Asus M9V Review (pics, specs)

by deopee Reads (27,208)

Overview and Intro

The Asus M9V is a recent release into the marketplace, billed as an all-in-one at just under 2Kg (4.33lbs) it also fits into the thin and light category and presumably targeted at mobile business people.

The Asus M9v(750DD) (view larger image)

  • Intel Pentium M Centrino 750 1.86 GHz 533FSB
  • ATI x600se (m24) graphics (256MB DDR SDRAM) PCI Express
  • 14.1″ V-cut TFT XGA screen (non-glossy/xbrite/colorshine)
  • 1GB 400/533MHz DDR2 memory
  • 80GB 5400rpm (Hitachi) hard drive
  • Matshita UJ-841s DVD Super-Multi optical drive
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG – 802.11 b,g WiFi
  • 6 cell battery, 4800mAh
  • Windows XP Home edition
  • 35k pixel webcam and microphone above the LCD display.
  • 1x IEEE 1394, 4x USB2.0, 1x headphone jack, 1x mic input, 1xRJ-11 modem jack, 1xRJ45 10/100 Ethernet, 1x PCMCIA type 2, 1x memory card slot for SD, MMC, MS, MS pro,1x S-Video out, Bluetooth v2.0
  • size: 31 x 25.5 x 2.2 (min) centimeters
  • 1.97 Kg (4.33lbs) weight, Two Year Asus Global Warranty
Reasons for Buying

I’ve been without a computer for quite a while, having retired the good ol’desktop to my sister as it was getting too slow for my purposes. I thought of buying my first laptop so I wouldn’t be chained to a desk and so began looking for a good unit. I never thought that looking would take the better part of a year. Technology these days seem to run at a breakneck pace, just reading about what notebook to get and then knowing what’s going to be available in six months time causes one to pause for a while before spending a lot of money at the computer store, but soon enough a notebook comes out that finally made me want to buy.

I wanted a notebook to serve as my primary machine for a lot of document scanning/editing, web surfing, a little photo editing, and the ocassional gaming. I wanted it to be very lightweight as I don’t have a Terminator physique, a medium sized screen (even a non-widescreen would do), and respectable battery life. I looked at every manufacturer’s (locally available) offering – HP nc6230, Compaq V2000, Toshiba M50, Acer Travelmate 3212/Aspire 5502, Asus W3 and some of the lesser known names for a long time and there’s always something about a particular feature of a notebook that I didn’t like that kept me from buying. However in mid-to-late October 2005, Asus unleashed the M9V and the W6 and the two of them caught my eye, I heard about the W6 about a month before but the other model was a bit of an unknown.

I compared both of their features alongside an available Asus W3V (which had attracted my attention since its release) within my price range, a summary of their features, as spec’d, looked like this…


M9V
W3V
W6
CPU  1.86GHz 1.73GHz 1.73GHz
HDD 80/5400 60/4200 80/5400
GPU x600se x600 915gm
Weight 1.97kg 2.5kg 1.6kg
Optical  multi dual multi
LCD
normal wide wide

I really liked them all but I had to choose only one – the W3V, tried and tested but was getting to be quite mature, while the W6 was a wee bit underpowered without a dedicated gpu and costs a premium, so I decided the M9V would suit me better than the other two AND anything else out there.

Where Purchased:

I bought my notebook at a retail shop in Taipei for around $1265, upgrading the RAM by another 512MB, later I thought I should’ve gone instead for 1GB. The entire package includes bag, AC adaptor, optical mouse, S-video cable, LCD cleaning cloth, software CDs, driver CDs, XP recovery CDs which I exchanged for an English version, but no standalone full XP CD (unlike what I read of other Asus reviews) perhaps their policy in Taiwan is different from everywhere else.

Stuff included in the box (view larger)

Build Quality & Design

Seems like build-quality is getting to be a well-known Asus trademark, and that’s what I was drawn to as well. The M9V is housed in a silver gray casing with silver trim all-around, chassis material seems similar to the W3 without the brushed aluminum lid. Indicator lights are all blue which seems to be the rage these days with the exception of the battery charge indicator which is orange. There is little to no discernible flexing, no creaking anywhere around the chassis, pushing on the back of the LCD doesn’t give the rippling colors seen on other notebooks. Asus seems to have eschewed the fashionable hinge and power button styling used on the W3, instead they used a more traditional looking hinge. Initially I had a little difficulty opening the lid, my finger couldn’t push the little button that releases the latch and at the same time insert it in between so as to lift the lid up, but I’m getting the hang of it.

View from the top, (view larger image)


…from the bottom (view larger image),


…the front, (view larger image)

…left side, (view larger image)

…and the right. Note the battery in the picture is AAA size (view larger image)

One thing I really liked about the M9V is how ridiculously light it is compared to other 14″ notebooks both widescreens and not. The Asus brochure mentions its fighting weight as 1.97kg while the W3V is 2.2-2.5kg, sure it’s just a small difference. But it seemed like a huge difference when actually lifting the units. When I felt the strain of grabbing and lifting a W3V one-handed from the lower right corner I knew then I was going for this notebook. I think the only notebooks that are lighter are those without optical drives built-in or the expensive Sonys, Toshibas of the past and present.

Much is written and debated about the w3′s heat. On a return visit to other shops I touched a lot of notebooks (usually most were idling) and it seems Asus’ are warmer than other brands, it might be the material they use on their notebooks or component placement. On the M9V the right palm rest area gets very warm – on AC power, on battery power it’s much less. As I was on AC power most times and using the included mouse so I didn’t mind except when typing. Also it only seems like that since I took the notebook to a tropical country, back in cooler climes (20degrees Celsius) it is not so bothersome. Nevertheless heat starts to the right of the touchpad under the ALT key up to the rightside CTRL key and disappears under the arrow keys. Either the heat is coming from the processor or the x600, a look underneath the machine reveals nothing in the vicinity except the memory slot, the heatpipes for the cpu are a couple of centimeters higher up. As Asus bundles a utility called Asus Probe, I checked out the cpu temperature after about an hour of use in battery mode: 43C with a fan speed of 2200rpm which remained constant till I had to shut it down when the battery low warning came up. When plugged into a power outlet, cpu temperature goes up to 48C, fan spins at 2500rpm. Hard drive temperature ranges from 36-38C after around two hours of moderate action. In use, the M9V is very quiet with the only audible noise coming from the DVD-super multi drive when it is spinning.

Keyboard & Touchpad

(view larger image)

(view larger image)

I once saw someone typing on a widescreen Compaq and the LCD was flopping back-and-forth, nothing like that on my M9V. Keyboard is very good, has nice travel, one feels his keypresses really registered. No flexing in the middle, minor flex around E,S,D,[,],=,keys. The Fn and CTRL keys take a bit getting used to, and the Insert, Delete keys seem too far away. Above the keyboard are buttons for power management, bluetooth and wi-fi, and a touchpad disable/enable which seems useless, a rather small square power button is on the right. There are extra buttons flush along the front of the unit for OS-less CD playing. Touch-pad looks great works good, though I still prefer plugging in the included mouse when sitting at a table.

Screen

(view larger image)

Surprise! the M9V doesn’t have a Colorshine/XBrite/glossy screen. I originally thought it was – until the salesguy got it out of the box (on display, it was wrapped in plastic, in other shops I never noticed that it was just matte). Months before I was looking for a non-glossy screened notebook with a GPU, not finding one I thought manufacturers would never come out with one so I gradually accepted that glossy screens would rule the world but Asus comes out with this. Perhaps a glossy M9V would come out later but I like what I have now. The salesguy did mention that there was a sort of film that could be placed on the screen to get the colorshine look. The Asus website mentions that the LCD is made with “V-cut” technology which has the benefit of being lightweight, thinner and brighter (but no indication of nits).

The other thing is that this notebook is not widescreen, sure, widescreens are nice but not entirely necessary for me. The screen is evenly illuminated all the way to the corners, good horizontal viewing angles, not much vertically, when tested with Dead Pixel buddy no dead pixels were seen.

(view larger image)

There’s a webcam and a microphone above the LCD, but this seems to be more of a novelty to me. I don’t use it at all, though it might come in handy someday.

Speakers

The speakers are the above the keyboard and as with most notebooks – minuscule bass. DVD playback volume on the low side When I played an old ‘Saving Private Ryan’ DVD I didn’t hear much of anything until the beach scene came up and even then it was kind of weak, however a more recent DVD – ‘City of Angels’ played well with good volume even in headphones (which I used most times). The no-boot up CD playing could reach high volume.

Processor and performance

When I saw how this notebook opens windows in the shops against a W3V I was wowed, though I later saw a W3V puff-puffing fast enough to match. Still now in my hands its 1.86GHz P-M is powerful along with the 1GB of RAM.  Reaches the Windows desktop in 52 secs, shutsdown in 14secs. With two explorer windows, a download manager, notepad, 3 IE windows, Paintshop Pro and media player working at the same time. Then while downloading something off the net and playing mp3s, I ran PCMark04, yes, I shouldn’t have done that but the M9V went on and on. With the Task manager open, I watched as CPU utilization jumped 100%, all the while the downloading and music went on without jumps. The hard drive is a spacious Hitachi 80GB/5400rpm, HDTune benchmark result…



Of the GPU: the x600se is definitely weaker than an x700 of other machines but I’m not bothered by it since I’m not a hardcore gamer, but it is nice to know that if I do play on this notebook, it won’t result in a slideshow. So to test, I loaded up a few game demos – Brothers in Arms and Codename:Panzers and this machine handled them quite well. Unfortunately when I bought the retail version of Codename: Panzers Phase One it would install but not run and I felt disappointed, so far going online and looking for a solution has left me blank. I hope the copy-protection of the game has nothing against the DVD Super-multi. I left the CDs and I went traveling.

Benchmarks

Below are the results gained from running Super Pi, a program that forces the laptop’s processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:

Notebook Time
Asus M9V (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 40s
 Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 41s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s

Below are the results gained from running PCMark04 and 3DMark05 on the Asus M9V:

Futuremark PCMark04 Score Overall: 3730 (but still reached 3083 with other apps running)
  Asus M9V (1.86GHz, ATI X600SE 128MB graphics)
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 3.376 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 27.791 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 24.235 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 10.994 MPixels/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 1692.574 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 2.92 KB/s
 File Decryption 55.608 MB/s
 Audio Conversion 2544.134 KB/s
 Web Page Rendering 5.576 Pages/s
 DivX Video Compression 52.117 FPS
 Physics Calculation and 3D 177.898 FPS
 Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 1485.29 FPS
Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores
3DMark Score 1392 3DMarks
CPU Score 3547 CPUMarks
GT1 – Return To Proxycon 6.8 FPS
GT2 – Firefly Forest 3.4 FPS
GT3 – Canyon Flight 7.6 FPS
CPU Test 1 1.8 FPS
CPU Test 2 3.0 FPS


For the older 3DMarks03 overall score: 3194

I/O ports

Ports galore on the right: PCMCIA slot (non-ExpressCard), memory card slot below it, headphone jack, microphone, FireWire, 3 USB ports.

On the left is the S-Video out, Ethernet, modem, a USB port and the DVD super-multi drive.

The front is near to being bare: just the CD switch which is used when one wants to listen to music without booting up the notebook (however, you still have to open the LCD lid to make it work).

The back from left-to-right: Kensington lock, battery, power jack.

The USB port supplies enough power to an external hdd, headphone jack works, the no-bootup CD playing ability works, and the modem works after a little cajoling with the server at the ISP end.

Strangely, the Asus brochure describes the M9V as having a parallel printer port, but there’s no such port anywhere on the notebook, no replicator port either. The snafu continues to the third edition of the brochure.

There’s no serial, IR, Gigabit Ethernet, DVI, ExpressCard.

Wireless

As this is a Centrino based notebook it’s Intel inside all the way, however I did bump into a problem which I thought was just a weak signal but Googling it directed me to the notebookreview forums with this topic (and others on the Web). To describe my experience: connecting to a 802.11b network, speed is initially 11Mbps but slows down to 1Mbps, drop-outs, time-outs plus other idiosyncrasies weighed my patience down. Updating the drivers caused me to connect at 11Mbps but no data transfer occurs. Had to roll-back the driver, but this didn’t help. Ended up doing a system restore and waiting a day for the gremlins to leave. Since this ‘issue’ is so widespread I’m holding out calling Asus, and waiting for Intel to improve their drivers. For the meantime if I’m just going online for a few minutes then I’ll use the built-in wireless, for longer sessions I bought a cheap PCMCIA card which works much, much better.

There’s also Bluetooth, but I’ve yet to use it. I’m thinking of getting a Bluetooth mouse but the only one available doesn’t have any other features except a scroll wheel. So few mice using this technology.

Battery

While I have high hopes for a long battery life, but with specs like this and with a 6 cell 4800mAh battery, its bound not to go beyond 3.5hrs. What I’ve observed so far…

  • 2 hours surfing and downloading dozens of files with a WLAN PCMCIA card nothing else connected,
  • Just typing this review, having a USB external drive and LED light connected I have so far lasted 2:15
  • 2:40 just typing and surfing with the built-in wireless in the most battery-saving mode possible.

I’ve done no optimizations like undervolting on this notebook yet. Meanwhile there’s a small screw on the underside which I think holds the optical drive in place, perhaps in the future Asus would offer a battery which could be swapped into that drive bay like on their other notebooks.

OS and software

When first turned on, the only installed software on the M9V was Acrobat reader 7 and Norton’s Internet security (later removed). On CDs were Nero v6.6.0.15, AsusDVD player and the yet-to-be installed Cyberlink MediaShow (for slideshows and presentations).

As noted earlier, the notebook only came with XP recovery CDs, not the standalone full OS CD. However a little exploring later revealed that one can make a sort of one’s own recovery CD from what’s installed but with so little junk included this is unnecessary.

Customer Support, Warranty

Standard global warranty 24 months. Salesguy at the shop managed to exchange the Chinese WinXP to English, however the M9V is so new the user’s manual hasn’t been translated to English and neither Asus’ website has one for download. I was told to wait for 2 weeks, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the buttons and connectors do since I’ve used computers before, I did download and perused a W3V manual later on to get a grip on the other things I didn’t understand yet.

Cons

  • Heat while on AC power
  • ‘wireless issue’
  • somewhat weak battery life

Pros

  • Fast
  • light weight
  • good-looking.

Conclusion

A very good notebook, I was a bit hesitant to go out and buy it just a couple of weeks after its introduction as I’m not exactly an early adopter kind of person (preferring to wait until production kinks were worked out), unfortunately the wireless is still a ‘kink’ although I’m not alone on this one. Anyway I decided to jump on in and buy this as I’ve been waiting for too long. I’m pretty much satisfied with the choice and enjoying it.


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