Although laptops with 14 and 15.6 inch displays are comfortable to work, they aren’t as practical as their lightweight siblings with smaller displays when it comes to computing while you’re on the move. These ultraportable laptops usually have a high asking price because they pack all the power you need in a form factor about the size of an A4-size notebook. The Asus VivoBook F202E is an exception—you get roughly the same form factor, premium quality, but an entry-level configuration. We’ll come to the price and our verdict on this Lilliputian number cruncher later in the review. Let’s start with what’s packed under the hood.
An affordable ultraportable Windows 8 laptop
Design and features
Even though the F202E doesn’t shout for attention, it can’t go unnoticed in the crowd. The use of brushed metal for the exterior of the lid and palm rest augments the aesthetics and lends a premium feel. Asus has gone in with a dual-tone theme to add some contrast to the design. The lid and the bottom of the chassis are dark liquorice in colour and the interior (palm rest and area around the keyboard) is of aluminium grey shade with a brown tinge. Overall, Asus has done a good job with the design and finish.
Dressed in brushed aluminium
At 1.4 kg, the F202E weighs around a kilo less than the regular 15.6-inch laptops. Also, thanks to the 11.6-inch display, it’s very compact. At the thickest point, it measures only 21.7 mm with the lid closed. That said, it should fit snugly even in a small backpack or a laptop sleeve.
The configuration of the F202E is pretty mainstream, but there’s a reason for it. The focus here is to provide enough power for basic applications such as office suite, media playback, web browsing, email and social networking without compromising too much battery life. So, what you get are an ultra-low voltage processor and a basic set of hardware. The power is fuelled by the third-generation Intel Core i3-3217U processor, which is a dual-core part with four logical cores ticking at 1.8GHz. The rest of the core hardware comprises 4GB DDR3 RAM and 500GB hard drive. The graphics is powered by Intel HD Graphics 4000, which is driven by the processor.
Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports
Despite the compact form, you get a good selection of ports, all placed on the sides for convenient access. The left side has a more useful set that includes an Ethernet port, HDMI output, a Kensington slot and a pair of USB ports, out of which one is USB 3.0. The right side houses a D-Sub port, a USB 2.0 port and a card reader. If you want to read and write CDs and DVDs, you’ll need an external drive because the form factor restricts the inclusion of an optical drive. For wireless connectivity, you have Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth adapters.
D-Sub, USB 2.0 port and card reader
The resolution of the display is the same as that of 14-inch and 15.6-inch panels used in entry-level and mid-range laptops: 1366 x 768. However, in this case, the same number of pixels is packed in a smaller panel, thereby bumping the pixel density. A 15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 has a density of 100 ppi, whereas the 11.6-inch panel used in the F202E has a density of 135 ppi—there’s a stark difference in the crispness of text, photos and videos. The addition of a touchscreen is a welcome feature and comes in handy to use the Windows 8 Start Menu, double-tap on icons, make selections, browse the web and view photos.
The bottom right corner of the palm rest has LED indicators for power, battery charging status, drive activity, wireless and caps lock, in that order. Out of these, the first two LEDs are visible on the chassis even when the lid is closed so that you can keep an eye on the charging status.
Build quality and ergonomics
The F202E is very well built right from the chassis to the smallest button. The metal-clad surfaces have a tough, cold feel. Unlike many laptops, the bottom of the chassis doesn’t feel plasticky. It has a rubberised finish, which again adds to the premium feel. The keyboard is chiclet-type, but the keys in the topmost row and the arrow keys are small. The keys are flat, non-bevelled and have a fairly good tactile response (could have been better though).
Island-type keyboard and large touchpad
Contrary to the keyboard, the touchpad is large and wide. As opposed to separate buttons for left and right-click, the entire touchpad is clickable. The left and right-click are identified by where you tap on the bottom of the touchpad—a small vertical line separates the left and right click areas.
The touchpad is multi-touch and supports gestures
Multi-touch and gesture support are key features of the touchpad. The gestures can be enabled via the Asus Smart Gesture utility that sits in the notification area (system tray). These include one, two and three-finger gestures for selection, scrolling, pinch to zoom and navigating running applications. Edge gestures such as swiping in from the right edge to toggle the Charms bar and swiping right from the left edge to switch running applications are also available. These gestures are similar to those you’d use on the touchscreen. A video demonstration of the gesture is displayed when you hover the mouse pointer over the gestures listed in the utility.
You’ll find the performance of the F202E adequate so long as you stick to basic everyday applications. Push it further and you’ll feel the need for more power. For instance, we tried transcoding a 1-minute MPEG video to H.264 format and it took around 87 seconds, whereas a laptop with Core i5 processor takes around 70 seconds. In the next test, we compressed 100MB of multiple files to 7.zip format using “Ultra” preset. Here, it took almost two minutes, which is quite mediocre. On the other hand, we had absolutely no problem when using office suite, playing full HD videos, viewing photos and surfing the web using Wi-Fi, all with an antivirus program running in the background.
What’s most commendable is the battery life. We assessed the battery life by running Battery Eater Pro in Classic Mode. This test renders an 800 x 600 pixel 3D scene in a loop until the battery runs dry. The test lasted for a little more than two hours. For a 2-cell battery to run that long, we say it’s excellent. Most mainstream laptops survive this test for only around 1.5 hours and that too with a 6-cell battery. With light to medium workload, you can easily expect the battery to last for around three hours.
Another aspect that deserves a special mention is the sound quality of the speakers. The stereo speakers are placed on the sides of the chassis, towards the palm rest. The speakers are loud and the sound is quite detailed, although it would have been nice if there was slightly more bass. Nevertheless, listening to music and watching movies is fun.
Verdict and price in India
Asus has priced the VivoBook F202E aggressively at Rs 40,000, which makes it the only laptop of its kind in its price bracket—an entry-level ultraportable Windows 8 laptop with a touchscreen. If you feel its feature set and performance are tailored for your needs, this laptop deserves to be at the top of your shopping list—rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
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