ASUS EeeBook E402M, First Take

How little money do you need to spend to get a usable Windows computer? If you’ve got around £199 (inc. VAT), you can get the ASUS EeeBook E402M — but how usable is it?

Based around Intel’s quad-core Celeron N3540 running at 2.16GHz-2.66GHz and supported by 2GB of RAM, the E402M is certainly up to basic document creation and editing. Web browsing is a little irritating as there are noticeable lags as image- and content-rich pages load. And although YouTube video streams well, and sound quality via the internal speakers is perfectly acceptable, you won’t be able to overload this laptop with too many open browser windows or simultaneously running applications.

The internal storage on our review model was 32GB of eMMC flash, with just 12.1GB free right out of the box. There are hard disk-based storage options ranging from 500GB to 1TB, but you’ll pay more for these. Our review unit ran Windows 8.1, and by the time you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 the storage available will be different — but not radically so. You’ll need 3GB free to download the upgrade file, so bear that in mind.

The glossy 14-inch screen is not touch-sensitive, colours are rather washed-out and there’s a clear lag as you scroll through web pages that makes text blur (this is not replicated in WordPad documents, which scroll smoothly).

The worst aspect of the screen, though, is the viewing angles, which are abysmal to the point where pushing the screen back to its furthest point of about 135 degrees renders video unwatchable. The 14-inch panel’s resolution is 1,366 by 768 pixels, or 112 pixels per inch (ppi). That’s minimal, but not really a surprise on such a low-cost laptop.

The keyboard and touchpad are both fine. The former is well sized, with island-style keys that feel light but firm. There’s no keyboard backlight of course, but nothing really to grumble about. The touchpad is responsive and supports multitouch gestures efficiently.

There’s a reasonable array of ports and connectors, although there are only two USB ports — one each of USB 2.0 and 3.0. There’s a VGA-out connector as well as an HDMI port — the legacy port still has its uses, so it’s nice to see it included here. An RJ-45 Ethernet port is another nice addition. There’s also an SD card slot and a headset jack. The front-facing webcam has a rather paltry VGA resolution.

The plastic chassis feels reasonably solid at the base, and while there’s no serious bowing in the lid section as we bent it, there were some worrying clicks. Apply too much pressure and, we feel, the screen could pop out, although we didn’t actually manage to make this happen.

At this price you have to expect some compromises, and for the most part these are acceptable. However the paucity of internal SSD storage is likely to be a deal-breaker for many people, while the screen quality is far from exceptional.