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ASUS Lamborghini VX1

Date: November 7, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

What do you get when you place a huge computer manufacturer in a blender with an Italian automobile powerhouse? One great looking laptop! Does it prove to be as fast as the cars it mimics?



Introduction


Luxury cars. Every guy reading this review has likely dreamed of owning one at some point. Or every single day, like myself. Personally, I’d be content with a BMW M3, but that’s mild compared to the likes of Italian powerhouses Ferrari and Lamborghini. Since it’s just not practical for most people to contemplate owning one of these vehicles, ASUS has done us a favor and captured the spirit of Lamborghini and compressed it to the size of a notebook.

When you think of Lamborghini, there are a few things that come to mind. Performance, sexy curves and an obvious passion for accomplishing both. The same can be said about the VX1 laptop… it’s a powerhouse. Luckily for us, it only costs around 1% of an actual Lamborghini, so you will not need to sell your house to get one.

One thing that should be made clear, is that the VX1 is not meant to be a gaming laptop but rather one suited for multi-media. It has a beefy CPU, sufficient ram, and a large hard drive to keep your digital lifestyle going when you are on the road. Let’s take a hard look at the laptop itself.

Closer Look

The VX1 showed up in a huge cardboard box, and inside laid the actual product box and official laptop bag. I will get into the bag and other extras later in the review. The laptop has been updated since it’s release, so you will want to pay attention to the specs on the side of the box before purchasing.

Though lacking pictures, the inside of the box is divided into two parts. First, the laptop is snuggly placed in between two corrugated dividers to keep it perfectly still during shipment. There is also an additional box inside that contains all of the software, manuals and even a mouse.

Lamborghini’s are known for many things, but one thing that stands out is the bright yellow that’s often used as a base color. The laptop shares the same sense of style. There is also a jet black model as well.

The Lamborghini badge that I have become accustomed to, thanks to the Murcielago in my garage, is near identical on the laptop. When the notebook is in use, the logo will be in the proper alignment. So, the person sitting on the other side of the table will see it as it should be.

Of course this is a team effort, so the ASUS badge is located a on the bottom of the chassis.

On the front also, we have four status LEDs. You may ask why these are here, because when you are using the notebook, you will not see them. Perhaps it’s to give the laptop additional bling, or to let you know that it’s still churning away when you close the cover. Also here are non-operational air intakes.

On the first opening, you will have to remove a screen protector and also a cloth-like material from the keyboard. Simple, yet very effective ways of protecting such sensitive equipment during transportation.

It’s difficult to tell with a wide shot like this, but the entire front plate for the keyboard and other buttons has a brushed aluminum look. This is one of my favorite parts of the design… it looks very sharp.

Taking a close look at the touchpad, you can see the brushed look better. Like many other recent laptops, this touchpad can dual as a scroll wheel by double tapping the right side. I have personally never used this feature due to it’s clunkiness, but that’s not a problem with this specific notebook. Actually, I am not a fan of touchpads regardless, just because they don’t “feel” right. However, the touchpad on this laptop is one of the better ones I’ve used, but is not perfect.

Along each side of this touchpad, are a slew of stickers. Within these, is one for the ZBD, or Zero Bright Dot warranty. If you buy the VX1 and it has a single dead pixel, you can return it for a new one without a single hassle. There is another sticker here that notes all of the systems innards, and then of course we have the obligatory Centrino, Windows and GeForce sticker.

I hate stickers on notebooks. Why they are there at all… just makes no sense to me. If you are the one who purchased the notebook, chances are good that you know what’s on the inside. If you don’t, then those stickers are not going to tell you anything. The ZBD sticker is huge and after 30 days of owning the notebook, it’s completely defunct. So what’s the point?



Closer Look

Towards the bottom left-hand corner, we have a few more status LED lights. These mostly coincide with buttons above the keyboard that have to do with Wifi, performance mode, touchpad enable and battery.

Here is a view of the layout towards the top of the laptop. Without the battery installed, there is a gap between the screen and rest of the unit. That will be filled in when the battery is hauled out of the box.

Even the keys have a nice texture!

This notebook doesn’t have a built-in webcam, so what you see at the top of the monitor is the ASUS logo again.

We have the Lamborghini signature right above the three component stickers.

As mentioned earlier, towards the top we have a slew of buttons. One disables the wifi on the fly, one the touchpad and another the bluetooth. If you are not plugged into a wall, there is another here to select a performance mode. Finally, the last one is to open up an instance of your default browser. Towards the right of these buttons, we have even more status LEDs in addition to the power button.

Turning the laptop over, we have a few things to note. First, we have the Windows genuine authentication with product key, serial and model number, various stamps of approval and ASUS + Lamborghini card with identification number.



Under the Hood

With a very quick look under the hood, we can see the ram used is from Elpida. This is a great choice for the given frequencies because it’s speedy, and reliable. Though the CPU looks quite accessible, it’s not. You’d have to open up the entire chassis in order to move the heatpipe to replace it. The hard drive is in a similar position… not easy to replace. As always, only trained and authorized professionals can replace these parts without affecting your warranty.

Finally, let’s take a look at the sides. On the left, we have a VGA port, Kensington security port, 1394 port, IrDA port (Infrared) and optical drive.

The right side has a total of three USB ports, modem and NIC, SD card slot, audio input and output and also the DC power jack.

The back is absolutely clean of anything, since it’s only the physical battery. Overall, what you see is what you get. It’s undeniably one of the classiest looking notebooks available, which is one of the things ASUS tends to be very good at accomplishing.

Enough of the ogling. Time for some more technical information and then some benchmarks.



Technical Look


Given the fact that this is a performance laptop, it has to be fast. However, this is not a notebook designed for gaming, and that’s evident by the small GPU. The VX1 is actually classified as a Digital Entertainment notebook, so that’s what we should expect when getting into testing.

I could not find an official specs list for this version of the VX1, so with the help of CPUID’s and miscellaneous tools I have created them here:

In addition to these parts, the VX1 uses an ASUS motherboard called the VX1. This board uses the Intel i945PM chipset and 82801GHM southbridge. The video card runs on a PCI-E with 16x link width. The ram has less than tight timings at DDR2-667 5-5-5, though that’s the stock speeds that Elpida sets. For a performance laptop though, 4-4-4 would have been more sensible!

The default resolution of the 15″ LCD is 1400*1050, which is non-widescreen format. If this is a media-type notebook, a widescreen LCD would have fit into the scheme of things better. Throughout my testing though, I came to enjoy the color and vibrant nature of the screen. No complaints at all, despite the standard resolution.

There are many extras included with the VX1, including a carrying bag, software, LCD cleaning cloth and most importantly, a bragging right.

Software & Extras

Much of the software included is standard fare. On the desktop, you will find Nero, Skype, Acrobat Reader, ASUSDVD and other programs you are likely to use. Most, if not all of the software included is what you could get easily yourself, but it’s all prepared and ready to go. The version of Nero is really scaled down so if you have the Ultra Edition, you will want to install that instead.

Windows XP Professional SP2 is included, and upon loading up Windows updates, you will be welcomed to around 50 fixes/upgrades. In terms of laptop specific software, we have touchpad configuration software, Splendid video enhancement schemes and bluetooth drivers.

One piece of software that also came pre-installed was Norton Internet Security 2006. Nothing against ASUS for choosing this software, but there are far better choices out there. This is a program I would not give to my worst enemy, because it’s… bad. After the first boot, I was unable to connect to my Wireless network for an unknown reason, and spent about an hour trying to figure out the problem. Lo and behold something was configured improperly with NIS. Uninstalling the app fixed all of the problems, however. Up until that point, I did not even run the program through the configuration wizard, so I am unsure how it affected my network.

That’s all that’s notable on the software front. Microsoft Office and other productivity programs are not included.

The mouse included is none other than a Logitech bluetooth notebook mouse. At first boot, you will need to install the Bluetooth drivers via the start menu, then setting the mouse up is a breeze. Personally, I’ve had far better luck with USB based wireless mice than I have bluetooth. This one is no exception… I found the response rate to be less than desirable. It will suit you well while on the road though.

I’ll touch quickly on the bag that’s included. Without a doubt, this is one classy looking product. It’s comprised of many materials, including leather and felt-like fabric. Inside, there are enough compartments to store the laptop, the mouse and anything else you might need to throw in there.

ASUS doesn’t expect you to simply toss your glossy notebook into a bag though. They have included a separate smaller bag that completely covers the notebook and protects it from anything around. If you like, you can even carry the notebook around in just this, although it doesn’t have a handle.

This bag was not an afterthought… this is one you will -want- to use. Great build quality and the fact that there is a separate inner bag for the notebook, that’s a nice touch.



First Boot & Installation

Installation is a breeze. Plug the battery in, and power the laptop on. The first screen you will see is no surprise… the Windows setup. Here you will put in various personal details, and set up a primary or secondary user. Within a minute, you will be at the desktop ready to get things going.

At this point, the first thing I did was check out the touchpad configuration, though the defaults suited me fine.

Next up was the WiFi, because it kept nagging me. Here’s where I first started to run into the network problems. Through the Intel handler, it connected just fine, but the internet would not function.

Letting Windows handle my connections proved a much better solution, as you can see.

The laptop includes software called Power4Gear, which controls the different schemes. This is primarily useful for whenever you unplug the notebook, while you are on the go for instance. It will automatically change the power scheme to prolong the battery life.

One thing that caught my eye quick was the NTFS Converter icon on the desktop. This is a simple batch file used to convert the two partitions (90GB/70GB) from FAT32 to NTFS, a file system we’ve all been in tune with since 2002. I am not sure why the drive isn’t NTFS to begin with, as it should prove a better choice. However, I tested both schemes, and we can see the results shortly.

Lastly, one program that caught my eye was Splendid. With it, you can adjust your monitors color mode on the fly, from default to vivid to theater. Each one adjusts the brightness, contrast and color to better suit a given application, such as a DVD movie. For the mostpart, I kept it on vivid for gaming and normal use.

As I mentioned in the last page also, the Bluetooth mouse is not set up off the getgo. The installation pamphlet that is included, notes to right click the Bluetooth icon in the systray and to install from there. However, that is not possible until you run the Bluetooth installer from the start menu. Once you run that program, it takes around 3 minutes to install and then the mouse can be set up.

On to some benchmarks!



Testing Methodology, 3D Mark, HD Tune, Sandra


Whenever we benchmark PC’s for the majority of our reviews, we tend to optimise the system to the best of our ability in order to squeeze out any additional performance. Laptops are different though. They come pre-installed with a lot of software, certain partition scheme and different startup services. All of the tests performed, were completed on two different schemes:

Here are the screenshots of the default and optimized schemes:

Note the sheer amount of services running in the first screenshot. On the formatted version, I closed down everything that was not needed, although left a few laptop specific services in tact, including the Bluetooth driver.

All of the comparative results will be listed as Default and Optimized, using the schemes listed above. Without further ado, let’s move on.

3D Mark 01, 3D Mark 06 & PC Mark 05

Though this is not touted as a gaming laptop, running 3D Mark will show off some of the capabilities.

Our 01 results are not too shabby. Playing games on here shouldn’t prove to be a problem, although anything more intensive than Half-Life 2 may be asking for too much. 3D Mark 06 is poor compared to desktops, but it shined in the CPU department. No surprises here.

HD Tach & HD Tune

Since the VX1 uses the Seagate 160GB 5400RPM drive, I already had an idea of what the results here would be like.

These results are right on par with the scores I received during our initial tests back in March. 34.7MB/s is not too shabby for a notebook hard drive at all.

Super Pi 1.5 Mod – 1 Million & 8 Million

Thanks to the Core 2 Duos architecture, Super Pi records are being set all the time. Whereas my two year old Dell Inspiron with 2.8GHz P4/HT could muster 1 Million in 45 seconds, the VX1 smashes through all the digits in only 24.156 seconds. Once the notebook was optimized, the results were not that far different.

SANDRA CPU & Memory

Sandra is another benchmark that shows off the true potential of C2D. The Multi-Media scores are through the roof!

Thanks to the slower mobile DDR2, the bandwidth results are far from being impressive. But, from a notebook standpoint, they are not too bad. Given their very loose timings, I had expected a tad worse.



Everest, Half-Life 2, Real World

Everest CPU & FPU

Everest is another benchmark that shows off the true power of a CPU, throughout all 6 of the CPU and FPU benchmarks.

Once again, there is not a large difference between the optimized and default setups. The results are what I expected.

Half-Life 2

Since the VX1 is not a gaming laptop, I only took a spin through a single title: Half-Life 2. I recorded the Avg/Max FPS with FRAPS. I tested at both the default video settings and also the LCD’s native resolution of 1400*1050. AA, AF and all other options were left at their defaults.

1024*768 allowed an average of 32FPS, and I have to say that it actually had felt like more. The game ran like a dream, although due to the non-native nature of the resolution, it didn’t look as crisp as it could have.

At 1400*1050, the game did start to feel a little sluggish, but ran fine. Though I didn’t run into any parts with huge action, I’d imagine that’s when you’d want to lower the resolution to something more manageable, such as 1024*768.

Real World, SYSmark 2004 Second Edition & MobileMark 2005

All of the following benchmarks were performed on the default system, slightly cleaned up. Skype, MSN and other various programs were exited, and Norton Internet Security was un-installed.

The first slew of tests were multi-media based. There are no comparisons here, as the optimized system didn’t make any real difference. First, a DVD movie was ripped to the PC via an unmentioned program, and then converted using the default settings with Nero Recode. This program will recode any DVD to fit it to a standard 4.5GB disc for burning.

After gathering results from the DVD Rip, I threw DJ Tiestos – In Search of Sunrise 4 disc 1 into the drive and ripped it using Exact Audio Copy. The result below is from the time the program started ripping the 80 minute disc, and converted it to FLAC format. Finally, using the LAME command line tool, the 14 .flac files were converted to 320Kbps .mp3s.

Here are a few other various results. Some were gathered using SysMark 2004 SE and MobileMark 2005 from Bapco.



System Recovery, Final Thoughts


Throughout all of the testing, I reformatted the laptop about three times. Because of this, I was able to spend some quality time with the restore disc.

There are three included CD-Roms, two are for the actual restore process and then a driver disc is needed for specific drivers. On boot, you just need to push ESC to bring up a boot priority menu, and boot from the CD-Rom that way.

After a few minutes, I was prompted as to how I wanted to restore the PC. I picked an option that allowed the system to be restored to it’s original state, with two separate FAT32 partitions. Once that was chosen, restoration went underway.

The entire restore process took around 70 minutes, and the result was exactly as you’d expect. The laptop was restored to the exact state it was in prior to being booted for the first time. So, after the restore you need to put in basic Windows information again, set up the Bluetooth mouse… et cetera. The process was very quick overall. I wish the restore disc came on a DVD rather than a CD-Rom though. That would have allowed total AFK-ness while the restore process took place. Instead, you will need to check on it every so often to make sure you don’t need to swap discs.

Final Thoughts

If ASUS is a company not on your mind when deciding on a laptop, maybe they should be. Unlike many other laptop manufacturers, ASUS strives to be unique. Although the VX1 is not as unique as it could have been had there been no such thing as an ACER Ferrari, it’s still very well designed and will please any Lambo fan.

Touching on that… this is one sexy looking laptop. It’s not dull in any sense, and should catch many gawking eyeballs if you use it in public. If you are lucky enough to own a Lamborghini, then this laptop was made for you, but it doesn’t take much to prove why.

As for the overall design, I don’t have any immediate complaints. The keyboard layout suited me just fine, and I appreciated the location of the ~ and Fn keys. I also liked the fact that I didn’t need to press the Fn key for tasks I use all the time, such as Prnt Scrn. There is even a built-in mic should you actually need it… for video conferencing or Skype while on the road.

Regarding the specs, they are exactly what you’d expect. This is a media notebook, not a gaming one, so the lack of a good mobile GPU makes sense. In the end, the 7400VX proved decent for our Half-Life 2 tests, so you should be gold if you want to play anything with similar video quality. I do wish the memory was a tad faster, but in favor of timings, not the frequency. Since this is a media notebook, media encoding/decoding is probably on some “to-do” lists. Although the memory timings are standard, I’d imagine going from 5-5-5 to 4-4-4 would improve such tasks overall.

The beefy T7400 CPU makes up for the lack of timings though. This is one -fast- CPU, and will treat you well with whatever you plan to use it for. Like most recent notebooks, the CPUs cores will decrease to 990MHz a piece while nothing intensive is going on, so as to provide better power consumption and improved battery life while on the road. As MobileMark proved, the included 5200mAh battery allowed for approximately 2 hours and 36 minutes worth of DVD video viewing. This may even be prolonged further if you dim the screen and shut down many of the system services first. Or, if you plan to read a book on the PC you can expect 2 hours and 59 minutes worth before shutdown. This is not terribly impressive, but again standard.

I have been unable to find this exact model online for purchase, but the original version with the T2400 CPU retailed for $2,799USD. So a similar pricepoint can be expected here should you be able to find it through a retailer or e-tailer. You would think that a Lamborghini inspired laptop would cost far more than this, but after doing some light research, $2,799 is reasonable. Compared to current Dell XPS and other comparitive laptops, the VX1 actually has -more- to offer for the same price. Some other notebooks had only 1 GB of ram, and a smaller CPU, while the VX1 offers a killer CPU and a full 2GB of ram. In the end, this laptop is likely priced higher due to the branded name, but it’s not easily shown when comparing similar laptops from other companies.

Overall I found the VX1 to be a very solid laptop, but of course there are a few things that I didn’t like. First off is the fact that the screen is a non-widescreen resolution. This did not bother me for most of the applications, but for those who are used to widescreen, it may be a little odd at first. The 1400*1050 resolution did not affect me directly… as the DVD movies looked just fine. This standard resolution may prove easier for some games however, especially ones that don’t immediately support widescreen resolutions.

Another thing that bothers me are the stickers plastered about. NVIDIA, Intel and Windows I understand… those are commonplace. However, the other two stickers are huge, and serve no other purpose than being on a display model. I obviously did not test out removing them, so I cannot report how difficult they are to take off. Your best bet is with rubbing alcohol, but really, they should not be there on a retail notebook in the first place. Warranty and system information is on the box and in a pamphlet… which should prove to be enough.

The software bundle could be improved a bit also, but is not a huge concern personally. Most of what’s pre-installed could be downloaded manually within minutes, so there is not a huge bonus in that regard. On the other hand, installation was a true breeze with the only hitch being setting up of the Bluetooth mouse. That only took a mere 3 minutes though, due to the BT driver install.

If you like what you see, then you can not go wrong with picking the VX1 up. If you are not a fan of Lamborghini, or don’t really want a laptop dedicated to it, ASUS offers many other professionally styled laptops for you to peruse, including their S6 leather bound notebook.

I am awarding the ASUS Lamborghini VX1 an 83%, with these pros and cons:

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