Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
The Asus K501J-BBZ5 is just about the lowest priced dual-core laptop you can find. At $529, it costs $180 more than single-core laptops such as the Compaq CQ62-215DX and the Toshiba Satellite C665-S5049. In a retail store, you'll likely see it on the shelf next to the Dell Inspiron iM501R-1212PBL and the HP G62-225DX, two other 15.6-inch laptops at the same price.
We prefer the Asus K501J of the three laptops, thanks to its competitive performance and solid construction. It weighs a few ounces more than the HP G62, but the extra heft lends a feeling of quality and ruggedness to the machine. Also, it offers the best battery life of this $529 trio. However, if you plan to output video or pictures to your HDTV with it, you're out of luck. Unlike the Dell and the HP, the Asus K501J does not have an HDMI port, which may a deal breaker for many home users.
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core T4500|
|Memory||4GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||15.6x10.0x1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.8 / 6.6 pounds|
The Asus K501J-BBZ5 uses the same textured plastic chassis as past K Series models, which features a subtle houndstooth pattern on the lid and keyboard deck. The lid and screen bezel are a glossy black, and the keyboard deck is a fingerprint-resistant matte black. The wrist rest below the keyboard is wider than usual, but the large plastic expanses to either side of the touch pad feel rigid, with little to no flex. The hinges, too, are sturdy and hold the display firmly in place.
The laptop weighs 5.8 pounds, which is the same as the Dell Inspiron iM501R-1212PBL and a few ounces heavier than the 5.5-pound HP G62-225DX. The Asus K501J feels more solidly built than either the Dell or the HP; its plastic chassis flexes less, and its display hinges are wider and stronger.
The keyboard has isolated Chiclet-style keys, like the ones popularized by the Apple MacBook, that offer a pleasant typing experience. Asus crams a narrow number pad to the right of the keyboard without shortening any keys except for the four arrow keys. You may not find the need to use them much; the touch supports multitouch gestures. So instead of using the up and down arrows to navigate long Web pages or documents, you can simple swipe your two fingers vertically on the touch pad. The touch pad is surprisingly small, though we never felt constrained when directing the cursor to and fro. The mouse buttons are generously proportioned, but they are a bit stiff and emit a loud clack when pressed.
The 15.6-inch display has a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution and LED backlights. The image is bright and crisp. The glossy screen coating strikes a fine balance between improving the image and keeping glare and reflections to a minimum. Above the display is a low-end 0.3-megapixel Webcam, which should be fine for basic Skype use.
The Asus K501J-BBZ5 features a pair of Altec Lansing speakers, which emit average sound. They'll suffice for movies and YouTube videos, but music playback is best done with a set of headphones or external speakers.
|Asus K50IJ-BBZ5||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/ microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, multiformat media card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Connectivity on the Asus K501J-BBZ5 is sparse. There are two USB 2.0 ports on either side of the laptop, and it doesn't have an eSATA port. There is a media card reader, but there is no ExpressCard slot and a VGA port is your only video-out option. We wish the Asus had HDMI, which can be found on the competing Dell Inspiron iM501R-1212PBL and HP G62-225DX. We're happy to report that unlike previous K Series models, Asus has kept bloatware to a minimum. There are a number of Asus utilities of questionable value and a Best Buy software installer, but otherwise the hard drive is relatively pristine.
The Asus K501J-BBZ5 features the Intel Pentium T4500 processor, a dual-core chip clocked at 2.3GHz. It's an entry-level dual-core processor a rung below Intel's venerable Core 2 Duo line and a couple rungs below the Core i3 and i5 series. Budget buyers will find that it delivers enough muscle for general use, including multitasking scenarios. It was 11 percent faster than the Pentium T4500-based HP G62-225DX on CNET Labs' multitasking benchmark, thanks in large part to its extra gigabyte of memory (4GB compared with the HP's 3GB). On the same test, it was a considerable 44 percent faster than the Dell Inspiron i501M-1212PBL, which uses a 2.1GHz AMD Athlon II P320. We saw similar results on our Photoshop and iTunes tests, with the Asus K501J-BBZ5 and HP H62 posting similar scores that were faster than the Dell Inspiron i501M.
|Asus K501J-BBZ5||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh Number||39.47|
|Annual power consumption cost||$4.48|
The Asus K501J-BBZ5 uses a standard six-cell battery and lasted 2 hours 54 minutes on CNET Labs' demanding video playback battery drain test. That's a fairly average score, though it did top its two $529 competitors from Dell and HP. On a midsize laptop, we look for a minimum of 3 hours of battery life in general.