Last year we reviewed more than 130 notebooks and netbooks, rating each according to design, performance, usability and more. Generally, we focus on individual systems, but over time we’ve been able to identify trends based on the vendor. As part of our ongoing You Grade the Brands series, we’ve synthesized a year’s worth of our reviews, our annual Tech Support Showdown, and third-party data to help you narrow down your choices. So how does ASUS stack up?
Check out ASUS’s strengths and weaknesses and its 2009 review scorecard below. Then sound off in the comments and tell us what you think of the brand and about your own experience with your ASUS notebook or netbook. Without your input, our report card will be incomplete.
- Design: We’re not fans of the glossy plastic ASUS often uses in their designs, but we’re fans of the overall aesthetic and functional design choices the vendor makes. This was particularly on display in ultraportable systems like the UL30A and UL80Vt, which combined sleek, thin chassis with long battery life and good keyboards. We also like the Seashell line of netbooks, which evolved over 2009 from being heavily focused on good looks to a balanced blend of form and function.
- Performance: ASUS notebooks and netbooks delivered consistently good overall performance as well as great graphics performance in mainstream and gaming systems. Most of our thumbs-up for performance went to the vendor’s mainstream systems, though netbooks like the original Eee PC 1008HA and 1201N distinguished themselves with speedy hard drives and relatively powerful CPUs.
- Battery Life: We were impressed throughout the year by ASUS’ ability to keep pace with or beat the competition when it came to endurance. Netbooks like the Eee PC 1005HA and ultraportables like the UL30A were able to last longer than 9 hours on a charge.
- Keyboards: At the end of 2008 and through the beginning of 2009 ASUS notebooks were often plagued with poor keyboards that either flexed too much, didn’t provide good tactile feedback, or otherwise just weren’t the best. However, the company turned that around as the year went on, improving its from netbooks to gaming notebooks.
- Too Much Bling: Glossy plastic chassis may look good sitting on a store shelf but aren’t so great for everyday use. ASUS’ propensity toward shiny lids and decks results in fingerprint-covered netbooks and notebooks. Not only does matte look a bit classier, it also keeps laptops from seeming constantly grimy.
- No Configuration Options: Though ASUS often offers more than one model within a given product line, the company does not sell direct. That means that consumers cannot configure notebooks online to fit their needs. It could be argued that with so many choices there is likely to be something for every consumer, but there will always be users who want the perfect combination of hardware and can’t find it in the pre-configured models the company offers.
Review Report Card
In 2009 we reviewed a total of 20 ASUS notebooks and netbooks. Of those, 35% earned 4 stars, 45% earned 3.5 stars, and 10% earned 3 stars. The ASUS W90 has the distinction of being the highest rated ASUS notebook of the year with 4.5 stars. Unfortunately, the Eee PC T91 Tablet got the lowest of the scores: 2.5. Four ASUS notebooks (20% total) were awarded LAPTOP’s Editor’s Choice.
Best Rated Notebooks
Worst Rated Notebooks
Tech Support and Reliability
ASUS got a decent score of B- in our Tech Support Showdown. According to a study by Square Trade, ASUS has one of the lowest malfunction rates over 3 years — 15.6% — just under Toshiba.
The company that introduced the netbook to the world slipped a little last year as stalwarts like HP and upstarts like Acer and Samsung moved in on the category they created. Still, over the course of 2009 ASUS proved that it could surprise us and continues to learn from user feedback. What’s next? As we saw at CES, the company is emphasizing higher-end designs, including a desktop replacement designed by Bang & Olufsen and a notebook made with bamboo.
Now It’s Your Turn
Do you own an ASUS laptop? Owned one in the recent past? What does ASUS get right and where does the company need improvement? Tell us how you’d grade ASUS and why.