Asus R2H: A Geek's Dream Come True
The Good: Nifty features like GPS, fingerprint reader, and USB mouse; multiple connectivity options
The Bad: Some of the Asus-specific software isn't very intuitive
The Bottom Line: A great PC for the geekier of the species, though maybe not the average consumer
As far as I'm concerned, the Asus R2H ultra-mobile PC is a tech-lover's dream. A geek could hole up with it for days on end without missing a bigger machine or even a gaming console. This PC, available from Dynamism.com for $999, has just about everything a computer lover could need—and then some. But some of its software may be difficult for the neophyte to handle, so it's not for everyone. I tested it as part of BusinessWeek.com's series of tablet and ultra-mobile PC reviews (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/26/07, "Lenovo's Talented Tablet").
First, let me tell you what I liked about the R2H. It comes with a USB mouse, a fingerprint sensor (for added security), and an embedded global positioning system. The design is clean and sleek, and its controls are outstanding. R2H offers you three or four different ways to navigate menus. You can use the mouse, a stylus, a thumb joystick, or several other sets of controls—options to suit every activity from computing and word processing to playing video games.
The computer is pretty sharp inside as well. While many ultra-mobile PCs run older software, R2H can be upgraded to the most recent iteration of Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows operating system, Vista. It also runs Windows XP. The processor is Intel's (INTC) energy-efficient Celeron M, and it boasts an impressive 60GB hard drive, one of the largest available with ultra-mobile PCs. That will come in handy if you plan to use R2H to watch movies or play your favorite games. Unlike many other light PCs, the gadget also comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera, which can take still photos and shoot decent video (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/14/07, "Ultra-Mobile PC or Ultra-Mobile Headache?").
Another strong point: the connectivity options. You can connect wirelessly using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth—and unlike most other ultra-mobile PCs, you can also plug the R2H into a network using an Ethernet cable. There's an SD memory card slot, USB ports, and ports for connecting to a printer, monitor, microphone, and headset. I found myself hard-pressed to think of a hardware feature I couldn't connect to this gadget.
To top it all off, battery performance is quite good. While many other ultra-mobile PCs play dead after two hours of use, this one lasts for about three and a half hours. Its weight is on par with other ultra-mobile PCs at about 2 pounds.
But there's a reason I say that this geek's dream may not necessarily suit the average consumer: the software. Sure, you will find the familiar Windows XP functions, and it also comes with ready-to-use Skype Web-calling software. But I found the Asus-specific software hard to use. For example, the LiveFrame photo and video program puzzled me to no end. I kept longing for the wonderfully easy software found on the Pepper Pad 3 (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/22/07, "Pepper Pad 3: A Taste of the Future").
If not for the unfriendly software, I would have bestowed five stars on the Asus. But it's still a fine machine as is.