by Charles P. Jefferies
Overview & Introduction
Asus Z84Jp notebook (view large image)
The Asus Z84Jp is a 17” desktop replacement notebook designed for multimedia enthusiasts and home users wanting a large screen, powerful system performance, and moderate gaming capabilities. The Z84Jp features the latest in mobile computing, including Intel Centrino Duo Mobile Technology.
Our test unit is configured as follows:
- 17” WSXGA+ “Color Shine” display
- Intel Centrino Duo Mobile Technology
- Intel Core 2 Duo T7400 (2.16GHz/667MHz FSB/4MB L2)
- Intel 945PM chipset
- Intel 3945ABG wireless LAN
- Nvidia GeForce Go7600 with 512MB dedicated RAM
- Windows XP Professional – Windows Vista Ready
- 2GB DDR2-667 RAM
- 160GB 5400RPM SATA Hitachi hard drive
- Built-in Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR module
- Integrated 2MP web camera
- 4 speakers + integrated subwoofer
- 9-cell battery (Production units will have 6-cell battery (see Battery Life section for further information)
- 8.8 lbs w/ 6-cell battery
- 15.5 x 11.3 x 1.4~1.7 inches
Asus priced our notebook at $1,900USD, which is a justifiable and competitive price in my opinion for these specifications compared to other notebooks in its price range. The Z84Jp is designed to be sold as a barebone notebook, which means the chassis only – the end user adds components. However, it is being sold as a partially complete or complete system by many online dealers.
Build & Design
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The Asus Z84Jp is comprised of entirely one color – black. It is black on the bottom, sides, top, inside, around the keyboard – you get the idea. There are no variations. The surface texture does change, however. The top 5/6 of the lid is glossy, as are the palmrests. The bottom 1/6 of the lid and the area surrounding the keyboard are horizontally-lined plastic, which is an interesting design choice; I haven’t seen anything like it on other notebooks. It adds a touch of uniqueness.
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Let’s talk for a moment about the glossy finish. The Z84Jp is Asus’ first barebone to feature the new IMD (In-mold Decoration) panel finish. The finish looks like it is textured slightly underneath the glossy coat when viewed up close, and it glistens slightly. The IMD finish makes the Z84Jp look aerodynamic and adds flare. While I will admit the new finish does give the Z84Jp a sleek look, durability is compromised and it picks up dust and fingerprints too easily. Owners of this notebook will want to have a microfiber cloth on-hand, as well as a soft sleeve and/or carry bag to protect the finish. As long as the glossy finish is not subjected to any rough articles, there should be no worries.
As far as build quality goes, the Z84Jp is quite solid, and is better built than a typical mainstream notebook by a noticeable amount. What I mean when I say “better built” is that the Z84Jp feels more solid than a typical consumer-grade notebook from a mainstream manufacturer – it is constructed in such a way that it feels like one solid piece and reacts as such. When picked up, the Z84Jp doesn’t make any creaking sounds, nor does it feel like there are any parts/panels that are weaker than others. The palmrests and the area around the keyboard feel solid; hard pressure will yield some flexing but largely there is none and under normal usage flex is nonexistent. The chassis itself proved to be inflexible and solid as a board when I tried to flex it. I am impressed by the build quality, although the plastic itself does not have the highest-quality feel to it. Don’t get me wrong – it is strong and rather thick, but the feel isn’t quite top notch in my opinion. Also note that the Z84Jp is constructed entirely of plastic – no aluminum or other alloys. This is not a negative in my opinion and was probably done as a cost reduction measure.
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The display is constructed ruggedly and is another component that sets this Asus apart from a mainstream notebook. It does flex when twisted, but considering this notebook has a 17” screen, it is both normal and unpreventable. The flex is minimal. When pressing in on the display from behind, no ripples appear on the screen. The display hinges are securely anchored to the chassis – there are three of them, instead of the usual two. This shows extra attention to detail and is another testament to the Asus’ build quality.
Now let’s discuss the physical design of the Z84Jp. As can probably be derived from the pictures, the Asus Z84Jp looks rather ordinary, and it is. It is not outstanding in any particular way and it does not appear to me as if the designers of the notebook made an attempt to make it so. Because the entire notebook is black, it is hard to pick out any design details unless it is viewed up close. The design is plain and squared off. If there’s a plus side to the generic design, it would be that it probably helps to keep costs down, and that it doesn’t try to look cool and fail. Asus played it safe.
Overall, the Z84Jp is well-constructed and holds its own from a build quality viewpoint, but has a generic design. It will look appealing to the end-user because of small details only noticeable up close, but to other people sparing passing glances, it will not require any more than that.
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The Z84Jp features a large 17” display with a WSXGA+ (1680×1050 pixels) resolution and a “Color Shine” glossy coating. How does it look? Simply put, it’s gorgeous. It has more than enough brightness for all tasks; it even looks amply lit in a sunlight room. It is not too bright – I was not squinting or shielding my eyes. The display has 15 brightness settings; the lowest one turns the screen off. I found 7/15 and up to be usable during the daytime, and even lower ones are fine in darker rooms.
Contrast is equally as good as the brightness – blacks are deep and white is white and is not tinted. This display does not suffer from a sparkling effect like some notebooks do. Colors literally flow out of this screen, and high definition images and video look stunning.
Viewing angles are excellent; images are not distorted from above or to the side; when viewed from below, the display does appear darker like most displays, but the colors are kept basically intact.
Viewing angles from above (view large image)
Viewing angles from the side (view large image)
Everyone I showed this laptop to commented on how nice the display was. The display is a definite selling point in my opinion and is certainly a key selling point of this notebook.
Above the display lies a 2.0 megapixel integrated webcam. It provides excellent image quality and fluid frame rates. There is an integrated microphone right next to it, making the Z84Jp a suitable video conferencing platform.
The Z84Jp’s primary role is to provide entertainment, and what would entertainment be without good audio? Asus didn’t skimp on the sound in this notebook – they put in four speakers and a subwoofer – that’s 4.1 virtual surround sound. From games, to music, to movies, the sound quality and loudness is phenomenal. I have never heard louder speakers on a notebook. Standing in front of this notebook with the speakers at full makes you want to take a step back for your ear’s sake. I would be willing to bet that I could take this notebook to a party and use it as the sound system. Even at 85% volume, the sound is not distorted, and the subwoofer, being as small as it is, provides enough bass to vibrate the surrounding surface that the notebook is sitting on. The entire setup is quite impressive in my opinion. Believe it or not, I have to say I consider the sound system to be a notable factor in buying this notebook. It’s that good. Now, keep in mind that this is a notebook after all, and external speakers will easily outperform these. But for entertainment on the go? It doesn’t get any better than this.
Processor and Performance
With a top-shelf Intel Core 2 Duo processor, I had high expectations for the Z84Jp’s overall system performance. I tested this notebook using both Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2 and Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate. All benchmarks were done under Windows XP unless otherwise noted.
Testing notes: Hard drive was fully defragmented prior to benchmark tests; frames per second (FPS) were determined based on the built-in benchmarking utility in FRAPS; benchmarks were run a minimum of two times to ensure repeatable results; minimal background processes were running while benchmarking; video drivers used: XP – 86.47 (I was unable to install alternate video drivers – the system would not recognize them); Vista – 97.52; all benchmarks performed with default video clocks of 350MHz:350MHz core:memory.
General System Performance
Super Pi Comparison Results
Super Pi forces the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy and gives an idea of the processor speed and performance:
|Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo)||0m 58s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 22s|
|LG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo)||1m 11s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 29s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
HDTune Hard Drive Benchmark
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Windows Vista Experience Results
Vista has a built-in scoring system to indicate how well the PC will run the OS, the Z84Jp scored well:
PCMark05 System Results Comparison
PCMark05 tests the system performance as a whole, below we have recorded the PCMark05 when running both XP and Vista:
|Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600, Windows XP)||4,739 PCMarks|
|Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600, Windows Vista)||4,822 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7400)||4,124 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)||2,994 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,427 PCMarks|
General 3D Performance
Below are the 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 scores the Z84Jp achieved under both Windows XP and Vista:
3DMark05 Windows XP
3DMark05 Windows Vista
3DMark06 Windows XP
3DMark06 Windows Vista
Comparison results for 3DMark05
|Notebook||3D Mark 05 Results|
|Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600, Windows XP)||3,107 3D Marks|
|Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600, Windows Vista)||2,823 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,236 3DMarks|
|Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)||7,078 3D Marks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,092 3D Marks|
|Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB)||2,530 3D Marks|
|Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)||2,273 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)||2,536 3D Marks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)||2,090 3D Marks|
Below is a table comparing how the Z84Jp benchmark results compared in Vista versus XP:
|Benchmark||Windows XP||Windows Vista||Performance difference using Vista|
Star Wars: Battlefront II
- Resolution: 1680×1050
- General Settings: All highest
- Bloom: OFF
- AA: OFF
|Level||Average FPS (XP)||Average FPS (Vista)||Performance difference using Vista|
Counter-Strike: Source Test
- Resolution: 1680×1050
- General Settings: All highest
- Color Correction: OFF
- HDR: OFF
|Average FPS (XP)||Average FPS (Vista)||Performance difference using Vista|
The Nvidia GeForce Go7600 512MB is a respectable card at the very least. It was able to run all of the games I tested at 1680×1050 with high settings without anti-aliasing. Newer games such as FEAR will not be playable at the native resolution of the Z84Jp, but there is no doubt this notebook is capable of running any of the latest games without a hitch at reduced resolutions.
However, my take is not entirely positive. While the performance of the Go7600 is satisfactory, it doesn’t make the Z84Jp a gaming notebook. Why not? Simply because it’s outclassed. There is nothing in this notebook component-wise that could not work in a 15.4”. Had the Z84Jp been a 15.4” notebook, I would have called it a gaming notebook because then it would offer the best available performance in that size range. The Z84Jp is a 17” notebook however, and the Go7600 does not hold a candle to the top-end Nvidia GeForce Go7900 and ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 series cards available in competing 17” notebooks with similar price tags. The Asus Z84Jp is a multimedia-centric notebook with moderate gaming capabilities. It is designed for the user wanting to do multimedia with gaming as a second or third priority. Gaming is not its strong suit but it is more than capable of playing games as I proved above.
Under Windows Vista, overall system performance was generally similar as demonstrated by PCMark05. Synthetic 3DMark benchmarking showed a noticeable 9.14% performance decrease in 3DMark05, although the more modern 3DMark06 showed only a minor performance hit of 2.51%. Actual gaming was a different story, however. In Star Wars: Battlefront II, although the game was playable under Vista, it teetered on the edge of being unplayable at the same resolution that was more than playable under Windows XP. I saw an average performance decrease of about 15%. Counter-Strike: Source worsens matters; under Vista, there was a colossal performance hit when anti-aliasing was applied, although without it, the performance hit was unnoticeable. Playing Counter-Strike: Source with anti-aliasing under either operating system is not enjoyable, as the framerates dip too low too often. Without it though, there are no playability issues.
As drivers improve, expect the performance gap between XP and Vista to narrow, but at the date of this review, gaming on Vista is clearly not perfected. I do not believe that reduced gaming performance should prevent users from migrating to Vista however. Chances are that if a game is playable under XP, it will be playable under Vista, although I make no guarantees and always do your research ahead of time.