It’s not obvious at first glance but the newly launched ASUS VivoBook F202E laptop is one of the first of a new wave of budget laptops that aim to capture the market share formerly occupied by the now defunct Intel Atom powered Netbook market segment.
Of course when compared with the lighter and much more powerful Toshiba PORTÉGÉ Z930 or Acer Aspire S7 the Vivobook F202E comes off second best. However, while it isn’t a speedster like the aforementioned laptops, it covers the basics for vastly less expenditure.
The Vivobook’s 11.6” screen is not a world beater but it’s nice to have a 1366x768 screen resolution (with a 16:9 ratio), which is suitable for movie/tv show viewing. The resolution is doubly pleasing when you consider that netbooks in the past had much lower screen resolutions (1024 x 600) and smaller screen sizes as well.
However, the price point means that ASUS hasn’t been able to source a 11.6” display panel with wide viewing angles, you will have to adjust how you view the laptop vertically and horizontally
As usual with a glossy screen trying to type this review using the Vivobook F202E while seated on a Sydney Light Rail tram was quite difficult as the screen mirrored my face and the sky visible through the window behind me. It also means that if you’re eating lunch while working and inadvertently touch the screen with your fingers to scroll through a document or flick through social media updates, you’ll have to clean it up immediately.
While time to boot took 30-40 seconds longer than a high end ultrabook, restore from sleep took only three seconds or so. Don’t expect applications to leap into action quickly because the Vivobook F202E’s CPU is a 1.1Ghz Celeron 847, which is no speed demon. Opening more than two or three active applications at once will cause the laptop to grind away and multimedia creation or editing is out of the question.
As usual with Windows laptops, after setting up a login account the first thing to popup is an annoying McAfee trialware software message to “protect what you value”. You can uninstall it like we did and re-enable the built-in Windows security software instead.
Storage is a 320GB magnetic hard drive running at 5400RPM as you would expect at this price point. This is certainly enough space to store any files and documents you’ll need to carry with you but speed wise it's a lumbering cart horse rather than a racehorse.
Moving data on and off the laptop can be done via the USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports on the left side or the USB 2.0 port on the right side, WiFi B/B/N or the handily included 10/100Mbit RJ45 network port. Other ports include VGA, HDMI, two in one microphone/headphone socket and an SD card slot.
The keyboard is slightly cramped but for a budget laptop the keys have some travel and it’s easy to get used to
Using the VivoBook F202E’s relatively large 10.5cm wide by 6cm high trackpad is quite smooth, however, it should be noted that gestures and multi touch actions don’t work as smoothly using it as they do directly with fingers on screen.
Speakers are advertised by ASUS as enhanced by their Sonicmaster R&D. While they won’t replace a good set of headphones they’re surprisingly good for the price. Playing some songs and watching a few videos at full volume doesn’t result in any distortion and the highest volume speaker output is more than most laptops we’ve tested recently.
Battery life is a reasonable five hours or so and the power charger adaptor is relatively small but the cheaper battery technology used means the Vivobook F202E will take a few hours to recharge from flat.
For just under $500 the Vivobook F202E is suited for SME/SOHO users or students on a budget who want a laptop to surf the web, type documents etc and be able to use their laptop touchscreen for modern Windows 8 native applications.