Asustek Computer, designer of the Eee PC netbook that started the craze in mini-laptops, will have the N10 series in Taipei stores by Friday and I had a chance to try one out ahead of the launch here.
The N10 looks like it was built to rival Hewlett-Packard's Mini-Note, complete with a metal-like case and with a comparable price tag. It should be pointed out that the Mini-Note is covered by a true aluminum casing, while the hard case of the N10 is simply "metal-like," according to an Asustek representative.
[ For more on products in the hot mini-notebook category, check out our hands-on looks at Asus' Eee PC 901 and 1000, the Cloudbook Max netbook, Elitegroup's G10IL mini-laptop, MSI's Wind low-cost laptop, Giga-byte's M912X mini-laptop, HP's Mini-Note netbook, and Acer's Aspire one. ]
The standard N10 sells for NT$23,900 ($724.21), though consumers will have choices to adjust the price up or down with different software, storage, and DRAM configurations. The N10 started hitting world markets in October, but the rollout has been slow.
The N10 that I was able to try out carried a three-cell battery, a 160GB HDD (hard disk drive), 1GB of DRAM and was running Microsoft Windows XP Home software. It had built-in Bluetooth wireless, and connected to the Internet either through an Ethernet cable port or wirelessly via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g. Asus offers versions of the N10 with 802.11b/g/n.
What stood out most about the N10, aside from its stylish casing and hefty price tag, was its larger keyboard, which includes a nice-sized trackpad with left- and right-click buttons at the bottom of the pad.
That's different from most netbooks, which have trackpads about half the size of the N10's and left-/right-click buttons at the sides of the trackpad instead of below.
The N10 also has some space to rest your palms below the keyboard, a key reason there's so much space for the nice trackpad. There is about 7 centimeters (nearly 3 inches) of space below the keyboard to rest your palms on while you're typing. Few rival netbooks offer such generous dimensions.
The N10 is 27.6 centimeters by 19.5cm and between 2.99cm to 3.71cm thick, depending on the battery. It weighs 1.4 kilograms with a three-cell battery.
The keyboard itself is also a major improvement over the Eee PC and other netbooks that use smaller keyboards. The N10's is smaller than the average notebook PC, but not by much. I was able to type comfortably and without missing keystrokes.