Over the Labor Day weekend, I happened to be in Silicon Valley on a short vacation and Fry's Electronics luckily had an Asus X55U Notebook on sale for $258. I had been looking for a long battery life laptop that wouldn't kill me if it ever got hurt during traveling (versus my much more expensive HP laptop). On top of that, I had wanted a Linux laptop to do cross-platform testing of jcDB, jcPIMP and the Mode Xngine. Planning ahead a bit, I brought an older Corsair Force 3 90gb SSD that I was no longer using and a Philips screw driver (yes folks, screw drivers are allowed by the TSA, it just can't be more than a few inches long).

Asus X55U Notebook

Asus X55U Notebook box contents

Asus X55U OpenSUSE Boot Menu

Specifications wise the laptop has:
-15.6" 1366x768 Screen (not the greatest quality, but definitely a lot better than expected at the price point)
-AMD E2-1800 (Dual 1.7ghz APU that clocks itself down to 2x850mhz when performance isn't needed)
-4gb DDR3 1066 (1 slot, upgradeable to 8gb)
-Radeon HD 7340 (DX11, 512mb of system ram is used)
-500gb Hitachi SATA Drive
-1 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.0 Port
-HDMI Output
-Gigabit Ethernet
-802.11n WiFi
-VGA Output
-Mic and Headphone Jack
-DVD-RW Drive
-SD/SDXC/SDHC Memory Card Slot

I should note, this APU does support AMD's Virtualization, so you can run Hyper-V, Xen, VMware Workstation etc. on this notebook. Coupled with the 8gb of ram support, this could be a decent portable VM notebook for the price.

Fortunately, doing the swap of the hard drive was extremely easy as opposed to some laptops that require taking apart the entire laptop (looking back at the Dell Inspiron I purchased in October 2010). Just 2 screws to pull off the back, which also contains the single DDR3 SO-DIMM slot.

Asus X55U Notebook (Bottom)

Corsair Force 3 90gb SSD

Curious if the system supported 8gb of DDR3 ram (since the manual didn't specify), I bought an 8gb DDR3-1333 Corsair SO-DIMM:

Corsair 8gb DDR3-1333 SO-DIMM

Swapped out the Hynix 4gb with the Corsair:

Asus X55U with the Corsair 8gb DDR3 SO-DIMM installed

And sure enough, the notebook supports 8gb:

Asus X55U with 8gb showing in the BIOS

While in the BIOS I should mention the charge when off feature this notebook has. Meaning with the lid closed, you can still charge your phone or media player. I wish my HP had that functionality.

Asus X55U BIOS Options

OpenSUSE 12.3 installed without a hitch (even the WiFi worked off the bat). After getting the system configured, the first thought I had was take the recent ia64/Linux port of jcBench and port it over to x86/Linux. On the flight back from SFO, I ported it over and thankfully it was only a re-compile with a slight tweak to the CPU detection.

How does the system perform?
[bash] jcBENCH 0.6.522.0928(x86/Linux Edition) (C) 2012-2013 Jarred Capellman CPU Information --------------------- Manufacturer: AuthenticAMD Model: AMD E2-1800 APU with Radeon(tm) HD Graphics Count: 2x1700.000mhz Architecture: x86/x86-64 --------------------- Running Benchmark.... Integer: 65.4932 seconds Floating Point: 35.6109 seconds [/bash] In comparison to my Silicon Graphics Prism (2x1.5ghz Itanium 2) it performs a little slower in Integer operations, but is nearly 3X faster in Floating Point Operations. In comparison to my HP DV7 laptop (AMD A10), it performs in the same dual threaded applications about 2X as slow, as expected with the slower clock rate and much smaller cache.

Overall, the notebook does exactly what I want and more for a $258 device. Build quality exceeds the Acer netbook and Dell Inspiron I had several years ago, coming close to my HP DV7, if only this Asus used the higher grade plastics. For those curious, battery life is about 4 hours with WiFi enabled the middle of the road screen brightness.