ASUS N10JC: the Netbook Goes Corporateby Jarred Walton on December 24, 2008 4:00 AM EST
- Posted in
Specifications and Features
|ASUS N10JC Specifications|
|Processor||Intel Atom N270 (single-core 1.6GHz 512K with Hyper-Threading)|
|Chipset||Intel 945GSE + ICH7M-U|
|Memory||1x1024MB DDR2-667 (Running at 4-4-4 DDR2-533)
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GT 256MB + Intel GMA 950|
|Display||10.2" WSVGA (1024x600) Glossy
LED Backlighting, mfg. by Chuanghwa Picture Tubes
|Hard Drive||160GB 5400RPM 8MB
Seagate Momentus 5400.5 3Gb/s (ST9160310AS)
|Networking||Integrated Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR5007EG 802.11b/g
|Audio||2-Channel HD Audio (2.0 Speakers)|
|Front Side||Flash Reader (SD, MMC, MS, MS)|
|Left Side||2 x USB 2.0
WiFi On/Off Switch
IGP/Discrete GPU Switch
1 x USB 2.0
Microphone and Headphone Jacks
|Operating System||Windows XP Home|
|Dimensions||10.87" x 7.68" x 1.46" (WxDxH)|
|Weight||3.1 lbs with 3-cell battery
~3.3 lbs with 6-cell battery
Express Gate by SplashTop
|Warranty||2-year ASUS Global
1-year Accidental Damage and Battery
30-day Zero Bright Dot LCD
|Price||Starting at $633 shipped (plus tax)|
We've already discussed some of the specifications on the previous page, but here's the full summary. Like many new netbooks, ASUS uses Intel's latest Atom CPU, this time the N270. This is a single-core Atom running at 1.6GHz -- or 800MHz when things aren't as busy (i.e. at idle). Note that while it's a single-core chip, Atom/N270 has the ability to run two threads simultaneously per core (i.e. Hyper-Threading), so Windows Task Manager shows two CPU graphs. The net result is that power consumption for the CPU should be much lower than that of any of the other ULV mobile CPUs like the Core 2 Duo U7500, although performance is also going to be lower. That leads to much better battery life than we've seen on any other recent notebook... but we'll get to that later.
While the Atom uses a 45nm process technology, as we've discussed previously the current iteration still teams up with an older chipset, in this case the 945GM-E. That's a 90nm chip, which means it's larger and consumes significantly more power than the N270; the final result is still good in terms of power requirements, but we can only imagine how much better things will get when we start seeing Intel's future Atom CPU/chipset platform, codenamed Moorestown -- or the 32nm Medfield Atom variant due out in 2010. Of course, CPUs and chipsets only account for a portion of the power demands, so let's look at the rest of the system.
ASUS chose to save money and increase storage capacity by including a traditional 160GB HDD. While SSDs may be all the rage these days, the fact remains that prices are much higher and capacity is much lower; a 128GB SSD would easily cost 5X as much as the 160GB Seagate HDD, and the best models that offer truly better performance cost even more money and may not even provide significant power savings. Also of note in the storage department is that there's no optical drive; that's not too surprising with the small 10.2" chassis, but it does mean you will need to use the network connection or a USB drive to install additional software.
One area that was a real sore spot with us on the original ASUS Eee PC was the tiny LCD with a low 800x480 native resolution. Simply put, there are far too many applications where you need more than 480 pixels of screen height. Later Eee PCs have addressed that by increasing the LCD size and native resolution, and the N10JC follows that trend by offering a 1024x600 LCD. That's enough to handle most of what I need to do on a laptop, but honestly it's still a painful downgrade from 24" and 30" desktop LCDs. It's fine for reading email, writing a few documents, or even watching movies in a pinch; photo editing on the other hand is something that really demands much higher resolutions. Besides the size and resolution, one interesting thing about the LCD panel is that it happens to be the brightest laptop LCD we've ever tested, topping out at nearly 300 nits! It's nice to get a good range of brightness levels, and we could use anything from about 8% brightness (minimum brightness is only suitable for use in very dark environments) up to the maximum without trouble. ASUS offers 16 steps of brightness for the LCD, and at higher settings it's bright enough that you don't even notice the reflective surface (unless you're in a very bright environment).
One component in the N10JC that may seem out of place is the inclusion of a GeForce 9300M GS discrete GPU; after all, this isn't a high-powered laptop, and it's not running Vista, so why even bother with a discrete GPU? Well, it turns out we did find one good reason for the inclusion: movie decoding, specifically watching certain H.264 content, was too much for the CPU, but the combination of the GPU with the right software handled the task with aplomb. The best part is that you can switch between the integrated GMA 950 Intel graphics and the 9300M at the flick of a switch, although a reboot is required. Battery life improves by up to 50% when the discrete GPU is disabled, so it's great to see users get both the option for GPU performance/video decoding offload as well as improved battery life. Another plus in the video department is that the N10JC includes both VGA and HDMI outputs, the latter being something you don't normally find in a netbook.
The remaining features are mostly what you'd expect: 802.11b/g WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet, USB ports, an ExpressCard/34 slot, and a flash memory reader. One item that does disappoint us is the inclusion of only 1GB of RAM. Moreover, there's only one SO-DIMM slot and the chipset only supports 1GB, so you're stuck with 1GB. If you want 2GB, you'll need to move to the more expensive N10J, which also includes Windows Vista Business -- really not a bad move. Considering the current cost of 2GB DIMMs, we would have liked to see all N10 models support and ship with 2GB RAM, even if it bumped the price up another $25 to $50.