ASUS F6V User Review

by Chicken Royale Reads (39,650)

by James Wong

Over the years ASUS has developed into a globally recognized brand. The company retains its competitive edge by producing quality notebooks and pushing the market boundaries through new innovations. The F6V “scent-infused” notebook is a prime example of what ASUS is prepared to do in order to win the customer’s satisfaction.

The ASUS F6V-3P088C features a fragrance described by ASUS as a “musky smell.” The 13.3” display coupled with the relatively light weight of 1.9kg places this notebook in the portable class. Given that the F6V is based on the latest Montevina platform, it should be interesting to see how performance is balanced with the portability of this notebook.

Specifications as reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 (2.26GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 3MB L2 Cache)
  • Memory: 3GB DDR2 RAM (2GB + 1GB)
  • Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 256MB
  • Display: 13.3” 1280×800 WXGA Color Shine LCD
  • Hard Drive: 320GB Seagate Momentus 5400.5 (ST9320320AS)
  • Optical Drive: TSST Corporation TS-L633A DVD Super Multi
  • Webcam: 1.3M Pixel
  • Wireless: Intel WiFi Link 5100 Series
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
  • Ports: 3x USB 2.0, eSATA, HDMI, VGA, Headphone/SPDIF, Microphone, Modem, Ethernet
  • Slots: 1x ExpressCard (34mm), 8-in-1 card reader
  • Dimensions: 312 x 231.9 x 32-35.2mm
  • Weight: 1.9kg


Reasons for Buying

I regularly move up and down the country as well as travelling overseas, so I needed a notebook that was portable yet powerful enough to do some occasional gaming. My previous laptop was the ASUS W7S and I decided that the size of a 13.3” screen was perfect for me. During my search for alternative notebooks, I narrowed my choices down to the Lenovo ThinkPad X300, Samsung Q310 and Sony VAIO SR/Z series. The Lenovo and Sony were out of the budget that I had planned, and the Samsung was quite an attractive deal with similar pricing and specifications. I purposely disregarded notebooks that included the GeForce 8X00m GPUs due to the critical failure issues which was the result of a design flaw by NVIDIA.

Where and How Purchased

I normally like to purchase notebooks from retail shops as you can get a real feel of the notebook, but with my previous experience with the ASUS W7S I decided to order it online. Not many retailers sell ASUS notebooks in the United Kingdom so I wasn’t really spoilt for choice. I eventually found an online shop that I liked called Laptops Direct (http://www.laptopsdirect.co.uk), the cost for the notebook including the VAT of 15% was £685.40 (~$1,000 USD). One thing that took me by surprise was that I had to pay a premium for the ASUS recovery DVD, which I assumed to be included in the package.


The whole package

My notebook package includes:

  • 6-cell Li-ion battery
  • Targus carry case
  • ASUS optical notebook mouse (corded)
  • Power adapter with cable tie
  • LCD cleaning cloth
  • S-Video to composite cable
  • ASUS F6V drivers and utilities disk
  • ASUS recovery disk
  • CyberLink Power2Go 6.0 disk

It is interesting that they include the S-Video to composite cable because this notebook does not have any S-Video output. It would have been more useful for ASUS to have included an HDMI or VGA cable instead.

Build and Design

Upon the arrival of this notebook, my first impressions were that it was more glossy than I had expected. The lid of the case is glossy, the rim of the keyboard is glossy and the screen itself is glossy. It is very much like the HP Pavilion in that respect.

Many computer hardware websites have stated that the palm rest of the ASUS F6V is made out of carbon fibre. I was a bit sceptical of these claims as I thought ASUS would reserve this kind of luxury for their W/V series of notebooks. When inspecting the palm rest a bit closer it does not seem like carbon fibre at all; there are no thatching patterns to be found. To me, it just looks like some sort of reinforced plastic that is imprinted in a distinctive way to suggest a carbon fibre construction.


Palm rest

Nevertheless the plastic used in this casing feels thick and sturdy, but it looks a bit dull in some places. However this contrasts nicely with the glossy finish which stops it from looking too much like a ThinkPad.

This is the first time that I have owned a notebook that features artwork on the lid. I’m not really a fan of such decorations as they can draw unwanted attention … especially when you use it in a public place like the library. But after looking at it a few times I actually think it’s quite discrete; especially when compared to the pink ‘flower version’ of the F6V that ASUS also released.


Notebook lid

Like most laptops the screen can be twisted when enough force is applied, but I found harder trying to look for noticeable ripples when pressing my finger against the screen. The hinges for the lid are stiff as usual and opening the notebook is a two-handed job.

This Notebook Smells

ASUS is the first notebook manufacturer to produce notebooks that have an infused scent which comes in four different flavours, the one that I have is the ‘dark musk’ smell which I quite like. It’s hard to describe this smell because it just smells like a new laptop; kind of like a ‘new car’ smell but for a notebook. If I had to put it into words I would describe this smell as ‘polished metal with a bit of aftershave’.

Some websites say that the scent is emitted from the lid whilst others say it is emitted from the whole case of the notebook. However I’ve been sniffing all over my notebook like a mad dog and I have pin-pointed the source of the scent to be the heatsink fan inside the laptop. This would explain why the fragrance smells stronger when the notebook gets warmer because the fan would spin faster to cool it down, and release more of the scent.

During the time that I have used this notebook the smell has definitely lost its intensity and I get the feeling that it will disappear over the next few weeks. In order to prolong the lifespan of the scent, the user manual recommends that you store the notebook inside the carry bag when not in use.

Screen

The 13.3” WXGA glossy screen is quite comfortable to look at and is especially great for indoor use. The resolution is a standard 1280×800 pixels which scales quite nicely for a portable notebook. I don’t have any problems using this display for a long period of time as the contrast and brightness seem to be perfect. However when using this notebook outdoors with lots of sunlight, the screen can be difficult to use and the glossy finish results in lots and glare.

Unlike the previous models, the 1.3MP webcam is mounted discretely above the screen with no obvious extrusions to  the chassis. The quality of the image produced is sufficient for video messaging, but there is a noticeable lag of about one second when in use. The new SmartLogon feature allows you to sign in by staring at the webcam which is cool at first, but it is painfully slow to start up.


1.3M pixel webcam

The horizontal viewing angle of this display is great, and any curious eye can easily see what you have on the screen. Like the previous ASUS I have owned the vertical viewing angles are not particularly impressive, but this is the case with many other notebooks.

 

Light leakage is apparent in this notebook and is more prominent on the lower section of the display.


Light leakage

Speakers

The two speakers are located on the base of the display and they sound a bit hallow. Specifically it lacks a lot of bass/mid range frequencies and some songs sound totally different when listening through these speakers. There weren’t any noticeable crackling sounds when the volume was cranked up and it’s loud enough to be on shouting terms.


The speakers located under the display

One major disappointment in the design of this notebook is that it does not have any external volume control. It seems that ASUS ran out of space for this in favor of fitting other connection ports, so all the volume control has to be done by software inside Windows. ASUS appears to have copied this trend from other portable notebook manufacturers such as the Apple MacBook and the Sony VAIO.

Processor and Performance

Intel’s new Montevina platform supports the P8400 CPU which is based on a smaller 45nm process. Logically this would reduce the thermal output and help with the heat issues that ASUS used to have. Together with the higher FSB of 1066MHz the increased memory bandwidth should result in better performance.

ASUS has generously produced this notebook with two upgradeable RAM modules giving a maximum of 4GB. This F6V comes with 3GB of RAM which is just under the theoretical maximum that a 32-bit OS can handle.

The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 caters for the mid-range gamer who desires respectable frame rates with decent picture quality. Bearing in mind that this GPU is relatively new and I was forced to use the ASUS release of the graphics driver as the official drivers from AMD did not support this GPU without modding the .inf file. In the near future AMD will hopefully release new Catalyst drivers that support this chipset meaning that the results will be better than the ones achieved by the benchmark below.

Seagate’s Momentus 5400.5 320GB hard drive was included in this setup and it should provide good performance for a portable notebook. A large hard drive such as this uses two 160GB platters and it would be interesting to see how this effects the thermal operation inside the notebook.

Benchmarks

WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
ASUS F6V-3P088C (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 33.654s
Fujitsu LifeBook A1110 (Core 2 Duo P7350 @ 2.0GHz) 38.313s
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (Core 2 Duo P7350 @ 2.0GHz) 38.455s
HP Pavilion dv4t (Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 26.972s
Dell Studio 15 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz)
41.246s
HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz)
39.745s
Dell Vostro 1510 (Core 2 Duo T5670 @ 1.8GHz) 51.875s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
HP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
HP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s

 

PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance based on processor, hard drive, operating system, RAM, and graphics (higher scores are better):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
ASUS F6V-3P088C (2.26GHz Intel P8400, ATI Radeon HD 3470 256MB) 5,405 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook A1110 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Intel X4500) 4,281 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Nvidia 9300M 256MB) 4,844 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9200M GS 256MB) 5,463 PCMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100)
3,998 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)
3,994 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 3,568 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 4,149 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 5,412 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 4,616 PCMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)  3,283 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


3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance (higher scores are better):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
ASUS F6V-3P088C (2.26GHz Intel P8400, ATI Radeon HD 3470 256MB) 1,719 3DMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook A1110 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Intel X4500) 979 3DMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 (2.0GHz Intel P7350, Nvidia 9300M 256MB) 1,833 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9200M GS 256MB) 1,741 3DMarks
Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) 493 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)   1,599 3DMarks
Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100) 519 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6500z (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, NVIDIA 8400m GS)  1,551 3DMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 504 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 4,332 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 2,905 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

 

HDTune results:

Heat and Noise

In the past ASUS has produced relatively hot notebooks making them uncomfortable to use during extended periods of time. Surprisingly this F6V is the opposite. It is cool to touch and the exhaust heat produced is less of an issue. When comparing the noise with the ASUS W7S this notebook has less ‘fan noise’ and more of an ‘air noise’ which is easier on the ears. Here are some temperature measurements of the laptop using HWMonitor:

Idle (degrees C) Load (degrees C)
CPU 23 55
GPU 38 61
HDD 28 30

Room temperature: 18 degrees C
Idle: “Battery Saving” profile, idle laptop
Load: “High Performance” profile, Orthos, FurMark

The temperature readings above show that the GPU is the hottest component in the laptop and during maximum load it had reached 61 degrees C, which is quite low compared to the temperatures that I have previously seen from ASUS.

During the battery life test I switched the notebook to the “Battery Saving” profile and to my surprise the fan had actually switched off! The only noise being emitted was the 320GB hard drive which is whisper quiet anyway, but this had only happened during certain periods of time when it was either idle or when you first switch it on. Once you start gaming the fan spools up faster and it is still quite quiet. The palm rest area becomes a little warm but not enough to make your hands get sticky and sweaty.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The design of the keyboard is pretty good and it’s nice to have a large “Enter” key but when you start typing with it the keys they feel a bit insecure at times. Each key that is depressed makes some sort of rattling noise and so it is quite hard to be discrete when typing in public places like the library. The good thing about this keyboard is that the keys themselves don’t really get sticky when you type with sweaty fingers, the same thing goes for the palm rest when you rest your wrists on them. Speaking of palm rests ASUS has a bad habit putting stickers all over this area and makes the notebook look like it’s still sitting in the shop window.


The keyboard from above

The keyboard flexes quite a bit although it is more noticeable near the top where all the number keys are, however for the people who touch-type this isn’t really an issue.

I really like the touchpad on this laptop because it is very smooth and it does not become slippery even with sweaty fingers.


The touchpad

Input and Output Ports

All the vital ports are included in this notebook and the heat vent is conveniently located on the left side which makes it ideal for a typical mouse user. Like the Apple MacBook, ASUS has not decided to include a FireWire port in the laptop which is fine because I have never found a need for it anyway. The VGA port does not have any mounting screws which may be of inconvenience to some users with external displays. It would have been nice for ASUS to have included a DVI port instead of a VGA port but I guess the HDMI output more than makes up for it. The new eSATA port is included and makes the notebook more future-proof as this standard finds its way into more and more devices.


Right: SPDIF out, Mic in, USB, Kensington lock


Left: DC input, HDMI, 2x USB, Wireles switch, ExpressCard/34mm, Card reader, e-SATA


Rear: Modem, LAN, VGA

Wireless

Included is the Intel WiFi Link 5100 which received lots of problems from users during its release such as slow speeds and dropped connections. My experience so far has been flawless and I get the full 54Mbps out of my Buffalo router. This wireless card operates through two antennae as opposed to the Intel WiFi Link 5300 which has three meaning that performance may suffer, but the power consumption should be lower. The bluetooth 2.1 + EDR card is a staple feature in most notebooks and I have had no problems using it to transfer files to my cell phone.

Battery

The battery pack is a standard 6-cell lithium-ion rated at 4800mAh. The battery forms part of the chassis and it has two rubber feet for support, however when the battery pack is fitted it protrudes from the back of the laptop. This is particularly noticeable and it adds an additional depth of 20mm to the design making it less portable to carry around as it will not fit in conventional 13.3” laptop sleeves.


The battery and power adapter

ASUS has previously struggled with making notebooks that lasted more than three hours on a 6-cell battery. This F6V has bucked the trend and has managed to squeeze 3 hours and 7 minutes on the ‘Battery Saving’ profile (50% brightness, wireless on, idle laptop). Under maximum load with the ‘High Performance’ profile it lasted 54 minutes (100% brightness, wireless on, Orthos, FurMark). These battery life improvements are most likely attributable to the increased efficiency of the Montevina platform as well as the increased power management of the GPU.

OS and Software

The F6V comes preinstalled with Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit). Upon logging onto the notebook for the first time, I was astonished to see that there were hardly any bloatware installed except for a trial version of Norton Internet Security 2008. On the contrary there were quite a few ASUS utility applications preinstalled, most of which are webcam applications and security software. The Windows Vista Aero interface runs smoothly and the ASUS Splendid application makes everything look very colorful.

Windows Experience Index:

In the event of a full reinstall ASUS included the driver CD and recovery disk.

Customer Support

I have not had the misfortune of having to deal with customer support about my notebook but reading from other users who have been effected by the GeForce 8X00M GPU failures, ASUS were keen to offer full replacements. The two year global warranty is hard to match and it represents the great reliability that you can expect from them.

Conclusion

The debut of this scent infused laptop has exceeded my expectations of ASUS through its cool and efficient operation. I feel that I can use this notebook comfortably over long periods of time as well as enjoy its portability. The minor quirks that I have found are offset by the great performance offered by the ASUS F6V and I would say that this laptop is a pleasure to use.

Pros:

  • Nice scent
  • 2-year global warranty
  • Carry case and mouse included
  • Very little bloatware
  • Cool and efficient
  • Great touchpad

Cons:

  • Keyboard flex
  • Battery sticks out of the back
  • No external volume control
  • Lots of stickers on palm rest
  • Smell does not last long


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