ASUS: Best and Worst Laptop Brands
Poor tech support led to a terrible tumble for Asus, which dropped from third place to seventh in this year's laptop brand rankings. On the plus side, Asus is fairly innovative, and we like the overall design aesthetic of its laptops. The brand also makes one of our favorite Ultrabooks in the ZenBook UX305, and the Transformer Book T200 is a better 2-in-1 value than the Surface. Assuming the support agents become harder to stump, the brand could bounce back in our next survey.
From the inexpensive EeeBook X205 to the luxurious ZenBook NX500, which has a 4K touch screen, Asus offers solid notebooks for a wide gamut of consumers. Four of its laptops received 4-star ratings, and the two mentioned here even nabbed Editors' Choice awards. Only the U38N received a not-recommended rating of 2.5 stars, due to its mediocre battery life.
Tech Support (5/20)
The last-place score for Asus is a direct result of the lengthy 19-minute call average, a somewhat scattered website and a lack of answers offered in most instances. The Asus live- chat option was thankfully easy to use, and we did speak to one helpful phone representative. Too bad other agents were completely stumped by simple questions.
With a raft of head-turning chassis, it's no coincidence that Asus remains near the top for design. Take the ZenBook NX500, which maintains the sleek, sexy frame we've come to expect from the line -- it's a MacBook Pro for people that don't want to look like everyone else.
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Gaming laptops like the G751JY and the G750JZ also look chic, thanks to a healthy helping of soft-touch finishes and carefully cut angles. The no-frills design of the EeeBook X205TA, VivoBook V451L and Chromebook C200M scream "budget fare," but, overall, Asus continues to impress.
Keyboard & Touchpad (11/15)
Asus' laptop keyboards usually offer strong feedback. The 17.3-inch Asus G750JZ-XS72 gaming system, for example, provides a full 2.5mm of vertical travel -- much more than most laptops -- and a huge touchpad. The 11.6-inch Transformer Book T200 requires a snappy 60 grams of actuation force despite having a removable keyboard dock. However, there are some exceptions. The EeeBook X205ta suffers from erratic touchpad navigation, and the VivoBook has shallow keys.
When it comes to displays, Asus has some of the better panels on the market. Its 254 nits average brightness beats the average for our reviews, while many of its screens possess both strong accuracy and range of color. Asus laptops average a respectable 84 percent of the color gamut, with models like the G751JY reaching 99 percent. Some laptops, like the ZenBook NX500, offer full 4K resolution and a staggering 146 percent color gamut, while most other models offer higher resolution than the average HDTV. However, like its competitors, low-cost systems such as the EeeBook X205TA and K200MA have dim screens, low resolutions and limited viewing angles.
Asus' 2-in-1 hybrid PCs are consistently some of the best in the business, and the company's new Transformer Book Chi series consists of three slick notebooks that are thin and light enough to make you put down your MacBook Air. There's also the Transformer Book T200, which sports a detachable keyboard dock with a hard-drive bay for adding storage -- not something you see on your everyday laptop.
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The laptop maker is making some significant strides in terms of display and graphics muscle, as the ZenBook NX500 sports a rich 4K display and strong GTX 850M graphics for gaming on the go. Speaking of games, the company's new N551JQ gaming notebook comes with an optional Intel RealSense camera, which could add an exciting new layer of immersion.
Overall, Asus' notebooks fell victim to shallow sound and low volume, averaging 81 decibels in our testing. While the luxury $2,699 Asus Zenbook NX500 produced clear vocals, tracks sounded hollow overall and the audio couldn't carry past a small room. Some models, like the VivoBook V451LA, come with Asus AudioWizard, which lets you customize sound preferences with music, movies and gaming presets. Gaming mode delivered the best results.
Value & Selection (3/5)
Asus offers some of the best laptop deals in the business. For example, the $200 EeeBook X205TA packs more bang for the buck than the HP Stream 11. Asus' gaming laptops also offer good value, with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and a Nvidia GTX 860M GPU for $1,079.
On the other hand, the UX301LA costs a staggering $1,918 for a 13-inch Ultrabook with a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The UX305 is a much better deal, costing just $699 for a Core M CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD.
Overall, Asus has a strong lineup that will only get better with the upcoming Transformer Book Chi Series 2-in-1s, but you'll often find more configurations and models on Amazon and Newegg than Asus' barebones online store.
Asus has not really changed its software offerings since the launch of Windows 8, but has kept most of its laptops relatively free of bloatware this year. Most Asus notebooks come with 5GB of storage on the company's WebStorage services, as well as PhotoDirector and PowerDirector for powerful photo and video editing, respectively. Some machines, like the NX500, come with Asus Splendid to let you set your display's color temperature to one of four modes: normal (default), theater, vivid and manual.