The notebook I ended up buying (Review of the Asus 5RL Notebook)

I thought I’d post an update about what happened after I deciding on buying a notebook in my an earlier post. I called up CPL to order it on Sunday, and was told that they would order it in, after I pay $100 deposit, and that I would be able to pick it up either Monday or Tuesday at the latest. Tuesday comes around and I call them to ask if the notebook is available, to which I’m told, "Oh they don’t make that model anymore." My response of course being "So what did I just put a $100 deposit on?" apparently there was a mix-up and the last of that model was sold on the Friday before… anyway they put me on to a sales guy that organises what seems to be a better spec machine for a cheaper price anyway.

I get there to inspect an Acer 5RL which comes 1GB of RAM by default, but me wanting to run Windows Vista properly, I asked if that could be upgraded to 3GB of RAM, which they attempt but discover it can only be upgraded to 2GB… bugger, oh well 2GB is enough I guess, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking "That’s strange, I thought all Core 2 Duo’s are upgradable to 4GB). Anyway I think nothing of it and I’m pretty stoked with machine I get for a price of $940, which even has an ATI Radeon XPress graphics card (better than the crappy Intel chips you usually get for that price). It’s only when I got home I realised it’s not a Core 2 Duo, but a Core Duo, bugger… After all that research I did, I end up getting a Core Duo. That’s not to say I’m not happy with the machine, in fact I challenge anyone to get a better machine for the price.

Final Specifications (Acer 5RL Notebook)

Processor 1.6Ghz Core Duo
RAM 2GB (After a 1GB stick upgrade)
Screen 15.4" WXGA (1280×800)
Graphics ATI RADEON XPRESS 1100
Networking LAN, W/LAN, Bluetooth, 56K Modem
Hard Drive 160GB 5400 RPM
Optical Drive DVD/RW Multi-Recorder (with Lightscribe)
Other Hardware 1.3MB Web Cam (with swivel to face in front or behind notebook),
xD/SDMMC/MS/PRO card reader,
Infineon Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2
Battery Life Approx 2hrs
Weight 2.8kg
Operating System Windows Vista Business
Bundled Software Nero, Norton Internet Security (Trial), Office 2007 (Trial), Nero Express, Asus PowerDVD, PowerDirector, MediaShow, ASUS LifeFrame (webcam software)
Final Price $940 AUD

Windows Experience Index

image

What I hate about the ASUS 5RL (Rant)

  • Keyboard – The keyboard is a little flimsy, pushing some of the keys moves other keys, and while this doesn’t actually affect the usage it can sometimes make the notebook feel a little cheap.
  • Keyboard – The Function key is right below the Shift on the left hand side, right where I expect the Ctrl key to be, instead the Ctrl key is the same size as a normal letter key and sits to the right of the Function key. This may not seem like a big thing, but I always hold Ctrl down with the arrow keys to jump whole words, and I constantly find myself hitting the function key instead, nothing bad happens it just annoys me, I imagine this is something I will get used to after extended use.
  • Web Cam – Quite stuttered and blurry and no good if you want to video anything faster than about 3 frames per second. I expect more from a web cam these days, the quality’s not bad, but not great either…
    AllFun
  • Initial Setup – Despite the loads of crap-ware being pre-installed, it is the fact that my hard drive has been pre-partitioned into an 80GB and 60GB drive that pisses me off. "But wait" I hear you say… "wasn’t it a 160GB disk, where’s the other 20 odd gigs?" Well I think they’ve seen fit to put recovery software in a hidden partition, which really annoys me when they’ve already given me a recovery DVD to do this.

What I love about the ASUS 5RL (Rave)

  • Aesthetics – It’s a very stylish looking laptop with a metallic gray finish.
  • Performance – Can’t complain despite my concerns about the CPU it performs admirably with all tasks including running Visual Studio 2008 and Expression Blend 2. WPF runs pretty will too from my highly accurate performance test, using Flip3D (Win+Tab keys) to see if it feels snappy.
  • Hardware Buttons – There’s a button for quickly switching between power modes, which configures the sound levels, light levels and power consumption with the click of a button, it even switches to Vista Basic Graphics in Battery Saver mode and it does all of this instantaneously, fantastic!
  • Hardware Buttons – This the first laptop I’ve seen that has a button above the keyboard for turning on and off the Touchpad. My god it’s brilliant, with a tap it’s gone so that you can type in peace, tap and it’s back again.
  • Touchpad – Maybe I’ve just had a bad experience with older Dells but this Touchpad doesn’t seem to get in the way when I type, I haven’t bumped accidentally once while typing, unlike the Dells at work which annoy the friggin’ s**t out of me, and you can’t turn them off like this one. This one also has pretty good sensitivity and has reserved areas at the right and bottom for auto-scrolling, another nice feature that I use a lot. I have to say this is probably the first laptop where I don’t mind using the Touchpad over a mouse.
  • Price – To buy a machine that I could easily see replacing my desktop, i’m stoked with the $940 price tag.
  • Its a Notebook – Gone are the days of waiting for a computer to boot, now I just start up from standby and in less than 30 seconds I’m in. Then when I’m done I just snap the lid shut. Why aren’t all desktop computers built this way? I say all desktops should have a battery for quick standby and in case of power failure.

Final Thoughts

All in all, i’m stoked and anyone who’s been thinking about getting a new computer (notebook or otherwise), should strongly consider getting a machine like this.

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