by Kevin O'Brien
The ASUS F6VE-B1 is a 13.3" desktop replacement notebook. Not content with making just another small form factor notebook, ASUS crammed in an Intel T9550 Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, and an ATI Radeon Mobility 4570 graphics card into this 13.3" chassis. With a starting price of$1,299 the F6VE-B1 is priced above similar size notebooks, but the performance might justify the cost. Read our review to find out how well it performs and if it is worth the high price tag.
ASUS F6Ve-B1 Specifications:
Build and Design
The F6Ve has a dated design compared to more recent notebooks that we have seen come out of the ASUS lineup. For a notebook that costs almost $1,300 these days we expect a notebook with more attention to detail and innovative designs. The F6Ve has a glossy painted lid with a Spirograph-type pattern that is barely seen unless you are sitting right on top of it. The inside has a cheap feeling textured plastic palmrest, matte finish keys with a hint of sparkle, and chrome or glossy black plastic trim. I feel that even the Eee PC 1000HE has a much better looking design and is more in line with the high-end look that you expect to find these days. Another surprise was finding no dedicated multimedia keys when almost all notebooks include touch-sensitive panels.
Build quality is lacking for a machine of this caliber, with squeaky plastic trim and flexible plastic covers abound. The optical drive clicks and pops when you carry the notebook from the side of the palmrest with your hand over the drive. The plastics used throughout the chassis feel cheap, like something you would find on a budget notebook instead of a top-performing desktop replacement.
Upgrade access is easy through a single panel that covers the hard drive, RAM, wireless card, and processor. No "warranty void if removed" stickers were found on the main cover, but one was on the processor heatsink to prevent a user from upgrading the processor. Given the processor included with this configuration I doubt anyone would need to upgrade it.
ASUS uses a 13.3" panel on the F6VE, using the older 16:10 screen format, instead of the slightly wider and shorter 16:9 size. It has WXGA 1280x800 resolution, which works well for a screen of this size. The panel is glossy, but not "all-glass" like some of the newer notebook designs ... which is a good thing in terms of fewer reflections and less glare shining back at you. The display is average in terms of quality, with bright and vibrant colors which is common for glossy displays. Vertical viewing angles are limited to a narrow sweet spot before colors start to wash out or invert when tilting the screen forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles are much better with colors staying true even at steep angles.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ASUS F6Ve features a mostly full-size keyboard, with shrunken keys on the right side to fit page navigation key. It was comfortable to type with smooth action key throws that give off a mild click when pressed. Keyboard support was lacking in certain areas causing some flex or trampoline feeling while typing. At times this was distracting or just plain annoying if the movement caused the keyboard to rub and "pop" against the surrounding trim.
The Synaptics touchpad is comfortable to use with no lag noticed during use. Sensitivity was great once the setting was adjusted to max to compensate for the texture-free surface. The touchpad buttons are located in a spot easy to trigger with your thumb and give off a mild click when pressed. They have very shallow feedback and require a solid press to trigger.
Ports and Features
Port selection was decent given the small size of the frame and every bit of space being used by something. The system included three USB ports, HDMI, VGA, eSATA, modem, and LAN. The F6Ve also featured a 5-in-1 card reader and ExpressCard/34 slot. The only improvement we could see is a combo USB/eSATA port to increase the amount of available USB ports, but three is just fine for this notebook.
Right: Optical drive, audio ports, 1 USB, Kensington Lock slot
ASUS included a wired USB optical mouse and carrying case with the purchase of F6Ve-B1. As far as freebies go they are pretty nice if you don’t already have comparable items. The carrying case provides adequate protection for the notebook, which is vital if you are carrying it around a college campus where you run the risk of dropping it. This is the first free ASUS case that we've seen in our office that carries the "Targus" brand name ... potentially a good sign of the quality of this free bag. The USB mouse is fine as a backup travel mouse, but there are much better non-free options on the market.
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