I had a few key priorities for an EMCOMM laptop: adequate performance, decent screen size, full size keyboard, lightweight, good battery life, low price. After looking around at the laptops available I decided to get the Asus VivoBook E403A-US21.
- CPU – Intel Pentium N3700 (Quad-Core, 1.6 GHz)
- RAM – 4GB
- SSD – 128GB
- Display – 14″ (1920 x 1080)
- Wireless – Wifi (AC), Bluetooth (v4.0)
- Ports – USB 3.1 Type C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, Audio
- SD Card Reader, Webcam, Microphone
- Battery – 57 Wh
- Weight – 3.3 lbs
- Price – $400
The Asus VivoBook easily runs Windows 10 and all of the ham radio applications that I need (N3FJP log, FLDIGI, FLWRAP, FLMSG, FLAMP, WJST-X, etc), which allows me to use it as my main station computer. Consequently, if I need to grab my equipment and hit the road I can just disconnect a couple of cables and take my laptop with me, armed with the knowledge that it is up to date, functional, and that the battery is fully charged. By using one laptop for everything it allows me to not worry about maintaining a secondary machine just for my Go Kit.
The VivoBook is fairly miserly when it comes to power usage compared to higher powered laptops and is well suited to field use.
- Idle Maximum Brightness – 8W
- Idle Minimum Brightness – 6W
- FLDIGI, FLMSG, FLAMP, File Browser Open, Maximum Brightness – 11W
- FLDIGI, FLMSG, FLAMP, File Browser Open, Minimum Brightness – 9W
- Charging Battery – 33W
While this extremely low power usage provides the benefit of great battery life it also means that the VivoBook can run for hours and hours on an external battery pack like the Energizer XP18000 or the Intocircuit 32000mAh battery pack. Starting with a fully charged laptop and battery pack this laptop could easily run for over 24 hours without needing to plug into 120V. Being low power also means that the system doesn’t get hot, there’s not even a fan for the processor.
The VivoBook is thin and light and the keyboard and touchpad are excellent. It has a good selection of ports and the build quality is very solid for such an inexpensive machine. The high display resolution is also nice to have especially for a laptop in this price range. The display’s contrast and viewing angles are not very good as was expected for this price range. I was, however, able to improve the color reproduction using my Datacolor Spyder screen calibration tool. Overall this is a fantastic laptop for the money and it is a good addition to my Go Kit setup.