IT Pro Verdict
Rugged and versatile
Impressive range of ports
Good battery life
Slow UFS storage
Asus' new BR1402 laptops are aimed at educational and enterprise users who need a rugged and affordable machine that's easy to upgrade or repair and that offers some features that are rare on budget laptops like a touch-screen and an ethernet port and others like a 13MP primary camera that are as rare as hen's teeth no matter what the price.
The rugged, modular construction should bring clear benefits to IT support staff who have to deal with end users who, due to age or disinterest, are somewhat careless and try to ram a USB stick into an HDMI port or who are prone to simply dropping their laptops or spilling beverages over them.
Asus BR1402: Design
Durability, be it in the workplace or the classroom, was clearly a priority for the designers of the BR1402. For a cheap laptop, it's surprisingly solid, the lid is impressively resistant to twisting and has a rubber coating on the back to protect it from impact. The base also has a rubberized finish and large rubber feet to prevent it from being inadvertently knocked off a desk.
The hinges that attach the lid to the body are unusually stiff and robust, even for a convertible. If anything, they are a little too stiff, as opening the lid without using a second hand to hold down the base is impossible.
Less noticeable to the eye is the US MIL-STD 810H military-grade resistance to shock, vibration, particle ingress, and temperature extremes and the ISO 22196-standard antimicrobial treatment, which is apparently resistant to alcohol-based cleaning solutions.
All the robustness does come at a cost, though: At 1.7Kg and 333 x 229 x 21mm, the BR1402 is neither light nor thin for a 14in laptop. Some youngsters may find a 1.7Kg laptop quite literally more than a handful, and the thickness makes it somewhat cumbersome in tablet mode, even for adult hands.
Where the BR1402 excels is in the range of I/O ports with Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4b, two Type-C ports (the one on the right is 2.0 spec and primarily for charging while the one on the left is 3.2 Gen 1 spec and supports DP Alt Mode video output), two USB 3.2 Gen 1 data ports and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The right side also houses a spring-loaded garage for the bundled MPP 2.0 stylus, a volume rocker for use in tablet mode, and a power button with a built-in fingerprint reader. Without Windows Hello IR facial recognition, the scanner is the only biometric option. Despite the slightly awkward position of the scanner, we found it to work reliably.
Undo the screws in the base panel, and you can lift the keyboard out of the laptop's body, but you need to take care of the two ribbon cables connecting the underside of the keyboard to the motherboard.
You can access the single SODIMM memory mount via a small access panel in the base, so you don't have to take it completely apart to replace the single RAM stick.
The arrangement of the internal components is such that anyone handy with a screwdriver can remove the battery, the thermal module, the ports on either side, and the keyboard with much greater ease than on a more conventional laptop. According to Asus, the screen is equally easy to replace, but we didn't start taking the lid apart to see how straightforward a process that would be.
Asus BR1402: Keyboard, touchpad, and webcam
The keyboard is a basic affair without a backlight, and the layout is wholly conventional. The absence of a numeric keypad was no surprise, given that this is a 14in design. The keyboard deck itself is reasonably solid, with only a slight amount of give in the center. The keyboard is also billed as spill-resistant, though, as always, where the border between spill-resistant and waterproof rests is not made clear.
The keycaps themselves are flat and the key travel is a pretty generous 1.5mm though the end stop is slightly more spongy and vague than we would have liked. But again, for the price, it's par for the course.
At 130 x 75mm, the trackpad is of standard size, and the plastic surface is smooth and pleasant to the touch. The click action feels a little dead, but once again, we've encountered worse on cheap laptops.
The BR1402 comes with two cameras, a 720p webcam in the usual place, which also has a manual privacy shutter, and a 13MP primary camera above the F3 button. Both do a surprisingly good job taking bright and crisp images in all but the very worst lighting conditions.
The 13MP primary camera is no match for the average modern smartphone camera array, but we can't think of many other laptops with primary cameras, so we can't kick it too hard on that score.
Asus BR1402: Display
The gloss-finish 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen is a basic affair. Maximum brightness is a meager 281cd/m2 which does raise issues when using the BR1402 outdoors, and there's not a lot of colour thanks to gamut volumes of just 56.1% sRGB, 38.6% AdobeRGB and 39.7% DCI-P3. With so little gamut coverage measuring the Delta E colour variance was almost a pointless exercise, but for the sake of completion, the figure was a very high 6.2.
Of course, those results are pretty much what you have to expect from a £500 laptop where a FullHD resolution and IPS panel are not always to be taken for granted. Thankfully it is an IPS panel and supports wide viewing angles, and it is covered in Corning Gorilla glass, so it should be difficult to scratch. Judging by the absence of fingerprints after use, the screen also has an oleophobic coating.
The touchscreen and the MPP 2.0 stylus that Asus bundles behaved impeccably. The Asus SA204H stylus is a good quality item for something bundled gratis with 4,096 pressure levels and a pair of programmable buttons. It's very convenient for taking notes or sketching.
Considering the price point, the stereo speakers buried inside the BR1402 do a good job. They produce a decent amount of volume – 71bD(A) measured from a pink noise source at a 1m distance – and are surprisingly composed with impressive depth and detail and more than a hint of bass. We've heard much worse from laptops costing much more.
Asus BR1402: Specs and performance
The BR1402 is available with either an Intel Core i3 N304 or an Intel N200 CPU. Our review unit featured the latter with 8 GB of DDR4 memory, and as you might expect, performance wasn't great; it's only a quad-core processor with a maximum clock speed of 3.7 GHz and a TDP of just 6W.
It's also worth remembering that the N200 and the N305 only have 9 PCIe 3.0 lanes (the Core i5-13400, for comparison, has 20 PCIe 4/5), which have to be spread across the built-in storage, four USB ports, the 1GbE Ethernet port, the Wi-Fi 6 Dual-band adapter, and the cameras. That's presumably why the Type-C charge port only supports USB 2.0 data speeds.
Our standard multi-media 4K benchmark returned a score of just 56 points which is very low and on par with a 2019 Intel Core i5-7200U. The GeekBench 6 scores of 1268 (single-core) and 2807 (multi-core) and Cinebench R23 multi-core score of 2,138 tell a similar tale: This is a laptop for basic computing jobs like web browsing, email, communications, and media consumption but nothing more.
Such basic jobs are performed with brio, and the system never bogs down, as some other cheap machines built around two or three-year-old Celeron CPUs want to do. But ask more of it, especially regarding graphics performance, and it will stagger badly and slow to a near-glacial speed.
Storage comes courtesy of 128GB of Universal Flash Storage 3.1, which unsurprisingly proved very pedestrian, recording sequential reads and write speeds of just 945MB/s and 300MB/s, respectively. That's quite abysmal, but this machine is not designed to shunt large amounts of data around.
Wireless communications are handled by the ubiquitous Intel AX201 card, which supports Wi-Fi 6 – but not 6Ghz Wi-Fi 6E – and Bluetooth 5.3.
Thanks to that low-power CPU, the 50Wh battery kept the BR1402 running for 8 hours and 50 minutes in our video run-down test. In more varied use, we were easily able to get more than 10 hours from a single charge which is sufficient to get you through even the longest of work or school days. The bundled Type-C charger is a very small and light 45W affair.
Asus BR1402: Is it worth it?
At present, there are two models of the BR1402 on sale in the UK, the N200-powered BR1402F convertible touchscreen model on test for £599.99 (£499 exc VAT) and the BR1402C Core i3-N305 model, which is a conventional laptop with a 180-degree rather than a 360-degree lid hinge and a price tag of £439.99 (£365 exc VAT).
Given the presence of features like the touchscreen, 13MP secondary camera, and wide range of ports, it's impossible not to see the BR1402 as pretty impressive value for money, especially if you are after something that needs to shrug off the overly enthusiastic attention of the young or the overly careless attentions of their elders.
The BR1402 may be limited in performance when compared to the latest Raptor Lake Core i5 laptops, but they are more expensive. Obvious competition for the BR1402 comes from Chromebooks like the new Acer Chromebook Spin 714 but even that is more expensive and lacks the ruggedness and modularity of the BR1402.
Asus BR1402 specifications
|Display||14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 IPS touchscreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, 60Hz refresh rate, 281cd/m2 brightness|
|GPU||Intel UHD integrated graphics|
|Ports||USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (DP Alt Mode) x 1, USB-C 2.0 x 1 (for charging), USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 x 2, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet x 1, HDMI 1.4 x 1|
|3.5mm audio jack||Yes|
|Camera||FHD webcam, 13MP primary camera|
|Storage||128GB UFS 3.1|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth v5.3|
|Dimensions||333 x 229 x 21mm|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Pro Education|