When I set out to write this review I was planning to make much of the fact the ASUS S5200N was basically a rip off of the Apple 12.1-inch G4 iBook — but the more I thought about it and the more I used the notebook it became apparent that even though ASUS appear to have borrowed a few design elements from the Mac and given it a similar specification sheet, they’ve actually come up with a superb little notebook in it’s own right.
Inside we find a capable Intel Pentium-M running at 1GHz and sporting 1MB of on-die Level 2 cache — a fact that may be responsible for the rather healthy SysMark2002 score of 153, putting it in good company beating a number of more ably specced machines in last month’s sub-$2500 notebook roundup. 256MB of DDR RAM is shared with the Intel 855GME graphics chipset and a spare SODIMM slot will allow this to be expanded up to 512MB through the addition of a single DDR333 DIMM module. The Intel 855 graphics will let you perform most 2D tasks comfortably, however anything like 3D gaming is out the window straight away. Storage is looked after by a generous 60GB ATA100 hard drive and an external DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive. It would have been nice to see the optical drive squeezed into the notebook chassis but alas this was not to be. Nevertheless the unit included by ASUS is tiny — no bigger than a standard CD jewel case and is connected to the notebook via a proprietary two-pronged cable and requiring no external power to run — it’s small enough that it shouldn’t prove a hindrance when travelling.
Connectivity is provided in abundance via three USB 2.0 ports, a 56K modem, 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11b wireless networking. ASUS also throw in a dinky little 128MB USB drive — presumably to make up for the lack of a floppy drive (we’re not advocating the inclusion of a floppy drive — we’re glad to see the back of them quite frankly) plus a pint-sized cordless optical mouse.
Battery life is typically good for Pentium-M CPU’s and the S5200N was no different managing 103 minutes in our heavy MobileMark2002 tests and a more impressive 209 minutes using the supplied second (and slightly larger) Lithium Ion battery. The 12.1-inch TFT XGA screen tops out at a maximum resolution of 1024x768 — ample for this size screen and looking good with it.
Whether ASUS have tried to imitate Apple through the release of this notebook or merely happen to have arrived at a similar conclusion after a labourious R&D period I’m not sure. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter anyway — what matters is that ASUS have come up with a stylish sub-notebook that’s very well equipped and reasonably powerful given its size. Good battery life, a handy carry bag and light-weight design make this a good choice for the traveller.