A high-end Cedar Trail N2800, clocked at 1.86GHz, features in the new Asus Eee PC R052C netbook, supported by a questionable 1GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive. All wrapped up in a 10.1-inch shell, with an an anti-reflective screen to optimize portable use. Asus is demanding 320 euros for the R052C (about $600), for which price it really ought to be rivalling low-end notebooks for user experience. The decently-capable Acer Aspire One D270 is currently selling for around 279 euros, so there’s also plenty of competition from lower-end machines as well. The R052C ships with a 24-month guarantee as standard.
The R052C’s chassis is a pretty chunky 34mm thick, and it’s no lightweight either at 1.25kg – that’s a lot thicker and heavier than many ultrabooks. Visually it’s still quite impressive; matt white plastic means no unsightly fingerprints or smears, and the chrome trim boosts the Asus R052C’s aesthetic appeal. Build quality is solid all-round – good stiff hinges, no significant flex, teeter, or creaks.
Our main gripe with the design is the thick bezel; Asus could probably have squeezed in an 11.6-inch panel, which really would have taken the netbook to a new level.
The 10.1-inch display features the standard 1024 x 600 pixel resolution, so multiple-window working is very difficult. Brightness is good at 227 nits, and does not diminish when the netbook is running on battery power, but not-so-black blacks mean a weak 156:1 contrast ratio.
The chiclet-style keyboard offers a 14mm x 14mm key surface, with a good pressure point and decent travel. It’s OK for a 300-euro notebook but extended typing sessions on netbook keyboards are not recommended. The touchpad is not quite as cramped as the keyboard but is limited in space nonetheless, so three-fingered gestures require some getting used to. The smooth touchpad surface means good glide, but the single mouse bar instead of discrete mouse keys is a bit fiddly.
Intel’s latest Cedar Trail platform introduces support for HDMI connectivity, but the old VGA interface is still included, although both can’t be used at the same time. The trio of USB-3 ports is unchanged, with average data transfer speed of 30MB/s. The 3-in-1 card reader and audio jack completes the set.
The Asus R052C netbook has to make do with a 0.3MP webcam for video calling. The entry-level WLAN module will support transfer rates of 150Mbps, fine for surfing, although not capable of using the 5GHz frequency. There’s no Bluetooth module in the R052C. Skyping is just about possible on the webcam but images are noisy and the microsphone records slightly muffled sound.
For many users, Atom hyper-threaded dual-cores are plenty capable of everyday tasks. The integrated GPU on the N2800 Atom processor is an Intel GMA 3650 chip, and is clocked at 640MHz. It’s still a low-end GPU, with support only for DirectX 9, since Intel’s Cedar Trail drivers don’t yet support DirectX 10.1, which the hardware is capable of running.
Really Asus ought to have provided more RAM; users can prise open the chassis to bump it up to 4GB, but the warranty would be invalidated. Limited RAM makes programs open that bit slower than on 15-inch notebooks, but HD video plays smoothly up to 1080p. Complicatedc modern 3D applications and games are all but unusable on the R052C.
The mono speaker gives fair maximum volume and is fine for casual use. The large 56W battery is one reason for the thickness of the Asus R052C, and on moderate settings lasts out a full working day. Certainly well capable of everyday tasks, the R052C isn’t quite there on demanding applications. With 4GB RAM installed it would be a different story. But emails, a spot of YouTube, Microsoft Office, organzing photo galleries – all are easily within the remit of the R052C.
Benchmark tests for Asus Eee PC R052C netbook can be found at notebookcheck
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