Most folks don’t pay all that much attention to the notebook they use at work every day. How well you’re able to type up documents, how quickly apps open and the like all have little bearing on the work people do and as long as it works, a “good enough” attitude might prevail.
At htxt.africa we’re not content with notebooks that are “good enough”, and we prefer working on tech that works well. The benefit of this is that crashes and slow systems are not even something we worry about. A business professional that enjoys some degree of success in their corner office may share our thoughts and want to know what there is for them that insures maximum productivity, minimal down time and a great business experience.
Welcome then, to the ASUS BU201 Ultrabook, a business-minded notebook that holds little back in terms of power, design and sheer functionality.
While ASUS claims the ultra durable carbon fiber material that wraps around the BU201 is tested to meet the MIL-STD 810G military standard, we don’t suggest taking a .50 caliber rifle to the notebook. Instead this protective layer is meant to protect the BU201 from bumps and drops while it travels from location to location with you.
That is about as revolutionary as you’re going to get with the exterior of this plain and low-key ultrabook, though for business purpose you won’t really be too concerned with the looks.
For its interface needs, the BU201 features all the usual suspects: a 3.5mm combo audio jack, VGA port, mini DisplayPort, LAN port, Kensington Lock and a 4-in-1 card reader populate the left and right panels of the ultrabook. Unusually, the ASUS has no USB 2.0 ports, instead giving you three USB 3.0 ports, one of which is used to connect the ultrabook to its docking station.
Security and compatibility with high-tech Windows 10 authentication features like Windows Hello have been planned for with the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner and a smart card reader.
Finally on the underside of the BU201 you will find the ports for the docking station – a separate purchase – and one solitary air intake. The exhaust vent is located behind the hinge of the display which, while keeping the aesthetic of the BU201 sleek, does hamper how quickly the ultrabook dissipates heat. The result is that while running intensive applications, the keyboard becomes warm, but fortunately not uncomfortably so.
Lifting the 12.5-inch FHD display lid reveals one of the nicest notebook keyboards we’ve used in a while. The keyboard is fully backlit and typing on the keys which have a 2mm travel feels so great, the only reason you should be using a secondary keyboard is because the BU201 is in the docking station. In the centre of the keyboard you’ll find the very Lenovo-esque rubberised point stick.
Above the trackpad you’ll find a left click, right click and a middle mouse click for the Sensepoint point stick. Both the buttons and point stick can be avoided easily and don’t hamper either the trackpad or typing. To click on the trackpad you simply need to press down at the bottom left or right of the trackpad. The click of the trackpad is just right and requires minimal pressure to press.
Driving all of this is an Intel Core i7-4510U processor which performs well on this notebook. Multitasking is great even when dealing with CPU intensive apps such as spreadsheets. During our benchmarks we found that heat coming from the CPU was at a reasonable 50 degrees while operating . Should you plan on using this on your lap for extended periods of time, you may want to opt for a table instead.
There is no discrete GPU in the BU201 because it isn’t altogether necessary; this is for business, after all. Instead, the ultrabook uses the Intel HD Graphics 4400 chipset which makes the screen look great and helps drive that 1920 x 1080p display. It’s not powerful enough for gaming, but you will at least be able to do a bit of photo editing quite easily.
Storage capacities vary from model to model; the version we tested was fitted with a 500GB 7200 rpm hard drive. There is a version that ships with either a 128GB or 256GB SSD if you would prefer faster boot times and opening of apps. For business purposes we would recommend the SSD version as the HDD version can be a bit slow while booting up and installing applications.
You will find Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity options, as well as a SIM card slot in the battery slot if you would prefer not to carry a wireless or USB dongle around with you.
Key performance areas
Let’s start at the bad news and move up from there. The webcam is not wonderful and Intel’s graphics processor chugs along. The PC Mark 8 video encoding process took 268ms for the GPU to capture and send off a video to the remote server; this delay isn’t altogether that bad but we did notice a fair amount of stutter in the video, this may worsen depending on your internet connection.
Because we’re fans of open source tech here at htxt.africa, we used LibreOffice on the BU201 to test our PC Mark benchmarks.
A test where we ran calculations, edited and and then saved a well-populated spreadsheet took 24.4 seconds to complete, which while not ideal didn’t crash the system which the benchmark threatened to do once giving us a “(Not Responding)” tag in the Window. This subsided however, after which it was business as usual.
From there, though, the bad news is heavily outweighed by the good. Saving a large word document after editing it and adding some text was completed in 7.85 seconds, and rendering a web page ranges from 0.16s to 0.47s
The battery is a rather small (physical size) removable affair that is rated at 32Wh. In our real world testing we found that the battery lasted between five and six hours while in use. The small battery means that if you wanted you could carry a spare in your notebook bag without much fuss and squeeze another six hours out of the ultrabook.
Our tests were run with brightness at full, Wifi on and Opera browser, LibreOffice Write and Calc applications running.
Once the battery is completely dead, we found that recharging took in the region of two hours.
Close of business
We’ve neglected to mention the price up until this point because it is a bit of a detractor. The RRP is listed at R18 899 which makes this ultrabook attractive to only the most well-heeled business professionals. ASUS is marketing this notebook to IT professionals, but we feel that accountants, lawyers, bankers and even brokers would find the BU201 an attractive notebook that would be perfect for their needs.
The asking price is high, but after using this ultrabook going back to our normal notebook is a bit depressing, as it feels quite underpowered compared.
Our time with this ultrabook left us wanting one, and you will too once you try it out.