by Caleb Schmerge
Overview and Introduction:
Asus V6J (V6X00J) (view large image)
Reasons for Buying
My previous laptop was dying very rapidly, so I decided it was time to upgrade to a new laptop. I made this decision around the time the new Yonah processors from Intel were officially announced, so I decided to wait for the new laptops with these processors to hit the market. Previously I had only purchased HP computers. I started doing some reading on the internet and quickly learned that ASUS computers have a reputation for being built well, having stylish looks, and good performance. I decided that I wanted to buy an ASUS.
I originally considered buying an ASUS Z70va, but decided that I wanted to get the Core Duo. I then looked at the Asus Z96J, a 15.4" screen notebook, and the Asus W3J, a 14.1" screen laptop. I eventually decided that neither quite fit my needs. The W3J was going to take too long to order and receive and I decided that I didn't need the ATI X1600 graphics card it came with. Plus the Asus V6J has (in my opinion) better looks and a higher resolution screen than the W3J. The 15" size was a nice fit and the thin and light model seemed very attractive. Three days later after ordering the V6J I was opening the box and I realized I made the right decision.
Where and How Purchased
I purchased my V6J from www.ProPortable.com. The laptop (http://proportable.com/detail.aspx?ID=174) was $1,899. You can expect similar prices from most any store as ASUS asks their resellers to keep the price the same. Its customer service and reputation that differentiates most ASUS resellers. I also opted to buy the warranty extension that will give me a 3-year warranty. I believe you have to buy the warranty extension at the time of the purchase, but I figured that $169 for peace of mind for 3-years instead of the standard one year would be nice as this computer is quite a hefty investment for me.
Build and Design:
It looks amazing! I can't put into words how good this laptop looks, and don't just look at the pictures. Being an amateur, I can not take a picture to make the computer look its best, but even the professional pictures that ASUS uses don't look as good as this computer does in real, living color. The brushed aluminum on the inside gives it more class. The computer has clean, sharp lines that look like no other computer. The lid is clean, not ruined by a latch or hinges. ASUS put a lot into the design, and while it doesn't really do much to make the computer run better, it certainly does make it more fun to use, gives it a lot more of a "wow" factor, and makes all of your friends and coworkers much more jealous.
Stylish light indicators (view large image)
Weighing in at 5.7 lbs, this computer is not heavy in my book. I found that it was noticeably lighter than my old 15.4" laptop. I carry the computer around in my messenger style bag daily and would say that it is a good weight to carry. It isn't too heavy at all, but you can still feel it.
Another test to see how well your computer is built is to test how much ripple there is in the screen. You do this by pressing on the back of the screen and seeing what happens on the front. For most laptops the screen isn't very tough, yet while pressing very hard on the back of the V6j there was very little rippling. On other computers I have used half of the pressing would give double the rippling. The V6j is built tough.
Tight Screen Hinges
If you are riding in a car, the screen on your notebook might wobble with the motion of the car. Some people have trouble reading the screen because it is wobbling too much. On the V6j there is absolutely minimal wobbling compared to any computer I have ever seen. The screen barely moves at all, definitely built well.
Minimal Screen Twist
On most computers if you open the screen by the corner there is a noticeable twist to the screen. On the V6j this really isn't noticeable. The screen is sturdy and built well.
By design, this computer feels warmer than many others do. This is mostly because the computer is so thin, but I will comment more on this when we get specifically to the heat section.
The screen on the V6j is pretty good in the brightness department. You can crank it up if you want/need to, and it will still go really low for those times you don't need to see what is going on (you can even turn the backlight off if you would like). In the car and outside the screen is still usable with the brightness turned up (you might have several reflections, but that is more than expected with any and every laptop). When operating indoors on battery, you can easily turn the brightness down to save on power without compromising your ability to work. I find the look of this screen to be much better than any other I have used (either matte or glossy). It is easy on the eyes but still looks good.
This is honestly very subjective, but I think that this computer has just the right resolution. SXGA+ is certainly higher than most laptops, but it is not so small that you aren't able to tell that the black spots on your screen are words. I have found this size is easy on my eyes for reading for extended periods of time, displays pictures very well, and provides a crisp look. If you like higher resolution screens, you should really like this monitor.
Overall Screen Look
With the push of a button this screen can be adjusted to exactly what you want. You have control of the brightness, you can adjust different settings in Windows for font sizes, and you can also change the color settings to best suit you and what you are doing. The Asus Splendid Technology Utility is easy to use to change the color on the screen from Theater to Soft to Custom; each has its use. I find the Soft or Normal setting best for everyday activities (they look the most normal), though I do like the Theater setting for the occasional movie. All in all, this screen is one of the best I have seen on a laptop.
This should be expected. Bass is generally produced (or is best) when it has the space to be produced. The V6j is a very thin computer especially for a 15". This leaves very little space for more than what is needed. The speakers are small and while they are acceptable, the amount of bass from the speakers is very weak. The sound is acceptable from any external source (assuming the speakers or headphones produce decent bass). I use the computer for hours a day with my Logitech speakers and it sounds fantastic, better than any other source I have used with the speakers.
The sound is certainly good for a laptop. If you crank it up to full volume the sound can be distorted but this is again expected from a laptop and is certainly comparable to other laptops and better than others in its class. At full volume I would rate this computer as being loud. I usually have it at a low volume and it is still more than loud enough.
This computer is about what you would expect from a computer of this size. The sound is fine, especially for the average user. If you are very attuned to what something should sound like, you might not like the sound. If you want the computer for sound engineering or something of that nature, this computer will be great so long as you have an external sound source to connect; otherwise, sound is only ok.
Processor and Performance
I ran Super Pi several times, calculating the value of Pi to 2 million digits. I did this on the computer with a standard configuration except for the hard drive (I switched to a 7200 RPM). The lowest value I got was 1 minute 24 seconds. This was with over 50 different services running, and is significantly faster than any other laptop I have personally used.
|Asus V6J (1.66GHz Intel Core Duo)||1m 24s|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Intel T2500)||1m 12s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)||1m 36s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 39s|
|Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)||1m 46s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
Everest Results (Version: 2.20.405)
Memory Read: 3973
Memory Write: 1274
Memory Latency: 99.6
PC Mark 05
Below is the overall PCMark05 score and comparison to other notebooks:
|Asus V6J (1.66GHz Core Duo)||2,653 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV)||1,390 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron e1405 (1.66 GHz Intel T2300)||2,879 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Satellite M70 (Pentium M 1.86GHz)||1,877 PCMarks|
The average temperatures for the computer while running programs like office or surfing the internet were 30 C for the HDD and 45 C for the CPU.
Heat and Noise
This notebook can get warm if you push it, but stay cool without major consequences. Some people criticize the Power4Gear program that ASUS preinstalled on this laptop, saying it can't quite do enough for them to save power. This program actually does all you need it to. You can set the computer to any of 8 different presets based on what you are doing. They control everything from the screen saver to the processor power to the graphics card to the timeout on the hard drive. I have found that setting the computer to Game or Super Performance is great while I am at my desk and using an external keyboard. The computer can get all the power it wants and since I usually have music playing the fans aren't really a problem. If I am typing in class or working in the car, setting the computer to Quiet Office works well. This computer is so powerful that just typing a paper and listening to some music is no trouble and with Quiet Office it can stay pretty cool and get good battery life with no worries about performance. The component that truly gets the warmest is the hard drive. I upgraded to a 7200 RPM drive for a while (80GB by Hitachi) which was significantly warmer than the original (100 GB, 5400 RPM by Hitachi). When I switched back to the 5400 there was a noticeable decrease in heat and a decent decrease in fan noise because the whole computer stayed cooler. Both have their pluses and minuses. The 7200 RPM drive is faster and usually noticeably so, but it does generate more heat and has a more noticeable clicking sound.
This laptop, being so thin and light, has a relatively weak cooling system. The computer can keep itself under control and you don't have to worry about it being damaged by really pushing the computer, but with a small heat sink and a single fan it has to work. The fan is always on; but the vast majority of the time you won't be able to notice. When running at a low RPM, the fan is completely quiet, even in dead silence. If the computer gets going too hard, the fan is noticeable, but with even slight amounts of background noise can overcome the fan without being excessive. You will notice the right palm rest gets warmer than the rest of the computer, but running on batteries with the computer in a power saving mode while typing a Word document isn't a problem. The one annoyance with the fan layout is that if you are using a mouse on the right side of the computer (what most would consider the standard layout) and you are close enough (2-6 inches) you will feel the warm air being blown out of the computer by the fan. Two inches is the most when the computer isn't being worked, but if you pushed the computer as hard as you could you might feel the warm air up to six inches way from the computer.
Keyboard and Touchpad
If you have never used a laptop, or have only used one or two, you really should go to a store and play with as many different laptops as you can to get a feel for the different kinds of keyboards that are out there. Some aren't normal size (usually smaller), some have slightly different key layouts (keys like Ctrl and Fn), and some have different amounts of key travel (the distance that you have to push the key). While these all make a difference the factor that makes the most difference to most people is how "stiff" the keys are. Some laptops have keyboards that are so soft you can just look at the keys to type (OK, so I wish that was the case, it would be a lot easier) while others have keyboards that require large hammers to completely depress a key. The keyboard on the V6j is right down the middle, which is a great feel. You certainly have to mean to hit a key for the computer to recognize what you did, but you by no means have to "smash" the keys for them to work. The keyboard has a great feel and response, with no flex at all. You can press on any part of the keyboard and it feels like it is built out of the strongest material. It truly fits with the rest of the computer; no flex to be found anywhere.
ASUS chose to use the new synaptic touch pad. There is a blue light between the two buttons (also made of brushed aluminum), which adds to the look of the computer, acts as a power indicator for the touchpad, and physically separates the two keys. The buttons take a little getting used to; it takes a little more "oomph" to press them, but if you learn where to press the keys, you can do it without trouble. The pad itself is nice, but for most people will take some adjusting. I have found that the palm check feature isn't as necessary as on some computers; I just don't bump it very often but I needed to lighten the touch settings and the palm check to help it to recognize a tap a little better. The touchpad works pretty well now. I have never had trouble with it not recognizing my finger or not working in general. Some people will also enjoy that the computer can be set to disable the touchpad when any other mouse is connected. This feature can be disabled, and there is a button (the top most left button on the computer) that can enable or disable the mouse.
Input and Output Ports
Asus V6J left side view (view large image)
Asus V6J right side view (view large image)
Asus V6J back view (view large image)
Asus V6J front view (view large image)
As you can see at the beginning of this review, all of the ports for this computer are on the sides. The battery sits along the back edge, and the front has no ports. I rather like this setup, and I have had little trouble with it. The USB ports are all on one side of the computer, and with enough cords you might find a mouse annoying but the design works and the layout seems to make sense to me. The one qualm I have is that there is no way to anchor your VGA cord so it seems like the video out for my monitor is going to fall out of the side of the computer or do damage to the port because it is always just hanging there. I doubt that this will truly ever be a problem, but if you are looking for complaints, this is one of the very few that there are.
Asus V6J underside view (view large image)
The Intel Wireless chip has worked wonderfully for me in this computer. I connect to my own network everyday, as well as several others every week and I have never had trouble getting it to connect. The first day I had the computer I was able to get on a wireless network and be on the internet within a matter of minutes. I've never had problems with the computer dropping my connection and I don't notice a large increase in power consumption when the wireless is enabled. I have transferred several gigabytes of data to and from my computer at a single time with no interruptions or hitches, especially none from this computer.
In the end it truly comes down to this: buying a thin and light computer, for as much as the V6j sells, you want something that is portable. The V6j is certainly no problem to carry around and wins in the battery department for me as well. If you run the computer on either the Quiet Office mode or Battery Saving mode, 3.5-4.5 hours is a good approximation of your battery life. This may not be as much as most people think they need, but four hours is pretty respectable for a computer like this. I have never run the computer down past 15%, and I have been using this computer for hours a day every day for about a month. Checking in a program like MobiMeter, my battery's wear level was 2% (that means the battery has lost 2% of its original capacity) after 3 weeks, which is also a good indication that the battery will likely last without a huge decrease in life.
Operating System and Software
Not much to comment on here. The computer came with Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 2. Installed, there were several different ASUS programs including their DVD player, Power4Gear, Splendid Technology Utility (Screen adjustment), ASUS live update, and Norton Internet Security 2005. The only program that I chose to remove was Norton Internet Security, otherwise the computer was clean with very little bloatware.
Customer Support -- I have been fortunate enough (because I haven't had problems with my V6j) to not have dealt with ASUS customer support. You might check out other reviews for more information on this subject.
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