Asus V6Va Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (47,665)

by Zamil Akhtar

Right out of the box, the Asus V6Va (view larger image)

Introduction

The V6Va is a midrange laptop from Asus, part of their Ensemble line, which is designed with the happy medium in mind. Midrange laptops attempt to combine much of the functionality and power of a desktop in a chassis with a form factor and weight small enough to be fully portable.

As far as this category is concerned, Asus has succeeded; the V6Va is a sleek, highly portable machine refined with ultra-good looks and chalk full of computing power; it also has the most amazing display I have ever seen. This is not the laptop for those on the ends of the spectrum, either looking for extreme portability or extreme power. This is a machine optimal for the student or business man who needs a computer to carry around that can run for long hours, play games well and handle consuming computer tasks.

However, it is not without its imperfections. My unit has some uncomfortable heat issues. The keyboard and track-pad can also be somewhat difficult to use. The V6Va also skimps on some features for the sake of portability, as it is without the widescreen display, removable optical bay and S-video port that its less expensive brother the Z70Va has.

Reason for Buying

I bought this machine to replace my three year old desktop; I wanted something that would be able to meet all my computing needs in one package and last me for around four years. Besides surfing the net and playing games, I also edit movies from time to time which means I needed something powerful. I opted to fully load the system as much as I reasonably good, with a budget of around $3000. Other than normal use in my house, I plan to travel with this quite a lot and also carry it around from class to class when I start university. At first I inclined to purchase the Asus Z70Va, and in fact placed an order for it which I only canceled because the vendor I had purchase it from was out of the hard drive I wanted. Instead of re-ordering the Z70Va from another vendor, I changed my mind and purchased this machine despite loss of several features, mainly for the amazing display, refined looks and added portability.

Asus V6Va fully connected on my desk (view larger image)

Specifications

The Asus Ensemble line is not customizable from most vendors, and to customize the machine will void the Asus warranty. However, there are certain vendors which allow customization and will provide their own warranty in place of the Asus warranty. I purchased my system from AGearNotebooks, and I know of at least one other vendor, StarTech, that also allows customization.

My Specs

These are the specs of my customized unit from Agearnotebooks.com

  • 15.1 Inch SXGA+ (1400×1050) Display with Color Shine (Glossy Display), Crystal Shine (Added-Brightness) and IPS (Extended Viewing Angles)
  • Pentium M 770 (2.13 GHZ, 2MB L2 Cache, 533 MHZ Front Side Bus)
  • ATI Radeon Mobility x700 w/ 128 MB VRAM
  • 2048 MB  DDR2-533 RAM
  • 100 GB 7200 RPM HD
  • Super Slim 4x Super Multi DVD Burner
  • Built in Wireless Card (Intel Pro Wireless 2915 Tri-mode 802.11 A/B/G)
  • Built in Bluetooth
  • Windows XP Pro w/SP2
  • Two Year AgearNotebooks Warranty with 24/7 Lifetime Tech support
  • $2720

Standard Specs
These are the specs of the unit without any configuration.

  • 15.1 Inch SXGA+ (1400×1050) Display with Color Shine (Glossy Display), Crystal Shine (Added-Brightness) and POSSIBLY IPS (Extended Viewing Angles)
  • Pentium M 750 (1.86 GHZ, 2MB L2 Cache, 533 MHZ Front Side Bus)
  • ATI Radeon Mobility x700 w/ 128 MB VRAM
  • 1024 (2x 512) MB DDR2-533 RAM
  • 100 GB 4200 RPM HD
  • Super Slim 4x Super Multi DVD Burner
  • Built in Wireless Card (Intel Pro Wireless 2915 Tri-mode 802.11 A/B/G)
  • Built in Bluetooth
  • Windows XP Pro w/SP2
  • Two Year Asus Warranty with No Dead Pixel Policy
  • $1999


 
V6Va — unrivaled aesthetics coupled with massive computing power (view larger image)

Ports

My biggest complaint with the ports on this machine is the lack of S-Video. However, one can still connect this system to a TV using a VGA to S-video/composite converter, though this necessitates a separate purchase. Another complaint is the use of 4 pin instead of 6 pin Firewire, though all laptops seems to do this. The ports are also awkwardly placed. This unit also lacks a parallel port for those who want to connect their ancient printers.

  • 4 USB 2.0 Ports (right)
  • 1 Ethernet Port (right)
  • 1 Modem Port (right)
  • 1 S/PDIF Headphone jack (right)
  • 1 Microphone Jack (right)
  • 1 4 in 1 Multi Card Reader
  • 1 PCMCIA Card slot (left)
  • 1 IEEE 1394 (Firewire aka iLink) 4 pin Port (left)
  • 1 VGA out Port (left)
  • 1 Infrared port (left)

Asus V6Va, right side – seemingly random port placement (view larger image)

Asus V6Va, left side – notice the awesome hinge design (view larger image)

Back of the V6Va, no ports due to the hinge (view larger image)

V6Va next to a 12 inch Apple Powerbook G4 (view larger image)

Build and Design

  • Dimensions: 13″ (length) x 10.7″ (width) x 1.18″ (height)
  • Weight: 5.49 lbs (with battery)

The Asus V6Va is identical to the Asus V6V in terms of external design. The V6V received many awards due to its eye catching design which this machine mimics.

From a technical standpoint, the build is excellent. The hinges are perfectly sturdy and the display is well protected, no ripples were produced after hitting the cover. The poly carbon fiber material on the lid is very durable and light, as well as scratch resistant. There are no scratches on my machine after over a week of ownership. The magnetic latch design is excellent; the lid opens easily and stays closed when shut.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the V6Va is breathtaking. Asus really worked hard to make this machine appealing to the eye; everything from the brushed aluminum to the blue LED lights scream style. The hinge design, where the bottom of the display rests behind the laptop, adds to the aesthetic appeal. This laptop is even better looking than the Sony and Apple laptops that I have used. When the lid is closed, the V6Va looks very business like; when it is opened, it has a very sleek, futuristic yet simple look.

From a practical perspective, the design does have some flaws. It is a little bit uncomfortable to use in the lap (always keep a surface between the laptop and your lap!) and when resting one’s palms on the aluminum surface. Using the track-pad can also be somewhat uncomfortable. There is a strip of metal that separates the bottom plastic encasing and the aluminum portion which causes some discomfort to the wrists when typing.

Overall, the minor gripes don’t detract from the sheer excellence of this design. It’s no surprise that Asus has picked up many design awards for this notebook.

Breathtaking V6Va display featuring the foliage (view larger image)

Display

The first time I looked upon the display on my Asus V6Va, my jaw dropped to the floor. Hands down, the display on this unit is the best I have ever seen bar none. I am used to working with matte displays mostly, though I have experienced glossy on my father’s VAIO. This display puts all of them to shame.

The V6Va display combines all of the strong points of a glossy display without the gripes. I have no problem staring at this display for hours as it does not reflect much light, while I can still enjoy immensely vivid colors and brightness. The display on my unit is built on IPS technology, which means much greater viewing angles; around 160 degrees vertical and 170 horizontal. According to some information that I received, this display is in very limited stock and the next batch of V6Va units will come without IPS.

The display is the strongest selling point of this unit because it greatly enhances the satisfaction of using this laptop. Games and video look very sharp and crisp. My background picture of the New England foliage looks almost as good as when I experienced it in reality with my two eyes in the fall.

Speakers

The speakers on this unit perform solidly. The max volume level is pretty good, and overall the acoustics are above average for a laptop. The speakers are at the edge of the unit near the track-pad, which helps make the sound more immersive though you will end up covering them a bit when you use the track-pad. They are nothing to blow one away though, I will still connect my external speakers when I am at home and probably opt for headphones on the go.

The V6Va display smokes my 17 inch monitor! (view larger image with comparison to 17″ external display)

Performance

Another strong area for the V6Va is performance. The Sonoma Pentium M processor should be able to handle every task sufficiently and the ATI Radeon Mobility x700 should be able to play most games very well. I tested Dawn of War: Winter Assault on this unit with the highest settings on, and had absolutely no problems other than a lot of heat. I am sure this machine will be great for video editing and photo-shopping. The start up time is very fast, faster than my desktop 2.8 GHZ P4. Looking at the specs sheet, with such a fast processor, fast hard drive, tons of RAM and a good GPU this machine should be able to handle all tasks very well for at least a few years.

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 (this test was run on Super Performance mode while plugged in).

Notebook Time
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M)  1m 31s
 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

3DMark05: 2530
CPU Score: 3749
PCMark04: 4159

HD Tune Results (Test run with HD acoustic settings set to low (128))

HDTune: Measures hard disk performance  
 Min Transfer Rate  14.7 mb/sec
 Max Transfer Rate  53.2 mb/sec
 Access Time  15.9 ms
 Burst Rate  78.9 mb/sec
 CPU Usage  5.5%
 Average Transfer  41.2 mb/sec

Keyboard and Touchpad

V6Va keyboard layout and touch-pad – the attractive brushed aluminum gets too hot (view larger image)

The keyboard on this unit is very good, though not as nice as the one on my Powerbook G4. There is no flex at all, and the keys register very well. The problem though is that typing can be uncomfortable due to the metal strip on the case.

The track-pad is only mediocre. Though I like the design, it is not the most sensitive track-pad nor is it very comfortable to use. If only the buttons were as nice to use as they are to look at. The metal strip also causes some discomfort when using the track-pad.

Heat and Noise

Heat is the biggest problem with this machine, though thankfully there is software out there to remedy this. Initially the CPU, hard drive and aluminum chassis on my unit would become uncomfortably hot. Before I used Notebook Hardware Control, on Email/Office mode, the CPU temperature was around 55C; on High Performance mode (which is the default when plugged in), the CPU temperature rose to around 65C. During gaming, the CPU temperature would rise to a whooping 80C. After undervolting the unit using Notebook Hardware Control, I managed to shave off about 10 degrees for each category I listed above which has reduced the heat to satisfactory levels.

The V6Va only has two bottom air vents and one side air vent, half the amount of vents as the Z70Va. Because part of the chassis is aluminum, it can become uncomfortably warm at times. The heat on the right palm rest can make typing uncomfortable, which adds to the discomfort already caused by the design. It seems when Asus tried to make this machine a champion in aesthetics, portability and power, they skimped a bit on practicality.

The fan noise is not such a bother until the CPU temperature rises to about 66C, when it becomes pretty loud. Between 50C and 65C, the fan noise is audible though nothing bothersome. Under 50C, the machine is very quiet.

After I combined the partitions on my hard drive, the hard drive on my unit made a loud and almost constant ticking noise which was very annoying until I adjusted the acoustic settings (this can be done using Notebook Hardware Control). The ticking noise is still audible but it’s low and not so aggravating. I fear the hard drive may die soon, but that is not the fault of Asus rather it is the fault of Hitachi.

The bottom of the V6V – only two small vents. Notice the handy business card slot (view larger image)

Battery

The battery life on this unit is stellar, around 3 and a half hours on Email/Office mode which can be increased by undervolting. The power brick is pretty small compared to some of the other bricks I have seen. There is no removable optical bay with which one could add a second battery, which is unfortunate.

Wireless and Bluetooth

A built in Intel Wireless card and built in Bluetooth come standard on this model. The wireless card has good range though it needs to reconnect every time you wake up from standby. I tried the Bluetooth module with my Bluetooth mouse and it functions well.

Operating System and Software

This machine comes standard with Windows XP Pro, which I am very happy with. The extra software that comes in the package is rather useful. You get the Nero StartSmart Suite, MediaShow (a power-point like app), Cyberlink Power Director for video editing, and Asus DVD.

Some of the pre installed apps include Norton Internet Security, Asus Power4Gear and Asus Probe. 

Customer Support

I have heard good things about the Asus Global warranty which is for non-customized units. As for AGearNotebooks, I have had a good experience with their sales representatives on the phone thus far. I haven’t had any technical problems with my machine, so I haven’t been able to test out their technical support.


 
Another glamour shot of the V6Va (view larger image)

Pros

  • Best Display I have ever seen; vivid, crisp, great viewing angles
  • Best aesthetics of any laptop in its class
  • Light, thin, slender
  • Great performance features
  • Stellar battery life

Cons

  • Heat on the bottom and on the palm rest can be uncomfortable
  • Discomfort when using keyboard and track-pad
  • No S-Video port
  • No removable optical bay

Conclusion

I would recommend this notebook for those who truly want the extra portability, good looks and a brilliant glossy display. The heat on this notebook can be a cause for discomfort, but other than that this notebook is a top notch product. A better option for those who want a widescreen and some more features, who don’t mind a bigger form factor, would be the Asus Z70Va. If you are going to be doing heavy duty typing I would recommend that you avoid the V6Va and get an IBM Thinkpad.

The Bottom Line: The Asus V6Va is king in performance, portability and aesthetics though it has made some concessions in practicality and features to achieve this.



V6Va, lid closed — makes it look like a business notebook (view larger image)

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