Given the N10's ability to run video and games, it would have been almost criminal to restrict its storage capacity. Thankfully, our sample came with a 250GB hard drive, which is fantastic considering some netbooks have just 4GB of storage. Asus also offers 160GB or 320GB drives, and those who go overboard on BitTorrent can always use the external Lightscribe-compatible DVD rewriter drive to create backups.
It's all too easy to enjoy multimedia content on the N10. Its 10.2-inch screen runs at a native 1,024x600 pixels, which is large enough to comfortably browse Web pages or work with a couple of application windows open side by side. The image quality is good, too. Our sample had a small amount of LED light bleeding into the picture from behind the right bezel, and the glossy coating made it tricky to use in direct sunlight, but on the whole we found it a pleasure to use.
Those who are interested in high quality sound shouldn't be disappointed. The N10's internal speakers, supplied by Altec Lansing, are far better than those found on the Eee PC range. They're good enough to fill a small room, and mean you won't need to have a set of earphones handy whenever you want to watch a movie or listen to music. Better still, the N10's headphone jack doubles as an S/PDIF jack, so you can easily connect to a set of surround-sound speakers.
The aforementioned factors combine to make the N10 an excellent miniature Media Centre laptop. It's odd then, that Asus would ship it with Windows Vista Business edition. We would definitely have preferred a copy of Vista Home Premium, or even Windows XP Professional edition since it incorporates the fantastic Windows Media Centre interface.
The N10 doesn't come with an integrated 3G modem, but has high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Two of the coolest features, however, are the fingerprint reader between the mouse selector buttons, and the webcam just above the screen. Both can be used to authenticate logins. Simply swipe your finger across the reader, or look directly into the camera, which is linked to face-recognition software, to access the operating system.
The N10 is faster than most netbooks and, in some respects, faster than most ultraportable laptops. You won't feel the benefit of its extra RAM and high-speed graphics in everyday use, however. Its Atom N270 CPU and 2GB of RAM doesn't always get on very well with the Vista Business operating system, as evidenced by random slowing down during everyday tasks and the fact that it takes a good 4 minutes to boot. It probably won't annoy anyone except the most impatient of people, and its solid PCMark score of 1,604 is actually higher than most netbooks, but it can be frustrating.
Graphics performance was far more impressive. With the Intel-integrated graphics chip enabled, it scored a paltry 601, which is in line with the netbook average. However, with its Nvidia GeForce 9300 GS graphics chip enabled, the N10 achieved an impressive 3DMark score of 1,309. It's fast enough to run 3D games such as Half-Life 2 relatively smoothly at the screen's native resolution. The frame rate drops substantially when the action hots up, but if you're willing to scale back the detail levels, you'll still have a good time.
High-definition video was surprisingly good, too. The N10 coped fine with 480p and 720p video, and while 1,080p was a tiny bit juddery, we reckon it's definitely watchable in the same way 3D games are playable even with the odd dropped frame.
With such solid performance, it's easy to assume the N10's battery life
is rubbish, but it's not. Our Battery Eater classic test, which runs
the CPU at 100 per cent until the battery dies, lasted for a very respectable 2
hours 48 minutes -- and that was with the GeForce 9300 GS chip enabled. With the integrated Intel graphics chip enabled, it lasted an impressive 3 hours three hours 20 minutes.
It's difficult to pigeonhole the N10. It's small and cheap enough to be considered a netbook, but it's also powerful and well-equipped enough to take on traditional ultraportables. Whatever you call it, it's undeniably a great piece of engineering that offers more possibilities for less money than its rivals. As long as this is around, there's absolutely no point buying something like an Eee PC 1000H or even a MacBook Air.
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis