Showing posts with label Asus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asus. Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

ASUS VivoBook E203MA Review: A good entry-level laptop let down by a mediocre screen and limited storage

The previous generation of the ASUS VivoBook E203MA ran on an Apollo Lake N3350 processor, came with 32GB storage and 2GB RAM. The latest refresh comes with a better Gemini Lake Celeron N4000 processor, 4GB RAM and 32GB storage. The shift to 4GB RAM is becoming a positive trend with Windows 10 entry-level laptops. There is also a 64GB version available that is difficult to obtain in Europe. Below is a key point review of the laptop:
  • Processor: The N3050 and N3060 Braswell Celeron processors were poor and struggled with basic tasks, e.g. rendering complex websites, editing larger Google Docs documents and moving between browser tabs. Intel then introduced the Apollo Lake N3350 that improved performance but the processor still struggled to keep up with moderate workloads. The Gemini Lake N4000 goes further than previous generations and offers adequate performance. 
  • The ASUS VivoBook E203MA weighs only 0.99 grams - this makes it the lightest laptop in its category. 
  • The trackpad is serviceable but is inferior to trackpads you get even with the cheapest Chromebooks. The chiclet keyboard, on the other hand, is positive with its good key travel. 
  • Entry-level laptops are designed as mobile devices and usually, in comparison to other laptops, you expect a minimum full day usage from one charge cycle. The ASUS VivoBook E203MA hits the standard but falls short in comparison to HP’s Stream laptops. I found the laptop just goes over the eight-hour of mixed usage when running in battery saving mode and at around 40% screen brightness. Similar to other vendors, ASUS overestimates the battery to ‘up to 10 hours’. 
  • HP is known for good audio output and the HP Stream laptops, based on my experience, produce the best audio in this category. The ASUS VivoBook E203MA’s audio does not match HP’s level but is clear and loud enough. 
  • Subscriptions: The VivoBook comes with a one-year Office 365 subscription but there is no one-year 1TB OneDrive cloud storage subscription (HP bundles both subscriptions with their HP Stream laptops). The bundled Office 365 subscription is a positive as not all vendors in this category bundle the subscription. 
  • Storage & RAM: The VivoBook, following the positive trend in this category, is configured with 4GB RAM. Similarly, keeping with the trend in this category, ASUS decided to keep the 32GB as the default storage option. A 64GB option is available but is restricted, it appears, to North America. The available 32GB storage is workable but you need to constantly monitor storage and select which software package is necessary. The available SD Card slot is useful but is no substitute for internal storage, e.g. Microsoft has not, so far, supported the syncing of OneDrive files to an external storage drive. However, workable is not a good user experience and vendors should up the minimum storage to 64GB. 
  • Mediocre glossy screen: The VivoBook E203MA’s screen - a glossy non-IPS panel - is mediocre. It is similar in quality to the HP Stream 14’s glossy screen. Colours and viewing angles are poor and to get optimal viewing it is necessary to set the screen angle to 90 degrees. Tilt the screen slightly and colours shift. I don’t think that the VivoBook being an entry-level laptop justifies ASUS’s screen choice. Acer, for example, fit some of their cheapest Chromebooks with an IPS display. Even the HP Stream 11’s matte non-IPS Screen is more colourful. 
The ASUS VivoBook E203MA falls short with its screen and limited storage. When vendors decide that an IPS/PLS screen and 64GB storage should be the minimum standard then we will finally get the all-rounder entry-level laptop that gets the basics right.

Due to availability, I haven’t tested the N4000 HP Stream 11. However, it is a better choice, considering the previous generation’s screen and excellent battery life, coupled with an improved N4000 processor. I don’t understand why HP decided to restrict its availability to selected countries.

Pros 
  1. Very light. 
  2. Improved performance. 
  3. Good keyboard. 
  4. One-year Office 365 subscription included. 
Cons 
  1. Mediocre screen. 
  2. 32GB storage is not enough. 
  3. Battery life acceptable but could be better.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

ASUS E203MA initial impressions

I am testing the recently released ASUS E203MA and my initial impressions are mixed. The glossy screen is similar to the HP Stream 14 – the difference is that the ASUS E203MA has slightly better contrast. However, 1366 X 768 on a smaller 11.6 screen is acceptable. Overall, the screen is disappointing.

The real positive, other than the 4GB RAM, is the updated N4000 Gemini Lake Celeron processor. I used both the Celeron Braswell N3060 and Apollo Lake N3350 and noticed little difference. This time the N4000 update gives a performance boost. The performance boost coupled with the extra RAM for multi-tasking means you don’t get the slow-down experienced with other entry-level laptops.

Hopefully, I’ll post a more detailed review soon.

Monday, 20 August 2018

ASUS update their budget laptops

Asus updated their range of budget laptops; some of these laptops are refreshed with Intel's Gemini Lake processors. I like ASUS’ budget strategy - you get choice and variety below the £300 threshold. Below is a list of the ASUS’ latest releases (the list only has sub 14-inch laptops; I think 13 - 14 inches are the right sizes for a primary computer, as you get a good screen size and portability):
  • The entry-level ASUS E203MA 11.6 has been updated with a Gemini Lake Celeron N4000 (the exact model number is E203MA-FD001TS). The laptop is priced like other entry-level laptops, but two features make it stand-out: (1) 4 GB RAM; (2) a bundled one-year Office 365 subscription. Yes, other entry-level laptops have one of these features, but few come have both. This is also the lightest laptop in the entry-level category weighing only 999 grams. As I've posted before, entry-level laptops serve the purpose of a secondary laptop; thus, the light-weight of the E203 is an attractive bonus.
  • ASUS Laptop E406MA: The E406MA is a recent release and comes in different versions: two with Intel Gemini Lake Celeron processors (N4000 and N4100) and one with an Intel Gemini Lake Pentium N5000. The top-tier Pentium version is available in Canada and sells for 400 Canadian Dollars (equivalent to $306 US). It is not clear if the top-tier version will be available in the UK. Unfortunately, the US tends to get models with better specifications. The UK market, to contrast, often get the 1366 X 768 models with lower storage (32GB). In my view, a 1366 X 768 on a 14-inch laptop is a deal breaker. In many ways the top-tier ASUS E406MA is a good upgrade to the ASUS VivoBook L403. 
  • ASUS Chromebook 12 C223: The laptop looks nice. However, on paper, it does not offer much for the price (the retail price is rumoured to be close to 320 Euros). If the price is correct, I expect the device to be discounted in a few months. A Chromebook with an Intel Celeron Apollo Lake N3350 should be priced closer to 200 Euros. 
Other budget laptops from ASUS running Intel Braswell and Apollo Lake processors:
The above laptops have a full HD screen, capable processors for basic tasks and 4GB RAM. The 32GB on the Asus C301SA is enough for a Chromebook. The best value Chromebook, in my view, is the Asus Chromebook C302CA. It now sells for £400 and for that you get a vastly superior Core M3 processor and a battery life close to eleven hours. Considering the use-base target of Chromebooks, I do not think it is worth going for pricier models.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Best budget tech of 2017

In late 2016, a number of vendors released entry laptops with 4GB rather than 2GB RAM. For example, we had the HP Stream 14 and the Acer ES11/ES13. Yet, these devices remained restricted due to their underpowered processors. For this reason, I found the Lenovo 110S with its more powerful quad core N3160 a better proposition in comparison to slower dual core N3350/N3060 laptops with 4GB RAM. The device serves the purpose of a secondary mobile laptop and comes with a one-year office 365 subscription. Lenovo recently updated the 110S with the 120S. The latter device, in its base configuration, comes with a weaker dual core Intel Celeron N3350 Processor, making the previous generation the better option. While technically released late 2016, I think the Ideapad 110S is the best entry-level laptop in 2017.

Beyond the entry-level but within the budget category, we have seen the release of a number of laptops with full HD screens, more powerful quad core processors, 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. The 14 inch Asus Vivobook L403 and the Acer Swift 1 13 are examples and both are capable primary laptops. Smaller vendors released similar laptops at lower prices but these devices need to be imported from China, leading to possible complications with after-sale support (on the plus side, I have noticed Geekbuying.com are now shipping laptops from warehouses based in Germany). Based on positive reviews, the Chuwi Lapbook 14.1 and Jumper EZBOOK 3 PRO are the pick of the bunch.

Tablets

Amazon owns the budget tablet category. Cutting the right corners, Amazon delivered stand out tablets in the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10. The Fire HD 8 is a solid device, with very good battery life, that delivers what most users expect from a tablet. The Fire HD 10 surpasses expectations with a screen that compares with mid-level tablets. Beyond Amazon, Lenovo released the Tab 4 HD 8; the device is priced higher than Fire HD 8 but comes with a better screen, better cameras and more RAM.

Concerning e-readers, Barnes & Noble released the Nook Glowlight 3 but the device is only available in the US. It will be interesting to see what Amazon do with the Kindle Paperwhite in 2018. I expect Amazon to release a 6 inch Kindle Paperwhite 4 with incremental updates.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Windows 10 S devices being released

Microsoft announced the release of Windows 10 S a few months back, to take on the success of Chromebooks in the education sector, and now major vendors are releasing budget devices with the operating system. One of the earlier options is the Asus VivoBook W202NA; the laptop is designed to be used in classrooms and can withstand drops from up to 3.9 feet. The device is not priced as an entry-level device and comes with a weaker Apollo Lake Celeron processor (N3350), 4GB RAM and 64GB eMMC. Overall, I am sceptical about Windows 10 S for different reasons but one of the biggest problems is the relatively sparse selection of applications compared to Google Play that is being made available on more Chromebooks. Laptop Mag published a review of the W2020NA that can be accessed here.