Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
When you learn not to expect much from entry-level products, there is a better chance you'll be surprised by what you find. For example, when we first looked over the Asus K50IJ-RX05 we saw a fairly basic laptop powered by an older Intel dual-core processor. After a little bit of use, though, the K50IJ started standing out from the other $499-or-less laptops we've tested, with more memory and hard-drive space, better design elements, and ultimately better performance and battery life. If your needs are limited and you don't think they'll change anytime soon, the Asus K50IJ-RX05 is a respectable deal.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$499.99|
|Processor||2GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core T4200|
|Memory||3GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GL40+ICH9M|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.5 x 10 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.8/6.6 pounds|
The Asus K50IJ-RX05 looks a lot like a larger version of the company's Eee PC 1005HA netbook. The body isn't all black, though, but a carbon-fiberesque bronze and black pattern that keeps it from looking like a generic no-frills notebook. And while it is all plastic, the contruction feels sturdy despite being comparatively lightweight.
There's a 1.3-megapixel Webcam built in above the display and the comfortabley large chiclet-ish keyboard has a separate number pad (things we don't expect on such a low-end system). Though there are no dedicated multimedia controls, Asus marked the Function keys in blue so they pop out from the white markings of the letter, number, and punctuation keys. The touch pad is reasonably large with a dimpled surface to differentiate it from the palm rests, as it's all one piece. The left and right click buttons below it are big and responsive, but the silver plastic collects fingerprints and sort of cheapens the look.
The 15.6-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which isn't enough for full 1080p HD video, but still standard for a screen this size in its class. It's not the sharpest display and colors are a little washed out, but overall it's serviceable and gets adequately bright. Plus, it's a backlit LED screen, which might be partially responsible for the laptop's good battery life.
Stereo Altec Lansing-branded speakers fire out the front. While they sound pretty weak, Asus gives them a little boost by including an amplifier utility from SRS. Turning it on not only made the speakers louder, but improved the overall quality of the audio as well.
|Asus K50IJ-RX05||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The K50IJ-RX05 has a decent port assortment with just about everything we expect at this price. The only thing noticeably absent is an ExpressCard slot, which limits the laptop's expandability options. For networking you do get the bonus of 802.11n Wi-Fi, but we question the benefit of this on such a low-end notebook.
Like all of Asus' laptops, the K50IJ-RX05 is a retail configuration, so there is no option to configure it before you buy. For the money, though, it has one of the best component lineups you're going to find. About the only thing you may consider doing after purchase is upgrading its 3GB of memory to 4GB. Otherwise, it's "what you get is what you get" with this system, which again, is not a bad thing.
Its Intel dual-core processor is older, but its performance still holds up against its low-cost competition from AMD as well as Intel. While it doesn't blow away the entry-level competition in this roundup, you can see from our test results what an extra 1GB of RAM does for a system in this class. Especially when you factor in that 128MB of the system memory is being shared with the integrated graphics. Also, though we didn't run gaming benchmarks on these notebooks, it handles casual gaming without a problem.
|Raw (annual kWh)||46|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$5.22|
The K50IJ ran for 2 hours and 44 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery, putting it at the top for battery life in this roundup. A little power management and you can easily get more than 3 hours of time away from an outlet. Plus, our battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.
Asus includes a two-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system; however, the battery is only covered for one year. The company's support Web site has improved much over the past few years, and includes easy-to-find driver downloads and manuals, along with a brief FAQ section. Retail stores offer a variety of extended warranty plans with your laptop purchase, but they're generally expensive and hard to use, so we do not recommend them.
This system is available from Best Buy only. With any PC purchases after June 26, Best Buy will provide a free, full version of Windows 7 when it becomes available in October. The laptop must be running Windows Vista Home Premium, Ultimate, or Business to qualify and will receive the corresponding Windows 7 program.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core T4200; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 320GB Seagate 5400rpm
Toshiba Satellite L305-S5955
Windows Vista Home Basic SP1; 2.2GHz Intel Celeron 900; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 160GB Toshiba 5400rpm
Compaq Presario CQ60-417DX
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.2GHz Intel Celeron 900; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 160GB Samsung 5400rpm
Toshiba Satellite L505D-S5965
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.1GHz AMD Athlon X2 Dual-Core QL-65; 3072MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon 3100; 250GB Toshiba 5400rpm
Dell Inspiron 1545-012B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core T4200; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 128MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD; 160GB Western Digital 5400rpm