ASUS F102BA is the assumed name in Italy from the mini-notebook X102BA , presented by the Taiwanese IFA in Berlin last September and for sale in Italy from October . It is an attractive solution because it proposes a different approach to low-cost ultrabook: return the compact size and the typical diagonal 10 inch netbook but the points of contact between the two types of computer end there.
The hardware platform Asus F102BA is in fact focused on Temash AMD APU , which keeps the performance of the previous generation of AMD Brazos, improving significantly on the consumption side. Finally AMD based laptops are able to exceed the target of the 6 hours of battery life without having to resort to high-capacity batteries that protrude from the chassis and increase the footprint.
While the user experience is very different: we find the operating system Windows 8 (if your model does not mount Windows 8.1 pre-installed, remember that you can update for free to Windows 8.1) enhanced by a precise and responsive multi-touch screen , allowing you to take advantage of to the maximum capacity tactile OS from Microsoft. For those, however, does not love the touch screen on a notebook is an excellent touchpad with multitouch gesture support.
The ASUS F102BA or ASUS X102BA can have four different colors: in this case is pink
Finally, it is worth noting the fact that the ASUS F102BA is also equipped with SonicMaster audio system , the same as found on some laptops top of the range dedicated to multimedia entertainment in the Taiwanese giant. Of course, doing the proportions of size between a chassis and one of only 10 inches by 15 or even 17 inches becomes immediately obvious that the speakers will be available to the first smaller, less powerful and less interior space to act as a sounding board, but a comparison of the laptops in the same category F102BA remains above average and lets you listen to music and enjoy a video with a decent quality even in environments that are not completely silent.
ASUS F102BA is characterized by a size of 10 inches and from AMD Temash
In short, the ASUS F102BA is in effect a mini-notebook and not just a netbook like those of the past. The aim of our review is quite sure whether this is a balanced and able to ensure satisfactory user experience, though of course in relation to the price range to which it belongs, or whether there remain some weaknesses that should possibly amended in a future new version. The design Asus F102 or X102 is typical of ASUS notebook
The model of ASUS F102BA in test matches the one set up for the time being distributed in Italy , DF057H, with an AMD APU A4-1200 1 GHz , belonging to the range of SoC (System on a Chip) of the latest generation Temash, addressed to subnotebook and tablet, 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3L RAM and a 5400 RPM hard drive with 320 GB capacity. A configuration then it should be able to balance performance and cost, with some doubt, however, regarding the choice of the APU in relation the operating system installed. The performance on the paper are certainly better than many netbooks in the recent past, but those were equipped with an operating system specially adapted for the purpose, Windows 7 Starter edition, but here we have Windows 8 in full version!
Let us see in more detail what is the full complement of this ultraportable notebook:
Processor: AMD A4-1200 (Temash, dual core, 1 MB L2 cache, 28 nm, 3.9 W TDP) 1 GHz
Graphics Subsystem: AMD Radeon HD 8180 (Graphics Core Next, 128 shaders) 225 MHz
RAM: 2 GB 1066 MHz DDR3L
Storage: Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 7mm 2.5-inch SATA 3 320 GB 5400 RPM
Display: 10.1 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel capacitive multitouch to 10 points of contact
Interfaces: 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA, 1 x RJ45, 1 x combo audio jack Line In / Out, 1 x SD card reader 2-in-1 (SD / SDHC / SDXC / MMC), 1 x Kensington security slot
Networking: Ethernet 10/100 LAN, Wi-Fi 802.11 b / g / n, Bluetooth 4.0
Battery: 3-cell Li-Ion 3000 mAh 33 Wh
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
Dimensions: 266 x 185.1 x 23.3-29 mm
Weight: 1.1 Kg
We start as usual dall’unboxing , also documented in the video found below. The packaging is very similar to that of the mainstream 11-inch ultraportables like the ASUS S200 Vivobook reviewed last year ol ‘ X201 , testifies once again to the attention of the Taiwanese giant to the theme of ‘ sustainability .
The packaging is in fact made entirely of recyclable cardboard and in turn composed of 80% recycled materials . The coffee color of the box, logos and written, are all impressed by the use of colors in soy-based , non-toxic and biodegradable. Even the very compact dimensions of the package eventually help to contain the environmental impact by allowing you to carry more units for each load.
Although the packaging is essential, however, ASUS does not give the attention to detail, inserting a handy carrying handle. Inside the bundle is obviously very basic , as was the rest expected for a notebook sold at a price less than 300 euro. In addition to the handset are only paperwork, here limited to only the other user’s manual, and power supply from the wall, which looks identical to those supplied to other ultraportables ASUS, with the square shape and rounded corners.
The package dell’Asus F102 is almost entirely recyclable
The ‘ power supply also incorporates already the wall outlet, in our case of the European type with two poles, one certainly more convenient and practical solution for the transport, but less versatile than those involving a terminal part of a modular and removable, allowing you to easily fit Suitable for use in the countries in which we were to find travel. It is worth, however, always remember that the support of the retail version may differ from that test.
Design and general impressions
The realization dell’Asus F102BA is as always taken care of. Obviously the body is entirely made of polycarbonate but the latter seems well put together, sturdy and free of push-ups and crunches . ASUS has also made the background using a single plastic panel that extends from one edge to another without any interruption, as is the case also for cover and piano keyboard: a solution that might seem trivial but instead contributes to improve the robustness of the chassis.
The attractive design is typical of ASUS laptops for some time now, with taut lines by slightly rounded edges and a wedge-shaped profile that goes narrowing towards the front. Of course the dimensions can not be properly define contained , especially as regards the thickness, that beat the 3 cm in the highest part, but the portability is ensured both by the diagonal of only 10 inches from both the weight, limited to little more than a kilo.
The dimensions dell’Asus F102BA are not very small but the weight is still contained
ASUS offers the F102BA in four colors : black (Gentle Black) or White (Elegant White) with a 3D texture in relief, or blue (Ocean Blue) or Pink (Hot Pink) as the model we tested in this case with finishing type IMR (In-Mold Roller) , which should also improve the wear resistance of the surface of time.
With regard to the interfaces , on the left side there is an analog video output VGA, a type of digital HDMI, the plug for the power supply, a USB 3.0 port, a grid for the internal ventilation and the slot for SD memory cards.
Interfaces on the left side
The right side houses the hook instead for the Kensington lock, a RJ-45 port for connecting to wired networks, two additional USB ports but the standard 2.0 and the combo audio jack to connect headphones or microphone.
Interfaces on the right side
On the front there is nothing, except for some indication LED spot towards the corner. Likewise also the back is completely free of ports and connections, and does not host nor the compartment for the battery, which is sealed inside instead. One aspect that will be evaluated carefully by users not to run into problems or second thoughts then: in fact this is not the only solution adopted by the ultrabook to be adopted by ASUS for this F102BA, as we will describe in a little better when we take a look inside .
The fund dell’Asus F102BA is completely uniform
On the bottom we find only a grid for the ventilation of the internal components and the slits of the two speakers, which are shifted towards the front edge and well spaced between them to ensure a correct stereophonic effect to the user. The only noticeable flaw concerns the display hinges, thin and not very strong, which does not guarantee the necessary stability when interacting with the touch screen.
Before proceeding with the analysis of the hardware platform, let us pause for a moment on the process of disassembly , on ‘ accessibility and the possibility of maintenance and upgrades offered by this handset which, I’ll say it now, are very scarce. Open the laptop really is not difficult and requires no special tools, you can just unscrew the few screws that hold the bottom plate and unhook the interlocking teeth along the edge.
The problem is that one of the screws is positioned at the center of the surface and hidden beneath the label that collects information about the notebook, such as the serial number, model name and logos and the identification of the various certifications. Considering that Asus does not make publicly available repair manuals, if you do not realize that the screw may damage the laptop trying to remove it. In addition, the sticker makes it almost impossible to open the frame without leaving obvious traces with the risk that the transaction may invalidate the warranty.
The piano keyboard is removed as a single block for access to internal components
In any case, once you open the ASUS F102BA (or the ASUS X102BA, of course) you will find that there is very little margin for upgrades or maintenance . Battery aside, the only thing is the removable 2.5-inch SATA hard drives which, remember, is slim type (7 mm) and non-standard. Even the RAM is soldered to the PCB and there are no slots to add other banks at a later time. On one side of the motherboard you can see the empty plots but they are completely useless for the user merely indicate where they are housed and the other 2 GB of RAM if you choose the setting up of 4 GB, however, as mentioned currently not available in Italy.
The interior space is occupied by the motherboard PCB and the IO board that surround the hard drive
ASUS obviously must have thought that a device of this type, price range and type of use to which it is addressed, did not require special skills expandability but could instead be implemented as an integrated solution that you buy in bulk, as for example for the vast majority of the tablet. This design, however, also has some positive side: the keyboard becomes one with the C-shell , the panel that covers the base, a little ‘as is the case for the touchpad, with consequent advantages in terms of both aesthetics and in terms of solidity and comfort of typing.
Processor, memory and platform
As we have just seen, ASUS has adopted a family of AMD APU Elite Mobility, formerly known under the code name Temash for his F102BA. These APUs, together with those of the series Mainstream Platform (Kabini), are the first x86 SoC in the world to have been made with 28 nm manufacturing process and have been designed specifically for small notebooks, tablets and hybrids with docking station / keyboard additional.
Temash The family is divided into two series, A4 configuration with dual core, which also belongs to the APU choice for our notebook, and A6 quad-core processor. In particular, the model A4-1200 is the lowest rung of the entire range, having just 1 GHz operating frequency without the possibility of dynamic overclocking, a 128 KB L1 cache and 1 MB L2 (512KB per core). In fact, according to AMD cores Jaguar adopted for these solutions should represent an evolution of the previous Bobcat, used by the family APU Zacate and Ontario. These were still manufactured with 40 nm lithography process, did not constitute the FCH (Fusion Controller Hub, the southbridge in practice) and lacked the support of a number of advanced instructions inserted by that generation, including SSE 4.2, AVX and AES.
CPUz: AMD A4-1200
The new manufacturing process developed by TSMC has therefore allowed AMD to be able to integrate into the day also FCH, lower voltages and increasing operating frequencies and the maximum number of cores (the Bobcat stopped to dual-core configurations). Jaguar also brings a number of new features, including floating point calculation unit 128-bit rather than 64 units of calculating integer divider hardware and increased ability to execute instructions per clock cycle. So much for the general Temash APU. Unfortunately, the A4-1200 is perhaps not the best choice to represent the new AMD solutions: the clock rate so low it does not yield performance superior to those of an old AMD C-50 Bobcat core and with the same frequency, and as we shall see in short affects the performance of the whole system.
On the motherboard there is a predisposition for up to 4GB of memory soldered onboard
On a positive note however, is the considerable reduction in consumption for the same performance, since the TDP is increased from the previous 9 W APU just mentioned is only 3.9 W , in spite of the functions previously performed by the Fusion Controller Hub are now integrated into the SoC, allowing assemblers to adopt possibly even completely passive heatsinks.
The memory controller is of type single channel 64-bit and supports DDR3 memory at 1066 MHz with voltage 1.25 v which help to further reduce fuel consumption. Among the interfaces supported by the I / O controller instead find USB 3.0, SATA 3.0 Gb / s and SDIO.
As mentioned in the opening, ASUS has adopted the SonicMaster technology for the audio industry , a brand that identifies the ASUS Golden Ear team of experts created in order to develop solutions to typical problems of low quality of sound playback often found in notebooks regardless of price range to which they belong. In this case, however, beyond the brand, there seems to be a bit ‘less substance than usual, probably again because of the market positioning of the notebook.
In fact, AMD FCH are integrated Realtek ALC282 codec a standard that meets the specifications Classic High Definition Audio and the Windows Logo Program 3:10 and then offers average performance. The speaker, however, despite the overall size of the device, take advantage of the integration in special resonance chambers and are larger than those commonly used for laptops of this diagonal. ASUS also has also integrated the technology Waves MaxxAudio 3, which serves to process the audio output in order to obtain a volume and a reproduction clarity best, applying special filters and algorithms. Users can easily control functionality through the utility called AudioWizard , which allows you to choose between different presets dedicated to playing music, movie, voice recording, etc..
The output noise is still powerful enough to allow you to watch a movie in the average noisy environments or in the company, a result already excellent for this type of notebook.
Always the AMD APU also integrate a GPU. In this case, the graphics core called Radeon HD 8180G , architecture is based on the Graphics Core Next to the new generation, the same used on the dedicated video cards manufactured by the most recent Californian chipmaker. The graphics subsystem is equipped with 128 shader units and works at a frequency of 225 MHz
The AMD Radeon HD 8180G also supports DirectX 11.1 and Shader Model 5.0 , is equipped with a hardware UVD 4.2 video decoder and a video encoder VCE 2.0 and is capable of driving up to 2 external displays via VGA, DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort 1.2.
GPUZ: AMD Radeon HD 8180
The monitor instead is an AU Optronics LCD B101XTN01.1 with a diagonal of 10.1-inch HD resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. As we have already had occasion to see the VivoBook S200E, this time ASUS has chosen a display statement in order to limit as much as possible the final price. The TFT panel in fact has characteristics quite standard, with a theoretical maximum contrast ratio of 500:1 and a luminance of 200 nits. If, however, the maximum luminance measured from our X-Rite is 194 cd / m², which is in line with the declared value, you can not say the same about the uniformity of the backlight decreases significantly towards the lower part of the display. It is a fact that obviously affected by the presence of the layer of the multi-touch digitizer that acts as a filter reducing the luminance and reducing the side viewing angles.
Measurements of the luminance of the screen: there is little uniformity
The X-Rite spectrophotometer detects a luminance which strongly decreases from top to bottom of the screen
On the other hand, however, the capacitive multitiouch is remarkably fast and accurate, thanks to an Atmel maXTouch controller that supports up to 10 points of contact with a contact surface of only 5 mm versus 9 mm required by the standards of Windows 8. The fund is finally completed by a front webcam with HD resolution, which allows the execution of chat sessions without any problems.
Keyboard and touchpad
Regarding the input devices, the ASUS F102 not disappoint, thanks to a keyboard chiclet type to isolated elements which extends from edge to edge. Easy to use and efficient while typing with large keys and well spaced, allowing a fast and accurate writing at the same time. Unfortunately, the overall size of the laptop, very limited, they have imposed the usual compromises with regard to the size of a few buttons, especially the Enter and Shift, which, however, does not prevent you still get good results while typing with few errors.
As mentioned in the sections devoted to the design and disassembly, the F102 or X102 series also debuts a new construction technique that ASUS calls "one-piece" and which consists of a piano keyboard block , which incorporates directly the keyboard and touchpad. In this way, in addition to a better aesthetic effect, you also get a greater solidity with absence of deflections showy in the writing phase.
Keyboard to the island "one piece"
A little ‘offset with respect to the space bar as there is always the touchpad , an Elan SmartPad from the higher dimensions by 42% compared to those found on equivalent solutions of competitors, thanks to the choice of nest two function keys below the surface sensitive, leaving more space to it (in fact, the touchpad measured 81 x 46 mm). In this way, inter alia, ASUS has managed to ensure a perfect correspondence between the area of the touchpad itself and that of the screen, with precise targeting and fast at the same time.
Elan Touchpad Smartpad
There is also, as always, the configuration utility of the combinations multitouch SmartGesture ASUS , which allows you to customize the functions of the combinations of touch and enable those specifications that are supported by the interface of Windows 8, such as the swipe from the edges to invoke the Charm Bar the menu or to move between active windows.
Asus has taken to the F102BA a traditional hard drive Hitachi TravelStar Z5K500 type SATA III with a capacity of 320 GB , 8 MB buffer and speed of rotation of the plates equal to 5400 RPM. The Hitachi drives is kind of ultra-thin, with a thickness of only 7 mm , a feature to keep in mind if you want to perform an upgrade by buying a new larger hard drives.
The main technology that characterizes this hard drive is Advanced Format 4K, which combines with 8 512-byte sectors into a single byte from 4096 in order to make the most of the surface of the disks, thereby improving performance but above the long-term reliability . The performance emerged during our tests, in terms of scores, are certainly not exciting, but it is normal for an 5400 RPM. What matters instead is that during daily use no visual bottlenecks and uncertainties.
Hard drive Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500
The startup time of the operating system, equal to about 20 seconds, confirms the relative "slowness" of the unit, but who is considering the purchase dell’Asus F102BA can rest assured the technology Asus Instant On allows a restore from standby immediately, in just 2 seconds. Instant On is part of the management system of energy-saving Hybrid Engine 2 and also includes an interesting security feature that avoids the risk of losing data when the laptop is suspended in memory by saving them to disk when the battery drops below 5 % charge.
As for the network interfaces on the other hand, ASUS has adopted the chip Realtek RTL8139/810x Ethernet for LAN, while the wireless module are handled by Broadcom BCM43142 PCI Express links on a chip combo Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 + HS . The latter, produced by lithography system at 40 nm, was the first to integrate a module for the new Bluetooth 4.0 standard with low consumption. Also in this case we are faced with an optimized solution to contain a maximum consumption and costs, without affect much on performance. The software package supplied with the Broadcom also supports the API for the technology of wireless video streaming Wi-Fi Direct.
The Realtek RTL8139 is a controller instead Fast Ethernet 10/100 and combines a MAC (Media Access Controller) triple-speed IEEE 802.3 compliant Ethernet receiver always with a triple-speed characteristics which, together with the support of functions such as Crossover Detection & Auto-Correction, polarity correction, adaptive equalization, echo cancellation and cross-talk, timing recovery, and error correction, should ensure a fast and reliable transmission.
The ASUS F102BA is equipped with a battery is not removable (unless of course you do not disassemble the entire bottom of the laptop) lithium-ion battery composed of cells 3 and with a total capacity of 3000 Wh mAh/33. It is much less capacious of the preceding high-capacity batteries mounted on netbooks but is more than enough to ensure sufficient autonomy for any type of user.
The APU A4-1200 does not improve significantly on the benefit side compared to older AMD C50 APU, she makes a huge step forward in terms of energy efficiency, reducing fuel consumption and temperature profiles in less than half. In other words, the Asus F102BA is theoretically able to remain continuously lit for an entire working day (equal to 8 hours by convention), although in practice PowerMark, the new tool Futuremark for measuring the duration of the battery, makes an estimate of about 6 hours and 20 .
The battery dell’Asus F102BA is internal and can not be removed or replaced
Merit is also the manager of energy savings owner Asus Power4Gear Hybrid II , which includes a set specifically dedicated for use in battery, Power Saving Mode, which goes to modify the settings of the various components of the laptop to minimize the consumption of the notebook .
Thermal and acoustic comfort
Closely related to the issue of consumption is that of temperature: with a TDP of only 3.9W, moreover programmable by the OEM, the APU A4-1200 does not necessarily require an active cooling system (with fan). Despite this, however, the Taiwanese giant did not want to take any chances and preferred to play safe by mounting a small fan that blows the hot air sideways from the slot on the side of the notebook. The fan, given the small size, often enters into function, and is usually almost imperceptible, but in a particularly quiet if they can detect the hiss.
The cooling system is obviously more than adequate for this hardware platform, as evidenced by our stress test temperatures for which we have always used as the test AIDA64 System Stability. The threshold temperature of 70 ° C is detected , a value really great, considering the very small available space inside the chassis, which certainly does not allow a large air circulation. Despite the positioning of the heat-generating components (processor and hard disk) below the keyboard shelf, the maximum temperatures reached under stress are contained so as not to cause the heating of the areas in direct contact with the user.
And so we come to the chapter on performance testing . As usual, the first thing I check is the ‘ performance index detected by Windows , in a scale ranging from 1 to 9.9, assigns a score of 3-3.1 all’Asus F102BA. As you surely remember the Windows tools do not work an average of the scores of the different sections but simply puts in evidence the lowest, in this case assigned to their computational capabilities of the AMD APU A4-1200. The other scores are 4.5 for RAM, 4.1 for 2D graphics, and 3D 5.9 to 5.6 for the hard drive.
The rating of the A4-1200 is slightly higher than in the old netbook with Intel Atom N455 Pineview CPU or APU AMD C50 and less than that obtained by the AMD E-450 APU with Bobcat architecture, which, however, had a higher clock rate (1.65 GHz). The Windows Index (WEI, Windows Experience Index) confirms what we had mentioned in the section on the hardware platform: the A4-1200 is much more efficient in terms of consumption of the previous AMD architecture with Bobcat, but it marks a similar progress in terms of performance, which are virtually identical .
Windows Performance Index
The availability of only 1.48 GB of system memory, because 512MB are allocated to the GPU, does not improve the situation, especially when you consider that the installed operating system is Windows 8 standard 64bit! These considerations are confirmed by the rest of the test results. Both 7Zip that SuperPi , the two application benchmarks that measure their performance in multi-threaded and single threaded detect results broadly in line with those of an AMD C-50 APU, but also the scores obtained in the suite PCMark 8 , the latest version of the highly popular synthetic benchmark trace-based system, are not exciting.
7Zip – Multithreading
But where the tests show a clear improvement compared to the past is in the field of 3D graphics with AMD Radeon 8180 which is able to assert its advantage in terms of core and architecture than the Radeon 6250. But it does not change much in practice: the score of 2,000 points in 3DMark06 and 12,000 points in Ice Storm , one of the three tests that make up the latest release of 3DMark, show that the Asus F102BA allows you to play an even more fluid in DirectX 9 titles a few years ago, but the latest titles in DirectX 11 and more demanding in terms of resources remain closed.
3DMark; Ice Storm and Cloud Gate
More on that operating system Windows 8 or 8.1, the functions of which are now well known, in this section we deal with some applications of ASUS and AMD. Many are in fact the tools pre-installed by the manufacturer, so as to require a special manager called ASUS ASUS Installation Wizard or the Install Wizard . Its interface is very intuitive, divided into categories such as business, backup and restore or system, and allows you to monitor or manage the ASUS software installed on the machine.
Among these utilities, as well as Power4Gear , SmartGesture and AudioWizard we have already mentioned, also include ASUS Splendid Engine that processes the video output to provide a sharper and more colorful, Instant Connect to connect to the Internet via tethering to a smartphone, or LifeFrame for the webcam, just to name a few.
Much less known are the applications offered by AMD for its APUs that are collected in a catalog called AMD AppZone . Some of these fall within the genre of the so-called "perceptual computing," also known as "natural interfaces", ie the ability to interact with the PC directly through motion recognition or face. We refer for instance to AMD Gesture Control or AMD Face Login you can see the work in a couple of video demonstrations . To determine which of these tools are compatible with your AMD APU you can simply download and run AMD Compatibility Checker on your notebook.
AMD Compatibility Checker
In overall sull’Asus F102BA we can not only take into account the evaluations that we did in the previous sections and the results of the benchmark without considering another factor: the legacy of the netbook . Mass phenomenon that has anticipated and in a sense paved the way for the revolution of tablets, netbooks have disappeared from the scene in late 2011, leaving a completely empty segment of the market that had guarded for over 3 years.
Out of the propulsive force of the netbook phenomenon, however, remains a question of low cost computer that a new ganerazione of ultraportables like the ASUS F102BA should go to fill. Read in this context, the limitations identified from the screen in terms of brightness and viewing angles, and APU from AMD A4-1200 in terms of performance, they appear very resized. There is a large percentage of users who actually does not need more performance, which is content to use the laptop for word processing or surfing the Internet, playing the same simple 3D games in your free time or prefer to watch a movie, and who would like to spend less, preferably less than 300 Euros.
ASUS F102BA improves the user experience offered by netbooks in several respects
ASUS Notebook as F102BA represent the answer to these needs , because they are compact and easy to carry, have a keyboard to make text editing or writing emails without having to carry external devices, plus add some features that were on netbooks absent and when he felt the lack of Windows updated to the latest version, 8 or 8.1, enhanced by the presence of capacitive touchscreen to 10 points of contact, an HD 10-inch 16:9 aspect ratio, stereo speakers with a good volume and a full allocation of ports.