These ultra portable devices are really useful, but generally expensive. Not this one; it is reasonably priced, so I ordered it to see how well they did. I find it to be quite usable considering the specifications, with excellent BIOS security and other corporate-use features, to have slightly above average battery life with adequate performance, but to be a bit slow for any gaming use.
The right side has SDHC card reader, Headphone/Mic combined port, 2 USB 2.0 Ports, a RJ-45 LAN port, and a Kensington security slot. The left side has the power port, a full sized 15 pin VGA port, an HDMI port, and a USB3 port. The bottom has two slits for sound. This device has a touch screen, which is great at the price point. When opened, the screen has a camera port, a camera indicator, and a microphone. The lower portion (below the screen) has the power switch and a multi-light panel that indicates power, wireless, charge level, HDD activity, and caps lock; it is nice that these are on top when the unit is open, to see the status (especially the HDD light). The device features an unusual hinge; the hinge goes around behind the keyboard, reducing the height of the screen when opened. Overall, it is a bit bulkier than most ultras; the end near the screen is thicker. This is due to the hinge, but it also means that the keyboard has a good tilt for typing, and that there is enough depth for a full sized VGA port (most ultras have only HDMI), and a wired network cable on the other. I think it is a good compromise; the unit is fairly light but a bit bulky. The device includes Asus Webstorage (5gb).
I tested the laptop from a full charge, using the recommended settings (about 35% screen brightness). It lasted around 5 hours with the screen on and moderate use, and I think that the time could be pushed to 6 hours with more efficient settings.
I could tell that this was not a high end ultra. The screen, despite the modest resolution, is very readable from the front, below, and sides, but loses some visibility when viewed at the upper angles. I found that it will run a couple of programs well, maybe three, but after that there was some visible slowness. The performance was strangely variable; at some times it was quite snappy, but other times it seemed to take a while for the hard disk to kick in. Nevertheless, it is perfectly suitable for general word processing and spreadsheet use, and will be fine for basic video viewing, Skype, and that sort of thing. The hard drive is a Hitachi HTS545050A7E680, and runs at 5400 RPM. Most ultras come with only 256 Mb at most (and generally use an SSD), but this drive gives one 500 Mb of storage. However an SSD will be about 6 times faster - and way more expensive. The drive speed and type accounts for some of the slowness. The Keyboard has square keys and is well supported (doesn't creak); I found it easy to use.
Surprisingly for a device of this size, the sound on internal speakers was very good, and the headset output was excellent.
I put in this paragraph because the design has some great features for corporate use. The BIOS will allow the system administrator to lock down just about all of the ports (USB, etc), and encrypt the hard drive. I didn't try these features out because I don't intend to use them. Additionally, the full sized VGA port will be useful for connecting to a monitor at the office, and a full sized wired Ethernet RJ-45 connector will allow for secure use at work or in the motel room. The low price makes it an attractive option for those companies that need to outfit a lot of workers with portable computers.
Summary: A really good budget laptop, with decent speed for students and professionals. Highly recommended if you won't be doing a lot of gaming or graphics.
See below for more detailed information:
Peak 4K Random Write Speed 1.25 MB/s (average)
Peak Sequential Read Speed 92 MB/s (average)
Peak 4K Random Mixed IO Speed 0.13 (not so good)
Peak Sequential Mixed IO Speed 72.4 (not so good)
Computer Benchmarks (NovaBench):
These tests were done while the device was plugged in.
RAM MB/second: 3477
CPU Floating Point Operations/Second: 43096210
CPU Integer Operations/second 73838078
CPU MDS Hashes generated /second: 505059
Graphics 3D Frames / Second: 81
HDD Primary Partition write speed: 51Mb / second
+ The touchpad supports windows 8 swipe capabilities. I found that most of them worked, although I could not get the swipe down to close apps from the touchpad.
+ 15 pin VGA port as well as HDMI output.
+ 1 USB 3 and 2 USB 2. The higher speed USB 3 is very useful.
+ Single port for headphones/mike.
+ ASUS Smart Gesture - allows three finger move by pages, or to show running apps, or show desktop. This also has option to rotate the screen (although I'm not sure why this is useful on a laptop). By default, this disables the touchpad if a mouse is detected - which is useful.
+ Asus Splendid Video Enhancement tech - provides color enhancement modes: Gamma Correction, Vivid, Theater, Soft, My Profile, and Normal.
+ The keyboard has a special key to simulate right-click - to the right of the spacebar. While not unique to Asus, it is a nice feature.
+ The on line user manual has a very good Windows 8 section with instructions; Asus includes a PDF on the desktop task bar. The manual is well written and useful for new users. The instructions show both touch screen, touchpad, and keyboard. Well done!
+ The BIOS has lots of security features: lock USB, HDD, Audio, LAN, and Wireless. Asus supports simple BIOS updates via their Easy Flash utility.
+ Asus Live update keeps the drivers and software up to date.
+ The device is an attractive brown color with texture, but picks up fingerprints.
+ It is very easy to tap the touchpad and get a click.
+ The touchscreen is very accurate, even with my big paws.
+ Includes Cyberlink Media suite, which includes a desktop burning gadget, an ISO viewer, and Power2Go (burns disks). In some ways this is strange, because the unit has no optical drive (although external ones are fairly cheap).
+ There is a USB+ Charging mode, with a limit available that stops charging at a certain percentage. This feature allows the USB port to charge a device while the computer is powered off. This has become somewhat common for ultras; what is different is this capability to restrict the power loss when charging.
+ Asus includes a few game titles as part of Asus Vibe!, which has some music and reading as well. (only a few are free).
- The HDD is slow, even for a 5400 HDD; an SSD would be about 6 - 7 times faster.
- The power cord has a large rectangular end that plugs into wall; this will take up a bit of space (as opposed to a "brick" which fits easily because it has only the plug in the wall), but it does have a neat built in velcro strap to keep the cord in place.
- The top lid extends a bit over the bottom, which makes it a harder to open (there is nothing to grip on the bottom side).
- While the unit has a 12 Month warranty, the battery warranty is only 6 months.
- Asus divids the drive into OS (186Gb) and data partitions (258 Gb). This really complicates installing games and such, because one will have to be careful where things are installed. It would have been more usable with a simple 500 GB single partition.
- The laptop does NOT have Bluetooth, so if you want to add a mouse it will need to be one with a dongle. This omission saves power, but uses up a USB port, and seems a bit strange on an ultra portable.
- The laptop is advertised as having the Asus LifeFrame app. This enhances the camera functions, including the ability to use the webcam as security monitoring device (detects motion and takes a picture), take pictures and videos, voice recorder, and a preview function. Nice stuff - but I didn't see it installed.