Asus is one of those very rare tech brands that has been around for a long time to continue to offer beautiful, unexpected innovations while remaining affordable.
Asus made headlines with the launch of the Zenfone 9, a smartphone that caught our eye for its compact format that combines good performance and excellent battery life. The new product fits perfectly into the Asus DNA: Never be where the brand is expected. With its jack port and its miniature format, without being overpriced, this high-end smartphone goes against trends.
Between the American giants and the young Chinese brands, few manufacturers can boast Asus’ longevity in so many areas of consumer computing. Come to think of it, the brand is perhaps one of the reasons I got into journalism. This is an opportunity to spotlight a brand whose innovations we may not recognize enough.
To be completely transparent, I would first like to remind you that I have already participated in two press trips organized by Asus, specifically to cover the Computex exhibition for Frandroid. I don’t think it has an impact on this article, especially since several of the elements I want to narrate predate my actual entry into journalism and therefore these two journeys. But it’s still better to say it.
EEE PC 701: affordable innovation from Asus
And for one, the best thing is to go back to my very first laptop, bought when I was in high school. The Asus EEE PC 701 marks the beginning of a real revolution in consumer computing. Discovered in 2007 by Pierre Lecourt, who dedicated the famous specialized website Blogeee to him, this PC was the first in the Netbook family. A blog that will introduce me to the world of podcasts before I become interested in current affairs and Frandroid and eventually become a journalist.
It is an extremely compact laptop sold at a low price. We are talking about a 7-inch screen, an Intel Celeron M chip and only 4 GB of storage space on a small SSD. Introductory price: 299 euros for the version running under GNU/Linux Xandros.
This Asus project has been so successful that the brand will usher the entire tech industry in its wake. Microsoft will somehow be forced to adapt Windows XP and then Windows 7 to these small machines, and Intel will launch the famous Intel Atom series dedicated to this product family.
In the following years we find netbooks that clone the success of EEEPC from Acer, HP, Samsung, MSI, Medion and all the other manufacturers on the market.
It’s also a whole hacking community that will be born around the machine, long before the Raspberry Pi. Custom Linux distributions, guides to replace certain parts of the PC and make it more efficient or autonomous. I had thus increased the machine’s capabilities by welding a USB hub inside the chassis, and replacing the screen with a touch screen. There were even plans to install Mac OS X.
Apple, let’s talk about it. The company apparently refused to launch a laptop for less than 500 euros, but the MacBook Air follows a fairly logical connection to the philosophy behind the EEE PC. MacBook Air, launched a year after netbooks, gives SSD storage, lightness and autonomy a credit, just like its cousins. However, the Apple brand makes no concessions on performance, finish and of course the price.
Asus Transformer: Microsoft didn’t invent the 2-in-1 tablet
Microsoft is often credited with democratizing the concept of a 2-in-1 tablet capable of transforming into a PC. We do it in the same way that we borrow Apple the creation of the smartphone with the iPhone, while others existed before. And with good reason, in both cases the giants offer a much more mature and thoughtful copy of an idea that will mark its time.
However, it is to Asus that we can borrow the idea of the modern tablet to which we can connect a keyboard to turn it into a PC. The Asus Transformer TF701 is an Android 3.2 tablet with an Nvidia Tegra 2 chip and a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 pixel LCD screen. Asus takes advantage of its idea of integrating a battery into the keyboard to give the product more autonomy and balance the weight.
Asus and unexpected, slightly crazy ideas
It’s hard not to talk about Asus without mentioning the manufacturer’s many, sometimes crazy, ideas. This is one of the qualities that I readily lend to the brand: always being ready to try things, even if it doesn’t fit into the trends of the moment.
First comes to mind the Asus Fonepad and its companion, the Asus Padfone. Let’s quickly review the first: it is a 7-inch tablet that had the peculiarity of integrating a telephone function. In other words, it was quite an impressive smartphone for the time.
The Asus Padfone goes the opposite way and will take things very far.
The Asus Padfone is therefore a smartphone that can be accommodated in a large touch screen that will transform the device into a tablet. A tablet that you can then slide over a keyboard to turn it all into a PC. It is therefore a 3-in-1 product.
The problem of the concept: the price proposed by Asus more or less corresponds to the sum of its parts. Why buy a 3-in-1 device for the price of a smartphone and a convertible tablet? The general public will never find the answer to this question.
Asus Transformer Duet: when Google censors a product
In 2014, the market has not yet fully decided on the tablet sector. Android is in a strong position against the iPad in terms of volume, but competition from Windows 8 is just around the corner.
To satisfy both customers at the same time, Asus develops the Transformer Duet, a convertible tablet that can boot under Android or Windows as desired. Samsung does the same with its ATIV Q.
Neither product will ever see the color of a technical department. For unknown reasons, both manufacturers decide to cancel their products. The persistent rumors claim that Google would have “gave resistance“.
Many ideas, few selected
One could write pages and pages about all the ideas that Asus has brought to market over the years. Recently, the company has stood out for its dual-screen laptops. A kind of extension of the idea of the MacBook Pro touch bar by going much further.
Originally offered on a single machine, Asus rejected the idea on many references, even in its products for gamers. It’s hard to say if this idea will make a mark on the market, it doesn’t really seem to have been picked up by competitors or become more accessible to more affordable price groups.
I have also repeatedly praised Asus’ ability to offer very cheap products, but the manufacturer is also a specialist in blowing the bill, especially with its ROG brand. In the PC component market, Strix products are often sold quite expensively, more or less justifiably.
On the other hand, what seems to be heading towards democratization is the arrival of OLEDs in laptops. And that can be attributed both to Samsung, which manufactures the plates, and Asus, which had a hollow nose with its controls. The company quickly offered a large catalog of notebook PCs with OLED screens and, above all, made the prices very affordable. Today, there are Windows Oled machines well below the 1000 euro mark.
Asus Zenfone 9: a compact in a world of giants
We come to the launch of the Zenfone 9, both one of the only high-end smartphones in several years to offer a 3.5 mm jack and perhaps the last high-end compact under Android. Even Apple seems to be abandoning the mini format with the iPhone 14. Asus continues and does not raise prices.
A top-of-the-range smartphone for 800 euros with the best Qualcomm chip at the moment – Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 –, good finishes and excellent autonomy, it’s reasonable for a big brand. Google can afford to be more aggressive on price, the company knows it will make money from ads and the Play Store. This is not the case with Asus, which nevertheless resists the temptation of the smartphone at 1000 euros.
Where manufacturers offer a family of smartphones that includes dozens of references, especially with Xiaomi, this is not the case with Asus. The brand seems to keep its head on its shoulders and offers a total of two products: the Zenfone for the general public and the ROG phone for extreme performance aficionados. Even Apple, though known for a limited selection, now offers more choices with its iPhones.
This is perhaps why Asus, the historic PC manufacturer, is still in the smartphone market. The brand will have survived many upheavals. His HP, Acer or Razer comrades have disappeared from the sector in the meantime. Even compatriot HTC, yet a smartphone specialist, is only a shadow of itself.
I hope Asus doesn’t change
For its crazy ideas as well as for its ability to make technologies accessible, I hope Asus will not change in the future. I like discovering new products from this brand, even if it sometimes means being a little harsh with certain ideas. We know that we will always discover something interesting that will contrast with our habits.
In an often cynical and sometimes boring tech world, as technology matures and becomes a pure commodity, this is the kind of brand whose presence and boldness is appreciated. And yet a brand that knows how to maintain a certain humility in its communication.
I’m not one to sing the praises of a brand. When it had such an impact, maybe on my career choice, and we can legitimately talk about its differences with the rest of the producers, I think I can afford this gap.
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