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:
- Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 32-bit)
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T9550 (2.66GHz, 6MB L2, 1066MHz FSB)
- 13.3″ WXGA Glossy LCD (1280×800, 16:10)
- ATI Mobility Radeon 4570 with 512MB GDDR2 VRAM
- Atheros AR928X 802.11n + Bluetooth 2.0
- 4GB DDR2 800 SDRAM (2GB x 2)
- 320GB Serial ATA hard disk drive (5400RPM)
- DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive
- 1.3 megapixel webcam
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 12.2″ x 9″ x 1.2-1.4″
- Weight: 4lbs 14oz with battery, 5lbs 12oz travel weight
- 11.1v 4800 mAh 53Wh 6-cell battery
- 90W(19V x 4.74A) 100-240V AC Adapter
- 2-Year Standard Limited Warranty, 1-Year Accidental Damage Warranty
- Price as configured: $1,299.99
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 1280×800 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.
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.
System performance is what the ASUS F6Ve was designed for, with its Intel 2.66GHz T9550 processor and 512MB ATI Radeon Mobility 4570. This 13.3″ notebook is fast enough completely replace a desktop if you aren’t looking for something that has to run the latest games at the highest settings. It is very fast for things like decoding HD video, running many applications at the same time, or ripping and compressing music or video for a media player. Newer games work fine with some visual settings tweaked, pushing the limits of the ATI 4570 graphics card. The previous top performing 13.3″ notebook of choice was the LG P300, but it had to make compromises such as removing the optical bay to handle the additional hardware; ASUS managed to pull it off without removing any hardware.
wPrime comparison results (lower score means better performance):
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|ASUS F6Ve-B1 (Intel Core 2 Duo T9550 @ 2.66GHz)||28.626 seconds|
|LG P300 (Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 @ 2.4GHz)||32 seconds|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X300 (Intel Core 2 Duo L7100 @ 1.20GHz)||98 seconds|
|Apple MacBook Air (Intel Core 2 Duo P7500 @ 1.6GHz)||68 seconds|
|Sony VAIO TZ (Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz)||76 seconds|
|Dell XPS M1330 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.20GHz)||38 seconds|
PCMark05 benchmark results (higher scores are better)
|ASUS F6Ve-B1 (2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550, ATI Radeon 4570 512MB)||6,742 PCMarks|
|LG P300 (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB)||5,767 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X300 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L7100, Intel X3100)||3,467 PCMarks|
|Apple MacBook Air (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7500, Intel X3100)||2,478 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950)||2,446 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||4,153 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,591 PCMarks|
3DMark06 graphics comparison results (higher score meens better performance):
|ASUS F6Ve-B1 (2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550, ATI Radeon 4570 512MB)||3,167 3DMarks|
|LG P300 (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB)||3,027 3DMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X300 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L7100, Intel X3100)||475 3DMarks|
|Apple MacBook Air (1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7500, Intel X3100)||502 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950)||122 3DMarks|
|HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,055 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||1,408 3DMarks|
Speakers and Audio
The onboard speakers are located in a great spot that won’t get blocked by anything; right on the lower edge of the display. In terms of audio quality they lack bass and midrange, sounding similar to earbuds cranked way up. Peak volume levels are fine for a very small room but get overpowered by background noise or conversations. For external music enjoyment you can connect the notebook to a stereo through the audio jacks or HDMI port. The HDMI port is the preferred solution since it supports digital audio and surround sound for movies.
Battery life was disappointing given the small size of the notebook and the extended battery sticking out the back. With screen brightness reduced to 70%, wireless active, and Vista on the Balanced profile the ASUS F6Ve stayed on for 2 hours and 56 minutes. Some of this was expected with the faster processor and video card, but we had hoped for something a bit longer, perhaps closer to 4 hours.
Heat and Noise
Thermal performance of the F6Ve was pretty good considering what was packed inside of it. Under load the fan passes quite a bit of air through the system to keep the Intel T9550 processor and ATI 4570 graphics within reasonable temperature ranges, in term making a good amount of noise. This notebook easily beats the massive W90 in fan noise, since it has a single fan spinning super fast, instead of the three separate fans spinning slower inside the W90. System temperatures were modest, getting warm under heavy loads, but not too hot.
The ASUS F6Ve could have been a much nicer notebook if the same hardware were inside a more attractive chassis. The design looks dated, build quality isn’t up to par, and overall doesn’t feel like what you would expect to get for spending $1,299 on a 13.3” notebook these days. Hardware performance is excellent without any doubt, but it feels really out of place compared to the current ASUS offerings like the N81, W90, or even the 1000HE. If you really need a compact gaming notebook, move up barely one inch to the N81Vp. It outperforms the F6Ve in nearly every category, gets double the 3D performance, and looks a heck of a lot nicer.
The ASUS F6Ve-B1 is a performance king among 13-inch notebooks, but there is room for improvement.
- Great performance for a 13.3” notebook
- Keyboard is comfortable to type on
- Snappy Synaptics touchpad
- Design feels dated
- Quality is not what you would expect on $1,299 notebook
- Tiny speakers