We purchased an ASUS A53U from NewEgg (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834230240) and it is ok for its purpose. This machine replaces an old ASUS Eee PC that I have had for four years or so, and it looked more powerful than that machine, but of course does not have the small form factor or light weight.
The problem came when I started it up in Windows 7 Home Premium (which came installed). ASUS, and most other hardware manufacturers, are getting away from their products. They want to enhance the users experience by adding extra programs that they feel will increase the value of their product. What they are doing is degrading it instead.
The laptop comes with a low end, low power processor, which is just what I wanted. I intended to (and did) dual boot Linux on the machine, Linux for my main work, and Windows for the few things I still need to do in a Windows only environment. It also allows me to keep experience so I can help my Windows client.
However, due to the "bloatware" that is installed on this device (and many others), the machine was less responsive than the dual core Atom that was in my old Eee. With nothing else added, and no work going on, the processor(s) stayed at a steady 20% or greater, and a quarter of my RAM was used up. It took about 8 hours to remove enough "enhancements" to make the Windows side work in any kind of real time (NOTE: the Mint Linux install was responsive as soon as I had installed it; I used the Debian Xfce part).
Now, here is the bad part. After running occasionally for about a week, the system had a bad crash, where Windows 7 stated that "Windows Explorer has stopped responding" and gave me an error code C0000005. I researched that and found that, in some cases, it was modifications made by ASUS that caused the problems (I also noted that HP laptops had the same issue, and I assume others did as well).
Fortunately, I had a Windows 7 Home Premium x64 full install disk, so I used that to install a fresh copy of Windows, untainted by the misguided efforts of ASUS to enhance their product.
Bottom line: I spent 8 hours removing bloatware, just to find that ASUS's modifications likely caused an error that rendered the Windows installation unusable. I then spent about 2 hours re-installing Windows from scratch, and appear to have a good working system. If I make no edits to this entry, it means that it worked well.
To perform this magic, find a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium and use the license key from the bottom sticker on the laptop. Erase the partition that currently holds Windows, then do an install. While the install is going on, go to http://support.asus.com and get the Atheros Wireless LAN Driver and Application (a the time of this writing, http://support.asus.com/download.aspx?SLanguage=en&p=3&m=A53U&os= took you to the proper page). Don't worry about any other drivers at this time. When the Windows install is complete, sneaker-net the Atheros driver to the laptop, install it, then run Windows Update. I believe this will pick up all other drivers you need.
Linux Mint installed just fine, and all system hardware worked right out of the box. Note the Atheros wireless used in this machine requires a 2.6.39 (I think) kernel and, at this time, Debian (http://debian.org, my favorite distro) is only at 2.6.32, so a plain Debian install will not have wireless support (at least not in Squeeze, or v6). You can either go with testing, or do what I did an simply go with Linux Mint (http://linuxmint.com). Since, as I said, I prefer Debian, and I wanted this machine to be as responsive as possible, I installled the Linux Mint Debian with Xfce (http://www.linuxmint.com/download_lmde.php).
Bottom line, this is a good machine if you have low power requirements. I use mine for serial consoles to servers/routers, vpn and vnc/rdp access to remote machines (and, of course ssh), and some light work on editing tech calls, and it is more than fast enough. For heavy lifting, I have my workstation.
But, the real lesson is that hardware manufacturers are being very stupid in a lot of cases. The enhancements they install on a new system degrades performance, and most end users are afraid to do any cleanup, and in some cases delete the wrong things. When their machine runs slow, out of the box, they do not blame bloatware, or worry about cleaning it up. They simply say the computer is junk, and do not purchase the brand in the future.
Knowledgeable users, like some of my clients, pay a technician to clean the bloatware off a computer before they even deploy it.
ASUS, HP, Lenovo, Dell, and all the rest of you. Sell good hardware, with the operating system of choice, and leave the programming to the professionals. You all have good product, but you degrade your reputation by installing bloatware and, in some cases I fear, spyware, and it tarnishes your brand reputation.
Update 20131027 - Forget all that junk. Install Debian Wheezy (works out of the box). Then, install VirtualBox (from aptitude or apt), and install Windows 7 from your Windows disk. Running as a virtual under Linux, Windows 7 is faster than the junk ASUS delivered.