Asus A8JP Notebook

The ASUS A8JP is a small 14” laptop with enough power and performance to put most larger laptops to shame. Especially considering the price, nothing can touch this. I know, because I have looked. While not an “ultra-portable” (13” and smaller), it is definitely not a burden to carry around and has pretty good battery life, taking in to account what this bad boy can do.


Asus A8JP (view large image)

First impressions:

Packaging:

The ASUS box came from Newegg.com in a larger box full of peanuts. It was very secure and well cushioned from impact. Inside the Asus outer box were the carry bag and A8JP box. Inside the A8JP box was the laptop and the box off accessories. The laptop was in a plastic bag with a screen shield taped to protect the screen. It also had a thin piece of foam sandwiched between the lid and the keyboard. All neatly done and with purpose.


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ASUS A8JP Specs:

  • 14” Wide XGA+ (1440 x 900) Color Shine (glossy)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2GHz, FSB: 667MHz, 4MB L2 Cache
  • ATI Mobility Radeon x1700 256MB Dedicated (512MB Hyper Memory)
  • 1GB RAM, DDR2 667MHz (2x512MB) / Max 2GB
  • 120GB 5400RPM 8MB cache 2.5-inch SATA Hard drive
  • DVD Dual Layer Super-Multi Drive (left side back)
    • Read 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
    • Write 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD±R) / 4x (DVD±R DL)
    • 16x (CD) / 6x (DVD-RW) / 8x (DVD+RW) / 5x (DVD-RAM)
  • Intel PRO 3945 Wireless 802.11a/b/g
  • Bluetooth2.0 + EDR
  • Infrared (IRDA) (right side)
  • 5 USB 2.0 (2 on right, 2 in rear, 1 on left)
  • IEEE 1394 (left side)
  • 4-in-1 Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro) (left side rear above DVD drive)
  • 10/100/1000Mbps, 56k modem
  • DVI, VGA, S-Video (TV Out)
  • 19mm Full Size Keyboard
  • 13.2″ x 9.7″ x 1.4-1.5″ / 5.25 lbs
  • Built in .3 mega pixel Webcam
  • Built in Microphone (next to the function key)
  • 1 x Headphone-out jack (SPDIF) (left side forward)
  • 1 x Microphone-in jack (left side forward)
  • 1 x Express Card slot (left side forward)
  • Carry Bag (2 pocket)
  • Asus Optical Scroll Mouse (USB)
  • Kensington Lock Hole (backside left corner)
  • Virus and Tool Software
    • Symantec’s Norton Internet Security 2005 (Trial)
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0
    • NERO Express V6.0
  • Multimedia Software
    • ASUS DVD XP 6.0
    • Power Director V3.0 DE
    • Medi Show V2.0 SE


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Everything included with the Asus A8JP (view large image)

Reasons for Buying:

I’ve been considering my laptop purchase for the last 4 months and have researched all kinds of laptops from many different manufacturers. I wanted to be able to game when I travel. While I didn’t need cutting edge, I for sure didn’t want integrated graphics and nothing below a Core 2 Duo T7200 2.00GHz processor. It seems ASUS somehow got a list of exactly what I wanted and built the A8JP to my specifications. I looked at so many laptops that I thought I would never get anything close to what I wanted. The reasonably priced ASUS S96J was my primary candidate due to the x1600 256MB video card, but it was a little bigger than I wanted. I was hours from settling on the ASUS S96J when this beast popped up on Newegg.com. I searched by video card looked what was available. No joy. For fun I typed in “x1700” and boom the A8JP popped right up for $1298 + shipping. I thought I was hallucinating and double checked, and then triple checked the specs and price. It couldn’t be. It was, and I’m very happy with my purchase.


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Where and How Purchased:

I purchased the laptop from Newegg.com. Used a credit card and got it in 3 days via UPS Ground. I couldn’t believe the price of $1298. Still can’t.

Build & Design:


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This is my first laptop, but I am pretty impressed with the build quality. Though I won’t be using it to pound nails, use it as a Frisbee or wedge it under the tires on my car, it is pretty solid. The hinges provide plenty of resistance and the screen easily adjusts position and stays put. I pushed down on the top with the screen closed and it bowed in. The top is plastic, so of course it was going to give some. When closed, you can pull up on the top and observe a minimal amount of play, but nothing to worry about. The keys won’t fall out and the mouse won’t get away. The latches are actually 2 rectangular tabs that are attached to the top of the screen frame and lock into place at the bottom of the palm rests. There is only one exhaust vent and it’s on the right side toward the back. I prefer it to be there and have all the video jacks in the back. That’s just me. The placement of all of the USB ports and accessory jacks are very functional and spread out. Overall it’s a pretty well put together laptop.


Left view of Asus A8JP (view large image)


Right view of Asus A8JP (view large image)


Front view of Asus A8JP (view large image)


Back view of Asus A8JP (view large image)


Asus A8JP under side view (view large image)

Screen:

ASUS provides a “zero bright dot” warranty on all laptops bought after October 2006. My screen had zero bright dots and is beautiful and colorful without any noticeable leakage, when viewed dead on. I put the blank screensaver on and looked at the screen and it was evenly lit up. I could only see what seemed to be leakage when looking through my digital camera, but it was not noticeable to the naked eye. The screen is too bright at 100% for indoors. I usually keep it around 40% indoors. The screen was very clear and was easily viewed from approximately 45 degrees on either side of center. The screen has “flex” when I twisted it, but this goes back to it having a plastic screen lid, and I don’t plan on twisting it again. The laptop has a native resolution of WXGA+ (1440 x 900) displayed on a 14-inch glossy TFT screen. In the screen setting the screen refresh is locked at 60 Hz, with all other modes not selectable. I did not observe any ghosting on the screen. The screen was also free of scratches or any type of damage.


Movie on A8JP screen (view large image)

Speakers:

The speakers are under the lip on the front side right and left corners of the laptop. I watched a DVD and was impressed at how loud and clear the sounds were. For even more volume I turned up the audio booster in the DVD program. Wow. Gaming on them was fine and I actually had to turn the volume down. No need to max out the speakers to hear them. They lack bass obviously, but are more than sufficient for gaming/media on the go. I’d still recommend a good set of headphones for gaming, ‘natch.

Processor and Performance:

The processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2.0GHz). I downloaded and installed all of the Windows Updates, including Internet Explorer 7 (seems like a Firefox copy) and Windows Media Player 11, uninstalled Symantec Internet Security, flashed the newest bios from ASUS (went from version 205 to version 208), updated some ASUS hardware drivers and performed minor tweaks here and there. Boot up sequences are just under 90 seconds from push of the power button to no hour glass on the mouse and all icons loaded. It takes the Windows Splash screen progress bar exactly 8 swipes to load. The hard drive is a SATA 120GB 5400 RPM drive with 8 MB cache. A fairly large sized amount of space at only 5400 RPM may lead to longer delays when compared to 7200 rpm ones. This allows for better battery life though also. The drive is actually three partitions: Recovery (hidden), C: 64.7 GB, D: 43.1 GB. The drive came formatted as FAT32, but this is easily converted with a batch file on the desktop “NTFS converter”. It only took a couple of minutes and it was done. I highly recommend defragmenting the drive after the conversion, because it really scattered the data. The laptop contains 1GB of DDR2 667MHz memory. The two slots are filled with 512MB sticks, making upgrading to anything higher more expensive because you have to remove at least 512MB to add another stick. The ATI Mobility Radeon x1700 is basically an x1600 tweaked a little and made with newer “stretched silicon” technology to become more energy efficient.

Benchmarks:

The driver used during benchmarking is the ASUS x1700 driver 8.311.0.0 (dated 10/06). At this time ATI’s own Catalyst drivers do not recognize this card and even though I updated from the ASUS website, it is still kind of old. I did try to over clock to get more performance, but the current tools (ATITool and RivaTuner) don’t recognize the chipset yet. ATITool actually had my clock speed at like 1500MHZ – yeah right. I think that once I can upgrade to the newest official driver, I will see a little boost in performance. Here’s hoping. I also had it plugged in and the rear elevated on a book to get max air flow and performance.

NOTE: For some reason 3DMark06 lists the video card as “generic VGA with 260 MB of memory”, and also says it is not Vista compatible. This is wrong and must be because it is new and not readily recognized yet.

As you can see, you can get pretty good performance out of this little guy. Even most of the newer games should be playable albeit with lower settings and/or resolutions. Most impressive, even with the low clock speeds that the video card is at. Wonder how big of a boost I’ll get when I can OC…

Stock Clocks: (as per ATI Catalyst Control Center)

  • Core – 473 MHz
  • Memory – 396 MHz

F.E.A.R. SP Demo all settings to MEDIUM and anisotropic filter to 4x (1024×768)

  • Fraps says – 52.255 fpsavg (11 min)

Far Cry SP Demo all settings to HIGH (texture filter is medium) and anti-aliasing high (1024×768)

  • Fraps says – 45.275 fpsavg (10 min)

Half-Life 2(1280X768 / 16×10 / v-sync enabled / HIGH everything / Trilinear filtering / no AA / water reflect all)

  • Solid locked in 58-60 fps(limited by v-sync for better visuals)
3DMark01SE 19892 (1024×768 set by default)

3DMark05 Results and comparison:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
Asus G1J (Core 2 Duo, 2.0GHz, NVIDIA 7700) 4,247 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3D Marks
Asus W3J (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 3,925 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, NVIDIA Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks
Sony VAIO SZ2 (2.16GHz Core Duo, NVIDIA GeForce 7400) 1,851 3D Marks

3DMark06 Comparison Results:

Notebook 3DMark 06 Results
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744 3D Marks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX) 4,085 3D Marks
Asus G1J (Core 2 Duo, 2.0GHz, NVIDIA 7700) 2,389 3D Marks
HP nc8430 (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 1,745 3D Marks
Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB) 1,654 3D Marks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,528 3D Marks

PCMark05 Comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Asus G1 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7700) 4,727 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,427 PCMarks
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950) 2,732 PCMarks

Super Pi to 2 million places

Notebook Time
Asus G1 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 16s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 29s
Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 41s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s

HDTune 2.52


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Heat and Noise:

The heat is not really a factor unless I am benchmarking or gaming. The fan does blow more, but is not loud at all and you really won’t notice it if you are gaming or watching a movie. I didn’t try it on my lap, but should be fine if you don’t block the intake/exhaust with clothes. After benching and gaming I don’t notice any heat building up on top at all. The exhaust got much warmer, but not to the point of “hot”. The exhaust cools down pretty quick once you stop doing graphics intensive programs. A single heat exhaust vent is present on right side toward the back of the unit.

Keyboard and Touchpad:


Asus A8JP keyboard (view large image)

The keyboard and touchpad are well designed. The keyboard has 88-keys and is straight and centered. The keys press softly with little noise. There is a small amount of flex in the top left of the keyboard but it is not obvious without applying above average force and looking carefully. The Ctrl and FN keys are positioned so that the FN is the outer key and Ctrl is wedged between it and the Windows key.

The touch pad looks to be a solid plate, but it functions like a normal “divided” touch pad. It is a wide touch pad to compensate for the wide screen and has the “virtual mouse wheel” section on the right side for easy scrolling on documents and the web. I found that I had to press a little harder to get the scroll to work, but it did work. I use the included optical scroll mouse (Logitech M-UAG120) when I can and it is pretty good. It probably won’t satisfy hardcore gamers looking to 1337 #e4d$#0t$ n00bs, but it performs just fine for everyone else. You can have the mouse settings disable the touchpad when an external mouse is plugged in.

There are 5 “Instant” buttons located above the keyboard.

Left to right:

  • Power4 Gear+ – toggles power saving modes.
  • Bluetooth – enable/disable Bluetooth.
  • Wireless – enable / disable wireless
  • Splendid – toggles different color enhancement modes
  • Instant On – boot straight to multimedia player without loading Windows. (This doesn’t work on mine and it’s a known “manual misprint “ error)

The buttons worked as advertised, except the InstantOn.

DVD:

Works just fine. Very smooth sounding and fast. When bening a DVD at 8x, I just hear the hum of the drive. Awesome.

Wireless/Bluetooth/IRDA/Modem:

The built-in wireless A/B/G + Bluetooth are icing on the cake. The wireless found 6 connections (all locked) within range around my house (I don’t have wireless). I didn’t have anything to test the Bluetooth with, but I know its there and turns on and off. I also don’t have anything to test the IRDA, but it’s there. Yes, there is a modem. People still use these?

Accessories:

The laptop came with a carry bag divided into 2 pockets and a Logitech M-UAG120 USB optical scroll laptop (not full size) mouse. Good stuff.

Battery:

After charging to full in about an hour, I unplugged it and tried to see if I could watch a DVD on a single battery. The computer went in to a power saving mode that you can customize. The screen was at 40% brightness, which is plenty bright if you ask me. Depends on the movie I guess. I got through 2 hrs of the Matrix Reloaded when it went into standby with 4% battery left. Pretty good I suppose seeing that it was running the DVD drive the whole time. If I tweaked it a little more, I bet I could watch the whole movie. The video card down clocks also to save power. I went from 19913 plugged in to 6395 with battery (this turned video card to power saving mode) in 3DMark01SE. Intense gaming is out of the question with battery unless you want less than an hour of play, by cranking up the video card performance out of power save mode.

Operating System and Software:

Windows XP Media Center is the included operating system. I’m glad, because I get a free update to Vista Home Premium when it comes out ($6.93 s/h + taxes). I’m not in to the whole Media Center part, but its there if you want it.

There wasn’t any bloatware to speak of. Some things I didn’t need, but not really junk. ASUS’ power saving program and display settings program work well and I don’t want to get rid of them.

Lightscribe software is included, but the drive doesn’t support it. No big deal for me.

Microsoft Works 8.5, Nero OEM and Skype were also there. Skype is pretty cool and I tested it with the onboard microphone and speakers and worked excellently. Pretty cool to be able to make free phone calls when I travel to other countries.


This is an example picture taken with the built-in camera, the camera can be used for video chat (view large image)

Customer Support:

I had to use customer support to ask about the reason InstantOn was not working. When I called the first guy said he’d call back when he could get the right information, because they were experiencing high volumes of calls. He called back, but I was gone.

I called the next day and talked to an Albert about the InstantOn, Hypermemory, and the IRDA. He seemed knowledgeable and explained about the InstantOn “typo” in the manual. Hypermemory is locked in newer bios and the IRDA is in the Control Panel under wireless connections. Not what I wanted to hear about InstantOn and Hypermemory, but c`est la vie.

Conclusion

This laptop is perfect for anyone that wants mid-high performance, portability, good battery life, and just an overall high quality product for a price that can’t be beat. It has all the connections and accessories you could want and will last you for a good long while. Being Vista compliant is a big plus and not being DirectX 10 compatible doesn’t really bother me. An absolutely top notch laptop.

Pros:

  • Performance (great overall performance)
  • Graphics (not limited to Doom I or II era games… lol)
  • Size (so many features, yet so small)
  • Price (can’t beat it – period)
  • All the built ins (Wireless a/b/g, IRDA, Bluetooth, webcam, mic, DVD burner))
  • Speakers (loud and clear)
  • Hard drive is quiet
  • Free bag and optical mouse

Cons:

  • 2×512 DDR2 (if you want to upgrade, you have to remove these)
  • X1700 not recognized in Current ATI Catalyst drivers (may effect performance)
  • Lid flexes when pushed on
  • InstantOn doesn’t work as advertised

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