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    Asus N10J with Windows 7 Beta 1

    Written January 7, 2009

    If doing an upgrade or clean install without formatting, you can just extract the iso to a folder (use Winrar) and install from there. If you're doing a clean install with format, you need either a usb dvd-drive, or a bootable usb memory card that's at least 4GB. For help with installing from a usb drive, click here.

    I performed a clean install, reformatting into one large drive (note, by default Windows 7 will create a separate 200MB partition, just be aware of this). No idea on setup time, after answering initial questions I left for over an hour, when I came back I simply setup the user account, waited several minutes for it to check the PC's performance, and logged in.

    Once logged in, immediately check Windows Update for updates (if MP3 update does not show, you must download that separately). Windows promptly updated my Geforce 9300M drivers and the LAN drivers. Rebooted, and changed resolution and color depth to highest to allow Aero to be enabled (works great). Then installed AVG free which also works fine.

    At this point, the only things not working properly are the hotkeys, the fingerprint scanner, and the webcam (webcam drivers were installed, but picture was upside down). Downloaded numerous programs from Asus's site, nothing could get either to work. To get the Hotkeys to work, you must download the ATK_Hotkey Utility from Asus's site, install, then add a registry entry to get the Hotkey program to start at each boot. The program is C:\Program Files\ASUS\ATK Hotkey\HControl.exe, and here's a reg file that will automatically add it for you (program must already be installed, this only adds it to your startup list): hotkeys.reg. As for the webcam, simply check in a program such as skype, if it appears fine, then no tweaking necessary. If not or the picture's upside down, then try installing the Vista drivers from Asus's site.

    Next we have to get the fingerprint scanner to work. Installing the required program doesn't install the drivers as it should. Also note that as of now (January 7, 2009) the program for the fingerprint scanner on the included CD is newer than the version on Asus's site, so if you have a way to load that instead, I would. To get the drivers installed, goto www.upek.com/support/downloads/drivers/windows.asp and download the drivers (currently version 2.13). Unzip, then go to update the driver for the fingerprint scanner, pointing it to the directory you just unzipped the package to (running the install script to install the drivers doesn't work, it must be done manually). Now your fingerprint scanner will work correctly.

    Things that don't work quite right:

    I installed Firefox 3.1b2, and it has an issue with wanting to hang when I try to shut the computer off or restart. Everything's fine if I manually close Firefox first, then try to shut the pc off. It also kept giving a runtime error when I tried to login to my Chase account. Updating to a nightly build of 3.1b3 helped the first issue but not the second. Then I realized it could be the plugin for the fingerprint scanner software (which I had to force, since it said it was not supported on this browser). Disabling it cured the crash at Chase.com, so my advice would be to not try to force it to install, it'll just give issues at this point. Another problem is with the Power4Gear Hybrid program, which is supposed to help you switch between max power and max battery life, and anywhere in between. It appears to set everything correctly, but cpuid shows the processor still changes speeds even when it's set to 100% for min and max (and the max still shows as 1.6GHz even when in Turbo mode). Not a show stopper for me at this point.

    Another gotcha is that the N10J came with SATA set to compatibility mode by default, even though it came with Vista (most likely because it had an option to downgrade to XP, which would require compatibility mode). If Vista or Windows 7 are already installed and you try to switch SATA to Enhanced mode, you'll get a BSOD when you try to boot up. It's a simple remedy, just start regedit and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Msahci and give the Start key a value of 0. Or you can simply use this reg file:ahci.reg.

    Initial impressions of the Asus N10J itself:

    The size isn't quite right. Asus either should have made it a bit smaller, or made the screen larger. There's a good bit of wasted space around the screen. They could at least have made it a bit taller, giving us a default resolution of 1024x768 instead of 1024x600. Those wanting a laptop can find larger systems (with larger screens) with better specs for less. Those wanting a netbook can find smaller systems with the same screen size for much less. Those wanting the smallest 10" screen netbook with a real graphics chip and an hdmi port, well this is the only one out there (ps, don't tell Asus I called this a Netbook, they insist it's a Notebook).

    The keyboard is a decent size, no hunting and pecking here. The right-shift key is about half-size, and a very few keys are a bit smaller than normal, but hasn't affected my typing abilities any more than just getting used to a new keyboard. The trackpad is a nice size, but there's no gap between it and the mouse buttons. I often find myself trying to click something but the mouse cursor jumped, because my thumb accidentally touched the touchpad while clicking. Having the fingerprint scanner between the two mouse buttons is a little awkward, but hasn't gotten in the way too much.

    One thing that took me about 30 minutes to figure out, was how to get the memory card reader to work. There's a spot on the right that has a memory card holder. Turns out that's all it does, just holds your memory card (it slides into the expresscard slot when not in use). The actual memory card reader is at the front left of the N10J. Pop out the dummy card, pop in your memory card (SD card fits fine, only sticks out a tiny bit), and there you go. Unfortunately you can't really put the dummy memory card in the memory card holder in the expresscard slot. It doesn't fit in tight, and can rattle around.

    Battery life is decent, even with the Nvidia 9300M enabled. The N10J series have a switch that will let you disable the Nvidia graphics chip and use the integrated graphics chip instead (note that you won't be able to use your hdmi port with the integrated graphics chip). Battery life with the integrated graphics isn't magnitudes more, but it could give you that extra 30 minutes that you need. The first time you boot you'll have to let Windows 7 recognize the new card and install drivers followed by a reboot. Otherwise it's just flip the switch and reboot (or if the machine is already off, flip the switch and boot up). Who the N10J is for:

    You'll want the N10J if you want a netbook with a 10" screen and a dedicated nvidia graphics card with hdmi port. It's basically an Eeepc 1000H on steroids. The main differences between the 1000H and the N10J is the N10J comes with Windows Vista (the N10J-A2 has an option to downgrade to XP), an Nvidia 9300M graphics card with 256MB dedicated memory, hdmi port, fingerprint scanner, 2GB RAM vs 1GB, and a 320GB hard drive (note, the N10J-A1 comes with a 160GB drive, the Eeepc 1000H typically comes with an 80GB-160GB drive). If you don't need the Nvidia 9300M graphics card or the hdmi port it gives you, and either don't want Vista or have an extra copy laying around, the 1000H is the better value. At less than half the price of the N10J, you can easily upgrade the RAM to 2GB and have nearly the same performance (sans dedicated graphics). Is a larger hard drive, fingerprint scanner, and Vista really necessary and worth the extra cost? At this time, no.

    Very important note! There are minor differences between the N10J-A1 and the N10J-A2, but major differences between the N10J and the N10E series. The N10E currently comes with a max 160GB drive, only 1GB RAM, no fingerprint scanner, no dedicated Nvidia graphics card with hdmi port, XP instead of Vista, no 802.11n networking, only a 3-cell battery, yet still costs more than the 1000H! You can easily get a 1000H with a 6-cell battery and 802.11n networking if that was important, for much less. Plus use the money you save to upgrade your RAM to 2GB and have money left over. Oh, and the 1000H's touchpad supports multi-touch, while the N10 series does not (why they left that out is anyone's guess). When ordering the N10J, make absolutely sure it's the N10J and double check the specs. Currently Amazon is selling the N10E, the N10J is what's pictured (so it appears you'd get the fingerprint scanner), and the specs even say it has 256MB of dedicated video memory. The listing, price, and other specs confirm it's actually the N10E, so beware!

    As for the differences in the N10J-A1 and the N10J-A2, here they are. The N10J-A1 comes with Vista Home Premium and a 160GB hard drive. The N10J-A2 comes with Vista Business with the option to downgrade to XP Pro and a 320GB hard drive. All other specs appear the same.

    Initial thoughts about Windows 7 Beta 1:

    First off, I must stress that this is a Beta OS. The final version will be different, and could work better or even possibly worse for you (for example, perhaps something is tweaked in the final code, and you can no longer use a particular Vista device driver that worked fine for the beta). That aside, I really like the new OS. It's very stable both on the N10J and on my Dell E1705 laptop. Most problems are minor and will most likely be fixed by the time you can actually purchase the retail version of Windows 7. Some programs that haven't worked correctly for me are VMWare Workstation (you have to apply a workaround to get a guest os connected to the network with Windows 7 as the host; also it seems a bit unstable) and Daemon tools (there are other iso mounting tools that work under Windows 7). I also have an issue with getting some network shares added to the library (you can have your Documents folder point to multiple locations), they complain about not being indexable (though the same share worked fine on Windows 7 on my Dell, go figure).

    In a nutshell I'd say Windows 7 is leaner, more stable, but slightly more quirky than Vista. Since we're still just at Beta, with the final being released anywhere from 6-months to a year away, I think it's going to be a great OS. It might be enough to keep me from trying to see if I can install OSX on the N10J.


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