PDA, Notebook and Phone Reviews and buyers guide

PDA Phone Notebooks Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion


Notebook Reviews

ASUS S5Ne subnotebook

Review posted by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief. May 2, 2004

Subnotebooks often cost twice as much as standard sized notebooks. While many of us would like to take a load off our feet and backs when traveling or simply have no need for a large notebook, high prices mean that the average 8 lb. notebook is what we'll end up with. Enter the attractive and affordable ASUS S5Ne, which you can find at more competitive online retailers for around $1,400. The ASUS weighs a mere 2.8 lbs., making it one of the lightest notebooks available. This model boasts a 1 GHz Centrino processor, WiFi, 12.1" XGA display, an SD/Memory Stick slot and plenty of ports. Not only that, it comes with an external slim DVD/CDRW and a wireless mouse.

JVC InterLink XP7  notebook

The ASUS S5Ne, DVD/CDRW drive and wireless mouse.



The S5Ne is an ultralight with a lovely looking pearl white and silver casing. The top is pearl while, and the rest of the notebook is silver. A translucent white plastic strip inset into the top front edge of the lid covers indicator lights for power, charging, hard disk access and WiFi. The same indictor LEDs can also be found on the front edge of the bottom clamshell on the wrist rest area, as can a single speaker. Though this is a subnotebook, it has a full size notebook keyboard, standard trackpad and an ample wrist rest area. The ASUS is a good looking unit: you don't have to buy a tier one brand to get an elegant looking, cleanly designed notebook.

The PCMCIA slot, Firewire port, a USB port, modem and 10/100 Ethernet jack are located on the right side of the unit. On the left you'll find two more USB ports, a standard VGA port, DC-out (for the DVD/CDRW drive), a fan grill, SD card slot and audio in and out jacks. Other than the DC-in jack, there are no ports on the rear of the unit, and a removable Lithium Ion battery runs across the length of the back and functions as the notebook's rear feet.


Like most ultralight and subnotebooks released in the past year, the ASUS features an Intel Ultra Low Voltage Mobile Pentium M processor running at 1GHz. That's plenty fast for even demanding applications and the ASUS was faster than some of the other 1 GHz Centrinos we've reviewed. The Intel Centrino technology improves speed while keeping power requirements low. What is Centrino? It's Intel's name for their new notebook architecture released last year which combines their new Pentium M processor, 855 chipset and the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 WiFi 802.11b (or g) network interface. The Pentium M is supposed to be significantly faster than mobile Pentium 4 processors, yet it uses less power. The M was designed from the ground up as a mobile processor where low power, heat dissipation and excellent speed performance were the goals, rather than being a shrunk down desktop processor. Centrino definitely hit the mark, and represents a very exciting technology.

JVC Inter Link top

Top view, closed.


JVC Inter Link

Bottom of the unit. The cylindrical bar at the top is the battery and the RAM upgrade slot is located under the door with grill vents. The hard drive is located under the door on the lower left section.


The S5Ne comes with 256 megs of RAM and runs Windows XP Home Edition. That's the minimum amount of RAM you'd want to run XP, and most notebooks run noticeably slower with only 256 megs. The ASUS as the first of many Windows XP notebooks we've tested and reviewed that ran surprisingly quickly and smoothly with 256 megs. Since ASUS is a motherboard manufacturer of some renown, I can only surmise that they did an excellent job with the S5Ne's architecture and reduced bottlenecks between the processor, RAM and hard disk. Of course if you want to improve speed further and reduce power consumption (using virtual memory means lots of access to the power-hungy hard disk), do consider adding more memory. The memory expansion slot lives underneath the unit, under a removable door. There's one slot which is open for RAM, and that can accept a 333 MHz (PC 2700) DDR standard notebook SODIMM. ASUS lists the max RAM as 768 megs (256 soldered onto the motherboard and oen 512 meg DIMM).

Our ASUS S5Ne came with a 40 gig, 4,200 RPM Hitachi Travelstar notebook hard disk. The Travelstar's are popular drives and run quietly. If you wish to upgrade the hard disk, you can remove two philips head screws to gain access to the removable hard disk.

Since the notebook is quite small, there's no room for an internal optical drive. However, ASUS includes a very compact external DVD/CDRW drive offers 8X DVD read, 24X CD-R read and write, 10X CD-RW speeds. It's a USB 2.0 drive and comes with a short dual-connector cable that plugs into one of the notebook's USB port and a special power-out DC jack. Since the drive can use power from the notebook, you won't need to hunt down an outlet to use it— nice touch.

Screen, Sound and Battery Life

Some subnotebooks, notably the B5 designs such as the Sony Vaio TR2A have small displays because they're the size of a hardcover book. The S5Ne has an ultralight design that has the same footprint as a letter size piece of paper, which means more room for a decent size display. The ASUS' 12.1" XGA display is large enough to read text easily, especially compared to B5 notebooks. The 1024 x 768 LCD is capable of displaying up to 252K colors, and is quite bright and contrasty. In fact, it's one of the nicer notebook displays I've seen, beaten only by the TR2A which uses Sony's special XBrite display.

The display is driven by an Intel 855GME integrated graphics chipset (a part of the Centrino package) with 64 megs of RAM that's shared with system RAM. That's the same Graphics processor used on most other Centrino machines, and it's a surprisingly good performer, that's capable of image editing with Photoshop and gaming with current titles (though you will need to use the external optical drive for gaming). Like other Centrinos with the Intel 855 graphics chipset, it comes with Intel Extreme Graphics 2 display drivers.

The ASUS has a single built-in speaker located on the left wrist rest area. Of course, for serious multimedia, you'll want to use the standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and a set of headphones rather than the built-in speaker. The notebook has a built-in mic, and you can also plug a mic into the standard 3.5mm audio-in jack . The S5Ne uses a SoundMAX integrated digital audio controller made by Analog Devices.


The one weak spot we found in the S5Ne is the small 2,200 mAh 3 cell Lithium Ion battery. That's not much battery capacity, and as a result we didn't get good runtimes in our tests. When working with Word and Excel docs and surfing the web occasionally we got just under two hours per full charge. That's with the screen brightness set to 73%, power management set to High Performance and WiFi turned on. While some other Centrino notebooks come with complex and highly effective power management software, the ASUS' is more basic. When running the unit at Medium Performance settings (optimized for battery power, screen at 46% brightness, hard disk power off at 10 minutes and video standby at 5 minutes) we got about 2:15 runtimes. The unit also has Max Performance (best for AC) and Max Power Savings (CPU level 30%, brightness at 20%). If you're on the go for hours at a time, you may want to invest in a second battery for the ASUS or their extended 9 cell battery which ASUS claims is good for 8.5 hours on a charge. The unit comes with a world charger that supports 100 - 240V, 50/60 Hz.

Ports, WiFi and Expandability

The ASUS has a full compliment of ports that won't leave you hankering for a full-sized machine. It comes with Intel PRO/ Wireless 2100 802.11b WiFi, which had excellent range in our tests. You can use Intel's networking utility or Windows to manage WiFi connections. Like most notebooks, it also has integrated10/100 wired Ethernet and a 56k modem. There are three USB 2.0 ports (two on the left and one on the right), an IEEE1394 iLink 4 pin (unpowered) Firewire port , a standard VGA port and standard audio out and in jacks. The PCMCIA slot supports type I and II cards and CardBus cards. The unit has a card slot that accepts SD, MMC, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro media. If you're working with CF cards, you can get a CF to PCMCIA adapter and access the CF card in the PCMCIA slot. How nice to not need an external card reader.

As mentioned earlier, the S5Ne comes with an external USB 2.0 DVD/CDRW drive and a wireless IR mouse (both ASUS brand). To use the mouse, you'll insert the transmitter, which is about the size of a USB flash drive, into an available USB port. This compact two button mouse works quite well, even when the transmitter isn't on the same side of the notebook as the mouse.


This notebook is a winner, offering great performance, extreme low weight, an optical drive and great looks for a low price. Pro: A small and exceptionally light subnotebook that's very attractive and well-made. It's a fast performer, beating out other 1 GHz Centrino notebooks we've tested. The display is very sharp, bright and clear. A slim external DVD/DCRW drive is included, as is a wireless mouse. It has all the ports you'll need: three USB 2.0 , a Firewire port, 1 CardBus PC card slot and a VGA port. Integrated WiFi, Ethernet and a 56k modem will help you stay connected. The unit carries a 2 year warranty while most other manufacturers offer only 1 year. Cons: Battery life is relatively short at just under two hours with moderate power management. Get a second battery or the extended 9 cell battery!



Size: 10.83" W x 8.8" D x 0.9 H". 2.8 lbs

Display: 12.1" TFT LCD display (1024 x 768). Intel® 855GM Chipset Integrated Graphics. 64 megs shared video memory. Can drive an external monitor up to 2048 x 1536 pixels.

Sound: Built-in speaker; monaural mini-jack microphone, Internal mic. SoundMAX integrated digital audio controller made by Analog Devices.

Processor: Centrino technology. Ultra Low Voltage Intel® Pentium® M Processor running at 1GHz. 64K level 1 cache, 1 meg level 2 cache (both On-Die). Intel 855 Centrino chipset.

Standard RAM: 256 megs, expandable to 768 megs. Has one memory slot which takes a 333 MHz SODIMM.

Drives: 40 GB hard drive, 100MB/s Ultra DMA Transfer Rate. External USB 2.0 slim DVD/CDRW drive included. 2 meg buffer, 8X DVD Read, 24X CD-R read and write, 10X CD-RW speeds.

Ports: 1 PCMCIA slot (supports type I & II as well as CardBus), 1 Firewire (IEE 1394) 4 pin non-powered 400 Mpbs, 3 USB 2.0 ports, RJ45 Ethernet 10/100, RJ11 modem jack, VGA (requires adapter cable), audio in and out. 1 slot for SD/MMC/Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro cards.

Modem: Integrated 56K soft modem.

Ethernet: Integrated Realtek RTL8139 10/100 wired Ethernet. Built-in Intel PRO/ Wireless 2100 3B WiFi (802.11b) wireless.

Battery: 2200 mAh Lithium Ion battery.

Software: Windows XP Home.


Back to Home Questions? Comments? Post them in our Discussion Forum!