Asus Z84Jp Review — Page 2

by Reads (30,993)

Heat & Noise

The Asus Z84Jp’s thermal system consists of two fans and two vents. One of the vents is directly in the center of the left side of the notebook, and the other is located between the power plug and the back left corner at the rear of the notebook. I found the cooling system of the Z84Jp to be extremely efficient and effective. Both fans are barely audible, and in order to hear them I had to put my ear within a few inches of the keyboard. The fans take care of heat so well that the entire notebook, including the bottom of the chassis and the top around the keyboard is a uniform room temperature. Even after hours of benchmarking and gaming, the Z84Jp never became even remotely warm.

A good deal of credit for the cool operating temperature goes to the size of the chassis – it is quite blocky and has considerable depth, which means there is a lot of space for the heat to go. It spreads throughout the chassis and is dissipated naturally or is whisked away by the fans. Another major reason is the video card – the Go7600 – does not get warm (it works fine in small 14” notebooks) and any heat that it produces is easily taken care of by the fans and the chassis. The fans in this notebook are oversized – it is almost as if it was designed to deal with a higher-end video card. Either way, having larger fans means that they do not have to work as hard to disperse heat, and it keeps the noise level down. All in all, the Z84Jp’s thermal system is one of the best to be found in a notebook.

Keyboard & Touchpad


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The Asus features a full-size 88-key keyboard. The keyboard has a soft touch with average key travel distance. Tactile feedback is good in my opinion, but is on the soft side. Touch typers will like this keyboard. There is some flex in the middle of the keyboard but it is not noticeable unless looking at the keyboard while typing harder than normal. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the keyboard layout, save for the fact that the Function and Control keys are switched; the Function key is in the bottom left corner instead of the Control as in a normal keyboard.

Note that the Z84Jp has no separate number pad. In my opinion, a 17” notebook should have one, although I do not view the lack of one as a deal breaker. Being a 15.4” notebook user, I have never had a number pad so I cannot say I missed it.


Media Buttons (view large image)

The Z84Jp has four media buttons to the top left of the keyboard, which launch the Asus Power4Gear utility, lock the touchpad, launch default e-mail client, and launch default Internet browser. I am quite fond of the disable touchpad button; unfortunately it is not found on enough notebooks.


Touchpad (view large image)

The touchpad is fairly standard; there are two main buttons and a scroll bar area on the right. It works perfectly and I had no problems using it. The matte surface does not cause fingers to ‘stick’ or drag. I found that my fingers easily glided over its surface.

Input & Output Ports

This is best done using pictures, so without further ado . .

All descriptions are left to right.

 

Right Side


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Optical drive, 56k modem jack, 2x USB 2.0

 

Back


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Lock slot, battery* (see Battery section), power port, exhaust vent

 

Left Side


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VGA, S-Video, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, HDMI, exhaust vent, eSATA, 1x ExpressCard 34/54, 2x USB 2.0

 

Front


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SPDIF, Microphone, Line in, IEEE 1394 mini-Firewire, 7-in-1 card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro support)

The Z84Jp has a wide array of ports and has two that deserve special attention – the HDMI and e-SATA ports. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is entirely digital, and can transmit uncompressed streams of data. It is compatible with HDCP technology. It is a replacement for older standards such as VGA. An HDMI port is a great connection to have for hooking up to external high definition displays.

The eSATA port provides full SATA speed for external drives. Using it can free up a Firewire or USB port if that is what you use to connect to external disks.

One feature in my opinion that the Z84Jp should have is an internal TV tuner. It would greatly add to the multimedia functionality and would be a key selling point. The lack of one hurts the Z84Jp’s appeal to multimedia enthusiasts. An external one via a USB 2.0 port or ExpressCard can always be added, but there is something to be said about having an internal tuner that does not need to be disconnected / connected every time the notebook is moved.

Wireless

Our Z84Jp came with an Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG wireless card. It is in mini PCI-express form and can use A, B, and G bands of wireless. I had no trouble to connecting to WEP- and WAP-secured networks, and I was able to maintain a strong signal strength throughout my house.

Battery

It is important to note that the production versions of the Z84Jp will come with a 6-cell battery and not the extended 9-cell our test unit features. The 6-cell battery will be flush with the chassis and not stick out as the 9-cell does.

With half screen brightness, WiFi and Bluetooth on, I was able to achieve two hours and forty minutes of life performing menial tasks such as text editing with the 9-cell battery. With the six-cell battery, expect 2/3 of the life that of our test unit, so about one hour and fifty minutes. I believe the battery life for this notebook is about average – battery life is certainly not one of the Z84Jp’s strengths, although it is not short enough to be called a weakness.

Operating System and Software

Those buying the Z84Jp will most likely get Windows Vista on it. I loaded Windows Vista Ultimate onto our test unit to get a first-hand account of its performance. All of the pictures I took that show the display have Vista on-screen.

Windows Vista installed most of the necessary drivers for the Z84Jp’s hardware right from the start; I only had to install a video driver, which was somewhat difficult, as I had to manually install it through the Device Manager.

The Z84Jp was able to run Vista in all its graphical glory, thanks to the 3D power provided by the GeForce video card.

The Vista Experience


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Views of Windows Vista on the Z84Jp


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This was my first time using Vista and I must say that I am more than impressed. The new graphical user interface is extremely appealing and a delight to look at. One of my favorite features is the “Flip View,” which shows a side 3D view all open windows. Each window is updated in real time. To select a window, all the user has to do is click on it and Windows will go there.


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I also like Windows Explorer better in Vista – going through files is more efficient. There are no more up/down folder buttons. Rather, all that needs to be done to go up or down a folder is a left-click on the file extension; to view sub-folders in that directory, click the arrow next to the file extension.


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Windows Vista is a memory hog in comparison to XP. At idle, I was using over 500MB of memory. 1GB of RAM is the absolute minimum for a smooth Vista experience; ideally, upgrade to 2GB for the best possible experience.


Task Manager in Vista (view large image)

Conclusion


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I have to admit that upon opening the Z84Jp’s box, I was not impressed, and it looked to me like an average machine. From a physical design point of view, it is. There’s basically nothing that will distinguish the Z84Jp from a regular notebook in that sense. However, there is more to the Z84Jp than meets the eye. Underneath the coverings of an average exterior lie strong build quality, a gorgeous 17” widescreen display, and an array of powerful components. My time with the Z84Jp was an enjoyable one and I found that I liked it more and more each day. If anything, the Asus Z84Jp has taught me never to judge a book – ah, allow me rephrase that – never judge a notebook by its look. That applies to a lot of areas in life, doesn’t it? 🙂

Pros

  • Beautiful 17” widescreen display
  • Ample port selection, including HDMI and eSATA ports
  • Windows Vista ready
  • Fantastic thermal system – keeps notebook cool and quiet
  • Good quality web camera
  • Solid build quality
  • Phenomenal audio
  • Comfortable keyboard

Cons

  • No internal TV tuner
  • No separate number pad
  • Needs a more powerful video card to appeal to gamers
  • Glossy surface is not durable


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