by Denis Birgenheir
The Asus S96S is a recently released notebook that uses the new Intel Centrino Duo platform (Core 2 Duo Santa Rosa). This notebook uses a 15.4” WXGA screen and is very customizable because of the barebones platform that it is usually offered in. This review is of a S96S branded as a “PowerPro A 9:6” (from Powernotebooks.com) covered under the PowerPro warranty.
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The review unit comes with the following specs:
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz Processor w/4MB L2 On-die cache – 800MHz FSB
- OS: Microsoft Windows Vista Business (32-bit)
- Hard Drive: 120GB SATA 3Gb/s Seagate Momentus 7200.2 Hard Drive at 7,200 RPM
- Screen: 15.4" WXGA Widescreen (1280 x 800)
- Graphics: nVIDIA GeForce 8600 GS w/256MB (Up to 1GB w/Turbocache)
- RAM: 2,048MB (2 SODIMMS) DDR2/667 Dual Channel Memory
- Optical Drive: Combo Dual Layer SuperMulti DVDRW/CDRW Drive
- Battery: Smart Li-ion Battery (6-Cell)
- Wireless: Built-in Intel PRO/Wireless 4965 802.11a/g/n
- Weight: 6.8lbs
- Dimensions:14.25" x 10.5" x 1.1~1.5"
- Ports/Slots: 4 USB 2.0 Ports; IEEE-1394 Firewire Port (VIA – 4 pin); VGA port: 15 pin DDC2b compliant; Mic – in and Headphone – out with S/PDIF ports; S-Video TV output; Kensington lock support; Built-in memory card reader: xD, Secure Digital (SD/MMC) & MS/MS Pro
- Webcam: Integrated 2.0 Megapixel Camera
- Warranty: PowerPro 3-year Warranty – Next Business Day Shipping Paid – Lifetime 24/7 Tech support
Reason for buying
When compared to the big name notebook manufacturers, Asus offers a generally better price and more specificity in choosing options. The other notebook I primarily compared this to before buying was the (not quite released yet) Compal IFL90. I chose the S96S over the Compal primarily because of the cheaper price and the current availability. I don’t do any gaming and the Asus is more than what I need for my basic internet surfing needs. I also compared this to the HP dv6000, but the Asus beat the HP hands-down due to better selection of higher end graphics cards and processors, and a much cheaper price without all of the HP preloaded junk.
Where and how purchased
I bought this notebook configured as listed from Powernotebooks.com. Total price was $1,420 including the 3 year warranty. I think this is a fantastic price for the configuration and the warranty support tops it all off and allows me to bypass the typical Asus VBI (Verified by Intel) build.
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Build and design
When I first saw pictures of the design online, I didn’t care too much for it. However, when actually having this thing in front of you, it looks much better and sleeker than the pictures. The silver and black combination looks nice and doesn’t give off any weird glare or attract fingerprints. The case is plastic but thick and appears to be pretty sturdy and solid. It fits on my lap well and feels like a quality build.
There are no “ripples” on my LCD screen and it is pretty resistant to twisting. The screen doesn’t wobble anymore than any other notebooks that I have used and appears to be pretty stable overall.
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The LCD screen is very bright (almost too bright) for everything that I have wanted to do and there are no dead pixels or leaks noticeable. My screen is a 1280 X 800 resolution, as this was the only choice for this computer. All in all, I am very happy with this resolution setting on this size of monitor as it keeps everything a manageable size to read when switching from program to program.
The built in speakers, are, well, built in notebook speakers. They are plenty loud and crisp when sitting in front of the notebook but don’t project very far if you are sitting several feet away. They are comparable to other notebook speakers that I have heard. If you want any bass however, you should consider using external speakers.
Processor and Performance
In my notebook I am using the new Intel Santa Rosa platform with a T7300 (2Ghz, 4MB cache, 800mhz FSB) paired with 2GB of dual channel DDR2 ram. Every program that I have used has booted up very quickly (including Vista itself, which is a beast to run). I’m not a gamer and rarely play graphics-intensive games. However, I did clock the different benchmarks to be discussed next. All of the basic office and internet related programs load up almost instantaneously for me.
Super Pi comparison results:
|Asus S96S (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||1m 01s|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 58s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||1m 01s|
|Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300)||0m 59s|
|HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100)||1m 09s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)||0m 59s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)||1m 03s|
|Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300)||1m 24s|
|Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 34s|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400)||0m 59s|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
3DMark06 comparison results:
|Asus S96S (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GS 256MB)||2,254 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 (1.66 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|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||794 3DMarks|
|Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU)||476 3DMarks|
The new Seagate Momentus 7200.2 hard drive also performed fantasticin HDTune! The avgerage transfer rate is 46.2MB/sec, access time is 13.9ms, and burst rate is 88.9MB/sec.
Heat and noise
As far as heat goes, the only place that tends to get warm after a few hours of heavy use is the right palm area. It hasn’t been enough to bother me, and is partly due to the speed of the hard drive (7200rpm) that I am using. After running HDtune, the temperature was 46 degrees Celsius.
The Asus is admirably quiet overall. The only component that makes noticeably noise is the optical drive, but only when burning a cd or dvd. I cannot hear any noise coming from the fans when I am sitting in front of the notebook.
Keyboard and touchpad
Overall, the keyboard and touchpad are very easy to use. I am pleased with the amount of function keys that are integrated into the keyboard and the touchpad scroll works very accurately.
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However, the keyboard does have a bit of sag noticeable during typing. It has not been a problem for my normal usage, but could be a point of complaint among others. It is possible to replace the keyboard with one from a different manufacturer if this is something that bothers the owner.
Input and output ports
I am very pleased with the amount of input and output ports on this notebook. The complete listing is:
- Four USB 2.0 Ports
- IEEE-1394 Firewire Port
- VGA out
- Microphone in and Headphone out
- S-Video TV output
- Kensington lock support
- Built-in memory card reader: xD, Secure Digital (SD/MMC) & MS/MS Pro.
Top view. (view large image)
Bottom view. (view large image)
Back view with DC jack, vent, and two USB ports. (view large image)
Left side view with lock slot and optical drive. (view large image)
Front view with latch, audio ports, and flash card reader. (view large image)
Right side view with Expresscard slot, firewire, two USB ports, S-video, VGA, PortBar IV, modem and Ethernet ports. (view large image)
Additionally, this notebook came with an available PortBar IV option (which is basically a docking hub for Asus computers) that I have not used as of yet.
In typical Asus fashion, the audio-out is located on the front of the notebook. This feature is great for using headphones but somewhat awkward for connecting external speakers.
My notebook came with a built in Intel PRO/Wireless 4965 802.11a/g/n card. This card has worked fantastic for my home and school networks so far and seems to have ample range. There is no Bluetooth available on this notebook, nor is there an infrared port (neither of which I have any real use for anyway).
The standard 6-cell battery delivers moderate battery life. I have normally obtained around 2.5hrs of life with constant typing and some music playing. The charge of the battery is about the same time (2.5hrs) for a full charge. An optional 9-cell battery is available for those wishing to gain a bit longer battery time. For my personal use, I normally have the notebook plugged in and the battery life has not been an issue.
Operating system and software
I decided to go with Windows Vista Business (32-bit) for my operating system. Although Vista does have its fair share of annoying quirks, I have been able to customize it to suit my needs. For example, I was able to turn off the incredibly annoying “User Account Control” that feels the need to ask me if I’m sure that I want to install something or change the location of a program. Vista Business has not crashed or demonstrated any problems yet. Additionally, I have not had any compatibility issues with Vista and older software or hardware yet. The manufacturer provided the OEM Vista Business disc along with all of the Asus drivers and program discs with the notebook.
As for included software, it is minimal. Aside from the Windows included software and computer drivers, the only software Asus included was “ChkMail” – a program that makes a little light on the front of my computer when I have new email (I have turned it off), “Nero Essentials” – a CD/DVD burning program, and software to go with the built-in 2.0MP camera. I have not had any problems with any of this software, and it has been very nice not to have to delete a million trial versions of different programs.
Although I have not had to use the customer support from Powernotebooks.com, I cannot imagine that it would be anything less than fantastic based on the experience in dealing with the sales department. The notebook (because it is technically branded as a PowerPro A 9:6) comes with a 3-year, both ways shipping paid, PowerPro warranty. Technical support is provided by phone for the life of the notebook, and this was all included in the price.
Overall, I am very pleased with this notebook and would definitely recommend it to someone else in the market for a new notebook. I would suggest this is a good notebook for someone wanting new and top of the line technology, but doesn’t do intense gaming.
- Good price for the given technology
- nice graphics card
- great warranty
- solid build overall
- WXGA is the only monitor resolution offered
- keyboard is a bit flexible