brands that Amazon sells.
...some people complained about the screen being too bright.
I think the brightness has a good range. I usually keep it on the low end just for battery life, boosting it in bright daylight situations. However, some reviewers have noted that the brightness is higher than on past models, so bear that in mind if you're sensitive to that sort of thing.
...at least one person complained of fan noise.
I've never noticed any fan noise. It's so quiet that I was under the impression that the N2600's energy efficiency made the fan unnecessary. I'd actually prefer a more audible fan noise so that I know that it is in there and working.
...No USB 3.0.
I knew there would be no USB 3.0 before purchasing, so I can't rightly lower my rating for this. But USB 3.0 should be the standard by now. It's there. It's cheap. It speeds up data transfers, even on low end processors. Just include it, ASUS. I know Intel chipsets are bottlenecks in this respect, but put more pressure on them. Make your standard one that is ahead of the curve.
Yes, ASUS includes plenty of bloatware. No, it doesn't take 2 hours to delete it all (as another reviewer claimed)... maybe 30 minutes (and most of that is researching which programs to delete and which to keep). Like it or not (and I don't), any computer you buy from a manufacturer is going to have this problem. Expect it. It's one of the reasons why I prefer to build my own desktops... no bloatware.
...webcam and mono speaker.
At or below average for a built-in monitor cam and built-in speakers. Built-in mic is good and sensitive (too sensitive if you move your 1025c around a lot during use. It picks up every keystroke and monitor adjustment loudly) but also just average quality.
Easy to plug in. Difficult to remove. Very minor gripe for me because I rarely use a wired cable. If you use wired internet AND you plan on moving this computer around a lot this is something to consider. It's a pain.
...BIOS function keys unclear
There is a friendly ASUS-branded screen during boot that appears rather than showing boot information and start-up hotkeys. It took a few boots to get the timing right, and I didn't know which key to press (rake ALL the F keys!) but I eventually got into the BIOS. Once there I turned off the friendly ASUS boot screen. Now it shows which F key does what function, but it doesn't always work! F2, for example, supposedly goes into "setup", but I've tried over a dozen times and have come to the conclusion that it does nothing at all. To this day I still quickly rake all the F keys during the boot sequence if I want the BIOS settings (and I still sometimes require multiple reboots to hit the mystery key at the right time).
THE BAD (the reasons my rating is so low)...
...not enough RAM
1Gb of RAM isn't enough for any netbook running Windows 7. ASUS knows this (heck, who doesn't? Windows makes it clear that it needs a full 1gig of RAM just for itself, and most people like to run other software on top of Windows and/or surf the web), but who knows why ASUS took the "bare minimum" route. 2Gb of RAM should be the standard minimum for any Windows 7-powered computer. One could argue that I have no right to complain because I got exactly what was advertised, but since I planned on running Ubuntu 80% of the time I figured 1Gb would be enough. Since Ubuntu isn't usable (details below) I have to say that the lack of RAM is a big issue.
With bloatware removed, the RAM is 51% filled upon booting up into Windows. Within 10 minutes, three programs running, or more than 3 tabs open on your browser of choice and the 1025C is already struggling to use the hard drive as virtual RAM (perhaps this is just my perception, but it seems like Windows resorts to virtual RAM when the dedicated RAM hits the 85% full mark). Before the RAM is filled it runs quite well. But once it's filled I can't switch back and forth between typing up a web page and viewing it in a browser without long delays. RAM is so cheap there's really no excuse for this.
ASUS loses points here for not offering a 2Gb version of this system when that should be the standard for Win7 systems.
...speaking of Ubuntu, Intel hates Ubuntu
I planned on dual booting Win7 Starter and using Ubuntu 12.04 for the majority of my work, but the graphics chip (Graphics Media Accelerator 3600 series (GMA3600), aka PowerVR's SGX545 with an Intel sticker on it) is closed source and Intel can't/won't release the drivers to Linux developers. Intel has made it clear that they have no plans to help Linux developers. Any user complaints are told to look for their Linux developers for a solution. This is the first time I've considered using Linux, so I didn't know that Intel graphics chips have spotty support.
If you plan on using Ubuntu out of the box, you can use the standard VESA drivers but the max resolution is low (difficult to impossible to be productive and because the aspect ratio is incorrect, the dock doesn't work quite right). Some of the newer kernels have resolution fixes - providing native resolution available (1024x600) - so future distributions of Ubuntu will have better support. But this comes at the cost of other features. Don't expect great 3D or HD support, and, depending upon the kernel used, people have reported a loss of brightness hotkeys, loss of wifi, and loss of resume from suspend. I've read that Meebo and Fedora have native support, but I am not interested in those distributions so I cannot confirm.
DUAL BOOT TIP! If you plan on dual booting with Win7 Starter, note that the hard drive already has the maximum four partitions. I'll save you some research time: the second partition (between C:\ and D:\) is a proprietary ASUS Linux distribution set up as a rescue drive. Unless you want to splash around in there, scrap it. I shrunk the C:\ drive and removed the Linux distro in order to make room for Ubuntu and expanded the D:\ drive for more storage space. Outside of the graphics driver issue, dual-booting Ubuntu is working quite well with 1Gb RAM.
...speaking of things Intel hates, Intel hates anything that isn't Win7 32-bit
So if Linux isn't an option (yet), and the lack of RAM makes Win7 starter slower than sludge, at least we have Windows XP as an option, right?
Nope. Once again, Intel doesn't provide support for the GMA3600 graphics chip. Unlike Linux, however, Intel had promised support for Win XP before this month (June '12). But that deadline has come and gone with no new word from Intel on what is causing the delay.
Oh well. XP is old. Why not use the more robust Win7 64-bit version? The N2600 processor is a 64-bit chip, after all, so even though Win7 64-bit might ask for more, it will also provide more. Other N2600 netbooks and desktops run Win7 64-bit just fine.
While it's unclear who made the decision (Intel or ASUS), it is clear that someone disabled 64-bit support in the BIOS. It was at this point that I started to get a clear feeling that ASUS was purposefully putting a limited product inside of a pretty package. People would complain about the lack of performance and ASUS can justify keeping their tablet and ultrabook prices where they are for a little bit longer.
A paranoid suspicion, perhaps... but good for ASUS's bottom line nonetheless.
...speaking of how Intel loves ONLY Win7 32-bit, Intel hates Win7 32-bit (yeah, you read that correctly)
The graphics chip (yup, the GMA3600 again) is just plain lousy. The windows render like Windows 3.x. What I mean is that there are times when the screen doesn't refresh or render correctly. If you drag a window around, you often get "window trails" that don't disappear. Others have even experienced mouse trails.
I'm almost certain that some of the "it's so slow!" complaints are due, in part, to the fact that switching applications not only takes processing time and RAM resources, but sometimes the GMA3600 just doesn't render the requested content, making it appear as though the content is still loading.
It isn't uncommon for me to wake up my 1025c from the screen saver or sleep mode only to be presented with a partial window, with much of the screen being blank. The GMA3600 wouldn't render the screen until I alt+tabbed or otherwise forced it to refresh the program windows.
Unfortunately we can't blame it on my computer being a lemon. This problem has been documented with other Cedar Trail processors running through the same NM10 chipset. Visit xbitlabs dot com for their benchmarks and notes on the D2500/NM10 and N2800/NM10 (the latter being the chips used in the 1025CE) having the same issues.
The 1025c is to 1080p what Volvo is to NASCAR. Sure, a Volvo can be driven on a circular track but it will never win a race. Likewise, the GMA3600 may be able to decode 1080p and the generic monitor can display it, but expect the bare minimum and low quality: banded gradients, noise in dark areas, the occasional dropped frame, and pixellation are noticeable in 1080p YouTube videos, and pixellation in standard definition is easy to spot.
The lack of crisp 1080p quality didn't lower my rating at all, but the overall GMA3600 performance did. If it can't render Windows then what good is it? Ubuntu renders just fine, by the way, with the basic VESA drivers.
I was looking for a small, power-sipping netbook that I could dual-boot with Ubuntu 12.04 in order to get work done during my travels. While the 1025c looked perfect on paper, it didn't perform to expectations. I can not run an HTML editor (Komodo Edit), a web browser (usually FireFox with one or two tabs), and a reference book (usually a PDF) without frustrating delays in switching applications and poor OS rendering. These could just as easily be Microsoft Word, a couple restaurant websites, and a PDF of the restaurant's menu.
Despite my reasonable expectations, the lack of RAM makes it unusable in Windows 7 Starter and the lack of graphics support makes it unusable anywhere else. I feel that these problems are something that would have been blatantly obvious to ASUS quality control had they attempted to use the system in an everyday scenario for more than 15 minutes. I've come to the conclusion that either:
a.) there is no ASUS quality control and/or
b.) they're disguising a dumbed down netbook in a pretty wrapper in order to both milk the remaining netbook days and "encouraging" users to look toward their more expensive tablets and ultrabooks by limiting RAM, 64-bit and graphic support.
The attractiveness, build quality, and (most of all) battery life saved this netbook from receiving a zero-star rating. These are things that ASUS can claim with pride.
If either the graphics chip or RAM limitations were fixed I would recommend the 1025c to Linux users and mainstream users, respectively. But out of the box, I can not think of anybody to whom I could recommend the 1025c. Between this disappointing netbook, three bum motherboards, and the Transformer Prime problems I have lost faith in ASUS's ability to even pretend to care about their consumers or quality. After this experience I have also soured on Intel and their lack of support.
I recommend letting this netbook pass you by and looking into a netbook with an AMD processor instead. If I had the funds to do it all again, I would start with the comparable E-350 or E-450. If that's more than what you need, consider getting a good smartphone. If that doesn't provide the performance you want, try a tablet or ultrabook.
- 3D graphics. The 1025C can barely handle 2D! I'm not even going to bother with 3D or games.
- HDMI/VGA output in either OS
- SD card in either OS
- mic/headphone combo jack (I've used headphones just fine, but have not tested a headset that can do both)
- probably a myriad of other things
I've spent hours researching the various pros, cons, and troubleshooting of the 1025c with Linux and the chip issues. Everything I've included is something I've either experienced or read and assumed to be true. I'd appreciate respectful corrections. After all, I am still trying to get some use out of this netbook, so I WANT to believe it's a good product. Please leave a comment with any corrections or updates and I will try to remember to do the same. News of Intel offering Linux support and/or news that ASUS is offering free RAM upgrades (rather than copy+pasted lame apologies and links to unhelpful BIOS updates) would be most welcome!