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December 6, 2017

Asus NovaGo hands-on review

by John_A

Research Center:
Asus NovaGo

Asus is known for jumping on board new trends in PC hardware, so it was no surprise to see the company was one of two partners with a Qualcomm-powered PC at the Snapdragon Tech Summit.

At a glance, the Asus NovaGo could easily be mistaken for a Zenbook Flip. Its 360-degree hinge design, which allows the screen to fold back until the device becomes a tablet, is virtually identical to previous Asus laptops. A glossy 13-inch touchscreen is another common sight.

The footprint of the PC is familiar, too. It’s 0.59 inches thick and weighs only 3 pounds, but it has relatively large display bezels, which leads to a large overall footprint. Other mid-range laptops from Asus have that same design quirk; Qualcomm promises that PCs built on Snapdragon hardware will be more portable than any that come before it, but the Asus NovaGo isn’t smaller than usual.

At a glance, the Asus NovaGo, could easily be mistaken for a Zenbook Flip.

That may work in the NovaGo’s favor, however. Budget laptops from Asus are among the best around –- we love the Asus Zenbook UX330, for example. The NovaGo has many of the same perks including a pleasant keyboard, large touchpad, bright display, and decent port selection. Using it feels like using any mid-range Windows laptop from Asus.

Even performance seems familiar. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor inside the NovaGo is no threat to Intel’s Core series in benchmarks, but Microsoft says it has worked with Qualcomm to optimize the Windows experience for Snapdragon. We opened OneNote, surfed the web, and created a PowerPoint without noticing any significant hitch.

That’s not say it’s identical to an Intel system. We did feel apps often took an extra second to load, and that animations associated with common tasks, like opening Start or using Cortana, weren’t quite as smooth. Most laptops like the NovaGo have an Intel Core i5 processor, and some even pack the latest 8th-gen quad-core. We don’t need a full test to know that Intel’s chips can easily outrun Qualcomm’s best in both single-core and multi-core benchmarks.

Still, we don’t think it’s enough of a difference to matter to us in everyday use, and we suspect most users won’t notice any difference at all – if you stick to the basics. Even Qualcomm admits that complex tasks, like editing video, won’t be nearly as quick on Snapdragon.

While the performance gap might be hard to detect, you may notice the battery life. Asus quotes up to 22 hours of video playback from the NovaGo, with up to 30 days of standby time. Those numbers around enough to bestow it with the title of longest-lasting Windows 10 laptop, if they turn out to be correct. The Zenbook UX330UA with 8th-gen Intel Core i5, by comparison, lasted just over 11 hours in our testing.

A quick hands-on doesn’t give us time to evaluate a battery, but Asus was confident enough to present its handful of NovaGo samples to the press without a charger in sight. The three samples we handled had over 95 percent of their charge remaining.

But battery life isn’t the NovaGo’s headline feature. That honor goes to its built-in LTE connectivity. While technical issues did arise during our hands-on time, we were able to briefly use LTE on Sprint’s network to surf the web. It works exactly as with any LTE-connected smartphone or tablet, so you’ll be able to use the device anywhere mobile data is available.

The last thing about the NovaGo that might feel different is the software: it runs Windows 10 S, rather than a full version of Windows 10. With Windows 10 S, you can only run apps downloaded in the Windows Store, which might be a bit of an annoyance if you depend on using any old application you download on the web. While NovaGo does support the full versions of Windows 10, Asus hasn’t yet provided a free upgrade like Microsoft did with the Surface Laptop.

Asus NovaGo Compared To

HP Envy x2 (2017)

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 (2016)

HP Spectre x360 15-bl075nr

Lenovo Yoga 720 13-inch

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Acer Spin 7

Acer Switch Alpha 12

HP Spectre x360 13-w023dx

Huawei Matebook

Vaio Z Flip

Dell Inspiron 11 (2015)

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Special…

Toshiba Satellite Click 2 Pro

HP Spectre 13t x2

Acer Aspire P3

Qualcomm-powered computers need to look and feel like their Intel counterparts if they hope to be successful, and the NovaGo is a proper chameleon. It will start at $600 for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of solid state storage, while the $800 model will boast 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. That puts it in line with the Asus Zenbook UX330UA with 8th-gen Intel Core processor, which costs $750.

We’re eager to see how the NovaGo fairs in our full review when it’s released in early 2017.

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