ASUS Z70Va Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (55,206)

by A.W. Toronto, Canada

the Built On ASUS logo (view larger image)

After weeks of mass chaos, frustration, confusion and name calling, ASUS finally rolled out its cards, and launched the global release of the ASUS z70va. No they are not giant robots who are piloted by teenagers, but instead,a great addition to their barebone lineup. The chaos will now be forgotten, because it was stupid, and that’s all I’ll comment on it.

The z70va and z70v shouldn’t be confused though, here’s a small tad of interesting information to some:

A small history on this unit, the chassis does look indeed familiar to some, as it is the offspring of the very popular M6 series (Pentium M, WXGA, 9600) launched a year and some odd months ago, the M6Bne/M6ne models. Rumour had it that, the M6Bne would be released with a 9700 instead, but people didn’t think so, I mean why? But that did happen, and the M6Bne’s after that all contained 9700’s. 14+ months later, the z70v was being released with the exact same chassis with a few modifications, and with up to date technology. 15.4″ WSXGA with x600, a customizable barebone, as it was released right after the popular ASUS z71v. ASUS was on a roll. But that wheel soon couldn’t hold – after weeks of turmoil, name calling, boycotting, and all that bad stuff, which I won’t mention –  the rumor that x700 would soon be in the z70va “refresh” came true. I won’t go into detail but ASUS, in my opinion, made a mistake, but I’m sure they learned by now.

The z70va (view larger image)

This ASUS z70va is a laptop aimed for students as a mobile desktop replacement, as if the words “COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY” was the model name for it, with a fast Pentium M processor,  15.4 WXGA 1680 x 1280 Matte screen, under 6.5 pounds, mobile AND contains an x700 Video card? Not to mention a modular battery that can fit in the Optical tray, or a Modular Hard drive to fit in the same tray for exceptional battery life and space? Perfect for every student who wants to do some work, and then duke it out over Battlefield 2. Weighing under 6.5 pounds, with a battery life over 3.5 hours, Carbon Fiber chassis, WSXGA screen, x700, customizable to any need AND was very affordable – it sold like hot cakes. And I will not regret my decision, it is an awesome notebook!

Don’t forget the check out emmzee’s z70v review or jswriter’s z70v review for better pictures, as it is the same unit, but my Digital Camera is quite….bad, and it was quite sunny when I took the shots!
 
The configuration I have is:

  • 2.0 Pentium M processor
  • 1024mb DDR2 PC4200 RAM, One stick of KingMax
  • 60gb 7200rpm Hitachi TravelStar
  • DVD+-RW Dual Optical Drive (Sold out at Time of Purchase, will get it in a few days)
  • BlueTooth module (Not arrived but will be installed when received)
  • Intel 2915 Wireless (To be replaced with Atheros 5005 wireless)

I got the above configuration for $2222 Canadian, after taxes. Was $18xx before taxes.

Reasons for buying?

As a student, my old AMD desktop was easily overheating, and the ThinkPad T21 I had borrowed from my uncle had to be returned, and I got a DELL Latitude LS400 in replacement, but a Pentium III 398mhz, 6gb HD, and all that good stuff, it didn’t fill my needs.

I had saved $2000~ over the year from part time jobs, and I narrowed down to two notebooks, the LG LW60 and ASUS z70va. Because of their price similiarty, and that I can get a configuaration of 1.7 -> 2.0, 512 -> 1024, 60/4200 -> 60/7200 for the same price, I went for this one, and I don’t regret it.

Where I bought it

There was not many Canadian ASUS resellers, and at one point, I wanted to order it from the US from reputable places like PROPortable and Geared2Play, but recently, CanadaSys (www.canadasys.com) has been the place to get ASUS laptops in Canada, both Built On and ENSEMBLE units for a great price and great service. Heck, they even have a Price Match policy!

ASUS’s Built On unit’s trademark (view larger image)

They also are building a Canadian Notebook Forums which is something I don’t see many places do recently, and it builds their reputation! Their Customer Service is great, both Joseph and Danny are the two I spoke with and Emailed, they had prompt and informative responses as well. For all Canadians, CanadaSys is a place I’d fully recommend!

Build and Design

With its sleek Carbon Fiber casing, Brushed Aluminum ‘creaseless’ touchpad, the z70va is a beauty! It has sharp corners and a dark grey colour which just screams ‘business notebook’ but the x700 GPU sticker says otherwise! There is no flex what-so-ever, the keyboard is great. The LCD and the back of it, or the front, is very sturdy and does not flex at all. I couldn’t find anywhere on the case that bent at all.


Pentium M chip and ATi x700 video card (view larger image)

There is metallic silver trimmings which is awesome and creates a ‘halo’ effect to it. The creaseless touchpad works great, it is very responsive and very cool looking. Just remember to install the new synapstics drivers to enable virtual scroll.

CD Player LED, Power Indicator, Battery Charge indicator, Bluetooth indicator and WLan indicator (view larger image)


Bright blue LED power button, with 5 instant launc buttons, Bluetooth, Default Internet Browser, WiFi on/off, Disable touchpad and Power4Gear on/off (view larger image)


Closer look on the power button (view larger image)

The LED’s are placed well, as I can see if BT/WiFi/etc was on, and the blue LED power button looks great. The ‘hotkeys’ are very useful, as they turn on BlueTooth, the Default internet browser(FireFox for me!), WiFi, the Touchpad and a Power4Gear(ASUS’s power management tool) or turns it off with a press of a button.


Caption: Underneath the laptop with 6 cell battery outlets (view larger image)

There are 6 visible fans, 3 on bottom, one at the back, one on the top right side and one on the top left corner above the keyboard, ventulates the notebook very well, as it is much needed.. The bottom left gets a bit warm though, the 7k60 is the culprit! On the bottom there are 3 vents, one near the GPU on the top left, one near the CPU on the top right, and one for the HD near the middle on the bottom left.

A regular optical drive (view larger image)

The Optical Drive is modular so you can hit the release button on the bottom and pull the OD out. The battery is placed on the front of the bottom of the notebook, and it is the BEST place to put it I would say. When I open the LCD panel, the notebook does not lift because if the balanced weight. Great job ASUS engineers!

Screen


The z70va is much brighter and vivid, and a better resolution then my 12″ Dell Latitude (view larger image)

On my no dead pixel (Thanks to CanadaSys for checks before assembling and after assembling) 15.4″ WSXGA screen, it is beautiful. The elevated LCD makes looking at the screen easier on the neck,. No need to look down! Besides that, all I can say is — Beautiful.

Speakers

The z70va has 4 speakers, one at bottom left, one at bottom right and two under the LCD, and it works very very well. It is better then my old speakers, and I will be either buying the Creative Audigy 2 ZS for notebooks or an external USB 5.1 sound card to go with my Logitech x-530 speakers. The sound is very loud and crisp — but like all notebooks, no bass if any, but that doesn’t bother me so it’s all good

Processor and Performance

The 2.0ghz Pentium M processor on the 915 “Alviso” chipset runs great, very fast, and coupled with my 7k60 Hard Drive and 1gb RAM, I can boot on the notebook in under 15~ seconds, a lot better, almost 300% faster then my old computer and the laptop! It is very snappy, and even when undervolted and under Power4Gear’s Battery mode, it is still very fast and loads quickly!


As well, the z70va is quite a portable media notebook as well. At least that’s what it says! (view larger image)

I was playing Age Of Empires III’s Trial and it ran very well, as did WarCraft III under the highest resolution plus details. I may be installing more just to test out the x700, but for sure, Final Fantasy XI will be installed soon.


Running Age of Empires III Trial. Awaiting the game to be released! (view larger image)

Benchmarks

One thing to be mentioned regarding these benchmarks is that I had the GPU slightly underclocked, so performance was throttled a little for graphics benchmarks.

Comparison of Pi to 2 million calculation compared to other notebooks:

Notebook  Time
 Asus Z70Va (2.0GHz Pentium M)  1m 42s
 Fujitsu S6231 (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 6s
 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
 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 45s

3DMark05: 2428
PCMark05: 3009

 HD Tune Results  
 Min Transfer Rate  19.5 MB/sec
 Max Transfer Rate  40.1 MB/sec
 Avg Transfer Rate  31.1 MB/sec
 Access Time  14.3 ms
 Burst Rate  77.6 MB/sec
 CPU Usage  4.5%

Keyboard and Touchpad

As already mentioned, the keyboard contains no flex and as of now, less then a week of using it, I’m already pretty comfortable with the keyboard. The Function and Control key are switched but I’m getting the hold of it. With the function key, I can turn on sleep mode, WiFi, adjust the brightness, send monitor output out, have dual screens, mute sound, and increase/decrease sound. No flex at all, I’ve tried every keyboard button. Compared to my old T21, it is quite similar, I am very impressed. The touchpad — It works great, virtual scroll works fine, and overall, very usable.


Brushed aluminum touchpad (view larger image)

Input and Output Ports:

On the left side, there is one PCMCIA adapter, two USB 2.0 outlets, an Infra Red signal detector, a MMC/SD/MS/PRO reader with a dummy(very useful for leaving dust out), a S/PDIF and earphone jack, a mic jack and the Music controls.


2x 2.0 USB, IR port, PCMCIA, MMC/SD/MS/MSPro, ASUS media buttons (view larger image)

On the right side, it is the removable Optical Drive(with included travelers drawer) and vent.


DVD/CD Rom and vent, with the Latitude for comparison (view larger image)

On the back, there are two more USB 2.0 outlets, and a 1394 firewire plug. As well as standard VGA out, external monitor and the ones seen in the picture! 


Kensington Lock Port, Power Input,Parallel Port, Acessory port, Display outlet, TV out port, 2x 2.0 USB ports, 1394 Firewire port, Air vent and the Modem/LAN port (view larger image)

Wireless

It came with an Intel 2915 wireless, and right off the bat, I detected and connected to my NetGear router — and it was flawless. There is also a Infra-red port, as well as a built in bluetooth module — which I have yet to receive, but will be handy. I soon will be upgrading to an Atheros 5005 chipset wireless card, which is a lot better but I’ll see for myself!

Battery Life

Right from the box, I has 44% battery life remaining, and it listed 1 hour, 34 minutes. After tinkering with Power4Gear, I had 20% remaining, and 50~ minutes remaining. With CHC on, 6x multiplier at  0.700v, 15x at 1.068, it is stable, and gives me 3 hours and 57 minutes on battery. Very nice!


The z70va’s powerbar, bigger then expected but still small (view larger image)

OS and Software

I opted not to have an OS. Included was ASUS’s DVD software, with ASUS’s Medi@ Show and Power Director PRO SE, as well as a disc full of drivers which was very helpful. Nero OEM version was also included.

Customer Support

I purchased it from CanadaSys and I had a great customer experience, I can’t stop praising about them! Danny is a great guy, there was a $20 discount for being a forum member over at their forum, and on the order sheet, Joseph wrote ‘Coriolis’ but Danny though it said ‘Corsair’ and he had to tell me that the price would go up. After realizing that it was my screen name, we joked about it — especially that I thought he was Joseph but was really Danny!

Freebies

ASUS included a very very nice looking bag, I believed it would of been worth at least $70 after market. It is very secure, protective and useful. I actually don’t need to buy a bag if I just needed the laptop and a book, the bag is very useful.


The bag that is included (view larger image)


Close up shot of the metal logo and the texture (view larger image)


Caption: Also includes a identification card, with the trademark Built On logo (view larger image)


Bag from above (view larger image)


One of the two sides, it has a paper/binder/book seperator (view larger image)


The other side, with a notebook holder and two pockets for powerbar, CD’s, books (view larger image)


Notice the small words? They say ASUS! (view larger image)

z70va sliding into the bag 

Complaints

  • People complaining about the fan noise on the z70va!
  • More people buying it and mine wouldn’t look unique!
  • The switched function and Control button, but it isn’t that bad
  • I can’t think of any more praises for the z70va!

Praises

  • Great config for great price
  • Great battery life for a fast notebook
  • GPU, x700 is blazing!
  • The design, the vents, placement of ports, screen, touchpad and keyboard
  • Speakers are very good
  • Great reseller at CanadaSys

Conclusion


Built on, a great machine! (view larger image)

I absolutely do NOT regret my choice, although bigger then I expected, the overall performance, sheer power, exceptional battery life, aesthetically good looks all packaged within one unit. Exceeds my expectations, I love this machine!

 


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