by Aaron Boltz
With the market taking a seat on a rollercoaster, consumers may have doubt about whether or not to shell out the cash to purchase a high end laptop. Fortunately, ASUS has brought the F8VA-B1 to the market, which offers all of the impressive features of an expensive laptop, but slashes the price down to about $1,200. The result is a great portable laptop.
I really enjoy keeping up with technology and making money on eBay by buying broken laptops, repairing them, and then selling them. The result is a lot of hands on experience with a great deal of laptops. In doing so, I have found that the difference between a Lenovo and an ASUS is really only apparent in the price. Because of my opinion, I had no problem going with the lower-priced Asus when choosing a laptop with Intel’s new P8400 CPU and a high-res 14″ screen. I bought it at newegg.com for $1,200, based on my positive experience with them. You would have a hard time finding a better deal on a similarly configured 14″ laptop. Unfortunately I missed the now available mail-in-rebate for $150, bringing the price down to just $1,049, making it a really good deal.
The specifications of this laptop are as follows:
- Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.26GHz (FSB: 1066MHz; L2 Cache: 3MB)
- 14″ Wide XGA+ Screen (1440×900)
- Windows Home Premium (32-bit)
- Graphics driven by ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 (1GB dedicated video ram)
- 250GB SATA hard drive (5400rpm)
- 4GB DDR2 RAM 800MHz (2x SO-DIMM)
- Integrated Super Multi Optical Drive
- Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi
- 6-cell lithium ion
- 13.4″ x 9.6″ x 1.5″ weighing in at 5.74 lbs.
It should be noted that ASUS really gives you a lot of extras with your purchase of an F8VA-B1. They include a wired travel USB mouse, S-Video to composite adapter, two cable ties, two cleaning cloths, three recovery DVDs, and a pretty nice messenger bag. Most other laptop manufacturers would nickel and dime you for these things. There is also a two-year warranty included, should it be required.
Build and Design
I really like the design of the F8VA-B1. While it’s not overly flashy, the minor design features found on the laptop give a unique style to this good-looking laptop. Asus has really struck a nice balance between style and simplicity that result in a laptop that would be appropriate for most environments.
Although I have had build quality problems with ASUS in the past, this laptop did not follow suit. Instead, it feels very solid with little to no flex, sturdy hinges, and well-placed access ports. The laptop does not have hinges, but the mechanism works well. It’s almost impossible to open it one-handed, though, as you need to keep one hand on the main part of the laptop to keep it down. The screen does not show ripples or any other effects when pressure is placed on the back side of the screen. Although I personally prefer hinges, the mechanism works surprisingly well and I am pleased with the good build quality of this laptop.
As previously mentioned, one of my main requisites were a high-res screen. I just don’t find 1280×800 enough, but the impressive 1440×900 screen works very well for me. Besides having a great resolution, the screen is very bright and the 3/15 brightness setting is sufficient for typing and surfing the web. The viewing angles, on the other hand, are not as good. While it would be possible to watch a movie with one other person, it is important to have the screen within 15 degrees of the optimal angle or it is simply too difficult to view the screen. This applies both vertically and horizontally. Although you may have trouble outside of the optimal viewing angle, once you are centered you will be very happy with this awesome screen.
I really think 14-inch screens are the perfect compromise for a laptop. It’s easy to carry around but the screen is very usable, especially at the high resolution. ASUS also includes “ASUS Splendid Video Intelligence technology” which basically makes different tweaks to the screen colors for different environments, such as gamma correction, theater mode, and soft mode. The differences are negligible for me, but I suppose they could be nice to have.
I am very picky when it comes to audio, and have been using the headphone port to drive my V-Moda vibe headphones. They sound great with the laptop, which is powered by Realtek HD Audio. I have also used external speakers, mainly my Z-2300s, which also sound great with the laptop. While the integrated sound is great, the speakers are just mediocre. The bass is almost non-existent, but the highs and mids get the job done. While I would recommend using headphones or external speakers, the audio is surprisingly good for a laptop.
Performance is very important to me, but today’s top of the line processors are simply out of my financial reach. Fortunately, Intel has released the impressive P8400 which delivers a pretty solid bang-for-the buck that I am very pleased with. While I don’t currently use a 64-bit OS, this laptop would be able to handle one well. The processor is great and zips through photo shop, HD movies, and obviously daily tasks. The processor also does well when throttled down to conserve battery life. I usually use the battery saver plan, which keeps the processor between 5 and 20 percent of the maximum. I ran a quick test with super pi with Word 2007, Chrome with nine open tabs, notepad, and windows media player with a song playing and 2 million digits were done in 2 minutes and 21 seconds. However, when you do need the processing power, the P8400 fails to disappoint. Super Pi finished 2 million digits in just 52 seconds. I am really happy with this processor’s ability to deliver impressive performance when required, but to also throttle down both performance and power consumption, just another aspect I really love about the F8VA-B1.
The HD Tune results are solid for a 5400rpm drive. The hard drive seems fast and the extra space is really nice to have. It’s really nice to see such a jump in hard drive space in notebooks which has occurred over the past year and the F8VA-B1 is a perfect example of this. wPrime is more recent than super pi, but the results are slightly less than other P8400 notebooks. While impressive, the results are slightly lower than similarly spec’d notebooks which is a little puzzling.
The webcam is a nice feature to have, especially when it swivels. You can use it to record lectures or use it as a webcam for video chatting. My favorite part, though, is the fact that you can use it to log in. ASUS has a facial recognition program for the windows logon that actually works pretty well. I really like the swivel webcam, which allows the user to record what’s in front of the laptop such as a lecture. Personally I think this is more useful than recording the user and is a rare feature not found on most other laptops.
You can also logon using the fingerprint reader, but it only works about half the time for me. You can also use the reader for website passwords, but I find that to just be annoying. Although these features aren’t necessities, they are nice to have and you will probably find you use them more than you may have thought.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is pretty nice. It does not flex and is pretty responsive. It is neither mushy nor stiff; ASUS struck a nice compromise with the keyboard. They touchpad is also solid. It is very responsive and double tapping along with tap and drag work well. Personally I use an external mouse most of the time with laptops, but it is not a problem to use this one. Both the keyboard and touchpad make this laptop easy to use on one’s lap and on the go.
Ports and Features
Personally I really like having most of the ports on the back as it makes cord management easy when using an external monitor.
This laptop does not include an S-Video port. Although this isn’t that big of a deal in today’s world filled with HDMI connections, I found it surprising that ASUS included a S-Video to Composite adapter with the notebook, though. The eSATA port is also pretty nice to have, but I am yet to use it. The front only has speakers and an infrared port, and can be seen in the bottom pictures thanks to the sleek angle of the front itself.
This laptop features both Bluetooth and WiFi. Both work well and without a hitch with numerous routers and Bluetooth devices. They also their own respective buttons to turn them on and off, and LED indicators on the left. They also don’t seem to drain the battery.
Heat and Noise
The laptop does not get excessively hot and while the fan is audible it is not bothersome. The exhaust does not blow onto my mouse hand either, as it never blows hard enough. This laptop does an excellent job keeping itself cool without the unwanted biproducts.
The battery is just average. I squeezed out 2 hours and 28 minutes running the power saver plan from ASUS’s included Power4Gear program which brings the brightness down to a tolerable 3/15 brightness, 5-20% processing power, with WiFi on while I was writing the review and browsing the web. The laptop completely recharges in about the same time. All in all, the battery will get you by but it is certainly not a selling point.
Operating System and Software
The laptop comes preinstalled with Vista Home Premium 32-bit. In case something happens, you can use the three included disks to bring the computer back to factory specs. There is quite a bit of preinstalled programs from ASUS that are all useful and I wouldn’t consider it to be bloatware.
The ASUS F8VA-B1 is a great laptop worth my recommendation to a broad range of users. This laptop offers a phenomenal bang-for-the-buck with an abundance of features. It is good looking and it’s optimal foot print makes it easy to carry around. The performance is also great, with a solid dedicated video card. Overall, this is a great laptop that almost everyone should take a hard look at when considering to purchase a laptop.
- Spectacular, bright screen at 1440×900
- Good build quality
- Perfect positioning of a variety of ports
- Great performance
- Useful utility programs
- Useful features such as smart logon with webcam and fingerprint reader
- Useful extras (bag, mouse, etc.)
- Excellent bang-for-the-buck
- Great audio output
- Dedicated Video Card with 1GB of VRAM
- Stays cool, regarding both temperature and looks
- Battery life is just mediocre capping out at about two and a half hours
- Glossy lid attracts fingerprints
- Glossy screen is not good for outdoor use