Sleek aluminum chassis; Bright and colorful full HD touch screen; Comfortable keyboard
Short battery life; Below-average performance; Finicky touchpad; Limited business features
The ASUS U38N is an attractive ultraportable with a full 1080p display, but lacks the endurance needed to make it a viable business notebook.
ASUS calls the U38N a business laptop, but it's not meant to compete against your typical ThinkPad. This machine is designed for road warriors looking for a beautiful chassis to stand out in meetings along with and a full HD touch display to run Windows 8 professional. It's all powered by an AMD APU, something you rarely find in a system targeting the business crowd. But with a starting price of around $900, should you add this ultraportable to your portfolio?
Editor's Note: ASUS does not currently offer the U38N in the United States, but our configuration is available in the U.K. for 667 pounds. If the company does decide to bring this notebook to the U.S., it will cost about $900.
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Weighing 3.4 pounds, the 12.8 x 8.7 x 0.24-.74-inch U38N is easy to carry. The machine is on a par with the 3.4-pound, 13.1 x 8.9 x 0.67-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. The 12.4 x 8.6 x 0.66~0.78 Samsung Series 5 Ultra is slightly heavier at 3.8 pounds.
Not only was the 1080p trailer of "Iron Man 3" was filled with opulent reds and golds, but Tony Stark's electric blue arc reactor popped in every scene, consistently drawing the eye. We enjoyed comfortable viewing angles that could accommodate up to three people.
The U38N's display is plenty bright at 372 lux, surpassing the 224 lux ultraportable average. The Yoga's 1080p display measured 281 lux while the Series 5 Ultra's 1366 x 768 display delivered 223 lux.
A big reason for this touch notebook's premium price is its 10-point touch capability. Swiping along the edges of the display quickly summoned the Charms menu, Recent Apps bar, and menu bar. A quick downward swipe closed apps consistently. The pinch-zoom function was also effortless. The only downside is the subsequent smudging from all that hands-on action
Although the U38N is branded with Bang & Olufsen ICE power, we found audio lacking. The bottom-mounted speakers placed along the sides of the notebook barely filled our small test room with sound. The guitar on Jack White's "Sixteen Saltines" was tinny with minimal percussion. White's vocal sounded flat and distorted. Rise Against's "Help is On the Way" produced a decent amount of volume, but overall, the audio sounded hollow.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The corners of the clickpad performed right and left click functions as expected. However, we had to press harder than usual.
After watching 15 minutes of "Futurama," the touchpad measured 81 degrees Fahrenheit and the underside was 86 degrees. The space between the G and H keys reached 95 degrees, on the edge of what we consider too warm.
Powered by a 2.0-GHz quad-core AMD Trinity A10-4655M APU with 4GB of RAM, the ASUS U38N can easily handle everyday jobs such as social networking, watching video and light productivity tasks easily. We were able to watch "House of Cards" on Netflix while running a system scan with six open tabs in Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
The U38N didn't do as well on some of our benchmark testing, scoring a measly 1,829 on PCMark 7. That's far below the 3,436 ultraportable average. The Samsung Series 5 Ultra and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, both of which have a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, scored 3,358 and 4,419, respectively.
The U38N's 128GB SSD booted Wind
During the File Transfer Test, the U38N duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 1 minute and 47 seconds. That translates to a transfer rate of 48 MBps, which is below the 83 MBps average, but enough to top the Series 5 Ultra's (500GB with 24GB SSD) 28.1 MBps. However, the Yoga's 128GB SSD blew the doors off the competition with a rate of 121 MBps.
On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the U38N matched 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses in 8 minutes and 37 seconds. That's 1 minute and 29 seconds slower than the 7:08 average. The Yoga completed the task in 6:00, and the Series 5 Ultra finished in a speedy 5:38.
On 3DMark11, the U38N delivered a score of 983, comfortably higher than the 725 category average. Powered by Intel HD 4000 Graphics chips, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga and the Samsung Series 5 Ultra notched scores of 530 and 545, respectively.
During our "World of Warcraft" test, the U38N delivered a frame rate of 22.4 fps on 1366 x 768 on Good. Switching to 1920 x 1080, the rate dropped to 20.1 fps. Neither are what we consider playable, nor did they come close to the 42 fps average. The Yoga notched 33 fps at 768p and 30 fps at 1600 x 900, both of which are playable frame rates. The Series 5 Ultra scored 23 fps at 1366 x 768.
Preloaded apps on the U38N include ASUS Installation Wizard, which lets you install drivers and applications such as Cyberlink Power2Go from a single location; ASUS Tutor, which provides tutorials for using Windows 8; and Splendid Utility for modifying the display color settings.
Third-party apps include Skype, Adobe Reader X and FreshPaint.
Aside from Windows 8 Professional, there are no business-centric software or security features on the U38N.
Our review unit features a 2.0-GHz quad-core AMD Trinity A10-4655M APU, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and an AMD Radeon HD 7620G GPU. The U38N is also available with 1.6-GHz AMD Trinity A8-4555M APU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive with an AMD Radeon HD 7620G.
The ASUS U38N comes with a 1-year limited international hardware warranty and a 2-year battery pack warranty.
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|CPU||2.0-GHz AMD Trinity A10-4655M APU|
|Operating System||Windows 8 Professional|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||128GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||SSD Drive|
|Optical Drive Speed||n/a|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon HD 7620G|
|Touchpad Size||4.1 x 3.8 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||mini-VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone/Mic|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Card Slots||3-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||1-year limited international hardware warranty and a 2-year battery pack warranty|
|Size||12.8 x 8.7 x 0.23-0.74 inches|