- Review Date: 08/02/11
- Bottom line:
The Asus A53E-XA2 holds its own among the top budget laptops, thanks to an Intel Core i5 processor, strong battery life, and a pretty cool design.
Intel Core i5 CPU provides strong performance. Solid battery life. Scratch-resistant finish.
Light on features. Awkwardly placed power connector.
For the student or casual user who wants an affordable laptop with solid performance, the Asus A53E-XA2 ($629.99 list at Amazon) holds its own among the top budget laptops, thanks to an Intel Core i5 processor, solid battery life, and a design that looks great. Buyers looking for select features like USB 3.0, WiMAX, or WiDi 2.0, though, will need to look elsewhere.
The Asus A53E-XA2 has a slender chassis, measuring 1.4 by 15.12 by 10.12-inches (HWD). It weighs 5.8-pounds, which may not be as light as the Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U ($629.99 list, 4 stars) (5.47-pounds) or HP Pavilion dv6-6013cl (5.6-pounds), but it's the same weight as the Dell Inspiron i15RN5110-7126DBK ($729.99 list, 4 stars) (5.82-pounds). So it's still light enough to tote to and from classes. The Asus A53E-XA2 has a metal and plastic construction, with a scratch-resistant black plastic lid that bears a handsome pattern across its glossy finish.
A cool brushed aluminum panel covers the palm rest and surrounds the keyboard. The silvery aluminum is contrasted against the matte black keys of the chiclet-style keyboard and adjacent number pad. The typing experience is quite comfortable. A multitouch trackpad sits just below the spacebar, which is a little too far to the left for comfortable use. Despite the placement, the trackpad was smooth and responsive, and Asus claims that its palm-proof technology prevents any multi-touch foul-ups caused by a stray palm brushing the trackpad surface. It gave us no problems. It also has two separate right and left mouse buttons, which were quiet, but just a bit stiff to click.
The 15.6-inch widescreen display is large enough to enjoy a movie or work in two side-by-side windows, and the 1,366 by 768 resolution is standard for 15-inch laptops, and lets you enjoy up to 720p video. The audio quality from the two stock stereo speakers was passable, offering clear, consistent sound at low and medium volumes, but at high volume the sound quality dropped off and the warbling started. At lower volumes, however, the sound-quality is just fine, and the quiet fans of the laptop make it easy to hear with the volume turned low.
The A53E-XA2 offers a basic variety of ports and connections: 3 USB 2.0 ports, a multiformat card reader (SD, MMC, MS/Pro), VGA and HDMI outputs, and jacks for headphones and a mic. A caselock slot lets you physically lock down the laptop with a Kensington-style lock. Both Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi are available for getting online, but you won't find any newer networking options like WiMAX 4G mobile broadband or WiDi 2.0, a wireless HD streaming solution. It does, however, offer 1080p video and 8-channel surround sound when connected to a TV via HDMI. The tray-loading DVD +/- RW optical drive is a common sight on budget and mid-range laptops. The A53E-XA2 is also equipped with a 640GB 5,400rpm hard drive, which is the same size and speed of the drive found the Editors' Choice Asus U56E-BBL5 ($649.99 list, 4 stars).
Though the location of most plugs and connectors is rarely worth mentioning, it's worth noting that the A53E-XA2 has its power connector halfway up the left-hand side of the laptop instead of toward the back-left corner. It's not the first time we've seen this sort of thing from Asus (its K53SV-B1 had a similar set-up), but it's unusual and a bit cumbersome.
The laptop also comes with a collection of software trials and samples pre-installed on the hard drive, like a 60-day trial of Trend Micro Internet Security, a starter version of Microsoft Office 2010, browser toolbars from both Bing and Google, and a smattering of game samples. Like many manufacturers, Asus covers their laptop with a 1-year warranty. Where most manufacturers cover only parts and labor, however, Asus also covers accidental damage, spills, power surges, and fire damage. They also provide a year of 24/7 tech support.
The A53E-XA2 is equipped with a 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-2410M processor, the same processor found in the Asus U56E-BBL5 and Lenovo V570-1066A9U. The A53E-XA2 comes with 4GB of RAM, as opposed to the 6GB used in the Asus U56E-BBL5 and Lenovo V570-1066A9U. PCMark 7 scores among the three were similar, with the A53E-XA2 scoring 2,030 points, compared with the Asus U56E-BBL5 (1,920) and Lenovo (2,066). Our Cinebech R11.5 processor speed tests were also nearly identical to these competitors, scoring 2.58 points, while the Asus U56E-BBL5 and Lenovo V570-1066A9U scored 2.60 points.
This general performance also lends itself to multimedia work. In our HandBrake benchmark, in which involves reformatting video for playback on an iPod or iPhone, the Asus A53E-XA2 completed the test in 1 minute 55 seconds. This time is right in line with our top budget laptops, the Asus U56E-BBL5 (1:55) and Lenovo V570-1066A9U (2:00), but it's significantly faster than budget systems equipped with Core i3 processors, like the HP Pavilion dv6-6013cl ($649.99 list, 4.5 stars) (3:13). In Photoshop CS5, the A53E-XA2 completed our script of image manipulations in 4:14 seconds. Again, these scores were similar to the Asus U56E-BBL5 (4:13) and Lenovo V570-1066A9U (4:10), but well ahead of the HP dv6-6013cl (5:48).
The A53E-XA2 benefits from the graphics capabilities of Intel's Sandy Bridge processors. Where previous processors precluded the thought of gaming on a system with integrated graphics, the new Core processors have enough graphics processing power to play basic 3D games. In our 3DMark 06 graphics test the A53E-XA2 scored 3,956 points at medium resolution settings, and 3,332 points at native 1,366 by 768 resolution. By comparison, the Acer Aspire AS5742-6811, a budget system equipped with the previous-generation Core i5, scored 2,044 points at medium settings, and 1,855 points at native resolution. The Acer was also unable to run either of our game tests at any resolution, while the AA53E-XA2 managed 16.3 frames per second in Crysis and 15.0 fps in Lost Planet 2, both at medium settings. This improved performance won't be enough for serious gamers, but it will handle less demanding games like World of Warcraft.
The A53E-XA2 also provides solid battery life, lasting 6 hours 50 minutes in our MobileMark 2007 test with a 6-cell (56Wh) battery. It outlasted competitors with similar sized batteries, like the dv6-6013cl (5:17 with a 55Wh battery) and the Dell Inspiron i15RN5111-7126DBK (5:51, with a 48Wh battery), but it couldn't beat the larger 8-cell 74Wh battery found in the Asus U56E-BBL5, which lasted 7:34.
In terms of performance and battery-life, the Asus A53E-XA2 is rubbing shoulders with some of the best laptops in the budget category. For day to day use, it's an affordable laptop with strong performance, but it can't quite match the similarly priced Editors' Choice Asus U56E-BBL5, which offers similar performance along with high-end features like USB 3.0, WiDi 2.0, and WiMAX mobile broadband for only $20 more.