Asus F3sv-A1 Review

by Gautam Reads (145,551)

by Gautam Jagannath

The Asus name has been synonymous with quality notebooks, and the F3sv-A1 certainly exemplifies it. The F3sv-A1 is a replacement for the previous F3j line of notebooks, sporting a new build, motherboard while still preserving the high-end yet budget gaming experience.

I purchased the Asus F3sv-A1 for $1,425, and received a 3% cash rebate via Fatwallet, bringing the total to $1,383.

The notebook arrived packed very neatly in a sleek corrugated cardboard box with a plastic handle. Asus provided a funky, spacious messenger bag and an Asus branded Logitech optical mouse along with the notebook. These additions gave the purchase a very polished touch.

Specs

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, 4MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB
  • Intel PM965 Series Crestline Chipset 800MHz FSB + ICH8M (Santa Rosa)
  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 15.4" WXGA+(1440×900) LCD
  • 1024MB x 1 DDR2 667MHz; two sockets for expansion up to 4GB
  • 160GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS with built-in 256MB VRAM (TurboCache up to 512MB w/ 1GB RAM and 1GB w/ 2GB RAM) & DX10 support
  • 8x Super-Multi DVD-RW Dual Layer with LightScribe
  • Intel Wireless 4965AGN Draft-N Wi-Fi network adapter
  • Built-in 1.3M webcam with 240 degree swivel and LED lighting
  • Bluetooth, Fingerprint Scanner, 8-in-1 card reader
  • 6 Cell Li-Ion Battery
  • Fax/Modem/LAN/WLAN
  • A/C Adapter Output: 19 V DC, 90W, Worldwide (100V-240V)
  • 6.5 lbs & 14.2" * 10.5" * 1.1"-1.6"
  • BIOS Booting / HDD User Password Protection and security lock
  • Kensington Lock Slot
  • Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
  • Built-in Fingerprint Reader

In The Box

  • F3sv-A1 Notebook
  • Asus Messenger Case
  • Asus Branded, Logitech Optical Mouse
  • LCD Cleaning Cloth
  • OEM Recovery Disc
  • Instruction Manuals (2) & Driver Disc
  • A/C Adapter 90W w/ Cord Strap
  • S-Video & RJ45 Phone Cables


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Design & Build

The notebook feels very sturdy and professional. The chassis is entirely made from strong plastic. The F3sv does not seem painted, so I suspect there won’t be any lifting of paint on the palmrest.

The notebook has a business like professional design. While Asus touts this notebook as a gaming notebook with a lot of horsepower, there isn’t any sign of geekiness that its bigger brother the G1S has.

The entire notebook feels strong and well constructed. With the help of the battery pack, the notebook is raised in the rear portion to further heat dissipation.

I/O Ports & Buttons


Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Radio Switch, Screen Latch, Line In, Line Out (SDIF), USB2.0×1, Flash Card Reader (8-in-1) (view large image)


Kensington lock slot, 8x Supermulti Drive w/Lightscribe (view large image)


ExpressCard 54, USB2.0×1, 4-Pin Firewire (IEEE 1394), TV Antenna In, S-Video Out, DVI out, VGA out, RJ45 (Phone) and RJ11 (Ethernet) ports. (view large image)


AC In and two USB2.0 ports. (view large image)


Battery compartment, access to two memory bays (DIMM0, DIMM1), and mini-PCI slot(s). (view large image)

Integrated Camera & Microphone

Included at the top of the screen is a rotating, 1.3 megapixel camera along with a small microphone. Asus has provided the LifeTouch software to use the video and still abilities of this camera. The camera is a handy feature for video conferencing, but would be used for little else.

Here is an example of the photo quality of the integrated camera, the content of which shows the included technical literature that came with the F3sv:


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Screen

The F3sv sports a 15.4 glossy, WXGA+ widescreen that is backed by a no-dead pixel policy. The screen is crisp, rendering at a maximum resolution of 1440×900. It is indeed a very satisfying screen with excellent indoor viewing angles. Images appear rich and vibrant. Games and films are lifelike. The screen is thin and colors do not distort from minor pressure against the LCD.


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Asus provides their proprietary Splendid software which can alter the color saturation of the LCD. The screen has very little light leakage.

Sound & Speakers

The F3sv has a basic built-in soundcard which is similar to all other brands. The audio in and out ports are featured on the front of the notebook, which is a mixed blessing for some. The placement of these ports are an annoyance for those who want to attach external speakers, but for those who travel or use headphones frequently, the positioning is perfect. The built-in speakers are located near the screen, and produce an unusually powerful, well amplified sound that is fairly well rounded for notebooks in general.

[Video example of a movie playing here ~ from Brightcove]

Optical Drive & Lightscribe

The included super-multi drive is Lightscribe enabled, but no software is given to use this functionality. This is unusual, since the Lightscribe feature is noted on the invoice and the optical drive label. Free third party Lightscribe software is readily available online from lightscribe.com. I was therefore able to test the Lightscribe feature, which seemed to function considerably fast compared to the HP dv2000t’s drive.

DVB-T Tuner & Intel Turbo Memory (Robson)

A DVB-T tuner is offered in non-US models of the F3sv. For US models, an open mini-PCI slot is available to accommodate one. Furthermore, on the right side of the notebook, a TV antenna port exists for attaching an external antenna.

The F3sv series notebook can also house the new Intel Turbo Memory, also known as Robson, via a mini-PCI slot that is open for use.

Touchpad & Fingerprint Reader

The touchpad is very sleek looking. It is very responsive when the mouse speed is moved to the fullest setting in Vista. Otherwise, it functions slowly. Unfortunately, the touchpad doesn’t have a rocker wheel where the fingerprint reader is located. Instead, scrolling is accomplished via a dedicated portion of the right hand side of the touchpad. However, the Asus branded Logitech mouse has a multi-directional wheel which serves this same purpose of a rocker wheel.


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The fingerprint reader is located between the two touchpad buttons, and can double as a scroll wheel. It is an elegant and unobtrusive addition to the notebook, in contrast to some manufacturers who place the fingerprint reader as a separate unit on the palmrest.

Keyboard

The keyboard is a normal, full size set of keys, including function keys that control display output, touchpad use, volume, screen brightness, and other Asus specific functions. It is comfortable to use and feels solid when typing. The keyboard is fairly noisy, but does not have any noticeable flex when typing.

Performance Benchmarks

Windows Experience Score:


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The disappointment lies in the 1GB standard memory. One memory bay is free for a quick upgrade up to 4GB max. Vista is fairly sluggish without 2GB of ram, which is a de facto minimum.


The exposed internals (including memory bays) of the F3sv-A1. (view large image)

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 4,544 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,571 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 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


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SuperPI results:

Notebook Time
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz) 1m 04s
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 58s
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100) 1m 09s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 34s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s


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Although SuperPI is not multi-threaded, it has been traditionally used in benchmarking and used here for a bit of nostalgia.

HDtune results:


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The 160GB hard drive is partitioned by default into three partitions: a 5GB recovery, a 96GB VistaOS primary, and a 58GB extended (60%, 40%). The recovery partition (and disc) allows you to make one single partition if you so choose.

Gaming Experiences

Gaming is wonderful on the F3sv, and that is expected considering the power the notebooks brings to the table. Because the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS card can work with DX10, I had the opportunity to play a DX10 demo of an upcoming game entitled Lost Planet, developed by Capcom. The DX9 tests were done with Elder Scolls IV: Oblivion.

Keep in mind that the GeForce 8600M GS card can use TurboCache to dynamically allocate video memory contingent on your system ram. Results are expected to only improve when ram is upgraded beyond 1GB and/or NVIDIA drivers are upgraded. All benchmarks below were performed using modded ForceWare 158.45 drivers (The stock drivers would not even run the DX10 demo).

3DMark06 Results and Comparison:

Notebook 3D Mark 06 Results
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 9,097
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 2,625
WidowPC Sting D517D (Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz, Nvidia 7900GTX 512MB) 4,833
Apple MacBook Pro (2.00GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 128MB) 1,528
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB) 2,183
ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 512MB) 1,973
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744
Toshiba Satellite P100-222 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GS 512MB) 3,534


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DX9

Oblivion ~ 20-25 FPS average on medium-high settings, 1440×900

As you can see, there were points in the game that were choppy but for the most part the game ran exceptionally smoothly and is enjoyable to play. The F3sv-A1 handles Oblivion without much issue.

DX10

Lost Planet Demo ~ 12-18 FPS average on medium-high settings, 1280×768 (max!)

This game suffers quite a bit to play, although benchmarks show decent framerates for this DX10 demo. I suspect that having only 1GB of ram is a major issue here, being that the TurboCache can only max out to 512MB of total video ram. There is an in-game message declaring that medium-high settings are too high for decent gameplay. Another explanation could be that the newest drivers still cannot take advantage of the card’s ability, or that the demo still has serious issues.

Wi-Fi & Bluetooth

The Intel 4964ABGN card provides great range under the provided Windows driver. I was however NOT able to attain 108Mbps speeds with my Belkin Pre-N router on the newest firmware. This might be because the pre-N/draft-N specs are not standardized or interoperable. In any case, the new card has range equal to or better than the 3945ABG predecessor.

Battery Life

The Asus F3sv notebook is not strong in the battery life category.

Windows Vista Remaining Time
w/ Aero, Full Brightness, Wireless Radios On ~ 55 Mins
w/ Aero, Half-Brightness, Wireless Radios Off ~ 1.1 hours
w/o Aero, Full Brightness, Wireless Radios On ~ 1.2 hour
w/o Aero, Half-Brightness, Wireless Radios Off ~ 1.5 hours

As noted, the provided six-cell battery provides a measly one hour of battery life under Vista with all features turned on.

Heat and Noise

The F3sv provided surprising results in this area. Under extreme stress of gaming and benchmarking, the notebook feels relatively cool. More surprising is that the fan’s noise is barely audible and then notebook is completely silent under moderate stress. The F3sv is remarkably cool and silent under significant processing stress.

CPU Temp (Average x2 Cores) Degrees Celsius
Idle 49
Normal Stress 55
Gaming Stress 62

The ambient temperature for tests was 24 degrees Celsius.

Software and Bloatware

Like all notebooks, the F3sv comes preloaded with unwanted or unnecessary software. Luckily, in comparison to the big companies, Asus has limited this bloat to just an anti-virus program and a few utilities. The included software is Nero 7 Essentials and Norton Internet Security 2007, Although Asus provides the Nero 7 optical disc, the software is not preloaded. However, a full reformat will reinstall all the original software. In effect, there is no way to do a clean Vista install since the OEM disk is a factory restore image.

Ubuntu Linux Experiences

The current LiveCD releases of Ubuntu do not work. I was able to install Ubuntu 7.10 (in Development, 64-bit) via the alternate CD’s, non-graphical, install process. It was a fairly simple 25 minute procedure that involved reallocating space from the F3sv’s second partition on the 160GB hard drive. The X server does not work on the default NVIDIA card option: instead, I was able to successfully get into the GUI by using the vesa driver. At the command line, after logging in, I typed

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

This allowed me to completely create a xorg.conf file from scratch visually allowing me to select the vesa display as noted previously, as well as other video options, such as a 1440×900 screen resolution. The Intel 4965ABGN card is not recognized at the moment, and some ndiswrapper work was needed to to get it running. I suspect that the next release of Ubuntu in October will support the the F3sv’s hardware without any work beyond the installation.

Warranty & Tech Support

Asus provides a thirty day Zero Bright Dot policy, a one year battery pack warranty, and a two-year warranty on the entire notebook. The ZBD policy ensures that there will be no pixel issues on the screens. The two year standard, global hardware warranty is a refreshing move from the industry standard of one year.

Asus provides worldwide tech support numbers along with the technical literature. I called the Asus tech support (twice) to see how long I would be put on hold. During the morning hours, I was on the phone for just over a minute before I my call was answered by an operator. In the evening of another day, the time was longer, being around four minutes. The time to an operator has been compared with previous experiences with other notebook companies.

Asus also provides means to submit technical issues online, as well as attain software updates for Asus notebooks.

Manufacturer Time to Operator
Acer ~40-50 Mins
Dell ~10-20 Mins
Asus ~1-5 Mins

Conclusion

The Asus F3sv is a phenomenal 15.4 notebook in all respects. While it is relatively heavy and has poor battery life, it’s compromised portability is vastly outweighed by its feature set, performance, build quality and total polish.

Pros

  • Features and specs for the price
  • Runs silently and with minimal heat
  • Performance and elegance
  • Warranties and technical support

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Touchpad doesn’t have rocker wheel


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