I’m not usually one to go Boxing Day shopping, let alone make an impulse purchase on something this expensive, however I couldn’t resist the urge to pick up an Asus K52J laptop when I was at Staples helping my father pick out a new computer. Normally I spend weeks researching a purchase of this magnitude and make sure I know all of it’s strengths and weaknesses before I walk into the store with a pocket full of cash. In this case, I was waiting in line at 8am for the store to open when the employees worked their way up the line asking each visitor what they were waiting in line for, and would give them a piece of paper guaranteeing them the item once they got inside (to avoid customers trampling each other when the doors opened). Although I had been humouring the idea of buying a new laptop for several months, I had intended to wander around the store and look at each laptop and it’s specs before making a decision, as the flyer gave very minimal details about each build. When put on the spot and asked what I was there to buy, I pointed at the best Asus laptop they had in the flyer and said I would take it — still unsure of whether I’d go through with it or not. I was ensured one of only three units of that model that they had in store. After we were allowed into the store I tried to find the laptop I had agreed to buy, and it was not on display anywhere, rather I had to wait in another lineup to redeem my ticket for the item. So I waited yet another 45 minutes in line and during that time I decided I’d just buy it and spend my holiday playing around with it, knowing their return policy was flexible enough that I could return it if I was unhappy So, how did it hold up?
I won’t bore you with the details of unboxing the unit, as the packaging was rather bland. After removing it from the box and peeling off the protective plastic layer I gave it a good look over. The unit was black and the only marking it had on the top was the Asus symbol, one which I have come to associate with quality. Once I lifted the lid and took a look at the inside I found myself very impressed with the keyboard, the keys looked similar to the ones you’d find on a Macbook and are very pleasant to type on. Being a programmer who spends many hours per day bashing away at a keyboard this was the most essential quality about the build of the laptop (not taking into consideration things like processor speed and memory). What impressed me the most was that they still managed to fit in a numpad on the right and it was not overly cramped, though some keys were placed in some rather odd positions. The track pad is centered between where your palms would naturally rest so unlike most computers I haven’t had an issue with accidentally moving the cursor with my palm as I type. The track pad also has multi-touch functionality for those who like to use gestures, which I will cover in more detail later. The plastic surrounding the keyboard is a textured black pattern that does a remarkable job of resisting fingerprints and smudges. Overall the keyboard is very sturdy, the keys do not stick and have a great tactile response, and the whole computer does not flex when you type as some do.
After setting up the unit and booting it for the first time I was asked to make a backup. The employee at Staples had urged me strongly to do this as the unit did not come with an installation disc in case something happened. Knowing that I may very well be returning it I figured it would be best to have this backup to restore if I did decide to take it back. So I clicked yes and popped in a blank DVD-R. At that point I was told it would take 5 DVDs and it then went on to start making an image, that stage took about 45 minutes, then it proceeded to start burning. Each disc took an extremely long time because after burning it, it insisted on verifying each disc before allowing you to proceed. To make matters worse, it simply refused to verify the third disc. It sat at 1% verified for several hours before I gave up and ejected the disc, at that point it complained and said I had to redo the disc. So I let it try again only to find myself in the same boat. After several hours of frustration I finally gave up. Needless to say I was not impressed as I had wasted half of my day and several blank discs, when all I wanted to do was play with my new laptop.
After giving up on the backup process I proceeded to cruise through the menus and shortcuts on the desktop, I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of software that came preinstalled. I’ve owned many Asus motherboards and other various products over the years so many of the programs were familiar but there were far more that I did not recognize. Since I am not one who likes a cluttered computer I went to work and started removing everything I did not need on the system. I found a great forum post that covered all the Asus software that came preinstalled and made recommendations on what should be kept and what needed to be purged from the system. I suggest all owners of a new Asus laptop take a look at that site and clean out the junk you don’t need, as my computer had over 70 processes running on start.
The one piece of software you’ll want to leave installed is their facial recognition software. It’s a bit slow at times but once you train it you can have a lot of fun logging into your computer. Half the time I end up logging I manually because the room is too dark for it to recognize me, and there’s no equivalent software for Linux (I’ve mostly been running Arch Linux on it). Though it’s fun to show off you don’t want to rely on the facial recognition software for security as it can be fooled, according to many bloggers, but in all honesty if someone is sitting in front of your computer it has already been compromised.
|Operating System||Windows® 7 Home Premium|
|Video||NVIDIA GeForce 310M (1GB)|
One thing I really wanted to talk about was the quality of the keyboard, trackpad, plastic housing as well as things like the USB and audio jacks. Quite often when you get a laptop in this price range the actual build of the system feels cheap, the whole keyboard can flex and making crackling noises as you type — especially if it’s sitting in your lap. The connectors are all positioned in useful places, there’s USB plugs on each side so whether you’re a lefty or righty you wont be catching your mouse on memory sticks and cables.
The keyboard is absolutely brilliant. Not only is it pleasant to type on but none of the keys stick like on my Asus 4G netbook, I had to replace a couple of keys before it became usable. The plastic housing around the keyboard is solid and doesn’t flex when you type, but is cluttered with a few decals covering the specs and all the usual jazz. Since it’s a mid sized laptop it has a fair bit of weight to it, so you may get tired lugging it around an airport all day but it feels like it could survive numerous good bumps that are bound to happen when travelling, many of my gadgets over the years have fallen apart at the slightest tap.
The lid of the laptop is a very shinny and high polished black with just a simple ASUS logo on it. Beyond that, once you remove the decals there’s no branding on the laptop and when set up with a black desktop theme it has a very hacker-esque style to it. There are no flashing back lights on some of their higher end models, just a subtle power light and a few green lights on the front to indicate power, hard drive activity and all the other usual stuff. If you’re looking for a laptop that’s built strong and rugged like a MacBook the Asus K52J is the way to go!
The Asus K52J is a powerful laptop with a reasonable price tag. I picked mine up for $500 CDN on a Boxing Day special, however they usually retail for several hundred more. The processor is quick and snappy, programs open almost instantly and task switching doesn’t phase it. On top of that I took it for a run with a few games and was impressed with how it handled them. I could play Half-Life Episode 2 on the same settings I use with my Quad Core desktop computer with a dedicated video card. I won’t go too in depth with how it handled games as I don’t have all the bench marking software, but for a laptop that was intended for business and casual use I was not expecting to be able to play games — so this is an added bonus.