by Darren Hewer, Ontario Canada (webmaster of www.dosgames.com)
Overview and Introduction
Asus Z70v (view larger image)
I was looking for a notebook that’s somewhere between a desktop replacement and a thin-and-light. My basic requirements were: Centrino, 15.4″ widescreen, dedicated ATI or nVidia graphics and a 5400rpm hard drive. I also tried to keep the size below 1.6″ thick and 6.5lbs, and the price below $1,800CDN (approximately $1,500US). I am not a heavy gamer, but I do play some older games (like NHL 2004 for example) so I need dedicated graphics but not necessarily the latest/greatest.
I researched various options online for about two weeks, and narrowed down my choices to two: the Dell 6000D and the ASUS Z70V. I decided to go with the Z70V due to its supposedly superior construction (carbon fiber instead of plastic) and its slightly better specs. Plus, I liked how it looks better than the Dell. 🙂 The Z70V is part of the “Built on ASUS” line, which can be customized to your liking by the store. Below are the specs I chose for mine: (items marked with a * are user configurable)
- Intel Centrino 1.7ghz *
- 512mb DDR2 RAM *
- ATI x600 PCI Express 64mb
- 15.4″ WSXGA+ Screen (1680×1050 native resolution)
- 60gig 5400rpm Hard Drive *
- 10/100 Ethernet Port, 56K Modem, 802.11b/g
- DVD & CDRW Combo Drive *
- Approx 13.9″ x 10.7″ x 1.34″ (width x depth x height)
- Full Z70V Specification (PDF file)
Where and How Purchased
I got my notebook from CanadaSys in Toronto, Ontario. I live fairly close, so I went and picked it up when it was ready. I was a bit hesitant about buying from a store I’d never dealt with before, but they were very friendly and helpful. My experience with them was excellent, so I can recommend them at this point, although I’ve not yet had to deal with their customer service (since I haven’t had any problems yet). The total price was the same as a similarly spec’d Dell 6000D.
Build & Design
This laptop looks very nice compared to a lot of the plastic ones available out there, including its sister model from ASUS, the Z71V. The Z70V’s body is made of carbon fibre, which is not only very strong, it also looks good. It’s got a sort of “gunmetal grey” kind of look to it. Although it’s not as big and hefty as a desktop replacement notebook, I wouldn’t want to hold this on my lap for very long. It’s approximately 5.6-6lbs including the DVD/CDRW drive so you’ll probably want to leave it on the desk most of the time. This notebook will be fine if you will mostly be using it at home and sometimes need to carry it around. I’d say that its a nice compromise between desktop replacements and thin-and-lights. The fans are very quiet during normal Windows use (word processing, surfing, etc) and get only a bit louder when doing intensive 3D tasks. I doubt that anyone would find the noise distracting unless you’re used to an ultra quiet PC.
Asus Z70v above view (view larger image)
The notebook has never gotten hot (even during gaming) but there are “warm spots”. The bottom left corner (where your left palm will rest) stays warm while the right side does not. The top (around the power button) also is a bit warmer. I’ve never found it distracting and it certainly has never gotten hot.
Keyboard view (view larger image)
I expected that it would take awhile to get used to the notebook keyboard (after using my old full sized keyboard for the last 5 years or so) but I haven’t had many problems. The keys have a nice feel and aren’t loud when you’re typing. The only struggle I’ve had so far is that I’m constantly hitting Ctrl when I mean to be hitting the Windows key. I’m sure I’ll get used to it after another week or so. The touchpad works well, although personally I’d much rather use a mouse, so I won’t be using it very often. By default, the touchpad automatically turns off when you plug in a mouse. Also, its a small point, but I like the power button. It has a blue LED but its not too large and/or bright. I found the blue ring around the power button on some of the Toshiba models to be too big and bright … to the point of being distracting! No such problems here since the LEDs serve their function well and don’t distract.
Keyboard and touchpad view (view larger image)
LEDs (view larger image)
The screen is excellent. No dead pixels, and no “light leakage” (if there is any I never noticed it). It is very bright and clear, even with the brightness turned down below half of the maximum. Some people have complained about “sparkles” on the Z71V which is a similar model to the Z70V but I see no sign of sparkles or any other problem with the screen at all. The screen is adjustable to just about any angle you want, and it’ll stay where you put it with very little wobble. The WSXGA+ screen at 1680×1050 is fine for me with “Large Fonts” turned on in Windows. However at least one person I’ve shown it to says it’s too small for them, so if you have bad eyesight you’ll definitely want to look at the WSXGA+ screen at a store before purchasing.
Battery & Power
Since I’ll rarely be using the battery, I haven’t tested the battery enough to give an accurate estimate. From what I’ve read, you should get around 3 hours out of it for normal usage. That will probably drop sharply if you’re playing a lot of CPU intensive games or doing other CPU intensive tasks. The included AC adapter brick is fairly small which is handy since I’ll probably be carrying it with me wherever I take my notebook.
Power adapter (view larger image)
Speakers & Audio
The speakers are decent for gaming. If I’m away from home they’ll do fine, but whenever I’m at home I’ll use my speakers/subwoofer instead. When you plug in speakers into the left side of the notebook, the internal notebook speakers shut off automatically. There are also “Audio DJ” controls on the left side to play CDs without having to have the notebook on. Nice feature although personally I’ll never use it.
Networking & Internet
As usual with WinXP, I had no trouble connecting to our home (wired) network. Just plugged in the cable and started surfing. Since we have no wireless network here, I can’t test the wireless performance. But the Intel PROSet/Wireless program did detect a signal while I was trying it out in the store, and it is detecting two signals as I type this from my home (although both are protected). I know that one is coming from across the street, not sure where the other is from. The notebook also has a 56k modem though I’ll hopefully never have to use it!
There are the usual ports (4xUSB2.0, 1xIEEE1394). Two USB 2.0 are on the back, and two are on the left side which is the perfect layout in my opinion. Also the CD drive is on the right, which is much preferable to being on the front. The memory card reader is on the left side and supports MMC, SD and MS/MSPro cards.
Left side (view larger image)
Optical drive (view larger image)
Front view closed (view larger image)
Asus Z70V back side ports (view larger image)
Performance & Benchmarking
I’ve been very pleased with the performance of this notebook so far. The Centrino processor and 512mb of RAM is easily able to handle what I’ve thrown at it. Usually I’ll have MP3s playing in Winamp while working in Photoshop with several web browser windows open, along with MSN Messenger, Mailwasher, virus scanner, etc, and it always runs smoothly.
I am not a hardcore gamer anymore (I’m getting old, dangit) but I do play some older games that require a 3D card. NHL 2004 runs perfectly at 1280×1024 resolution with almost all the graphics options on maximum. Ragnarok Online also runs perfectly at the same resolution, and strangely Ragnarok Online looks better on this notebook than on my PC which has a Radeon 9800 Pro card in it! (For some reason I didn’t get colored lighting on my old PC but I do on this notebook!) In my humble opinion, if you want to play the latest games like Doom 3 and HalfLife 2 you should be playing them on a desktop PC anyways, so for practical gaming this notebook should do just fine.
- PCMark2004 score: 3539
- PCMark2002 scores: CPU 5797; Memory 10520; HDD 668
- 3DMark2005 score: 1117
- Super PI: 1minute 51seconds (PI to 2million digits) (see comparisons below)
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Asus Z70V (1.7GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 51s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) ||1m 45s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Toshiba Tecra S2 (2.00 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 41s|
|Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||1m 57s|
|Sony VAIO S170P (1.5 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 07s|
|Acer Aspire 5021 (AMD Turion 64, 1.6GHz)||2m 11s|
All benchmarking tests were done with AC power, and without any overclocking, tweaks or additional power management utilities. Therefore these are “out of the box” figures. I assume you could increase the numbers a bit if you took the time to tweak all the settings and installed some extra power management tools.
Software & Included Bonuses
Since it’s built to your specs by the store you buy it from, the Z70V can come with a pre-installed OS or not. I chose to have WinXP Home installed on mine, and it works great. Some software is also included: Nero OEM (works fine for most burning purposes), ASUS DVD (a DVD player I assume), ASUS Medi@show SE 2.0 (for creating “multimedia slideshows”) and Power Director DE (“total video editing package”). Nothing fantastic, but the free copy of Nero works really well if you don’t already have a copy.
Free nylon bag included with Asus Z70v (view larger image)
It also comes with a notebook bag as you can see in the photos. It’s made of nylon and looks decent enough, although I wish they’d used all black instead of the blue color on the front. The blue isn’t as noticeable as it looks in the photo, however, and it does have a zippered section to put the notebook, a separate zippered section to put files, binders, etc. as well as a pouch on the front and one on the back. It’ll do the job and will be fine for most people, if you want a nice leather one you’ll have to go buy your own. It’s worth noting that Dell charges you $50 for a similar case when you buy a notebook from them.
From ASUS, you get a 1 year warranty on the barebones notebook. The parts installed by your store will have their own warranties. Since you’ll be dealing with the store you bought from if you have problems, you’ll preferably want to buy from someplace that’s nearby in case you need to return it. As stated above I purchased my laptop from CanadaSys who were helpful and friendly during the entire process, so I don’t imagine I’d have too many hassles if I had a problem with one of the parts.
- Very sleek looking and durable carbon fiber case
- Screen is great, no light leakage or “sparkles”
- Fast enough for most tasks & light/mid gaming
- Nice feeling keyboard & touchpad
- Audio DJ controls on the side to play CDs
Cons (I don’t really have any, but if I wanted to be picky!)
- Seems a bit bigger than I expected, but that’s my fault for not actually physically seeing one before ordering (its about the same dimensions as most similarly priced 15.4″ notebooks, including Dell’s 6000D which is actually a bit larger)
- Slightly noisy when all the fans turn on during fullscreen gaming but still not very loud
I’m very happy with my purchase. I was a bit wary of buying a relatively little known ASUS instead of a Dell but my decision has worked out very well. (Little known outside of techie PC gamers, I mean.) If you are looking for a lightweight notebook to carry around with you to class to take notes, the Z70V is not for you. But if you want a powerful notebook for Internet & light gaming as well as being light enough to carry around on occasion, I wholeheartedly recommend the ASUS Z70V.
Note: make sure to visit Darren’s site at www.DOSGames.com !