Asus N10J-A1 review: Asus N10J-A1

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Battery life: 7.0
  • Service and support: 5.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good In a Netbook first, it includes a dedicated graphics chip, which can be switched off to extend battery life; decent keyboard; excellent battery life, especially with GeForce graphics turned off; HDMI port and ExpressCard slot are useful bonuses.

The Bad Low screen resolution won't appeal to all gamers; underpowered Intel Atom CPU is far from ideal for graphics-heavy applications; high price.

The Bottom Line It may look like your standard Netbook, but the Asus N10J is unique because underneath it features discrete, switchable graphics. You'll pay a bit more for the privilege, but the end result works for gaming on the go, as long as you don't mind dialing down your game settings.

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Almost every Netbook we've seen to date has featured the same basic setup: the Intel Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and Windows XP. We're even seeing less difference in screen size, as most vendors have settled on a 9- or a 10-inch screen. Really, the only differentiation between Netbook configurations is that some use a solid-state drive while others come outfitted with a larger capacity spinning drive--usually a 160GB hard drive. Adding a new wrinkle to the Netbook formula is the Asus N10J, a 10-inch system from the company that pretty much single-handedly kicked off the Netbook craze with its Eee PC.

This new model doesn't share the Eee PC brand common to other Asus Netbooks, but it still features the usual suspects with respect to the CPU, RAM, and OS. What makes the $699 N10J different is the addition of an Nvidia GeForce 9300 graphics card, which marks the first time we've seen discrete graphics offered on a Netbook. Better yet, you can switch between the GeForce graphics and the integrate Intel graphics--similar to the new MacBook Pro--should you want to extend battery life.

Why would you possibly need a Netbook with a graphics card? Honestly, most people probably don't need it. Given their tight dimensions and relatively meager specs, Netbooks are usually reserved for nothing more than basic tasks such as Web surfing and e-mailing. But the ability to do some casual gaming makes the Asus N10J an almost irresistible travel companion if you're a PC game addict and can live with the limitations of a very low screen resolution and the low-power CPU. We managed to get marginally playable frame rates from a few current games by dialing down the in-game resolution and detail levels.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $699
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory 1GB, 533MHZ DDR2
Hard drive 160GB 5,400RPM
Chipset Intel 945GSE
Graphics 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS [switchable with Intel GMA 950 (integrated)]
Operating System Windows XP Home
Dimensions (WD) 10.8 x 7.6 inches
Height 1.3 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.2 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.6/4.2 pounds
Category Netbook

Unlike Asus' other high-end Netbook, the Eee PC S101, whose price premium is put toward design and a slim case that's less than 1 inch thick, the N10J has a more traditional, slightly chunky Netbook chassis. The main body is plastic, with a few metal accents, but feels sturdy enough to stand up to regular travel.

For a Netbook, the N10J has one of the better keyboards we've seen, with large flat keys that maximize the typing surface area. It's no match for the HP Mini 1000's excellent keyboard, but it's an improvement on the tiny keys found on most Netbooks. It also helps that the slightly bigger 10-inch design gives you more room to work with than 9-inch Netbooks. This keyboard also corrects a major problem we had with the Asus S101's keyboard: the right shift key, which had been awkwardly moved to the right of the up-arrow key, is now back in its proper place, saving us from endless typos.

The system also includes a Linux quick-launch environment from Splashtop, which gives you access to a Web browser and media player without booting into Windows. It took us about 60 seconds to go from a cold start to surfing the Web, but you'll have to dig around a bit to configure the Wi-Fi settings the first time you use it.

The 10.2-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,024x600 native resolution, which is standard for Netbooks. It's readable, but most documents and Web pages will require some scrolling, and it's an awkward resolution for both games and video content.

  Asus N10J Average for category [netbook]
Video VGA-out, HDMI VGA-out
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/34 None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

The inclusion of HDMI and an ExpressCard slot are appreciated additions. You're lucky to get VGA-out on a Netbook; the N10J is the first we've seen to offer HDMI. And the Lenovo IdeaPad S10 is the only Netbook we've seen with an ExpressCard slot. The biggest extra in the N10J, however, is its Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS GPU. In normal operation, the GPU is turned on and an included software app lets you switch between different power-saving modes, which largely involve when the display and hard drives will power down. A physical switch on the left side of the system, however, actually turns the GeForce 9300 off; this is useful when you're away from an AC outlet and want to extend battery life. You'll need to reboot in order for the change to take effect, so this is something you can't do on the fly.

Even with the graphics turned on, the N10J performed similarly to other Atom-powered Netbooks in our benchmark tests and in casual use. Attempting to watch hefty HD video content files still taxed the Atom CPU and resulted in choppy playback, but standard-definition video files played fine. The screen resolution was too low to properly run our Photoshop test, but in anecdotal use, we were able to work with images in Photoshop without completely slowing down the system.

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Where to Buy

Asus N10J-A1

Part Number: N10J-A1 Released: Nov 1, 2008

MSRP: $699.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov 1, 2008
  • Resolution 1024 x 600 ( WSVGA )
  • Operating System Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Installed Size 2 GB
  • Color silver
  • Weight 3.5 lbs
  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS / Intel GMA 950 - 256 MB VRAM
  • CPU Intel Atom N270 / 1.6 GHz