Serious price inflation has begun to stalk the land. Even government statisticians are having trouble glossing over that fact. But not everything has followed this upward trend, and luckily for us technology lovers, computers keep getting cheaper. This budget Asus laptop weighs in under the £400 mark, and here’s the spec you get for that money.
The model we evaluated was the AS499C option, which is powered by a T5450 Core 2 Duo processor with a speed of 1.66GHz, 2GB of 667MHz RAM, a 120GB hard drive and a Radeon Xpress 1100 graphics chipset. The display is a 15.4-inch widescreen affair and there’s also a DVD writer and Windows Vista Home Premium installed. There’s no Web-cam or extra goodies aside from a smart card reader, but for £380 we reckon that’s still a pretty impressive feature set.
The hard drive comes ready partitioned into two sections, one for Vista and the other for everyday data use. A couple of pieces of software, such as Nero 7 Essentials, are also pre-installed, and a few thoughtful extras are provided by Asus, such as a cable-tidy to help keep that snaking power lead under control.
The build quality of the machine also gives you the feeling that, even though this is a budget notebook, corners haven’t been cut. It’s sturdily constructed, with a good quality keyboard and touchpad and a reasonably stylish silvery-grey finish. The only downside of the X51RL’s solidity is the fact that it’s a bit on the heavy side for a portable, but it’s nothing untoward.
In terms of performance, Vista runs just fine thanks to the Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB of RAM. The hard drive isn’t the fastest in the world, but it’s decent enough, especially considering this laptop’s price tag. The Radeon 1100 does a fair job in terms of 3D performance, and although it won’t tackle the latest and greatest games, it ran the Sims 2 just fine at 1,280 x 800 resolution (the native resolution for the display).
The X51RL’s weak point is the screen, as its viewing angles are rather narrow, particularly in the vertical plane. Unless your head is pretty much exactly level with the display, it looks slightly washed out, and although it isn’t a badly off-putting effect, it’s a definite niggle. The reflective coating on the screen can also be irksome in brightly lit conditions.
Battery life is reasonable, and in our timed test the unit lasted an hour and twenty minutes, taking on a raft of tasks including some 3D gaming. Obviously with slightly less intensive use this would push up towards the two hour mark. Despite its cheap price, the X51RL comes with a two-year warranty as well. The only real negative here is the screen, and that’s not a deal breaker by any means.
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