Asus F8P Review

by David Rasnake Reads (89,239)

by David Rasnake

Whether you think it’s the epitome of style or just plain silly, it’s hard to feel undecided about the Asus F8P’s appearance. Using gratuitous amounts of leather on the lid and palm rest, the notebook makes a visual statement – though what kind of statement it makes is up for debate.

Beneath its polarizing exterior, however, the 14-inch F8P looks to offer solid performance geared toward multimedia users looking for a machine providing power and portability in equal measure. With a 14.1-inch WXGA display, a 2.0GHz Core2Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and an MSRP of $1,349 as tested, the F8P is appropriately speced and appropriately priced to compete with other high-style, high-function notebooks on the market.

Full specs for the F8P-B1W model used for this review are as follows:

  • Screen: 14.1-inch WXGA (1280 x 800)
  • Processor: 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 (800 MHz FSB, 2MB L2 Cache)
  • Hard Drive: 160GB SATA, 5400 RPM
  • Memory: 2GB RAM (DDR2 667 MHz SDRAM, 1GB x 2)
  • Optical Drive: DVD Super Multi with LightScribe
  • Ports and Slots: Five USB 2.0, one IEEE 1394, one ExpressCard 34, VGA, DVI, S-Video, multi-format (SD/SDHC/MMC/MS) card reader, 10/100 Ethernet, modem, microphone in, headphone out
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 (256MB dedicated VRAM)
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Homes Premium
  • Dimensions: 13.4 x 9.6 x 1.5 inches (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 5.8 pounds

Styling and Design

With its use of dyed leather coverings on the palm rest and lid, there’s no mistaking the F8P for anything else. Asus bills the notebook’s design ethos as "mix and match," which results, depending on your perspective, in either an interesting combination of contrasting materials or a stylistic mess of "leisure suit" proportions.

Our "Amazing White" (the F8P also comes in "Galaxy Black," with matching black leather) test unit looks a bit feminine for my taste. With the F8P’s supplied suede notebook sleeve, silver carrying case, and leather-covered optical mouse, the Asus comes together as a total visual package perfect for style-conscious college students, aspiring fashionistas, or David Bowie. As TabletPCReview.com editor Tiffany Boggs observed, "Women will like this … or pimps."


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True, the included accessories may be a bit chintzy, but given that most notebooks these days don’t include so much as a basic carrying case in the purchase price, it’s hard to fault Asus too much for their generosity. The F8P’s satin-lined box, however, bears an inexcusable resemblance to a coffin.


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The white (or near-white, in this case: the F8P’s plastic is better described as "pearlescent") finish and retro-modern vibe do an acceptable Apple imitation in many ways, but trade Apple’s trademark clean lines for more sparkle and eye candy. A chromed rotating webcam and silver trim throughout provide nice accent points, and the theme is carried through to the F8P’s matte silver keyboard. Other visually interesting touches include Asus’s logo inset in silver on the lid and a brushed metal power button integrated into the right-hand screen hinge that features a bright blue surround light on power-on. Very cool.


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Overall, the F8P has a strong enough visual presence to serve as a slightly more flamboyant PC substitute for the usual notebook choices of Apple’s strongest niche market – graphic designers and other "creatives." More on the Asus’s success as a graphic design notebook later.

Build Quality and Physical Specs

As noted, the F8P’s lid and interior have a glossy off-white finish that matches the color of the leather insets. The bottom half of the notebook, however, is constructed out of a whiter, thicker matte finish plastic. In spite of the slightly odd looking color mismatch, the F8P’s plastic shell is thick and solid all around with minimal cheapness.


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The screen and lid exhibit some light flex under pressure; it’s not enough to cause concern for most users, however. The rotating webcam occupies the position normally held by a latch, but the hinges are stout and stiff enough to keep the lid closed, even when the notebook is held upside down. With the lid open, the screen does occasionally want to fall backwards, and there’s no apparent method for tightening the hinges.


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Measuring 1.5 inches thick at its thickest point and weighing in at 5.8 pounds, the F8P has average portability for a 14-inch notebook. In use it feels a little bulky – closer to a 15.4-incher in many dimensions.

Finally, under certain light the F8P’s off-white leather begins life with a bit of a dingy look that I’m betting will only get worse as time goes on. It also warrants noting that while Asus claims the leather coverings to be the genuine article, the material has been coated and dyed to the point that it’s generally indistinguishable from imitation leather, with a rubbery, plasticy feel.


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Screen

The F8P wears a 14.1-inch WXGA 1280×800 high-gloss screen. Brightness has 16 steps of adjustment, making it easy to fine-tune the F8P for ambient lighting.

Color reproduction when viewed straight on is excellent, with lots of vibrancy. Similarly, contrast and brightness are better than average. Color and contrast lose a lot of their punch at even slight off-axis viewing angles, however, and color inversion also comes on quicker than expected. Given the F8P’s price point and target audience, performance in this area should be better.

Likewise, I personally find the glossy finish on the Asus’s screen to be a bit extreme, showing lots of reflection under bright ambient light. Moreover, viewability issues can make the F8P somewhat tiresome for classroom or office use.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The F8P’s keyboard is acceptably solid, exhibiting little sag or flex. Keys on the Asus have an extremely flat profile that some may find odd feeling. Dampening and cushioning is above average with a decent about of key travel, though the keys would likely be more comfortable if they offered off a little more resistance. Overall, the keyboard is acceptable if unremarkable.


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There was a minor glitch with a non-functioning left click button – device drivers not playing well together – that kept our Asus tied to its external mouse for most of the review. In limited use, the F8P’s touchpad seems sufficiently wide with good sensitivity. Touchpad buttons, however, have a heavy press and make a lot of noise when clicked. By contrast, all other surface buttons on the F8P had a solid feel and worked flawlessly.


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Ports and Drives

It’s nice to see a well-stocked ports selection on the F8P: this functionality alone should be appealing for multimedia users, especially. The nearly assumed multi-format card reader is here, as are five USB ports, a FireWire port, and S-Video, VGA, and DVI outs. All in all, the F8P sports an excellent range of connection options for a 14-inch notebook.

Equally appealing to multimedia users, our F8P came packed with a combo DVD-R/CD-R optical drive with LightScribe drive-integrated label printing capabilities. For a complete multimedia solution, the F8P can be ordered with an optional digital TV tuner as well, though our test unit didn’t come so equipped.

Below is a quick tour around the F8P:


Right side: Two USB 2.0 prots, heat vent,
and power button inside hinge. (view large image)


Left side: Media card reader, optical drive
USB, FireWire, microphone in, audio out,
and ExpressCard slot. (view large image)


Front: LED status indicators and IR port
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Rear: DC power jack, two USB, S-Video,
VGA, DVI, Ethernet, and modem.
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Audio Performance

Audio performance through the Asus’s front-mounted speakers was less than impressive. The speakers were heavily mid-rangy by default, lacking much punch or volume. Overall, the audio system doesn’t seem to have enough power to push the speakers to distortion, which may or may not be a good thing. As is usually the case, audio performance through headphones was much improved: I didn’t hear any distortion or other irregularities.

Heat and Noise

For a smaller high-performance laptop, the N8P stays surprisingly cool. This can be attributed in large measure to the Asus’s extremely efficient cooling fan. While laptop surface temps were well controlled, there is enough warm air coming out of the F8P’s right-hand vent to heat a small room when the computer is under load.

Fan noise is present but not intrusive. Sounds from the cooling system are consistent, with no audible warbling when the notebook is moved, suggesting that everything is as it should be with the F8Ps fans.

Below are images with the temperatures listed in degrees Fahrenheit:


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Battery Life

The F8P uses a 6-cell, 4800 mAh battery pack. Asus doesn’t provide anticipated battery life specs for this notebook, but the maximum calculated life with a fully charged battery and "Battery Extender" power management settings was around 2 hours, 30 minutes.

In conservative real-world use – light internet use, word processing, and email with Wi-Fi enabled and the screen at moderate brightness levels – I was able to squeeze just over 2 hours (2:08) out of the F8P. Change the power management settings over to "High Performance" and open up Photoshop and you’ll be lucky to top 75 minutes. Obviously, if you’re going to be taking full advantage of the Asus’s power, you’d best find an outlet.

Performance and Benchmarks

The F8P features several Intel dual-core processor options. The reasonably high-function 2.0 GHz Core2Duo T7250 "Santa Rosa" spec in our test unit is a middle-of-the-road option in the F8′s range of choices (which includes the 2.4GHz T7700). Booting into Windows Vista Premium took 1 minute, 22 seconds. Below are the standard performance benchmarks:

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi. (Lower numbers mean better performance.)

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Asus F8P (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 40.842s
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 (Core 2 Duo T5450 @ 1.66GHz) 50.184s
HP Pavilion dv6700t (Core 2 Duo T5450 @ 1.66GHz) 50.480s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
Portable One SXS37 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 41.908s
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
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s

 

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

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Asus F8P (2.0GHz Intel T7250, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 256MB)
1,511 3DMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Intel X3100) 543 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Nvidia 8400M GS 256MB) 1,556 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 545 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
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Asus F8P (2.0GHz Intel T7250, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 256MB) 4,409 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y510 (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Intel X3100) 3,749 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv6700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Nvidia 8400M GS 256MB) 3,386 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
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100) 3,283 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


HDTune results:


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Multimedia and Photo Editing Capabilities

As a photographer, I rely heavily on a notebook for mobile multimedia support and photo editing. While Macs are often the tool of choice in this field, the F8P’s unique styling and decent specs sheet (five USB ports, FireWire, DVI output, 2GB RAM, 2.0GHz Core2Duo) made it seem like a potential MacBook replacement for users looking to work in a PC environment.

Given its notoriously sluggish graphics handling, I was concerned about our test unit’s Vista operating system, but actual photo and video editing performance has been better than expected. Installing Adobe Photoshop CS2 (my preferred vintage) and the necessary color calibration tools was a seamless process, and in less than 10 minutes I was up, calibrated, and ready to work.

On initial start-up, the F8P took 8 seconds to load Photoshop – not the blazing speed of a high-power desktop machine, but very quick for general use. Loading 60MB, 16-bit TIFFs into Photoshop was almost instantaneous, clocking in at 1.7 seconds. Overall, working in Photoshop produced no nasty surprises, with the normal processor-intensive operations (including gradient processing) yielding no halting or hang-ups. Even the typically laggy Adobe Image Browser performed nicely.

Coming from graphics displays or larger notebooks, the F8P’s 14.1-inch LCD seems a touch small for photo work. Slightly excessive screen glossiness can be an issue in detail intensive work, but the screen is bright, easy on the eyes under average ambient light, and color accurate once calibrated. I was able to seamlessly transition back and forth from my desktop to the Asus for work on an ongoing photo project, with near-identical image saturation, contrast, and color on both displays.

Multiple intensive processes, batch processing, and video editing (using Adobe Premiere) produced very slight slow-downs at times. Likewise, the F8P’s 5400 RPM drive exhibited a little file access lag at times compared to a 7200 RPM desktop drive, but in general there’s more than enough power here for normal photo editing/processing tasks. Hook up a high-res display, connect a graphics tablet and the F8P makes a fine combination desktop replacement/mobile editing machine.

Conclusion

There’s little debate that for the average user, the Asus F8P is a respectably powerful device. Even for users requiring higher-than-average computing power, it holds its own. What’s more ambiguous are the F8P’s styling choices: the machine’s looks are definitely love-it-or-hate-it. To my eye at least, the all black version has a more refined, less outlandish feel, with its more muted appearance potentially having broader appeal.

Stylistic considerations aside, the F8P strikes a good balance between performance and portability, providing enough of both to make this a viable single-computer solution for many users. Battery life could be better and high screen gloss is an irritation, but beyond these issues the F8P is a polished, solid total package. Ultimately, if you’re comfortable with the way it looks, the F8P is a computer that proves to be comfortable for the way most of us use our notebooks.

Pros

  • Better-than-average processor and memory
  • Good build quality all around
  • Screen is crisp enough for graphics work
  • All that leather

Cons

  • Keyboard, touchpad buttons feel awkward
  • Screen gloss will annoy some
  • Chunky plastics, strangely paired colors
  • All that leather




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