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Review Asus N20A Subnotebook

Elegance in 12.1 inches.

With the Asus N20A we can introduce another of the currently rather popular mini-notebooks. Developed for the consumer market, for this 12.1-inch subnotebook Asus has amongst other things also attached particular importance to elegant looks. You can find out whether the N20A can deliver on what its looks promise in the following test report.

 

 

Review Asus N20A

Note: In order to be able to adapt the A20A to individual needs when it comes to mobility and performance, Asus offers a range of configuration possibilities. You have choices regarding the processor, RAM configuration, battery and hard disk capacity. Depending on the chosen configuration the performance data, battery life, and weight of the reviewed N20A-2P154C model may vary.

Case

The Asus N20A also follows the trend by utilising high gloss finished surfaces. Thanks to Asus Infusion technology these surfaces should, according to Asus, be scratch-proof and even after long term use the laptop should retain its shine. In terms of colour the laptop takes on discreet black and brown tones with, according to Asus, a delicate design. In the process the black high gloss parts, unlike the brown parts, are relatively susceptible to fingerprints, dust and other dirt.

The plastic case performed well in the test with good distortion- and pressure-resistance. On the base unit you'll find an often observed weakness in the area of the optical drive. However you'll have to really energetically go at it with the heels of the hand in order to reach any slippage of this area. The lid is a little less resistant to distortions, but it has a good pressure resistance.

The battery has too much play. The 6-cell version that was provided with the test sample also projects somewhat from the rear side.

The hinges function adequately for the size of the subnotebook. They hold the display in place well in every set position and seesaw only a little when adjusted. Because of the opening mechanism the opening angle is limited to a maximum of around 138 degrees. When falling below a certain opening angle, the laptop closes by itself. Transportation security has therefore been relinquished.

Connectivity

Considering the form factor the Asus N20A offers a rather generous connection configuration. For instance next to the usually available VGA connection it also offers HDMI for full digital picture and sound transmission. Also an optical drive is part of the team. Indeed 'only' 3 USB-2.0 connections are offered, yet there's an e-SATA interface. Using the Expresscard/54, the functionality of the laptop can be extended.

When it comes to security features the N20A offers a Kensington Lock and a fingerprint reader. Optionally a Trusted Platform module V1.2 (TPM) can also be ordered.

Through the specific placement right-handed people are once again favoured. On the left-hand side you'll find most of the connections which are potentially permanently occupied in the middle to the front area.

Front: card reader
Asus N20A Front: card reader
Right: optical drive, headphones (S/PDIF), microphone, USB2.0, Kensington Lock
Asus N20A Right: optical drive, headphones (S/PDIF), microphone, USB2.0, Asus N20A Kensington Lock
Rear: RJ-45 (LAN), Battery, VGA
Asus N20A Rear: RJ-45 (LAN), Battery, VGA
Left: power supply, E-SATA, 2x USB 2.0, HDMI, WiFi switch
Asus N20A Left: power supply, E-SATA, 2x USB 2.0, HDMI, WiFi switch

The Asus N20A can establish a wired connection with a Realtek RTL8168C/8111C Family PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC LAN connection. For wireless connections next to an Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 AGN (abgn) module there is also Bluetooth 2.0+EDR.

On the upper display border there's a 1.3 Megapixel webcam. Together with the integrated microphone (on the right above the keyboard) you're primed for video conferences.

The configuration of accessories is generous. Alongside a printed hardware handbook, there's still other information in the box. It's particularly pleasant that Asus has also thought of a recovery-medium and a CD with drivers and tools (only for Windows Vista 32-bit). Additionally Power2Go 6.0 Cyberlink for burning optical media onto CD is provided.

On our test device Windows Vista Premium 32-Bit was pre-installed as the operating system. Alongside Windows Vista the Asus N20A is compatible with Windows XP, according to the manufacturer. Relevant drivers are to be found on the manufacturer's page. In the same place compatible drivers for 64-bit variants of Vista can be downloaded.

Direct access to some applications is obtained through the so-called 'Express Gate'. To this end you press on the 'Express Gate' key on the turned off laptop, which is situated above the keyboard on the left. Independent from the installed operating system you can surf the internet, chat on instant-messenger programs,  phone people through Skype, play online games, listen to music and finally manage (but not edit) photos.
With the same key with a booted Windows Vista machine you can easily switch between different energy saving profiles. This, therefore, simultaneously acts as what Asus calls the 'Power4Gear' key.

Input Devices

With a key size of 17.5 mm the alphanumerical keys are only marginally scaled down. Due to the 12.1 inch form factor you can consider this size as thoroughly generous. Also the double-spaced enter key pleases. The keyboard thankfully offers a standard layout, so that you can kicko off touch-typing ad-hoc and mistake-free.
The typing feel is characterised through the springiness of the whole keyboard unit. The stroke of each key has a pleasant length and the stop is soft, but all the while with a strong feedback. We especially like that the keyboard stays pleasantly quiet even from energetic typing, with exception of the space bar.

With a breadth of 70 mm and a height of 42 mm the touchpad offers a pleasantly sized navigation surface with an optically accentuated scroll bar. Using Fn-F9, the touchpad can be easily deactivated when necessary - unfortunately there is no relevant icon on the F9 key. In addition the automatic touchpad lock can be activated in the system settings. Then the laptop's touchpad is automatically deactivated when an external USB mouse is connected.
The touchpad itself offers pleasant sliding qualities, so that the cursor can be precisely moved on the display. Also the mechanical characteristics of both of the associated keys fulfill our expectations. Between both keys you'll even find a fingerprint reader.

Keyboard
Asus N20A keyboard
Touchpad
Asus N20A touchpad

Display

The reflective display confirms the positioning of the Asus N20A in the consumer sector. The 12.1-inch LCD from AU Optronics, model B121EW09, also reflects  indoors in unfavourable lighting conditions and is therefore at all costs not advisable for professional long-term work at workstations. The native resolution of the WXGA panel is the class-standard of 1280x800 pixels and is therefore a display in 16:10 format.

Asus N20A in use outdoors
Asus N20A in use outdoors

Because of the LED backlighting the widescreen LCD reaches a good average luminance of 214.7 cd/m² from mains operation. A maximum of 236 cd/m² was measured in the central area of the screen. As the brightness from the edges is not too strong, with a minimum of 200 cd/m² measured in the upper left segment, there is a good illumination of 85%.

Due to the good brightness, which, when running from the battery merely reaches a maximum of 204 cd/m², working outside is somewhat endurable, despite the reflective panel. However reflections disturb and quickly lead to fatigue compared to matte displays.

Because of the relatively high black values of 1.31 cd/m², together with the maximum brightness measured in the central segment, the display reaches a contrast ratio of about 180:1.

200
cd/m²
209
cd/m²
204
cd/m²
211
cd/m²
236
cd/m²
215
cd/m²
215
cd/m²
221
cd/m²
221
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 236 cd/m²
Average: 214.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 85 %
Black: 1.31 cd/m²
Contrast: 180:1

Looking at it subjectively, shadowing on different brighter backgrounds is barely noticeable on the display of the Asus N20A depending on the viewing angle.

Also, the examination of the potential viewing angles is very good horizontally, yet vertically the optimal tilt- and viewing-angles are clearly lower. Subjectively, the colours are brilliant and the displayed image is sharp.

Asus N20A viewing angle stability

Performance

Based on the Centrino 2 platform, the Asus N20A supports a range of dual-core processors. Currently on offer alongside current Penryn CPUs are older Merom processors and as the weakest solution there's also an Intel Pentium Dual Core T3400 processor.

Our N20A-2P154C model uses the computing power of an Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo T5850 processor. This Merom CPU is manufactured in the 65 nm process and runs at a clock speed of 2.2 GHz with 2 Mb L2-Cache and a 667 MHz front sidebus.

When it comes to overall performance there is really nothing to critisize in the tested Asus N20A with two DDR2 memory sticks (PC2-6400) with a total capacity of 3072 MB for the installed operating system Windows Vista Business. The Asus N20A is offered with a maximum of 4 GB of RAM. However a 32-Bit Vista operating system would only report around 3 GB, so with a RAM upgrade, an upgrade to the 64-bit operating system seems to make sense. Besides when upgrading the RAM you would have to replace one of the modules, as both of the SODIMM slots are already occupied.
For general office use and office applications the performance of the Asus N20As is in any case satisfactory. With that the business laptop reaches a relatively good performance value of 4516 points in the PCMark05 test. The integrated chipset graphics, an Intel GMA 4500 MHD is also geared towards this spectrum of applications.

CPU-Z information about the Asus N20A
CPU-Z information about the Asus N20A
CPU-Z information about the Asus N20A
CPU-Z information about the Asus N20A
CPU-Z information about the Asus N20A
CPU-Z information about the Asus N20A

CPU-Z-Information about the Asus N20A

As an integrated graphics solution an Intel GMA 4500MHD suffices for the Asus N20A. For general office work the user surely has enough graphical power on board. Also for the Aero glass display for Windows Vista the performance of the 4500MHD is loosely sufficient. For games and for 3D intensive applications there are on the contrary better graphics solutions. With that the Asus N20A reaches only 1835 points in the 3DMark03 benchmark test with Intel driver version 7.15.10.1527. Also in the shading test in Maxon's Cinebench R10 the 4500MHD reaches a relatively low score with a CB-GFX score of 882.

GPU-Z
GPU-Z
Vista performance index
Vista performance index

Also as for the hard disk the Asus offers several options for the N20A. You can choose between serial-ATA hard drives with 160, 250 or 320 GB capacities, which all have a rotation speed of 5400 rpm.
Our test device was equipped with a 250GB GB serial-ATA hard drive, the ST925320AS from Seagate. In the hard drive test HD Tune this 5400 rpm hard drive provides an average data transfer rate of 56.6 MB/s. The access time is 22.9 ms.
As a further massive storage device our N20A offers an optical drive as standard, an HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GSA-T50N.

Disk management
Asus N20A: Disk management
HD Tune
Asus N20A: HD Tune
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
882
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
3997
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
2161
Help
Windows Vista Experience Index
 SettingsValue
 Processor5.1 Points
 Memory4.7 Points
 Graphics3.1 Points
 Gaming graphics3.5 Points
 Primary hard disk5.5 Points
PC Mark
PCMark 054516 points
PCMark Vantage2555 points
Help
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE4369 points
3DMark 031835 points
3DMark 051227 points
3DMark 06
 1280x800
744 points
Help
Seagate Momentus 5400.5 ST9250320AS
Transfer Rate Minimum: 32.3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 71.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 56.6 MB/s
Access Time: 22.9 ms
Burst Rate: 69.9 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.2 %

Emissions

System noise

When idle and under typical office load, the laptop remains quiet, but for the most part audible. In the best case, when the fan just pauses, you can measure a minimum noise level of 31.8 dB(A)On average, 33.9 dB(A) are observed.

Under load the laptop becomes louder with an average between 37.3 dB(A) and 38.8 dB(A) and with a maximum noise level of 43.7 dB(A) where it becomes rather loud.

Hard drive access is clearly audible at 34.1 dB(A) when the system is without a load. The sound levels of the optical drive are even louder with DVD playback at 39.2 dB(A), although subjectively this doesn't stand out as unpleasant when watching a film.

 

Noise Level

Idle 31.8 / 33.9 / 33.9 dB(A)
HDD 34.1 dB(A)
DVD 39.2 / dB(A)
Load 38.8 / 43.7 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Despite the somewhat cramped confines of the space available due to the 12-inch form factor, the case barely heats up. The underside becomes warmer than the upper side with a maximum of 38.1 degrees celsius and an average value of 29.6 degrees celsius. The warmer areas are situated in the area of the fan opening. As body temperature is only marginally and exclusively overtaken in the left rear  quadrants, it is possible, when necessary, to reasonably comfortably work on the thighs.

On the upper side the case remains pleasantly cool with a maximum of 33.6 degrees celsius. An average value of 28.5 degrees Celsius was measured.

Max. Load
 30.1 °C29.6 °C25.4 °C 
 32.2 °C29.3 °C25.7 °C 
 33.6 °C27.2 °C23.5 °C 
Maximum: 33.6 °C
Average: 28.5 °C
28.1 °C28.2 °C38.1 °C
27.2 °C27.9 °C34.2 °C
25.2 °C26.2 °C31.1 °C
Maximum: 38.1 °C
Average: 29.6 °C
Room Temperature 21 °C

Loudspeakers

According to the manufacturer the system has an Altec Lansing sound system. The loudspeaker is situated on the leading edge. The maximum volume is ok. The sound itself is good, if a little restrained, with well-balanced middle tones and high tones. Without a subwoofer the bass is naturally not especially strong.

Battery Life

BatteryEater Reader's
Asus N20A: BatteryEater Reader's
BatteryEater Classic
Asus N20A: BatteryEater Classic

Our test sample was equipped with a 6-cell lithium-ion battery with 53 Wh (4800 mAh). A maximum of 284 minutes is possible, which is 4:44 hours, which was obtained in the BatteryEater Reader's test with energy-saving measures activated, a dimmed display and the wireless module off.

In the Battery Eater Classic test, which simulates full load with the high performance profile, WLAN on and maximum brightness, the laptop indeed already needs recharging after 74 minutes (one hour 14 minutes). You can enjoy DVD films undisturbed for 155 minutes (2 hours, 35 minutes) on the battery (WLAN off, "Power4Gear Entertainment" profile, adjusted screen brightness). In the practical WLAN test (energy-saving profile, lowest brightness level) you can surf for 161 minutes (2 hours 41 minutes).

In Express Gate use (meaning without booting Windows Vista) you can surf  via WLAN for around 152 minutes (2 hours, 32 minutes), which is essentially comparable to the WLAN test on Vista. A certain extent of battery life fluctuation is currently observed when browsing the internet in any case, as the load sharing isn't always consistent.

To minimise weight there is also a 3-cell battery (2600 mAh) available. Should a longer battery life be necessary, Asus also offers a 9-cell battery (7800 mAh) for the N20A.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 13.4 / 15.5 / 21 Watt
Load 33.9 / 52.5 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
4h 44min
WiFi Surfing
2h 41min
DVD
2h 35min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 14min

Verdict

An elegant appearance with good workmanship and a fairly robust case - this is how the Asus N20A is presented. It's also small and handy, although there are lighter laptops of its kind.

With its glossy display mobile computing is limited in unfavourable lighting conditions, for example outdoors. Also the battery life, depending on the system load, quickly proves to put the brakes on remote use far from a socket.

The choice of operating systems is pleasing. Alongside diverse Vista variants Windows XP is also supported. Compatible drivers and tools are available from the Asus homepage to be downloaded. Pleasantly, amongst other things, there's the Windows Vista Premium recovery DVD and a data medium with drivers and tools for Windows Vista 32-bit in the delivery.
With Asus' so called 'Express Gate' tool you can quickly access the internet, listen to music or manage photos, all without booting the operating system.

As for performance the Asus N20A scores with stable and good office performance. Also, internet surfing and standard applications don't stand in the way. However, this laptop was not developed for demanding 3D applications.

The Asus N20A is therefore a relatively small companion for consumers. Professional long-term work is really not advisable, however, due to the reflective surfaces of the display.

Asus N20A
Asus N20A
Asus N20A
Asus N20A
Asus N20A
Asus N20A


In Review: Asus N20A
Asus N20A

Specifications

Asus N20A
Memory
3072 MB 
, DDR2 (PC2-6400)
Display
12.1 inch 16:10, 1280x800 pixel, AU Optronics B121EW09, glossy: yes
Mainboard
Intel GM45
Harddisk
Seagate Momentus 5400.5 ST9250320AS, 250 GB 
5400 rpm
Soundcard
Realtek ALC663 @ Intel 82801IB ICH9 - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
1 Express Card 54mm, 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: Microphone. headphones (S/PDIF), Card Reader: SD, MMC, MS-Pro, mini SD with adapter, MS-Duo, MS-Pro Duo with adapter.,
Networking
Realtek RTL8168C/8111C Family PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 AGN (a b g n ), V2.0+EDR Bluetooth
Optical drive
HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GSA-T50N
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 3.10 x 30.3 x 22.5 ( = 0.12 x 1.19 x 0.89 in)
Weight
1.91 kg ( = 67.37 oz) Power Supply: 300 g ( = 10.58 oz)
Battery
53 Wh Lithium-Ion, ASUSTEK U6---24
Price
900 Euro
Operating System
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32 Bit
Additional features
Cloth, recovery DVD, drivers and tools, div. manuals including hardware handbook, div. Asus Tools and SW, Norton Internet Security 2007, Power2Go, Adobe Acrobat 7.0, Nero 7 Essentials, MS Office 2007 Trial, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Elegance with a nice texture on the black high gloss screen lid, ...
Elegance with a nice texture on the black high gloss screen lid, ...
The battery life of the supplied 6-cell battery is not extremely long. For a longer battery life you can opt for the 9-cell battery or a 3-cell battery to minimise the weight.
The battery life of the supplied 6-cell battery is not extremely long. For a longer battery life you can opt for the 9-cell battery or a 3-cell battery to minimise the weight.
... and swap the hard drive.
... and swap the hard drive.
... for example increase the RAM capacity...
... for example increase the RAM capacity...
By means of the easily accessible maintenance hatch, after removing some screws you can...
By means of the easily accessible maintenance hatch, after removing some screws you can...
Based on the Centrino 2 platform, The Asus N20A offers good office performance. On board is an Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo T5850 CPU and the integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD chipset graphics.
Based on the Centrino 2 platform, The Asus N20A offers good office performance. On board is an Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo T5850 CPU and the integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD chipset graphics.
Also without starting the operating system you can, for example, quickly listen to music, manage photos or surf the internet with 'Express gate'.
Also without starting the operating system you can, for example, quickly listen to music, manage photos or surf the internet with 'Express gate'.
The cursor can be directed precisely with the touchpad. Between both keys is a fingerprint reader.
The cursor can be directed precisely with the touchpad. Between both keys is a fingerprint reader.
Typing with the keyboard is possible from the word 'go' without any acclimatisation time thanks to the standard layout.
Typing with the keyboard is possible from the word 'go' without any acclimatisation time thanks to the standard layout.
...left-handed people will get on with great difficulty with the Asus N20A from ongoing use.
...left-handed people will get on with great difficulty with the Asus N20A from ongoing use.
Whilst the placement of interfaces is well designed for right-handed people...
Whilst the placement of interfaces is well designed for right-handed people...
The LEDs are subtly designed and fit in well with the general view, yet the Express Gate key (left) and power button (right) could definitely be more accented.
The LEDs are subtly designed and fit in well with the general view, yet the Express Gate key (left) and power button (right) could definitely be more accented.
The opening angle is limited to a maximum of around 138 degrees.
The opening angle is limited to a maximum of around 138 degrees.
In unfavourable lighting conditions or for professional extensive use, however, it is out of place.
In unfavourable lighting conditions or for professional extensive use, however, it is out of place.
With the mirror display you can achieve nice optical effects.
With the mirror display you can achieve nice optical effects.
... which is continued on the top of the base unit in a brown variation.
... which is continued on the top of the base unit in a brown variation.
In the test the Asus N20A was relatively quiet. It practically only gets hot in the areas around the fan opening.
In the test the Asus N20A was relatively quiet. It practically only gets hot in the areas around the fan opening.

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Compare Prices

Asus N20A on Ciao

Pricerunner.de

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Pro

+Elegant, small notebook with good workmanship
+Comfortable touchpad
+Express gate
+XP support
+Recovery DVD included in the delivery
 

Cons

-Placement of interfaces for left-handed users
-Relatively short battery life
-Reflective screen

In ShortCut

What we liked

Not only the elegant exterior, but also the fast-access 'Express Gate' tool,  meaning you don't have to start the operating system.

What we missed

Definitely above all a matte display variant - it's a shame that the mobility of this small, handy notebook is unnecessarily restricted by a glossy variant.

What surprised us

That there are actually still manufacturers that provide recovery media and handbooks in printed form.

The competition

Currently more laptops are steadily being offered in the 12.1-inch form factor. Recently we've tested the HP2230s, the Fujitsu Siemens Esprimo Mobile U9210, its predecessor, the Fujitsu Siemens Esprimo Mobile U9200, the Toshiba Portege A600 or the Lenovo Thinkpad X200s.

Rating

Asus N20A
06/10/2009
Martina Osztovits

Chassis
85%
Keyboard
82%
Pointing Device
90%
Connectivity
90%
Weight
89%
Battery
82%
Display
83%
Games Performance
59%
Application Performance
84%
Temperature
89%
Noise
83%
Add Points
86%
Average
84%
85%
Subnotebook *
Weighted Average
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Asus N20A Subnotebook
Author: Martina Osztovits, 2009-06-26 (Update: 2013-06- 6)