Lightweight notebooks have always been the weapon of choice for the professional with a need for speed and an eye for style. As new entries are brought into the market during the spring refresh, numerous companies have been scrambling to bring something that fuses aesthetics and power together in a conveniently portable package.
Asus's track record has been pretty solid thus far. The motherboard maker turned notebook manufacturer has steadily brought quality new machines along. Recently, Asus began to push forward with innovations based around the simple concepts of style and mobility by announcing their W5 and V6 lines. Both sport a high standard of elegance along with wide array of features and functionality.
With that in mind, the V6V is currently in the labs, vying against a veritable onslaught of new laptops being brought into the market. The trend is beginning to be set for the new quarter, and whether the laptop manufacturers manage to pump out something truly innovative is a question everyone is waiting to answer. For now though, take a look at what Asus's newest design has to offer...
Measuring in at 13"x10.7"x1.18" and weighing in at about 5.2 pounds (our sample was around 5.5), the V6V is not very small or light. Mainly, this is due to the choice of a large 15" monitor, but its size and weight is still relatively average when compared to other laptops of its class. These specs support Asus's focus on the professional who, although is not constantly on the go, definitely needs a solid machine to bring to work. With a Centrino processor, the Asus V6V's bulkiness is somewhat excusable given its lower weight and larger screen size.
|Construction: Building, Appearance, Size|
The notebook chassis is constructed of a sturdy carbon fiber metal alloy composite material, which seems relatively scratch-resistant. It is a strong, yet light material that helps with keeping the notebook's weight down, and it has a stylish metallic look. The exterior has a solid black finish that contrasts well with the metallic interior and edging.
The notebook does not have an LCD hold-down clip, which leaves it very vulnerable to flopping open once the resistance in the hinges wears down. There is definitely room for some form of a clip too, and the lack of one is an annoyance especially for a laptop that is going to be picked up and moved around consistently. If you are just carrying it around under your arm, the display lid shouldn't suddenly swing open at first, but it might be more prone to doing so after a few months of use. Note that we can only "guess-timate" how long the resistance will keep up, but this is based on our experience with other notebooks.
Top (left to right):
Left (left to right):
Back (left to right):
Right (left to right):
The layout of the V6V was somewhat difficult to work with. Preferably, most of the jacks and expansion ports would have been placed on the back of the unit, with a couple of USB ports on the side for flash drives and similar peripherals. With all the USB slots on the right side of the V6V, however, not only are left handed users in for a nuisance, but right handers will have to deal with too much wire slack. Given the ultra-thin nature of the laptop, the USB ports should have been spread out a little better between the right, left and back sides.
Most manufacturers that do not place ports in the back do so to prevent the chaos of having wires coming out of the back, but from a practical point of view, the back is always a safer bet for things like the S-Video port and a power port. This may not be a significant problem for certain people, but for the vast population, it will become a nuisance in some situations.
|Construction: Field Tested|
Charger– The charger for the V6V is a good size. It's a bit smaller than most chargers, in step with keeping the laptop portable. The power plug is angled since the port in on the right side of the laptop, which depending on the environment and room settings, may be annoying. Ideally, the power port would be on the back with a straight plug. To save space and an unsightly wire, the power port is simply kept on the right in hopes the user will always be to the left of an outlet. Either way, the cord has more an enough slack for a user to take advantage of, and is able to extend across a small room without much problem.
Display– Asus decided to use a 15.0" SXGA+ display that is capable of a native 1400 x 1050 resolution with 16 brightness settings. The highest setting looks natural and brilliant, while the dimmest settings are still bearable without being too much of a strain on the eyes. The difference between battery and AC Adaptor brightness is noticeable, but nothing of much concern. In direct sunlight outside, the brightest setting looked perfectly fine, while the dimmest settings was perfect for a completely dark room.
Fan - Using a standard variable speed fan, the V6V is extremely quiet even during heavy use. The heatsink itself is relatively small, but still manages to cool the unit effectively. The variable speed allows the fan to slow down during low CPU usage. Normally, this results in random bursts of the fan turning on in order to disperse heat. However, even during heavy processor usage, the fan is still not loud enough to be a nuisance.
Heat– Heat is always a large concern with laptops. Since the V6V uses Intel's Centrino mobile technology, the processor doesn't generate excessive amounts of heat. Likewise, Asus's notable cooling system also helps prevent a single hotspot from arising by spreading the heat around the entire base of the laptop. The only spot where heat becomes notable is at the bottom, where the CPU and WiFi cards are located. The rest of the laptop is kept pretty cool even after heavy use.
|Construction: Field Tested (cont.)|
Keyboard – All IBM, Dell, and HP laptops are known for having a great keyboard layout. However, the Asus V6V uses a nonstandard keyboard layout, which includes having the home/pgup/pgdown/end keys placed on the right side instead of the top corner like a desktop keyboard. Likewise, the Ctrl key is smaller and less accessible as the Function key is placed to the left of it. During regular usage, it also became clear that placing the Insert key right above the Backspace key was a poor choice.
LEDs– The V6V has 3 LED strips, one at the bottom left of the laptop, one at the top right, and one on the top middle of the cover when closed. The strip on top of the cover includes (from left to right) LEDs for power (blue when on, blinking when on standby), battery charging (orange when charging), Bluetooth (blue when on), and wireless LAN (blue when on).
The strip to the left of the touchpad on the inside of the laptop is the exact same as the one on the cover, with the addition of the left-most indicator, the pad-lock LED.
On the top right, above the keyboard, are indicators for drive activity (blinking blue when active), num lock (blue when on), caps lock (blue when on), and scroll lock (blue when on). Although the cover LEDs are well placed, easily viewable and useful, the interior LED strips are difficult to see unless you are staring directly down on them. Due to their placement, the LEDs are indented into the laptop which make them impossible to see from a low angle.
TouchPad & Buttons– The touchpad location is fine and intuitive, allowing for quick switching between the keyboard and the pad. One immediate drawback that was noticed were the buttons, which were a bit smaller than desired and also lacked much tactile feedback (i.e. an audible click). This could be good thing or a bad thing depending on the user, sometimes its nice not to make a lot of noise with button-clicking, but on the same token, it does not feel as comfortable or as reactionary. Also, the touchpad has a horizontal scroll toggle placed on its right side, which did not interfere with normal usage of the touchpad, nor decrease surface space on a noticeable level.
Launch Keys– One added feature to the V6V is a set of launch keys located at the top left of the laptop, right above the keyboard. From left to right, there is a pad lock key (which has a corresponding LED at the bottom left if on), a Power4 Gear key, a Bluetooth key, a Internet Launch key, and a wireless LAN key.
The Bluetooth, wireless LAN, and pad lock keys just enable/disable those features. The Power4 Gear button, however, switches between power saving modes. This enables you to squeeze the life out of your battery before it dies. Under AC power, settings can be switched between "Super Performance" (AC only setting), "High Performance", and Game Performance". When on battery power, there are seven settings including the latter two above: Game, DVD Movie, Email/Office, Presentation, Audio Listening, and Battery-Saving Performance.
Speakers & Microphone– There is an integrated microphone placed on the top right of the laptop, which provides a satisfactory recording rate, though it is still suggested to buy a separate microphone for optimal quality. The speakers are placed as a strip on the bottom edge of the laptop, pointing straight upwards. This placement was immediately problematic, because the speakers were placed exactly where one's wrists would go when typing. This muffled the sound drastically and significantly reduced quality.
|Construction: Upgrading and Maintenance|
Removing the bottom access panels reveal the DDR2 SODIMM memory banks, the processor, and its heatsink all in one fell swoop. All it took was removing 5 screws. The V6V sample we were given contained 2 x 256MB DDR2 400/PC3200 DIMMs. The hard drive is located right below the processor, and can be removed by taking off the two screws located right above a rubber foot with a hard drive symbol on it. Once the cover is removed, pull on the black tab to pop the hard drive out.
The keyboard can be removed by removing two screws on the bottom, both with a K next to them. Then, using some type of sharp tool, right above the keyboard are 4 tabs that connect it to the laptop, just press down on them sequentially and the keyboard should just pop out. The only thing that can really been seen by doing this is the fan, which is removable from the bottom anyway.
The V6V is based on the Intel 915PM chipset, along with a ATI Mobility Radeon X600 video card. Because of the layout of the laptop, upgrading is quite complicated, and would require more disassembly than desired. However, the V6V does support up to 2GB worth of RAM, and also has an Mini-PCI compartment to the right of the processor/memory cover.
|Systems Tested and General Performance|
Business Winstone 2004 from Veritest uses scripts to tests the performance level of a computer in business related applications:
Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 from Veritest uses scripts to tests the performance level of a computer in multimedia rich environment:
Higher scores here indicate better performance. You can read more about Business Winstone 2004 on Veritest's FAQ page. And you can read more about Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 on Veritest's FAQ page.
The V6V, given it's processor speed, stood up pretty well in the Business Winstone Test, ranking on par with other thin and light laptops. It should be noted that the standard deviation for the Business Winstone was a bit higher than normal, and even though the difference was not that much, the V6V falls well within expected limits. In terms of Content Creation, the V6V actually scored quite well, standing up to some of the heavier players. The V6V proved to be a solid performance machine.
|Battery Info & Performance|
We are using the standard benchmark settings from Bapco, along with a few other minor system tweaks. The screensaver was disabled and volume was set at approximately 20%.
MobileMark 2002 utilizes the following applications:
The white papers for MobileMark are available on Bapco's website should you want to read up on how this benchmark works. In the graph above, higher scores equal better performance.
The battery given was a 4 cell 2400mAh battery, which gave the V6V a life of almost 3 hours (176 minutes), which could easily be extended for another hour if not being heavily used. For a mobile user, this should be more than enough time without having a charger. Keep in mind that there are several power options that can be used, tailoring the laptop for its respective usage. Also, the V6V scored very well on Battery Performance, meaning that the power you do have is put to good use. Charging time for the V6V was about 1 hour and 15 minutes to go from 0% to 100%.
|Startup & Video Index Performance|
The times listed below reflect the time it took for the system to power up until the cursor appeared with no busy indicator on the desktop background.
Remember that this is a mobile notebook meant for professionals, not a gaming system. The scores presented below are not a significant indicator about the power of the notebook, and should be taking in context with the purpose of the laptop. For this purpose, only Halo, a mid-range game that is not overly intensive, was tested to see how the occasional gaming session would go.
The V6V performed better than expected, especially since it is not a gaming platform. For light to mid-range gaming then, the V6V seems to be more than suitable. Anything more intensive, such as Doom 3, would not be suggested for the V6V, as high resolutions on Halo already proved to be a bit problematic. Either way, if you plan to be gaming with something as intensive as Halo, we recommend a 1024 x 768 resolution for smoother frame rates [per second].
To quickly recap, the Asus V6V is a laptop designed for the professional, mobile user. It is a light, thin notebook that sports a larger monitor than normal, yet still remains relatively light. In terms of design, there were a few flaws, with the only significant annoyance being the expansion ports that were all situated on one side. Other small problems included the LEDs that were difficult to see from low angles, the lack of an LCD hold-down clip, and the non-standard keyboard layout.
In terms of performance, the V6V did well. An added surprise was its performance in gaming, which makes this laptop a potentially good choice for college-age students as well. Just keep in mind that the V6V is not designed for gamers, so don't expect too much in this area. Overall though, the V6V proved to be a solid machine with good performance and a stylish look.
Our sample was priced around $2,199, with a 4-cell battery, 512MB RAM, and a 60GB hard drive. Keep in mind that the V6V is a "Built on Asus" product, which means it is sold exclusively through different vendors, with pre-configured options. In terms of customization, there is some flexibility in the hard drive and memory that comes with the laptop, and you can also choose to get a 8-cell battery which will provide you with 4+ hours of battery life. Just from going around to different vendors, most sell the V6V with only the 8-cell, but the price is still the same.
In terms of warranty options, most vendors provide some form of their own warranty on top of Asus's global warranty. While Asus's warranty does not cover any accidents on the user's parts, some vendors provide a comprehensive warranty that covers a bit more. On the flip side though, some vendor's provide no additional warranty or a limited warranty that does not provide any coverage besides hardware malfunctions. Although this is not a significant problem, be sure to understand what warranties cover what, and even better, just do not do anything that will put your laptop to risk.
In the end, Asus has designed a quality laptop that did exactly what it was designed to do, with only a couple of relatively minor design flaws. It is a very solid machine that performed better than expected in many instances. Its price is on par with similar notebooks in its class, although Asus may want to consider dropping that price in the future to remain competitive. Based on its overall performance, quality, and reliability, the V6V scores a solid 8.5 on the HotHardware Heat Meter.