The Asus C90S is an impressive laptop and a very interesting concept with a number of unique features that could have made for a formidable contender. Unfortunately, despite the very nature of the C90S being a barebones or "whitebook" system, it will hardly accommodate every need as a desktop replacement notebook.
Depending on how you plan to use the C90S, business oriented users will enjoy the option of extreme processing power when paired with a high-end Core 2 Duo processor. However those hoping to game hard with the C90S should look elsewhere, as the gaming performance delivered by the GeForce 8600M GT was simply lacking.
As it stands right now, the C90S seems to be a little behind the times, especially as a revolutionary platform. But let's keep in mind that the C90S is the first laptop in this upgradable series.
In fact, from our conversations with Asus we were told an improved C90P model is coming soon. The C90P will support 45nm processors thanks to the inclusion of the Intel P35 chipset. This change will also translate in memory support for up to 4GB of DDR2-800 memory and will apparently accept up to a GeForce 8700M GT graphics card. Other than this, the majority of the features will remain the same. We still believe this kind of design would be far better suited to a 17” laptop, with plenty more room to include an even more powerful cooling solution and better hardware support.
But back to the original C90S, we are all for the clever concept that even in this iteration worked well to a certain extent. Things that we liked about the Asus C90S include the LCD display, even when it was not using LED backlighting. The overall appearance of the C90S is great and the design appears to be very durable. At no time were we given the impression that the laptop was flimsy, though at almost eight pounds that would be hard to achieve anyway.
Accessing the various connections around the C90S was quite easy and there was nothing out of the ordinary here. HDMI was a great addition and worked seamlessly in our tests.
We don't have as many great things to say about the built-in overclocking feature however. When operating at the standard 2.4GHz frequency, the C90S was rock solid, however pushing the processor further would cause instability. To give you an example, we were unable to get a single overclocking benchmark run in Crysis or Supreme Commander. In other words, the overclocking feature must be reworked if that's going to be a selling point of the system.
Price wise, the C90S retails for roughly $700 as a barebone, which includes everything but the CPU, RAM, graphics card, and hard drive. Users can also add a wireless card, and purchasing an operating system will also be needed. The Asus DVD Super-Multi drive is included as a standard feature, and an optional Blu-ray player can be had for a whooping $830. The configuration of the sample we were sent is priced around $1400 without an OS, which is reasonable for a laptop of these characteristics.
The battery life of the C90S was better than expected given the specifications. For intensive applications such as gaming, the C90S would last roughly an hour. General usage would see the battery last at least 2.5 hours and often we would go over 3 hours, which is quite good since the C90S is still very snappy when operating in the battery saving mode.
Overall we did enjoy using the ASUS C90S. The amount of processing power is awesome for a system you can carry around. And even when Asus main idea with the C90S was for system builders to offer their own branded versions, we are far more excited about the possibility of DIY users and enthusiasts building their own laptops that can later be upgraded as needed. Now we just need a more up to date platform.