Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Asus EeeBook E402M Elegant White

Asus EeeBook E402M Elegant White

It’s rather hard to believe that it’s now possible to pick up a laptop for less than $500. Sure, it’s only a buck less, but this is still a rather remarkable price point considering what these ultraportable machines cost just a few years ago. Obviously there are going to have to be some compromises made to hit such an affordable price point, but is this machine stll useable?

Despite measuring a mere 14-inch across thanks to the screen, the E402M is surprisingly heavy, weighing in at 1.6kg. When you’re paying bottom dollar, buying expensive lightweight components obviously isn’t feasible, but even at this weight it’s still no back-breaker. As expected, the entire external chassis is made from plastic, and Asus offers it in a range of colourful options – obviously ours was the all-white version. It doesn’t look cheap though, as the glossy finish of the plastic hides its low cost. We were very surprised to see how rigid it feels as well, with almost zero keyboard flex, though the screen isn’t quite so rigid.

Speaking of which, the 1366 x 768 resolution isn’t good enough to hide pixel structure, which works out at 112 pixels per inch. This makes the pixels obvious in everything from word processing to viewing videos and text in particular looks rather soft. The display is based on the more affordable TN technology, which makes viewing angles an issue unless you sit front and centre. Colour and contrast aren’t as bad as we’d expected at this price point, but motion blur can be problematic when viewing video. Sitting on the top edge of the display bezel is the VGA video camera, which displayed a relatively crude image compared to some more expensive laptops.

The full-sized chiclet keyboard is one of the highlights of the E402M, with just the right amount of travel and force necessary. If only we could say the same of the touchpad; while accuracy is fine, clicking each of the two buttons requires just a little bit too much finger-strength. We’d highly suggest using an external mouse as a result.

During our hands-on with the machine, we noticed the biggest issue – performance. Simply opening a web page or right clicking on the desktop resulted in a  noticeable delay between input and result. This is likely due to the rather anaemic Intel Baytrail-M N2840 processor, a twin-cored critter that has a base frequency of just 2.16GHz. 4GB DDR3 1333MHz of memory probably doesn’t help either – even the mere act of opening the Windows Control Panel took upwards of five seconds, an aeon compared to other laptops.

At least our version of the E402M came with a decent amount of storage, in the form of a 500GB mechanical disk drive. The Shadow Blue model, priced at $369, ships with a mere 32GB MMC drive, making cloud storage an absolute must. Yet either way, uploading online isn’t going to be the briskest of tasks, as the included Wi-Fi chipset is rather quaint. Forget support for the latest 802.11ac standard – you’re going to have to make do with b/g or n. Even the number of inputs and outputs has had to be trimmed back to hit this price point, with a single USB 3.0 port, alongside another USB 2.0 port. At least it has a fullsized HDMI out for presentation uses.

Given our lacklustre experience when playing around with the EeeBook, we knew its benchmark results weren’t going to be mind-blowing. However, its score of 1308 in the PCMark 8 Home Accelerated benchmark isn’t that bad when compared to similarly priced laptops. For example, Toshiba’s Click 10 posted an even slower score, despite costing $200 more, and that model only ships with a meagre 64B memory. Battery life was also decent, coming in at 259 minutes in the PCMark 8 Home Accelerated battery test.

It’s easy to criticise the EeeBook E402MA when comparing it to $1000+ laptops, but when measured against others in the same price range it’s actually not such a bad deal. Our biggest concern is the screen quality, which really should have been at least 1080p at this size. Yet for a mere $500, this machine does the job, provided you’re in no hurry to get that job done. Bennett Ring