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.
The ASUS S5Ne, DVD/CDRW drive and
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
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.
Top view, closed.
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
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.
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!
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.
speaker; monaural mini-jack microphone, Internal
mic. SoundMAX integrated digital audio controller
made by Analog Devices.
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.
RAM: 256 megs, expandable to 768 megs.
Has one memory slot which takes a 333 MHz SODIMM.
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.
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.