Handling: big for a netbook but easy to use
ASRock's G22 is a heavyweight in all meanings of the word, and is an imposing, rather thick netbook. It might well be solid, but it doesn't have the look of a top-quality product. To liven up the dark colours, a glossy trim surround the keyboard and the touchpad, as well as the back of the screen. Greasy fingerprints are inevitable on surfaces like this, but kept in check here by a surface treatment. The bezel around the display is in matte plastic, which is good news as it keeps this part of the computer--which often comes into contact with your fingers--clean.
The keyboard is entirely standard and comfortable to type on. It takes up the whole width of the netbook and at 18 mm square, the keys themselves are large. Typing is fairly quiet and the keys are fairly soft to the touch.
The multitouch touchpad is a treat to use, despite being relatively small. Controlling the cursor is fast and accurate, which is great. The two click buttons are also excellent.
The webcam produces poor quality video, with cold colours, not enough brightness and overexposed areas. It could also be a lot more fluid.
It would have been hard for the ASRock G22 to be entirely silent given the powerful components inside, but it's actually very noisy, with a fan that turns the whole time.
The connectivity options are entirely standard: three USB 2.0 ports; HDMI and VGA for video; mic and headphone jacks; an Ethernet port; a ten-in-one memory card reader and an anti-theft lock. 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth are both included.
It's the inclusion of a combined Blu-ray player/DVD writer that makes the G22 really stand out, though, and it brings it closer to ultra-portable computers. The drive itself is physically quite large, which results in a surprisingly thick netbook. It feels tough enough when it slides out, but, like the computer's fan, it isn't particularly quiet.
Underneath, removing one panel reveals the hard drive, while another gives access to other components, including RAM. ASRock has sensibily used a single 2 GB module, leaving room to add more memory if you need it.
|VGA, 2 USB 2.0, mic and headphone jacks
||Battery and transformer
|Combined Blu-ray player / DVD writer
Processor Power: better at multitasking
With its dual-core Intel Atom 330--a processor commonly found in nettop PCs--the G22 can handle multitasking better than the ION-based netbooks we've seen up to now. It doesn't deliver a revolutionary performance, though, and we measured an index of 29. You can compare that with the 19 for the Samsung N510, which uses an Atom N270 CPU or the Fujistu-Siemiens Amilo Xi 3650, our reference at 100. That makes it 50% better than the majority of netbooks, but it still can't rival the power of Core 2 Duo or Core i7 processor.
Despite having the help of an extra core, the Intel Atom 330 processor still wasn't powerful enough to play Blu-ray equivalent 1080p Full HD videos. Nvidia's ION chipset is there to help, of course, and can handle this decoding perfectly. That means you'll need to use the hardware acceleration in a program like PowerDVD or Media Player Classic Home Cinema and the right codecs.
Gaming: the ION chipset does well
The ION chipset is definitely the most powerful graphics solution found in the current generation of netbooks, but it's often underused by processors that aren't powerful enough to keep up. The G22's dual-core CPU does a better job than most, and makes it possible to play some games that are unavailable on other ION notebooks like the Samsung N510 or the Compaq Mini 311c.
We finally managed to play Race Driver: GRID with a reasonable amount of fluidity, and games like Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 that use the 3D Source Engine for their graphics also have a little room to breathe. It's still only a small change, and you're usually restricted to using a reduced level of detail. We're still looking forward to the first netbook to include a CULV dual-core processor and an ION chipset, which will be a very interesting proposition indeed.
Audio Quality: only the headphone jack is worth it
Unsurprisingly, this netbook once again produces poor quality audio, with no bass and a dry, aggressive sound. The headphone jack is acceptable, but we're happy that you can use the HDMI port to carry audio, allowing you to make the most of Blu-ray discs.
Portability & Battery Life: not bad given the size of the screen
Reading this netbook's impressive specs left us worrying about what its battery life would be like. Our fears were unfortunately confirmed when it only managed to last 2 hours 29 of looping video in our standard test, with WiFi turned off, the headphones plugged in and the screen at 100 cd/m². It's a long way behind the Samsung N510 (4 h 6) and the Compaq Mini 311c (4 h 52) lasts almost twice as long.
A 4400 mAh battery is clearly not enough for this battery, and ASRock would have done better with a six-cell 5600 mAh model, like the one Asus used for its EeePC 1201N. At 1.5 kg without the battery, the G22 is a pretty heavy product in a sector where size is one of the most important features. The charger isn't huge, but you won't forget you've got it in your bag either.