Asus S1N

  • Editors' rating
    7.4 Very good

Pros

  • Slim and lightweight, yet reasonably robust
  • good-quality keyboard.

Cons

  • Poor 3D performance
  • moderate battery life
  • external optical drive.

This ultraportable 1.6GHz Centrino notebook from Asus achieves its slimline dimensions and sub-2kg system weight by moving the optical drive onto an external module, which may not suit everyone. But it's a nicely designed system that performs well enough to cope with today's business productivity applications. Battery life could be better, but it's still well worth considering for your mobile workers.

Design
The S1N looks businesslike with its slate-grey and silver finish, and feels solid enough to cope with the knocks handed out during life on the road. Key areas like screen protection, the screen hinge and the lid closure mechanism all pass muster. The system's overall dimensions (29.6cm by 24cm by 2.1-2.2cm) are determined by its 13.3in. display, which has a native resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. This delivers a reasonable amount of screen real estate, with on-screen elements such as text and icons rendered at a readable size. As mentioned above, the optical drive -- in our review sample, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo unit -- is housed in an external module, connected via a proprietary port on the left-hand side of the system. This device will also host a second hard drive if necessary. With the external module, the S1N's weight rises from 1.95kg to 2.38 kg; adding the AC adapter takes the total travel weight to 2.86kg. The keyboard has slightly translucent keys, which are a decent size and nicely responsive. It's good to see that the cursor keys and PgUp and PgDn keys are not doubled up, as they are in some more cramped keyboards. The two-button trackpad works as well as any of kind, and generally the S1N's ergonomics are good.

Features
Our review sample of the S1N was built around a 1.6GHz Pentium M processor, with 128MB of PC2100 RAM on-board and a further 256MB in the single DIMM slot, making a total of 384MB. The chipset is Intel's 855GM, which integrates the Extreme Graphics 2 module; this commandeers between 8MB and 64MB of main system memory for its purposes dynamically, as required. The hard disk is a 40GB Ultra-ATA 100 unit with a rotational speed of 4,200rpm, which is pretty standard for this class of notebook. You can specify drives up to 80GB in capacity if need be. The DVD/CD-RW combo drive in the external module is Toshiba's SD-R2312, which reads DVDs at 8-speed and CDs at 24-speed, and writes CD-Rs at 24-speed and rewrites CD-RWs at 10-speed. This is a Centrino-branded system, which means that wireless networking is catered for by Intel's PRO/Wireless 2100 802.11b Mini-PCI card. Wired 10/100 Ethernet is also provided, along with a 56Kbps soft modem for those stuck with dial-up connections. As far as ports and slots go, you shouldn't expect too much on a slimline system such as the S1N, but it doesn't do badly. Although there are no legacy ports (serial, parallel, PS/2), you do get a trio of USB 2.0 ports (two on the left-hand side, on the rear), plus 4-pin FireWire, infrared and VGA ports, along with the RJ-45 (Ethernet) and RJ-11 (modem) connectors. There's also a second proprietary connector at the rear for the optional PortBar III port replicator, which provides RJ-45, parallel, 4 USB 2.0 and VGA connections. No video-out port though.

Performance & battery life
Putting the S1N through its benchmark paces reveals it to be a solid, if unspectacular, performer. A Business Winstone 2001 score of 45.6 shows that the S1N will handle mainstream productivity applications with aplomb, while a Content Creation Winstone 2002 score of 32 suggests that it'll run more demanding programs like Photoshop well enough, if not at any great pace. The S1N uses Intel's integrated Extreme Graphics 2 module, which is part of the 855GM chipset. This means that although 2D acceleration is fine, you won't get decent 3D performance from this system, as the distinctly underwhelming 3DMark 2001 score of 1,910 demonstrates (leading notebooks score over 9,000 on this test). When it comes to battery life (an important consideration for a travel-friendly ultraportable), the S1N is disappointing for a Centrino system. According to BatteryMark 4.01, you'll only get 2 hours and 15 minutes out of this machine in desktop mode -- hardly a full day's work. Of course, more conservative power management settings will extend the S1N's uptime, but it's still well short of the best Pentium M/Centrino notebooks we've tested.

Service & support
Asus's UK Web site provides an array of FAQs, knowledgebases, technical reference documents and manuals. You can also download the latest BIOS updates, drivers and utilities. You can email technical queries, and there's a telephone support hotline. If you have a more serious problem, the S1N comes with a two-year collect and return warranty.

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