It has been a long time since I have heard the term “desktop replacement” when referring to a laptop, so when Asus said they have a 13″ laptop that could be a desktop replacement, I was intrigued.
- Slim build – travel in style with the F6Ve that packs functions and special features in one sleek and 4.4lbs. Lightweight design.
- Solid graphics power ATI Radeon HD4570 graphics engine with 512MB VRAM ensures seamless gaming or flawless multimedia.
- HDMI Port transmits all ATSC HDTV standards and supports 8-channel digital audio Solid Security Protection offers biometric fingerprint reader. Wireless Video Communication – 1.3M webcam with a built-in high quality microphone
- Asus exclusive “Express Gate” for instant media enjoyment in 10 seconds without booting up the notebook
When I think about a desktop replacement I do not think about a 13″ laptop. For one thing, I like a huge screen on my desktop and I like the performance to be top notch. So, when I think of a desktop replacement I think of a 17″ or 19″ laptop that is huge and powerful. The key for Asus is to make the F6Ve as close to my vision of a desktop replacement while keeping it small and portable.
The ATI Mobility Radeon 4000 series is cuExpress Gaterrently ATI’s most powerful class of mobile graphics chips; however, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD4570 graphics chip sits at the low end of the 4000 series. So we are probably not going to see really high scores in our benchmarks, but they should still be good.
Having an HDMI port on a 13″ laptop is a nice thought, but I don’t know how useful it will be. Many monitors don’t have HDMI ports yet and I am not sure how may people are going to use this laptop to play movies on a big screen TV.
Express Gate is Asus’ answer to the long boot times that Windows Vista is well know for. If you need quick access to your E-mail, Skype, or a few other programs, Express Gate is the answer.
The Asus F6Ve also comes with its own travel bag. This is not a cheap neoprene slip case, but a high quality Targus bag that is very heavy duty and has quite a bit of storage space.
The design of the F6Ve is nothing special. The top of the laptop has a slight design to it, but because of the black color it is very difficult to see.
The bottom of the laptop has one large, easy to access panel. Under this panel is the CPU, Memory, and Hard drive; however, the only user serviceable parts are the Hard drive and Memory.
The right side is where the DVD drive is. Just past that is a headphone and a microphone jack, and a single USB port.
The left side has quite a bit more than the right side. Starting in the back there is the power plug, an HDMI and two USB ports, the vent for the CPU fan, a wireless on/off switch, an SD card slot, a PCI-e card slot, and an e-SATA port.
On the back is a VGA port, a network and modem port.
As you can see from the following image, the battery that comes with the F6Ve sticks out the back of the laptop. This makes the laptop a bit awkward but, as you will see below, having a smaller battery would be disastrous for any user that wanted to use this laptop without having it plugged in.
When you open up the lid on the F6Ve you get a look at the keyboard and screen. The first thing I noticed is that the screen is glossy. This makes it nearly impossible to use outside or near a window. The second thing I notice is that there are two power buttons. The one on the left is to start Express Gate, which I talked about above, and the one on the right is the normal power button. For whatever reason, I find myself getting the two power buttons mixed up and I end up pressing the Express Gate button when I intended to press the other power button. The third thing is that there are no dedicated multimedia buttons. There is a large space in between the two power buttons and having some multimedia buttons would not hurt anything. The multimedia buttons are instead paired up with the arrow keys and you have to use the FN button to access them.
The top of the screen has a small webcam. Webcams are becoming a standard feature on laptops nowadays. This particular webcam is nothing special and has a unimpressive resolution of 1.3 MegaPixals. Below the screen are two small stereo speakers. They are not very powerful, but they will be good for personal use in a fairly quite room. The keyboard is fairly standard with nothing that stands out. The only frustrating thing is that the CTRL and SHIFT buttons are a bit smaller than I am used to, so I am constantly pressing the FN and up arrow keys instead, and that leads to some unexpected results. For example, when I try to press CTRL-V to paste, I hit FN-V and it starts up the webcam software.
Below the Keyboard is the Touchpad. The Touchpad is fairly standard, except it has a very slick surface. The white line on the right indicates a scroll area, there is another scroll area along the bottom of the Touchpad, even though there isn’t a white line. Below the Touchpad are the buttons, and in between the buttons is a fingerprint reader. I know a lot of laptops are starting to include fingerprint readers, but I have yet to meet anyone that actually uses them.
SmartLogon Manager is another way to login without having to type a password or swipe your finger. SmartLogon is a face recognition program that takes pictures of your face during setup and compares them at login time to see if they match. While this is a good idea, it is still in its infancy and not all that great. I found that most of the time it would not log me in, even if the lighting and everything was the same. If I add in other variables, like changing the lighting, or putting on glasses it makes things even worse. So while I like the idea of quickly being logged in just by looking at the computer, SmartLogon has a long way to go before it can be reliably used.
One thing you will notice is that Asus does a good job of preloading the F6Ve with quite a bit of software. Some if it is useful and interesting, like SmartLogin, Litescribe Control Panel, and Asus Update. Some of the preloaded programs are not so useful or even wanted, like the Norton and Microsoft Office trials, Google Toolbar, and Google desktop. It really bugs me when computer makers take the liberty of cluttering up a new computer. I would prefer a computer with nothing preloaded, or a restore disk that would allow me to only restore the OS, without all the extra programs.
The performance of the F6Ve is really great. I ran a few different performance tests and they all came out with really great scores. The first test was 3DMark06. For a laptop I expect fairly low scores with this test because it focuses mostly on graphics and laptops are notorious for having bad graphics. When I saw the score of 3172 I was pleasantly surprised. When I compared this score to the last laptop I reviewed, the U6V, which only got 1628, the F6Ve really came out on top.
Next on my list of tests is PCMark05. This time I expected the F6Ve to do well because PCMark does not focus on graphics. So I was not surprised to see the score of 6734. Again I compared this to the U6V, which got 5034, and the F6Ve came out on top again.
My third and final test is of the battery life. For this test I used MobileMark 2007. Because this laptop focuses so much on performance I did not expect a very high score on this test. So when I saw the score of 143 minutes I was still disappointed, but not surprised. I was able to get a slightly higher score of 203 minutes by tweaking the power settings down to the very lowest, but even that did not beat the U6V which got 215 minutes.
Express Gate works just as promised. It is very quick to boot and it is fairly snappy. There is some initial setup that is required, like setting up a WiFi connection, Skype and chat accounts, etc., but once that is setup everything runs very smoothly. I am happy with both the concept and execution of Express Gate.
My biggest complaint about the Asus F6Ve, much like the U6V, has to do with the Touchpad performance. The buttons are a lot better than the U6V because the top of the buttons is usable, but the Touchpad is frustrating to use. First off the Touchpad is very slick. It has a low friction coating on the surface that makes it hard for the computer to recognize when you are using it. Next there seems to be a 1/4″ to 1/2″ dead area on the left side. The dead area on the left combined with the special scrolling areas on the right and bottom reduce the overall usable area of the Touchpad down to a very small space. This makes it hard to move the cursor around the screen. I ended up having to increase the sensitivity to the highest setting to overcome the slick surface. It also helped reduce the dead area on the left so there is a bit more usable area.
Warranty and Support
Asus provides a decent warranty which provides a 2yr global warranty, plus a 3rd year for North America. In addition, there is a one month 0 bright dot guaranty, free 2 way standard overnight shipping, and 24hr tech support 7 days a week. There is also a 1 Year Accidential Damage Warranty that protects the notebook from drops, fire, spills, and surge.
So all in all I am impressed with the power and performance of the F6Ve. The numbers that 3DMark06 and PCMark05 produced will be good for some minor gaming and other graphic intensive applications. The battery life however, is not that great and makes it so you cannot take it very far away from a power plug. So do I think it deserves the label “desktop replacement?” not so much, but I would be glad to give it the title of “the most powerful laptop we have tested.” If you are looking for a small and powerful laptop this one will be great.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|