Tuesday, February 07, 2012

ASUS u46e-bal7 - Silly Name, Super Fine Laptop

Years ago, I bought a Sony laptop and loved it. I assumed that I was now a fan of Sony, and would buy from then, from now on. Not so, as my next laptop was a Dell Vostro. Again, I loved it (still do, actually), and assumed I would be buying from Dell from now on. And again, I was proven wrong.

Neither Sony, nor Dell, had anything that really impressed me, so I went back on the hunt for laptops. While poking around Best Buy I discovered the Asus u46e-bal6. It had impressive specs for the price (i7 process, or 8 gigs of ram, 13" screen and was relatively low weight). Add to that the positive review by cnet and I was sold.

As luck would have it, the bal6 model line was discontinued, but the bal7 line is now available. It appears to have almost no differences (except a higher price) than the bal6, but was still what I considered to be a solid bargain.

So I did it, and for the first time in my life, I'm an Asus owner.

What's truly amazing about this laptop is just how smooth a transition it has been to use. The setup took about 3 minutes. I downloaded Firefox and xmarks, and within another two minutes I had all my bookmarks. I was now ready to use the cloud, and with zero effort had access to all my e-mail, docs and company information.

I removed the virus software that came with it (as no doubt, it was some sort of trial) and just installed Microsoft Security Essentials, what seems to be a free and reliable virus checker. And other than the Bing Bar being installed, I've been impressed with how little bloatware is on the laptop. I can remember not too long ago, when manufacturers would provide you a computer littered with the stuff.

After the Anti-Virus and Firefox were in place (which, yeah, I should have done in the reverse order. But, whatever), I installed Cygwin and emacs and the vast majority of my development tools were taken care of.

Finally, I installed Carbonite and "restored" my files from my old Sony laptop. In another few days, all my files should transfer from the old laptop to the new.

It's all just been so dang uneventful.

The actual physical laptop seems to be high quality. They keyboard seems usable, though, most of the time, I have I'll have it hooked up to an external keyboard. In theory, it has a WiMax chipset built in, and USB 3.0 - but I really don't have a use for these. I just know that it seems fast, and so far, has been reliable. I haven't seen how long the 8 cell battery will last, but I'm sure it's more than satisfactory.

As for down sides, it has few minor nits. There's no finger print scanner, but it does offer facial recognition that's quite impressive. Time will tell if its practical to use. It also doesn't have a backlit keyboard, which my Dell Vostro has and makes working in bed next to a sleeping wife more pleasant. But, given the other specs of the machine (i7+8Gb RAM), I figured I could live without the keyboard. Or heck, maybe I'll upgrade it later. Another psudo-nit is that I'm not in love with the placement of the volume keys on the keyboard, but that was trivial to fix with this autohotkey script:

HotKey, +#Up, vol_up
HotKey, +#Down, vol_down
  Send {Volume_UP}
  Send {Volume_Down}

All in all, I couldn't be more pleased with the new laptop. Its peppy and has been a breeze to switch to. Couldn't ask for anything more.


  1. Anonymous8:45 PM

    Hi, i too am looking for laptops and came across this one, heard rumors of some asus comps crashing after awhile, and would like to know if u've had it for awhile or just got it?

  2. Just got it a few days ago. So far, no problems. But, if you're looking for someone who's had it for a while, that's not me.

    You should check back in a couple months...I'll be glad to tell you how it's working out.

  3. Hi Ben, Thanks for the rundown. I got lucky and found the BAL6 model today at Best Buy for a steal at $700. Only difference seemed to be slight differences in speed and a very slight difference in battery life. Since it was side-by-side with the BAL 7 I also noticed the brushed texture on the metal was a bit different. I too wanted it a backlite keyboard and finger print scanner but for the money this is a geat laptop. I will be curious to see how the face recognition works.

  4. Congrats on the new machine, Ben. :) While I can't say I'm much of a brand loyalist -- like you, I've had (and continue to have) many devices of many makes -- I can say with some degree of confidence that it's difficult to go wrong with an Asus. My soon-to-be-retired current workhorse is a circa early-2008 Asus U2E ultraportable that's been absolutely rock solid since day one. Moreover, the presentation device I use for work, an Asus Transformer tablet, has been equally reliable. And I even have one of their first-generation EEE PC netbooks that, somewhat miraculously, still works. So it does appear that the company possesses one of the better engineering teams in the industry. After all, manufacturing a good, modern portable device isn't just a matter of throwing a bunch of small parts together with some software; it's also a matter of making sure that said parts and software will play nicely together over time -- which is easier said than done.

  5. Thanks for the feedback guys.

    @Unknown - yeah, I would have been quite pleased with the BAL6 model, as it looked like quite a bargain. But, my only option was to either trek around the city or try to make do with an open box model. Neither was worth the effort.

  6. Anonymous7:08 PM

    I just purchased the bal7 - love it so far. Question: Do you know of a USB 3.0 docking station? I'm looking to use this as a desktop replacement at the office, and need to connect LAN, Audio, 2 monitors, and a few USB devices. Any links/pointers would be great - Thx

  7. @Anonymous - I don't use a docking station of any kind, but I do plugin a monitor and USB hub, which in turn has a USB Keyboard and Mouse.

    The result: it's effectively a desktop machine.

  8. Anonymous7:22 PM

    Yeah that's a great solution, I'm just looking for a one cable deal so I dont have to mess with multiple wires everytime i enter/leave the office. Here's the one i'm thinking of.....
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Toshiba-Dynadock-U-Universal-USB-Connect-/110827779459?pt=Laptop_Docking_Stations&hash=item19cdd9b583 - Toshiba has a usb 3.0 one, but it's a bit pricey

  9. Oooh, that docking station looks sweet. Definitely let me know if you come up with a solution like that for the ASUS.

  10. Anonymous2:13 PM

    I'm thinking about getting the BAL-7. Could you tell me, does the machine run hot? I was leaning towards an i5 processor, as I was told it consumes less power than an i7. Is this true?

  11. @Anonymous -

    Most of the time my Asus is on a desk, so I really don't notice if it's excessively hot. However, it's been on all day, and I'm now using it on my lap, and it's not particularly warm.

    Of course, that's totally subjective on my part...so I should probably just say: "I don't know" :-)

  12. Anonymous9:34 PM

    Great info on the BAL7, I'm planning on buying this for my daughter this weekend but..I did see , what I think is the exact same Laptop at Office Depot's web site for $100.00 cheaper. Same specs but the last digits were RAL7 instead of BAL7. Wondering if anyone knows anything about this.

  13. Kevin -

    I'm not surprised about the 1 character difference. That seems to be standard maneuver used by manufacturers. The cynic in me says they do it to avoid having to price match among stores. But, it could just as easily be an inventory thing.

    In general, I've found that Staples can have some amazing deals - so I wouldn't be surprised if Office Depot was capable of the same thing.

    I know that the BAL6 and BAL7 had almost no difference, so as long as the specs match, I assume you'd be fine.

  14. Anonymous5:32 PM

    Hi Ben,
    I've been looking for a new laptop for several months to replace my 5 year old Acer. After researching and reading the positive comments from others and your blogspot, I purchased this model with the exception the it ended in RAL7 yesterday from Office Depot online (all the same specs as the BAL7). I can't believe it was delivered today! Upon setting it up they recommend creating a recovery DVD...is that something you did also? And a couple of more questions, if you don't mind...What are "xmarks, Cygwin & emacs you mention in your Feb. 7 blog? Also, how does one uninstall the virus software that came with the Asus, and is a trial version?

  15. Guys, I actually have an RAL7 laptop, purchased not more than a week ago. So far I **LOVE** it. My only question is, I use a few programs that require massive processing power and the comp gets very very hot if run on Balanced -- I have to turn it down to Power Saver mode because I'm actually fearing burning out the processor. Outside of the normal laptop fan issue, is there any way I can keep the processor cool while still not sacrificing performance. The processor will run in excess of 80C for what I do, and that, frankly, has me more than a bit concerned.

  16. Anonymous10:12 PM

    Just bought the BAL7 for my daughter as I mentioned a few posts above. I took the flyer for the RAL7 to Best Buy and they matched the 699.00 price. (The BAL7 was 829.00)This is one sweet Laptop, fast as lightening and quiet!Only thing slow is the Face Lock. May have to get one for myself .

  17. I was not as lucky to get the price match at best buy, I ended up with the RAL7. I had the heating issue while playing a movie on 1080p on DVIX and my USB 3 does not work properly. Does anyone else tried the USB 3? The machine has an outstanding performance for the price, but those 2 issues are making me think about returning. I already restored the system to factory config and it still does the same.

  18. Anonymous11:59 AM

    Hello all I was looking at this computer too and comparing the office depot one to the best buy one thing i saw is that the best buy one has wimax 4g anyone with and ral7 can confirm if the office depot one has this? I personally could care less i will take the $100 savings.

  19. Anonymous10:05 AM

    I also bought the RAL 7 from office depot, and there are few drivers that you have to download from ASUS website in order to have a better performance(ex:. track pad and audio driver). I love all the specs and specially the price since I paid $699.00. I also bought a 128gb crucial ssd online to install on the machine, which makes my U46E-RAL7 fly. I am very pleased with the laptop. The only thing that I did not like much was the intel 3000 hd chip that comes on it. I do not game on it, but watching movies either on the laptop or on an external display(my HDTV)stinks as the black colors are not deep and distort most of the time.

    1. Anonymous2:14 PM

      I just bought the BAL7. Unless you download the latest driver from Intel, the graphics are really bad. But after I upgraded the driver, it was very good.

  20. HI all, the BAL7 I bought is a very nice maschine. I was a bit prepaired as I bought a model two or three generations before for my wife. These ASUS-PCs are running very well, without any problems. Capacity of the accu is reasonable long. The mechanics don't give any problems. You may name it as "solid state" in the good old meaning. I am happy.

  21. Hi, I was wondering if the laptop still works fine?

  22. Anonymous12:52 AM

    Great review on this new ASUS laptop! I appreciate that you were able to provide a comprehensive and informative video. Searching for the best gaming laptops has led me to believe that there will always be new innovations. Lets hope that I wont have any buyers regret after purchasing it.
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