Asus A6J Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (80,891)

by Kevin Yee, Singapore
 
Overview and Introduction:


(view large image)

The ASUS A6J is categorized as a business laptop but in my opinion, is really a rather portable multimedia workhorse. It is a 15.4-inch widescreen notebook that comes with excellent performance and great build quality at the expense of battery life, heat and weight. The 2 year global warranty and the in-built webcam make travel a joy.


(view large image)
 
ASUS A6J Specs and Configuration Options (text in blue indicates review unit configuration when there is a choice available)

  • Processor: Intel Core Duo Processor T2000 Sequence: 1.60GHz-2.16GHz (T2400, 1.83GHz), 2MB On-Die L2 Cache, 667 MHz
  • Wireless: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 3945ABG, Bluetooth V2.0+EDR
  • OS: Windows XP Home/Pro
  • Screen: 15.1″ XGA/SXGA+ & 15.4″ WXGA (1280*800) / WSXGA+ (1680*1050)
  • RAM: 1GB DDR2 533/667MHz SDRAM, 2x SO-DIMM socket expandable to 2GB
  • Hard Drive: 2.5″ 9.5 mm IDE HDD with Ultra DMA100 supported
    60 / 80 / 100 GB
  • Optical Drive: DVD Super Multi: 5X/8X/4X/8X/4X/24X/10X/24X/8X
  • Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 128MB/256MB dedicated VRAM, up to 512MB Hypermemory (shared)
  • Battery: 8 cells,71Whr; 4 Cell,31.5Whr
  • Ports: 4 x USB 2.0; Infrared; AC adapter; RJ-11 modem port; RJ-45 ethernet port; audio: headphone/SPDIF, mic-in, line-in; IEEE 1394 Firewire; S-Video; DVI; VGA .
  • Slots: 1 x Type II PCMCIA 2.1 compliant, 1 x 4-in-1 card slot (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
  • Dimensions: 354 x 284 x 35.2 mm (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 2.85kg with 15.4″ screen, 8-cell battery
  • Others: Built-in 1.3megapixel webcam with mic
  • Warranty: 2-year global
  • ASUS A6J Product Page: http://www.asus.com/products4.aspx?l1=5&l2=24&l3=134&model=1005&modelmenu=1


(view large image)

Reasons for Buying:

Every notebook user in my country owns an Acer, iBook, IBM/Lenovo or Fujitsu. I wanted to be different and yet not give up on quality and design, and ASUS laptops generally pretty much fit the bill. I settled on this model about a month ago because of the graphics card — I play a fair amount of games, though not exactly hardcore level. I see ASUS as an emerging force in the notebook arena, given their track record in motherboards, graphics cards and ODM. Due to my need to travel to Canada in a few months time for half a year, the 2-year global warranty was very attractive, with the service centre very near my future residence. The integrated webcam was also pivotal in my choice of notebook.


(view large image)
 
Where and How Purchased:

I got this from a retailer in my country (Singapore), for S$2898 (about US$1809). They did not have a better deal during a recent PC show here, so I figured the price is more or less fixed and went to bargain for freebies with the retailer instead. Got only a 256MB thumbdrive (in place of the pathetic Gamepad ASUS was offering), but I was happy anyway. This model is not exactly dirt cheap but value for money in my opinion, considering its specs and build quality. One of the pull factors for me.

Build, Design, and Connectivity:

The overall build quality of the ASUS A6J is excellent. It is an extremely sturdy piece of hardware and I am totally pleased with it. It is plainly good-looking with a dark grey finish to the surface; generally I would think it appears very professional and macho. (This is about the most business-related “feature” to the notebook, however.) Even the ASUS logo looks classy, and all the buttons, touchpad etc are very well made and fitted. Also, the chassis is made of tough yet light carbon-fiber material which would withstand most bumps. On the other hand, having used the laptop for about a month now, I am starting to see some slight wear on the cover, which may not be a good sign. Or maybe, I am just careless.
The notebook is so sturdy, it requires effort to open. The hinges are very well-built and tight, with no squeaks or flimsiness. Note that both hands are required to open as there are two latches on either edge at the front, probably due to the placement of the webcam. It is a little on the heavy side (2.85kg with battery) and at 354 x 284 x 35.2 mm is a tad bulky. Not one for the ladies, but still attractive for men.


(view large image)


(view large image)
 
Moving on to the ports, we have the PCMCIA and memory card slots, Infrared, Firewire, audio jacks, S-video, modem and ethernet ports on the right side. I would have though an Expresscard slot would be more appropriate, but as I personally see no use for expansion currently, it is not an issue. Yet it is a sign that ASUS has yet to update their chassis, but only the internal parts of the machine. The memory card slot has a solid spring action, and is protected by a dummy card. There is Bluetooth available as well, adding to the wealth of connectivity options. For WiFi connectivity it uses Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 3945ABG, which I have had no issues with thus far.


(view large image)
 
At the back are 4 USB 2.0 ports, DVI, VGA, heat vent and notebook lock hole. It is a poor design to lump the USB ports together, which means no easy access for thumbdrives and such. The redemption factor is that there is a separation between the ports, so there is a fair ease of multiple use. The heat vent is well located though, as it will neither bother your mouse hand nor colleagues sitting beside you.


(view large image)
 
On the left is simply the optical drive, which is a Super-Multi drive which can write/re-write the various DVD formats. Even the eject button on this drive feels pretty good.


(view large image)
 
At the top of the keyboard layout lies 5 silver buttons, for (from left to right) Power4Gear, Email, Internet Browser, Touchpad Enable/Disable and Power. These metallic and stylish buttons are cool to look at and stiff to touch. The Power4Gear is for choosing the power level you want the notebook to run at, Email for accessing the default email client, and Internet Browser similarly as well (whichever program is set as default in your WindowsXP). Touchpad can be easily disabled if you use a mouse and the Power button is for, well powering your notebook on and off. Below this set of buttons are light indicators (from left to right) for CPU Processing, NumLock, CapsLock and ScrollLock.


(view large image)


(view large image)
 
Further down are the metallic CD controls, which allows playback of CDs without booting. In Windows, these can be used to control Windows Media Player or ASUS DVD. Again, they look good, but are not so good to use, requiring some effort to press due to their size. On the right of the controls are more indicator lights, for (from left to right) Power, Battery charge, new email and wireless connectivity. Note that the email indicator works with only Microsoft Outlook.
 
 
Screen:


(view large image)


(view large image)

The screen is a Transflective TFT, bright and clear with no dead pixels, looks like a job well done. It is widescreen, which is perfect for DVDs and opening multiple windows side by side (no sweat for the Duo Core processor). However, the resolution is a merely satisfactory 1280*800, but almost yesterday if you ask me though still pretty mainstream currently. Another downpoint for some would be its reflective nature, a trade-off for the nicer display, but does not bother me much. There are neither light leaks nor uneven backlighting — further proof of the high quality ASUS is churning out.


(view large image)
 
At the top of the screen is a Bison in-built 1.3megapixel webcam and microphone. The webcam works fine but requires third-party software to capture pictures at 1.3mp — the default maximum is VGA. This is very curious and shows a lack of software capability on ASUS’s part. Also, it is unfortunate that the webcam cannot swivel, turn nor zoom, so basically it can only see the user, some background and not much else. The mic comes with a noise suppression feature. The convenience of a webcam may be useful for some, as it really beats having another item to carry.
 
Speakers:


(view large image)

The audio quality is supposed to be of high quality, given that it used built-in Intel High Definition audio compliant audio chip from Realtek, with 3D effect & full duplex. My verdict is that while it does sound pretty good and the 3D effect gizmo impressed me a bit, the speakers are still laptop speakers at heart, a little tinny and unimposing. With decent headphones though, this machine sounds above average. The same jack can also be used for S/PDIF output for supposedly even better results.

The position of the speakers is open to argument, they are located on either side at the front-bottom of the notebook. My guess is that this would not hinder performance when the notebook is closed, essential when you play from CDs without booting up (a feature of the A6J). More importantly, as long as the notebook is placed on a hard surface which ensures that the speakers would not be blocked, the output is just fine. Using the controls located at the front, you can pop in a CD and play instantly while saving on battery. A media player with an interface would be so much better, but I cannot complain with this bonus addition.


(view large image)


Processor and Performance:

Without statistics, the ASUS A6J feels like a pretty good performer, and with good reason. Sporting a Dual-Core T2400 (1.83GHz) with 1GB SDRAM and ATI Mobility RADEON X1600 with dedicated 256MB memory expandable to 512MB shared, it had better be fast. Compared with my Pentium 4 2.53GHz desktop, it can multitask at a very significantly higher rate. I cannot be more pleased. It still takes about 15 seconds to start up Adobe Photoshop CS2 though, a program I dread using.

I am a medium-core (if there is such a thing) gamer and was looking forward to see the gaming performance. Using F.E.A.R. v1.0’s test mode at medium settings but maximum resolution of 1280 * 800, I got playable frame rates of min 22, ave 36 and max 73. For Call of Duty 2 at the recommended (medium) settings at 800*600, the frame rates averaged 30. It is playable and decent, but hardly spectacular.


(view large image)

Benchmarks:

I’ve tried to disable most of the running programs before doing the tests. First, the Super PI (2m digits) result. It’s not the best but very respectable, shows that Core Duo counts for little when you’re not multi-tasking:

Super PI


Next, PCMark 05 and 3DMark06. I don’t know how the folks at Alienware achieve that number, but still an excellent performance from the A6J.

PCMark05


 

Notebook 3DMark06 Score


 

 


(view large image)
 
Heat and Noise:

Heat is also not a plus point of the ASUS A6J. It gets rather hot after extended use, especially near the right palm rest area, where I think the harddisk is located. It is ok for me though, perhaps because I live in the tropical area where it is hot anyways. But you might think twice about putting this baby on your lap, it’s more a notebook than a “laptop”. The adapter takes the cake — it gets too hot even for me, and makes me wonder if it is spoilt. Still, assuming it does not malfunction, adapter heat should rarely be a problem.

Noise, on the other hand is well taken care of. The machine runs with practically no sound, and I am very happy with this aspect, except for the times when you are running a DVD or CD. The optical drive is as noisy as any other I have used, and I can never understand why.
 
Keyboard and Touchpad:


(view large image)

The keyboard is great to use in my opinion. The buttons may be stiff to some, but personally I need the physical feedback. It comes with Fn-button shortcut buttons for Standby, Wireless/Bluetooth on/off, brightness, LCD on/off, monitor toggle, and volume mute/adjust. Pretty much standard stuff, but take note that after turning off the LCD with Fn-F7, you need to press the keys again to get it back, as opposed to any-button revive, which I think most people are used to. Also, the Fn key on the left is on the left of the left Ctrl button, which FPS gamers may not be used to initially. However being one myself, I have become more or less accustomed to it already, but I think having the Ctrl button on the extreme left edge would be ideal still.
 
Next is the touchpad, which looks really nice. The buttons look and feel great, and are stiff (which I like) as usual. It also sports a scroll at the side of the touchpad, easy and convenient to use yet does not hinder normal use of the pad. It is overall well-designed. 


(view large image)
 
Battery:


(view large image)

The battery performance is nothing to shout about at all. It lasts a decent 2 hours 30 mins on office tasks, and about an hour less in more intensive environments. The manufacturer’s Power4Gear is a necessity if you are running on battery, and thank goodness it is competent. Generally the A6J is not one for the long road, unless you have another battery or two to spare.


(view large image)
 
Operating System and Software:

The system comes with ASUSDVD XP 6.0, Power Director V3.0 DE, Medi@Show V2.0 SE, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2005 (with 3 months subscription), Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0, NERO Express V6.0 and Microsoft Works 8, all with CDs. Of course, there is the original Windows XP home as well. Quite decent stuff.

The ASUS utility software, however leaves much to be desired. For one, the ChkMail utility works only when you have MS Outlook open. I would prefer if it would alert you of new mail (through the indicator lights) whether the email program is open and work with any client rather than just Outlook. Next, the Hotkey software does not allow customization of software. Pressing the CD Power Switch or Play button inevitably opens the ASUSDVD program, and the only alternative use for the controls is Windows Media Player. Fortunately there is a third-party software at http://power4gear.bk-kicks.com/hcontrol.htm which can allow some customization. Mine works with iTunes now. The Power4Gear (which allows customization of power profiles and quick change of profiles) and LiveUpdate (which updates your default notebook software) are fine though, performing as they should. A minor detail is for the shortcut keys for brightness, on/off Bluetooth etc., they come with cute notification icons on your screen when you use them. And I like the ASUS screensaver, it makes use of the sounds, animation and even the webcam to conjure a cool effect.


Customer Support:

I have yet to try out the customer support, and am hoping that I would not need them! But their provision of global customer support for 2 years is excellent and they have a nice little wallet-sized card with worldwide support telephone numbers.

 
(view large image)
 
(view large image)
 
(view large image)
 
(view large image)

  
Extras:

I’ve yet to see a review that talks about the included laptop bag and mouse, so here’s a first.
Bag: Not much to look at, and not exactly good to use either. It is too flimsy and thin for my liking, providing just adequate protection at best and not much space to put anything else. Worse, it isn’t beautiful. Be prepared to fork out extra for a better carrier.

Mouse: Excellent in my opinion, a Logitech product. Looks stylish, not too small for proper use, and works fine. Also, the wire is not too long and can be wound round the mouse and the USB plug clips firmly only the bottom. Nice.


(view large image)
 
Conclusion:

Summary of Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality – keys, buttons, and screen firm and well built
  • Great Duo Core and graphics performance
  • Classy look
  • Beautiful screen
  • Carbon fiber material
  • Inexpensive
  • Wealth of connectivity options
  • I like the mouse!

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Too hot for lap use, and warm around palm area as well
  • Extremely hot adapter
  • Keys, buttons, and screen may be too firm for some
  • Clustering of USB ports
  • Poor ASUS software for controlling webcam and shortcut keys
  • Poor battery life
  • No security features
  • No expresscard slot

To summarize, the A6J is not a business notebook as touted, except for its looks. It is heavy, gets hot, doesn’t last long without AC power and there are no implementations for securing your data. In fact, mine came with Windows XP home! Women generally should also avoid this machine — it’s too bulky, heavy and manly. However, it is a great product for students, casual-hardcore gamers, and power users. It is low-cost for its specs yet feels and looks expensive and performs well. If you can overlook all the mentioned disadvantages as I have, I would fully and sincerely recommend this product.


(view large image)
 


LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.