by LAPTOP Staff on March 26, 2012
ASUS offers some of the sleekest-looking notebooks around, but the company needs to pay more attention to ergonomics and support.
UPDATE: Check ASUS's 2013 Brand Report Card to see how the company fared this year.
With mostly solid but unspectacular systems (10 out of 18 receiving 3.5 stars) and only one Editors' Choice (the G74SX-A2 gaming rig)--down from four in 2010--ASUS fell to the lower half of the pack in 2011, mainly owing to issues such as flexing keyboards and lackluster audio. Having a 2.5- and a 2-star rated notebook (the woefully underpowered Eee PC 1015B) didn't help, either, resulting in a fourth-place finish.
ASUS has really upped the lust factor on its machines over the past year, and the Zenbook UX31 is a great example. The brushed metal finish is even more striking than the MacBook Air. We've used such words as "sleek," "handsome" and "attractive" to describe many of ASUS' other laptops, from the forward-hinge aluminum design on the U46S to the stealth fighter-inspired G74SX.
Some of the keyboards on ASUS laptops provide decent tactile feedback and key placement, but others, such as the ZenBook UX31, suffer from mushy keys. The U31JG (pictured) featured undersized keys, and the G53SW exhibited noticeable flex. The touchpads are also a mixed bag of mediocrity. Plus, some ASUS machines failed to perform multitouch gestures smoothly.
ASUS has made a few improvements to its technical support in the past year, cleaning up its website design and improving phone support. But switching from a U.S.-based customer-support center to a Caribbean-based one resulted in trouble with our tester understanding directions. And while the representatives were polite, we felt rushed through the calls. We also experienced a dropped call during testing, which is very frustrating.
We enjoyed bold colors and clear images on systems such as the Asus U31SD, though viewing angles tended to be narrow. The UX31 outclassed competing ultrabooks with a sharper 1600 x 900 screen. ASUS' speakers were clear on most of our tests. The ASUS Zenbook UX31 was particularly impressive, which boasts Bang & Olufsen speakers. The G74SX boasts THX sound for a home theater-like experience.
ASUS' notebooks are widely available at most major retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. We reviewed a total of 17 ASUS laptops this past year, with prices ranging from $209 for the Eee PC X101 netbook up to $2,269 for the gaming-centric Automobili Lamborghini. ASUS does not let you configure systems to order, but the company offers a wider variety than some other brands.
A convenient application, ASUS Power4Gear, offers a way for you to manage your processor power settings as well as screen brightness and sleep mode. ASUS Tools, found on the desktop, serves as the home for ASUS's bundled utilities; Backup and Restore, the LifeFrame webcam and more. Other ASUS apps include VibeCenter (an entertainment portal), ASUS WebStorage (online backup) and SmartLogon (facial recognition logins).
The Better Business Bureau has issued a consumer alert for ASUS stating that consumers have complained that products sent to the company for repairs have been returned without being repaired. However, BBB representatives said ASUS is working to address those complaints. ASUS tied with Sony for fifth place in Rescuecom's list of the five most-reliable brands. Laptopmag.com users, meanwhile, praised ASUS for its powerful multimedia and gaming machines.
ASUS is directing more of its focus toward hybrid devices such as the Eee Pad Transformer Prime and Padfone, but the company has continued to innovate on laptops. The Zenbook UX31 delivered best-in-class audio inside a remarkably slim design, while the G74SX uses a unique venting design to keep a very powerful gaming rig cool.