Asus Z70A Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (12,471)

by Darnell Usher, Massachusetts USA

Overview and Introduction:

Asus Z70A notebook (view larger image)

Outside the world of techno-geeks who praise the Taiwan based ASUS brand for producing the world’s best mother boards, ASUS has achieved a certain level of notoriety with their new line of notebook computers.  In both the lower and upper price range of their notebook offerings, ASUS gives consumers a choice of numerous hardware options wrapped in high end plastics and/or Carbon fiber chassis.  The ASUS Z70A lies somewhere in the middle of the ASUS notebook line and can thus be called an addition to the crowded mainstream/desktop replacement notebook market.   Unlike mainstream notebooks offered by Dell, Sony, and Toshiba, the ASUS Z70A and its sister model the ASUS Z70V which uses a dedicated graphics card whereas the Z70A only has shared memory stand out from the rest of the pack in aesthetics, build quality, features, price, and reliability.  My ASUS Z70A on which this review is based is equipped with the following:

  • 1.6 GHz Intel Pentium M Processor with Centrino Mobile Technology
  • 512mb DDR2 RAM
  • Built in Intel/Pro 2915 mini-PCI 802.11a+b+g Wireless LAN
  • Built in 56k V.90 Fax/Modem — Smartlink
  • 8xDVD Dual Burner: 8x1x8 DVD(+/-) R/RW/   16x10x24 CD-RW w/ software
  • Built in BroadCom Ethernet 10/100/1000BaseT Network
  • Chipset: Intel 915GM + ICH4-M
  • 4-in-1 Flash Memory Card reader. (Secure Digital, MMC, Memory Stick & MS PRO)
  • Ports:  1 x VGA Port/Mni D-sub 15-pin for External Monitor, 4 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x EPP/ECP Parallel Port/D-sub 25pin, 1 x TV Out (S-video composite/component TV Out), 1 x IEEE1394 B Type Jack, 2 Audio Jacks : Mic In and SDPIF Speaker Out
    1 x LAN RJ-45, 1 x RJ-11, 1 x Infrared Ports Support IrDA, 1 x PortBar III 68-pin connector
  • 15.4″ WXGA (1280×800) TFT Active Matrix Color
  • Intel 915GM chipset with up to 128MB shared Memory
  • 60GB 5400rpm Seagate Hard Drive
  • Windows XP Professional
  • Size: 13.9″ x 10.9″ x 0.86″~ 1.34″ (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 5.6 lbs
  • Price:  $1168.00

Reasons for Buying:

I had been searching for the perfect widescreen notebook for about six months.  I desired something that fell somewhere between a high performance mainstream notebook and a desktop replacement.  My requirements were:   Intel Pentium M Processor with Centrino Mobile Technology, 15.4 inch wide screen, and a 60 GB 5400rpm hard drive.  About half way into my search I was able to narrow my list to just two choices:  the Sony Vaio FS-640 and the Toshiba M45-S265.  On numerous occasions about four times on EBay and twice in both Circuit City and Best Buy I came within seconds of purchasing either the Toshiba or the Sony.  On each occasion however, my gut feeling ultimately swayed me from signing the dotted line on either notebook.  Both the Toshiba and the Sony met or exceeded my requirements and expectations.  However, they both contained serious flaws that in the end removed them from my short list. 

The Toshiba M45-S265 is an exceptional notebook with its unusually large for-this-price-range hard drive, bright screen, and relatively bargain basement price.  However the Toshiba M45 suffers from extensive use of cheap over lustrous plastics and shoddy build quality.  Just one tap on the lid causes the LCD screen to go into kaleidoscope mode and there’s about a good half an inch of indentation when pressure is applied on the key board.  

The Sony Vaio FS-640 follows in the Sony tradition of exceptional build quality and design.  In keeping with the Sony tradition however, the Vaio FS-640 is grossly over priced at $1500.  For example, the Vaio only supports up to 1 GB of the old DDR RAM and comes from the factory with both memory slots occupied by 256 Mb memory sticks.  Moreover, part of that $1500 covers the cost of all the junk software that is pre-installed that slows the computer down.  Need I mention Sony’s reputation for the poorest technical support in the industry?

Sometime in late July, I stumbled across the ASUS Z70A/Z70V.  Both notebooks are nearly identical save for the Z70V superior resolution and 64 Mb dedicated graphics card.  Since I’m going to college (Go Eph’s) and plan on studying rather than playing games, I decided to take a pass on the dedicated graphics card of the Z70V and instead purchase the Z70A.  At any rate, my Sony PS2 satisfies all my gaming needs at the present.

Buying Experience:

You cannot purchase a notebook directly from the ASUS website.  Instead you must make your purchase via an ASUS authorized dealer.  From my buying experience alone, I found that purchasing through a dealer allows for a much easier and personal buying experience.  It can also allow for a cheaper one.  Not only can you compare prices from each dealer, you can also opt not to buy one of their components and purchase your own.  For example, I chose to purchase the memory and hard drive separately and saved over $100.00. Out of the many authorized dealers in the U.S.  I purchased my notebook from isntc.com.  They answered all of my questions in a timely manner and packaged my notebook very securely.  Moreover, the CPU and internal wireless card were installed for free.  I paid $1038.00 for the chassis and CPU and another $130.00 for the memory and hard drive.   

Build & Design:

The design of the ASUS Z70A is very comparable to that of a last generation BMW.  In case your not familiar with the Bavarian manufacturer, the last generation BMW’s are world renown for their sleek, understated, yet purposeful exteriors.  Very business like if you will.  The ASUS Z70A is no different.  The chassis is made up of dark gray colored carbon fiber:  a light weight but extremely strong material that often makes up the exterior body panels of many super cars like the Ferrari Enzo.  The carbon fiber chassis makes this notebook tremendously sturdy.  Pushing on the LCD screen produces no ripples, the frame is very difficult to twist, and picking up the notebook with one hand produces no creeks or squeaking.  Fit and finish is beyond reproach.  And then there are the details.  Real brushed aluminum can be found on both the touch pad and power button that provide some real eye candy and are pleasing to the touch.  The integration of the touchpad buttons into the chassis is a very unique and clever feature.   Reminiscent to subtle C-pillar kink of the BMW 5-Series that gives a somewhat sizable car a sylphlike appearance, the design details of the ASUS Z70A perform tricks of every sort to hide this notebooks size and weight that together suggest a slimmer, lighter, yet wide notebook.  For example, a thin strip of silver colored plastic breaks up the base of the notebook into two halves.   Then the leading edges of the upper part of the base are extended beyond the lower half by a few centimeters resulting in a rather thin profile. 

Asus Z70A left side view (view larger image)

Asus Z70A right side view (view larger image)

Asus Z70A back side view (view larger image)

Asus Z70A above view (view larger image)

Screen:

Like most mainstream/desktop replacement notebooks, the ASUS Z70 is equipped with a wide screen WXGA 1200×800 15.4″ screen.  I have absolutely no dead pixels or any light leakage.  Unlike most mainstream/desktop replacement however, the screen is a matte finish rather than glossy finish featured on Toshiba, Dell, HP, Sony, and others.  Bucking the current trend in favor of a matte screen at first seemed odd.  However this screen is in a class of its own.  Not only is the screen very bright and lacks glare, it is also easy on the eyes that is hours of viewing will not result in headaches or irritations. 

Speakers:

The four speakers found on the ASUS Z70A are a rare oddity in this price range.  Don’t be fooled however.  The sound the speakers produce is only above average.  At mid to upper ranges the sound emitted from the speakers gets increasingly distorted.  Granted, I was overall pleased with the sound quality.  Nevertheless, I suggest that if you’re into playing numerous games or an avid music listener to go ahead and purchase a set of external speakers or head phones.

Processor and Performance:

My particular ASUS Z70A is equipped with a 1.6 GHz Intel Pentium M Processor with Centrino Mobile Technology.  Although the processor is on the lower end of the Pentium M Processor range, this notebook is in no way a slouch.  No task that I have yet preformed has caused the notebook to become hung up or reboot.  As of right now, my notebook is equipped with 512 Mb of DDR2 RAM that is upgradeable to 2.0 Mb.  The 60 GB hard drive exhibits spectacular performance while remaining relatively silent.  The fans too are generally quiet but become exceptionally loud at about 50-51 degrees Celsius.

Benchmarks:

Below are the results for calculating Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy using the program Super Pi.

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)
1m 45s
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
Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M) 1m 57s
HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz) 1m 53s
Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m

Below are the results gained from running the HDTune benchmark program on the Asus Z70A:

Keyboard and Touchpad:

In keeping with is superb build quality, there is relatively no flex in the keyboard.  I used the word relatively because there is a slight amount of flex in upper right hand corner.  However since the keys in the upper right hand corner are seldom used, I’m not really bothered by it.  The touch pad is somewhat large and includes both vertical and horizontal scroll functions.  In my opinion, the overall size of the touchpad coupled with its responsiveness omits the need for mouse.

Input Output Ports:

ASUS chose to equip the Z70A with four 2.0 USB ports; two on the left and two on the rear.  This chosen setup is very ideal and the most practical.  In addition, there is a 4-in-1 flash memory card reader, a TV out port, a parallel port for printers, and numerous others ports located on the left and rear of the notebook.

Wireless:

As a $40.00 option, my notebook comes equipped with an internal Intel 802.11a+b+g wireless card.  Unfortunately, I do not have a wireless router and the nearest signal is private so I can’t commit on its capabilities.

Battery:

One of the strongest selling points of this notebook is its battery life.  Included with the notebook is a program called Power4 Gear which manages the screen brightness and CPU and fan speed to achieve optimal battery life.  Using the battery saving mode of Power4 Gear, I was able to achieve a whopping four hours and thirty minutes with WiFi turned off.  Although I have yet to achieve the five hours promised by the manufacturer, four hours and thirty minutes is still a very respectable number.  The similarly equipped Sony Vaio FS-640 for example achieves a paltry two hours.

Power adapter for the Z70A (view larger image)

Operation System and Software:

There is entirely no junk software such as free AOL and MSN trials or unwanted advertising for Microsoft.  The Windows XP Professional software is a clean as they come, leaving you the consumer, to decide what want and don’t want on your notebook.  In fact, Windows is even optional.  What you do receive however is all the necessary drivers and some additional software to burn CD’s and DVD’s as well as a trial of Norton Antivirus.

Service and Support:

I haven’t used the ASUS support or service and hope that I never have to.  A standard 12 month warranty is included with the purchase price and ASUS offers a zero dead pixel policy.

Conclusion:

The ASUS Z70A is a solid and notable entry in the mainstream/desktop replacement market.  Unlike Sony, Dell, and Toshiba which dominate the notebook market, ASUS produces high quality, reliable, and most importantly affordable notebooks something Apple cannot claim with their $2000.00+ 15.2″ PowerBooks.  I extremely recommend, the ASUS Z70A to any one that is in the market for a mainstream/desktop replacement notebook.


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