on November 3, 2012
I have been using this laptop for the last few days and my initial impressions are highly positive. I bought it as a gift for my wife but I had to take some time with it before giving it up. She was using an older 17" Dell and was tired of carrying around an 8 pound laptop so I started my search. With Windows 8 coming out I knew I wanted a touch screen and the only model in my price range was this Asus. I have had plenty of experience with Asus motherboards and video cards and they have always been great products so I decided to take the plunge. So far it has been a wise decision.
When I opened the box I was impressed with how thin and light the laptop is. Compared to my Dell XPS 15 this thing is tiny but packs a screen just 1.3" smaller. While it is light weight it still feels very solid in your hands. The laptop weighs about 4.0lbs by my scale. Surprisingly the power brick is tiny as well, measuring about 3"x3"x1" and weighing 1.2lbs. My wife wanted something smaller to carry around and this fits the bill perfectly.
Opening the lid reveals a 14" touch screen with 1366x768 resolution and the keyboard/touchpad combination. The screen is bright and clear and the viewing angles are very good. Love it or hate it Windows 8 is included and having a touchscreen makes it even better. The screen responds well to your touch and the only time I see fingerprints on it is when the screen is off. The top of the laptop however shows more fingerprints than the screen. I was initially concerned with the lower resolution but on this size of screen it works well and my wife actually prefers it over the HD resolution of my Dell as it makes text easier to read.
The laptop has a Chiclet style keyboard that is not backlit. I have read about people having issues with the space bar on other Asus models but it appears to have been resolved because every key has been very responsive. The touchpad works well and supports multi-touch gestures such as pinch to zoom and two finger scrolling. After some use I like the touchpad and buttons. The touchpad and buttons are all one piece with the buttons slightly elevated to provide a click when you press them. You do not have to press very hard on the buttons and they do not feel stiff or mushy. In the center of the buttons is a line to show you left and right. I prefer the touchpad on the Asus over my XPS.
On the left side of the laptop are two USB 2.0 ports, a memory card reader and the microphone/headset jack. On the right side there is 1 USB 3.0 port, a full size HDMI port, a VGA port, an Ethernet jack and the AC jack. There is no optical drive but with high speed memory sticks and the internet I don't see this as a problem. If you really need it there are plenty of small, cheap external drives available.
We have had the laptop for a few days day now and the battery life is very good. Over the first few days we used it quite a bit and only charged it once a day. Tonight I unplugged the laptop from the charger (it was at 93%) and watched Netflix for the next 3 and a half hours and the battery meter says it still has 1 hour or 21% of the battery left. The brightness was set to about 30% for my test. I would guess 4 to 5 hours of battery life will be average.
Sound on this laptop is good but not to the level of my XPS 15. There are two speakers on the bottom of the laptop to the left and right sides, angled to bounce the sound off whatever surface the laptop is sitting on. I cranked up some music and the sound is clear at any volume with no distortion but lacked a little fullness in the low and mid-end. I listen to a lot of music while at work and I certainly would not complain if I had to use this laptop to do it.
The included wireless N adapter has good performance with speeds up to 7 MB/s when transferring files to and from my HTPC in the living room over 40 feet away. It connected to my wireless network right away and reconnects almost instantly when resuming from sleep. The wireless radio only operates on the 2.4mhz band and while Asus' webpage says that Bluetooth is included, I don't believe it is. I can't find anything in Device Manager for Bluetooth Devices.
Performance has been very snappy thanks to the dual core I5 processor and 24gb SSD caching drive. Applications launch quickly and boot times are minimal. Even my wife has noticed how much speedier the computer is than her old one. I have not done any gaming on it yet but will amend my review when I get a chance. I will note that there is some bloatware installed on the machine such as McAfee that you should get rid of as soon as you can. Windows 8 includes Defender by default so why Asus loads McAfee is beyond me. Asus Updater was also showing an error in the desktop when I booted but that cleared up after Windows 8 installed some updates.
Overall this is a fun little computer and using the touchscreen with Windows 8 has proved to be a great experience. This review has been my opinion so far but after finally giving the computer to my wife it doesn't look like I will get it back any time soon. Now that she can play Bingo Blitz with the touchscreen it looks like I will have to get one of my own! She summed it up to me in two enthusiastic words, "It's Fun!" And here I thought this was a work PC...
on November 27, 2012
I'll keep this short, and just put what I consider relevant. My first computer had a cassette drive, and my first laptop wasn't much more advanced, so I've had a lot of experience with this type of technology.
My opinion of this product is that it's the finest built laptop I've ever handled, with one exception - the wi-fi. To be fair, it might be a Windows 8 thing, a driver thing, or a hardware thing, but the wi-fi goes out randomly every hour or two. Disabling the wireless and re-enabling brings it back.
Other than this, and again I don't know it's the laptops fault - this is perfect. If you like the feel of a Macbook, but not the price, this will make your day. Aluminum chassis, excellent touchscreen (which brings Windows 8 to life, without it, Windows 8 is garbage), the weight, and the thickness (under an inch) are matched only by the quality feel and operation of the product as a whole.
In short - this thing rocks, buy it.
UPDATE: I contacted Asus, and although I can't explain why, their fix worked. Uninstall the wireless adapter from device manager, restart, reinstall, and bam - I no longer randomly disconnect. 5/5 now
Update #2: Asus website, and support, insist this product is not sold without bluetooth. The amazon page does not list yes or no for bluetooth. Long and short - somehow the system I received from Amazon has no bluetooth. Asus support insists that's defective hardware, as they only sell it with the Qualcomm Atheros Bluetooth. They (Asus) gave me an RMA number to ship it back, and they will send me one with Bluetooth correctly functioning. Big hassle - and for this I took off a star.
Update #3: So I got my Vivobook back, after only 6 days, which was impressive, with a note which read "This product does not come with Bluetooth"...
That after 2 techs told me (pre-rma) that it did, the specifications page on their website still says it has Integrated Bluetooth 4.0. Removing a star.
on November 10, 2012
This is one of the cheapest 14" touch screen laptops available (<$800 total). While this is the first touch screen laptop I used, I have/had several other laptops: Acer, Dell and Toshiba. I can say this Asus is the best among them.
The screen's display quality is good and the text is clear and easy to read.
The stereo speakers have good and enjoyable sound for music and movies.
The laptop is thin. This makes it possible to slip it into a thin bag.
Fan spinning is noticeable but still pretty quiet.
The keyboard is good and easy to type, with no problem so far.
The microphone picks up voice well. It does have slight echo and a little muddy for voice but voice is loud and clear enough.
Windows literally takes only a few seconds to boot. I have never seen it this fast.
I get battery life of 4.5 to 5 hours, not the best. But the charger is compact so it is easy to carry.
The BIOS has password settings for restricting access to HDD and IO ports. The password can protect HDD content so that others cannot easily assess data even if the drive is taken out of the laptop when stolen/lost.
While only one of the three USB ports is USB 3.0. This can be extended by using a USB 3.0 hub if more Super Speed ports are needed.
The touch pad does cause the cursor jumping around but it's easy to disable by FN+F9 keys. With touch screen, I rarely need touch pad.
There is no internal DVD drive. This makes laptop more compact and reduces the extra space and weight for something rarely used. For occasional use of DVD, there are many choices of cheap USB DVD drives.
A small enhancement could be made to allow the FN to be sticky or ON by default so that volume and other controls can be done by single key press. These controls are more frequently used than the function keys. Hopefully Asus will make this possible in their keyboard filter driver.
There is no built-in Bluetooth. So a USB Bluetooth adapter is necessary.
Despite a few limitations, the laptop is well built. Windows 8 is fast. And the touch screen works really well.
1. Sometimes the system was unresponsive with very jittery mouse pointer movement. This happened multiple times a day, lasting maybe a minute or longer. I tried uninstalling and re-installing Asus utilities, and found the problems mostly went away after uninstalled the Asus Power4Gear Hybrid Utility.
2. I added a 4GB memory module (DDR3 4GB 1666MHz for $30). This is a really worthy upgrade as it improved system performance noticeably by eliminating memory swaps to disk and by caching files in RAM for quick (instant) relaunches.
The whole back cover is hold in place by 10 screws or so and they need to be removed. Once the back cover is removed, you should be able to see the open memory slot for installing the RAM module. After installing it, I can see the Windows Task Manager reports "Memory 8.0 GB DDR3".
on March 29, 2013
I can’t say enough good things about this laptop. Sure there are a few minor glitches, but for less than $700 I am shocked at how good this laptop is. Let me start by explaining my expectations when I choose this laptop. I have a big bulky Dell laptop for work, and a small netbook for travel. The Dell was too big, and the netbook was too slow, so I only used them when I had to. A year ago my wife convinced me to buy her the new MacBook Air. We keep it at home on the coffee table and she lets me use it. I’ve never been a big Apple fan, but after using it for the past year I am convinced that it is some of the best hardware out there, period. Although I love the hardware, I absolutely can’t stand the OS. I almost bought an Air for myself and loaded Windows on it (you can do that in several different ways) but after reading many reviews that was glitchy at best. Besides that, it would be a very costly package at $1300 for the laptop, and then you still have to buy Windows separately. Bag that idea.
So I started looking for a comparable PC laptop to the Air. Throughout my extensive research, I realized that if I was going to get a PC, it would come with Win8, and to really get the true experience out of this OS you need touch-screen. I used Win8 at work without touch and it’s awkward at best. As I researched and researched I stumbled upon the Asus S400CA, but at only $670 I thought there was no way it would perform anywhere close to my Air. I decided to take the chance and buy it after further research and long story short, it does. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some differences, and on a bench test I am sure the Air would produce better numbers, but the Asus machine is so darn close in side-by-side comparisons (literally) that I hardly notice the difference. A few milliseconds here, meh, no biggie. Besides, the Asus was nearly half the price of my Air!
So let’s talk specifics on the Asus. First off it is sleek, compact, and feels solidly built. It is slightly bigger than the Air, but considerably heavier. Even still it is small and light in comparison to a standard laptop. The boot up time is extremely fast, and if you set it to sleep-mode rather than shutdown, it wakes back up in less than 2 seconds. If you are using it at home and don’t need routine security on it, turn off the "require password on wake-up" and it comes to life even faster and is ready to go. That is super nice to be able to grab it, flip open the top, and be working almost right away. This feature is one of the things I really loved on my Air. The touchpad is smooth and precise, but a bit shakier than the Air. The huge 500GB usable total storage is split into two partitions, one for programs, and one for storage. Be careful though, by default the Docs storage location is set to the "programs" partition out of the box, so if you dump a bunch of pictures, music etc. in here by default, it will fill up the programs partition too fast. It’s easy enough to change to point to the storage partition though, just do it before you copy all your stuff onto the new laptop.
So, a couple of minor issues that should be noted. No matter what all the websites say, Amazon says, and even Asus says, this laptop does NOT come with Bluetooth as other reviewers have mentioned. And, it only has a single band (2.4 GHz) Wi-Fi. At first I was annoyed, but then I found a combined dual-band Wi-Fi & Bluetooth internal card on Amazon for only $22! I ordered it, installed it in about 5 mins and now I have dual band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I also bought another 4 GB of ram for only $29! I installed it at the same time I did the Wi-Fi, and it was also super easy. Now I have 8 GB of ram which makes things much snappier. Total cost $721.
The battery life is not so great, I only get about 3 hours tops of continuous use out of a charge as compared to my Air which gets nearly 5. I imagine this may have to do with the extra power requirements of the touch-screen? As long as you are at home or near an outlet, it won’t be a problem. And if you set it to sleep after 10-15 minutes of non-use, the battery will last for days unplugged. The screen isn’t the best because the glass is a bit too shiny, and in high-light situations it produces too much glare. Minor but annoying, and again it may have to do with the touch screen? Last thing, I wish this laptop had a backlit keyboard, for times when you are working in low light. The Air has one, which I really liked.
So overall I love this machine. Sitting on the couch next to my wife with her Air, me with my Asus, I like to poke fun that I have touch-screen, 4 times the storage (her Air has the 128 GB ssd), twice the RAM, and still nearly $700 in my pocket. The only thing she comes back with is how cool the little light-up Apple is on her lid.
on November 25, 2012
First, sorry for the bad English, this is a translation by google. The review was written in Spanish, but Amazon does not want to publish it (what kind of racism is this?), So I have not much encouragement to rewrite everything in English.
I'm pretty happy with this laptop, and is that really a ultrabook, with almost everything you would expect from it.
The design is exquisite, very thin and certainly looks better "live" than in photos. The materials feel tough, but obviously they are cheap, especially the back cover, which is impregnated traces are too easily, so you have to clean it constantly, but ultimately it's a minor detail that is justified by the low price. The weight is right, neither too heavy nor too light, it is very easy to carry.
The screen is nice, but does not have any anti-glare system, and, like the cover, the tracks are always there, but at least not noticeable when lit. The touchscreen works well, has at least 10 points and pressure definitely helps improve Windows 8 experience, no matter if the laptop can not be used without a keyboard, is still very useful.
The keyboard works well, is comfortable and have useful shortcuts.
The touchpad is what I disliked, in the first place, is in my opinion very big, it feels as if you pass up space. But what is really annoying is friction, my fingers suffer every time I use it intensively, it is as if passed through a sandpaper or something. Clarify that this may be a thing of my fingers, and it is a minor problem for those who will not use the touchpad much (having the touchscreen is dispensed much of it), but it is something that bothered me a lot.
As for software, it comes with a lot of applications ASUS, most likely never will use them, but the drawing tool I must say that is quite complete, but drawing with your fingers is not very common.
I use this mainly for ultrabook simple productivity tasks, this section has behaved quite well, moving Photoshop, Flash CS6 and others with decent ease. If I receive more than 3 positive votes will update the review with performance in several games :) (Skyrim, AC ...)
The battery usually last me between 3-5 hours depending on what I do, it's nothing spectacular, but good enough for me, I have always made clear that the screen brightness to maximum and wifi on.
Overall, a great ultrabook, may have some flaws, but when you remember that just invested $ 700 for it, you realize certainly that is the best option with difference in the market at that price, you can not ask for more, and probably do not want to ask more.
Again, sorry for the terrible English.
UPDATE: some testing with games:
-Portal (a bit lag)
Works bad/Not work:
Skyrim (so slow)
on February 2, 2013
Great Product, sturdy, great feel, extremely fast, and Windows 8 is a whole new fund world.
I've owned an Apple, Toshiba, and and HP Pavilion dv7. My employee currently uses Dell. I did a ton of research on all-in-one computers aka convertible computers; actually had my mind set on the HP Envy. However after reading numerous professional and consumer reviews I decided to try the ASUS S400CA. I leaned this way because I have the HP to use in my home office, I have a Sumsung Tablet (my wife claimed it now because I have the ASUS), so I thought why not buy a notebook that has the capability of both a touch screen and a computer.
This computer is blazing fast, very responsive with the touch screen, and as I mentioned above Window's 8 is a great platform to use for the touch screen experience. Most of the apps that I was using on the tablet I had are available in the Window's app store. I like being able to have access to Microsoft Office (the touch version is awesome), and use the ASUS when I go on trips, or just bringing it upstairs when I sit down in the living room.
The only negative thing I have to say about the ASUS VivoBook S400CA is that the battery life isn't as good as the Tablet, but it definitely last longer than my HP off of the power cord. The longest I have run the ASUS on battery has been about 4 hours and 20 minutes.
In short, If this is what kind of product ASUS puts out, then all my future purchases are going to be from them. Extremely happy to have all of the features of a convertible computer with a price tag of under $750.00.
on March 18, 2013
In early March, I bought the Asus U47a, notebook which is sort of the big brother of the VivoBook S400ca. Since I use the U47a for my online banking (Quicken) and my more `serious' work, I bought the S400ca for travel and portability. So far, Baby Brother has been excellent and has exceeded all my expectations. The only difference between the VivoBook and the other is a smaller HDD, less RAM, a slightly slower processor, no back lit keyboard, no DVD drive, one less USB port, and a glossy screen. However, the glossy touch screen is mandatory if you're going to use Windows 8 to its full potential since that's the idea behind it. Despite these differences, I really enjoy this ultrabook and find myself using it more than its big brother.
Since there's no DVD drive, the form factor is a lot sleeker and makes the unit weigh a bit less. Most software is now downloadable so a DVD drive isn't as important these days. If you do need one, an excellent external drive is only about $30.
Many have mentioned that the glossy screen creates some glare, which is true. But, without the glossy touch screen, Win 8 would be almost impossible to use. I actually prefer the glossy screen of the VivoBook over the U47a. I feel there's more resolution and clarity. A glossy screen also seems like it would be easier to clean as opposed to a scratch prone matte screen.
This computer has a great feel to it and wonderful fit and finish. The keyboard action is just about perfect for me and keeps my typos to a bare minimum! I haven't been subjected to any of the track pad problems I've read others are having so maybe I'm just plain lucky! Even the fan is well-behaved and when it does run, it's whisper quiet.
The VivoBook begs to be upgraded to really boost performance and make it fly faster. Asus uses a one piece back rather than little compartments to get to the RAM and HDD but don't let that deter you. All you need is a small Phillips screwdriver, an old credit card, or a plastic knife. First, take out the 10 screws that hold down the back cover. A magnetized screwdriver helps tremendously for removal/reinstalling these screws. Beginning near either hinge, start prying apart the back from the main body. You'll hear clicking/snapping sounds as the tabs/clips separate. The plastic knife or credit card will insure you don't scratch anything as you're prying. In a moment or two, you'll have the back off. Keep the screws in a cup or other spot so they don't get lost. There are three things you can do once you're inside the case. Replace the stock HDD with a SSD, add a stick of RAM, and put in a better wi-fi card if you desire. Since I get a perfect wi-fi signal and no drops with the OEM card, I'll leave that alone for now. The RAM slot is easily accessible but for some reason new RAM seems to resist snapping into place, so take your time with this. The HDD is removed by taking out just 3 screws. Several reviewers have said that it's hard getting the proper sized SDD for this and they've had to remove the case of their SDD to make it fit. This computer takes a 2 ½" drive that's 7mm thick. The Samsung 840, G.Skill, Crucial, and Intel SSD's will all fit perfectly. Just make sure you read the specs before ordering to insure you're getting the 7mm one as several makers also produce a 9.5mm drive, as well.
To make things easy if you upgrade to a SSD, here's what I do. On the OEM drive, remove all the bloatware that you don't want or need. If you're not a McAffee fan, get rid of that, too. Then, simply clone your original drive to the SSD you plan to install. I have used the Easus Todo cloning software with perfect results in every SSD upgrade I've ever done. Youtube has some excellent videos that show how the cloning process is done and it's not really that hard. Some people prefer to do a clean install of Win 8 but you need to be more tech savvy to go that route. But, once your new drive is cloned, just remove the old, pop in the new, and you're ready to go!
With my additional 4GB of RAM and a Samsung 840 SDD, my Windows Experience Index is:
Memory (RAM): 7.4
Gaming graphics: 6.2
Primary hard disk (SSD): 8.1
So, as you can see, this is a screaming little machine with just a few, quick additions!
There are just a few things that I'm not crazy about with the VivoBook. If the top had a shiny aluminum finish, it would be just perfect! The black aluminized finish really is a fingerprint magnet. However, a spritz of Windex on a cloth will instantly remove them. This is my first notebook with the power plug on the right side as opposed to the left. It seems I'm always snagging the cord when I stand up since (in my mind) I think it's on the left side. This isn't a negative but just something that will take getting used to on my part.
For those who aren't too crazy about Win 8 and miss the halcyon days of Windows 7, you can easily download something called "Classic Shell" which may ease your transition into the newer OS. It sure has helped me!
Enjoy your new Asus because it's really a standout in the world of ultrabooks especially when you consider what you're getting for your money!
*********************************************IMPORTANT BIOS INFORMATION***********************************
My computer had version 206 installed. The current BIOS version is 207. For the life of me, I couldn't get the EZ Flash function to work in order to flash to the newer version. Searching the Asus webside in their technical documents, here's what I found. Go to Start>>all programs>>ASUS utility>>click WinFlash. Click OK when you get the first pop up about udating the BIOS. On the next screen, locate the BIOS file which you have downloaded to a thumbdrive earlier. The download, once unzipped, should say "S400CAAS.207" The type file it is should say "207." Click Open and the BIOS Flash Utility will open. Press "Flash" to initialize the BIOS updating procedure. Press "Exit" when the process completes. Your computer will shut down. Hit the Power switch while continually pressing the F2 key. Then, press F9 to load the optimized default then press Enter to apply setting. Press F10 save your configuration. Finally, press Enter to restart computer. Presto, you're done and updated!
on December 9, 2012
So, after reading hundreds of computer reviews, I decided to go with this Asus. I was impressed that a touch screen would be fairly affordable (similar non-touch laptops were in the $500-600 range, so this wasn't a big jump). I was also excited about the hybrid hard drive, so I took the plunge and bought it.
First of all, it's a gorgeous computer. The brushed black back is lovely and the computer is sleek and smooth and beautiful. I was already in love when I took it out of the box. It's light--4 lbs--and super easy to fit into a backpack or even a large purse. I turned it on, set up Windows 8 (which is initially confusing as heck, even for someone who is totally comfortable using computers), and I started playing with the apps so that I could get a sense of how well the touch screen worked. I had no problem using the gestures, like pinch to zoom, two-finger scrolling, and panning. It's as sensitive as any tablet I've used. Wonderful! I did briefly have trouble with the touchpad, but after installing all the Asus updates and Windows 8 updates, all is well. You can do all of the same gestures on the touchpad, by the way. And the touchpad is huge! I like it, but it's different than what I'm used to.
Okay, so on to the other stuff. Just so you know, I am a PhD student, so I often have multiple programs open: Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Reader, etc. I don't require the kind of CPU and memory as someone who does more intensive computing or gaming, but I do notice when things begin to lag. Things I care about: USB 3.0 (there is one), the touch screen, the sound quality, and ability to run 3-6 programs smoothly and quickly. As I said, the touch screen is great. The sound quality is also surprisingly good, and it gets significantly louder than my old laptop. With headphones plugged in, the sound is excellent, even at the lowest volumes (I've been listening at approx. 12% volume). And the computer has been great with multiple programs. I have only had it for a few days, but I've been putting it through the ringer. So far, it's passed with flying colors. It's gorgeous, it runs smoothly and quickly for my needs, and it seems to be an awesome product. This computer and I are a match made in heaven.
on December 20, 2012
Pretty much everything has already been written about this laptop that needs to be written. I just needed a pretty basic laptop to use in place of my tablet, which simply doesn't perform at the level I need for my business dealings. Using spreadsheets on my tablet is a pain and trying to attach files using our corporate web access email just doesn't work using the tablet. I knew I wanted the touch screen because much of my work takes place inside my vehicle. The tablet had at least been good for that. I also wanted to explore Windows 8 and see what that's all about and I knew that if I was going to get a Windows 8 machine, it absolutely had to have a touchscreen. It really made no sense otherwise.
Okay, now for my summary. The good: it performs very well for my business usage, which is mostly spreadsheets, word processing, email, and general internet research. I really like the keyboard; it's much better than many laptops I've tried. The bad: it's considerably heavier that I expected. I had grown accustomed to carrying around my tablet (Galaxy 10.1) in my briefcase and the Asus definitely puts more of a strain on it. As several people have already pointed out, the screen resolution is it's biggest weakness. It's still very useable, but is definitely where the cost-savings come in. Still, I paid just under $700 for the S400CA and there wasn't any laptop I could find anywhere for this price that had as much overall bang for the buck. Sure, there are better laptops out there that will definitely have better screen res, but you will pay for it.
The day after I purchased this, I came across a CNET review of this laptop and they suggested a buyer could do much better in this price range. It may have been the case that at the time they reviewed the S400CA, that the price was higher or something. I don't know. But if there are laptops out there that offer more for the dollar I certainly couldn't find one and I've been looking for some months now both on the internet as well as at a number of stores such as Fry's, Best Buy, etc. and this still remains the best deal I could find.
So would I recommend it? To those whose needs require some high-end graphics capabilities and/or a lighter laptop, then no. But for the user who simply requires a solid, well-built decent performing laptop with the added benefit of a touchscreen along with Windows 8, I would highly recommend it.
on December 31, 2012
This laptop is thin, it feels very solid, it has good specs for the price, the performance is impressive while using common home and business programs, and it boots very quickly. The VivoBook will be hard to beat at this price.
I mainly bought this laptop because I wanted to evaluate Windows 8 with a touch screen. This touch screen works well and I am very pleased with it. The screen has a solid glass feel and it is sensitive to the touch. It is easy to swipe from screen to screen or reach up to touch something. This is sometimes more convenient than sliding the pointer via the touchpad. I am somewhat surprised to find that I do not use the touch screen as much as I thought I would because I do not care for the "New UI" in Windows 8.
This laptop was my first exposure to a hybrid drive and it is impressive. I was going to install an SSD, but I may not unless I am worried about shock when travelling. The hybrid drive is a Seagate, which is a negative for me (this is going to upset Seagate fans). I work with computers for a living and Seagate quality is very questionable, in my opinion. I have replaced many failed Seagate drives and I do not expect a long life out of this drive. I will be sure to keep everything backed up.
The laptop came with 4GB of RAM, but it was easy to add an additional 4GB of RAM in the only available slot. The RAM slot required more pressure than usual to get the RAM properly seated, but once seated it was recognized without issue at first boot. Windows 8 likes RAM, so I recommend adding a 4GB stick. At less than $30 it is a worthy upgrade.
Accessing the RAM was rather easy. There are ten screws to remove and then the entire bottom of the laptop comes off easily with a few snaps. This provides access to the RAM slot and other components, such as the hard drive. I like the design because some laptops cab be very difficult to open to access various components.
I like the large multi-touch touchpad and rarely find myself using the actual physical mouse clicks. Tapping the touchpad works well as left or right mouse clicks (two fingers for right-click). When I do need to physically mouse click they are stiff since there are no actual buttons and you press down on the bottom of the touchpad itself. I find the mouse clicking a bit stiffer than my Macbook that uses a similar style touchpad. The physical clicking is annoyingly stiff when there is much of it to be done, such as when I am using remote desktop.
The touchpad does seem a bit inaccurate and will seem to wobble when trying to do precise tasks, such as cropping photos. I do not have this problem on my four other laptops. This is should not be a deal breaker unless you need to do very precise work and will not be using an external mouse or other pointing device. The accuracy issue may be corrected with future software updates.
One major hardware issue for me is the keyboard. I almost removed the added RAM and restored the operating system to return the laptop because I find the keyboard is extremely disappointing. If I were to describe it in one word, it would be "sloppy." This laptop has a chicklet style keyboard, which I do not care for, but this is not the bad part. The key press pressure is very soft and it seems like keystrokes sometimes do not register unless you press the keys dead center. At first I thought it was me or a software issue, but I am thinking it is actually a hardware design problem. Perhaps this would not be such an issue if it were not a chicklet keyboard and the keys were closer together. However, the keys should not have to be closer together to make the keyboard function properly. I have a lot of keystrokes not register and this makes a long document take much longer than usual. I tried immersing myself in the use of this laptop since purchasing it almost two weeks ago and I have spent several hours typing articles on a friend's new website. The immersion did not improve the problem very much. Your experience may vary from mine, but you may want to reconsider the purchase of this laptop if you do a lot of typing.***
Another major issue with ASUS are their websites. I have been using ASUS products for years but always found their websites disappointing. It is common to have pages fail to load and very slow download speeds, but the latter seems to be improving. I often find myself locating device drivers so I am critical of manufacturer support sites.
The website issues became painfully clear when trying to register this laptop. ASUS includes free Accidental Damage Protection (ADP) for this laptop, if you can get the website to complete the registration process. I tried to register using three different web browsers on three different computers a few time over the two week period. I even tried different versions of the three browsers (IE 9 & 10, Chrome stable & beta, and Firefox beta).
I finally called ASUS support and it was a difficult experience because of the very poor phone connection to whatever part of the world the call center was located. I was told to try the website again later in the day and if it does not work to try again the following day. I doubt it will work since I have already tried to register a few times on different days. I also located other complaints about their registration website in online forums. I was aware the phone call to support would not accomplish much, but I wanted the case number in case I cannot get this laptop registered before the expiration period. I even emailed ASUS about the issue to evaluate their response.
This paragraph is purely opinion. The final issue is not an ASUS issue and I will not dwell on it too long, but Windows 8 is rather disappointing. Maybe it is a necessary step in the evolution of the operating system (OS), as some say, but I do not agree. The desktop OS should stay a desktop OS and Microsoft should make a separate mobile OS (in my opinion). Many people will have a difficult time transitioning from prior versions of Windows to Windows 8. A recent comment by a Microsoft employee had statistics about how many weeks it takes to adjust to Windows 8. I do not have the exact quote handy, but it was something as long as six weeks. A consumer should not need to spend [up to] six weeks determining they do or do not like Windows 8, especially if they have the common thirty days to return a computer.
To summarize: Great build, specs, performance, and touch screen for the price. Questionable touchpad with potential for improvement, a very disappointing keyboard, and poorly implemented/maintained website. If you type a lot and need support, this may not be the laptop for you. If you need a casual use laptop that is easy to carry when travelling, this is a good deal.
It only took a few days, but ASUS replied to my email about the Accidental Damage Protection (ADP) and advised it was registered and I did not need to take any further action. I am pleased with the turnaround time and now my laptop is protected.