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ASUS Lamborghini VX2

Date: May 2, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams

When we took the VX1 for a test drive in November, we were impressed. ASUS has returned though with an update, appropriately called the VX2. It includes revamped styling, a much more appropriate video card, a fingerprint reader and high-end webcam. If you’ve been holding out for a revision, you will be glad you did.



Introduction


It’s not very often I am able to tell people that I have a Lamborghini in my possession, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a look at the latest notebook release from ASUS. This was not the first time I was able to test-drive a Lambo though, as you can see in our review of the VX1 from last November. You might be wondering though. Did ASUS really need to release an updated version of the notebook already?

Yes. Yes, they did.

Even before booting up, I appreciated the design and thought process behind it. Those of you who held off in anticipation of a revised version will be pleased that you did. This is not to say that the VX1 was a bad laptop. When I evaluated it, it was not even a thought that passed my mind. After having the chance to use the VX2, it’s clear which is superior.

As you can probably tell, the VX2 is not just a simple upgrade. It’s a complete makeover. It uses faster parts, additional unique features and even classier design. The kicker is that despite all of these upgrades, it still retails for the same price of $2,699. Though pricey, it’s not a surprise given the fact that it’s designed around the Lamborghini name.

How much of a role the Italian powerhouse has in development is probably not much, but there is no doubt they gave it a thorough test before they allowed their badge to be displayed on it. During the launch of the Gallardo Superleggera in January, there were VX2s around for the press to use, even the CEO. So Lamborghini themselves are helping with the push of the laptops as well, not just ASUS.

I’m sure you’d rather ogle the laptop than hear me talk, so let’s hop right in.

Closer Look

Instead of shipping the VX2 in the usual brown cardboard box, we have a black grained box that opens like a jewelry box. Though not entirely necessary, it does it’s job of making you giggle like a school girl in anticipation to see what’s inside. Well, it did with me, at least.

There is another plain-jane black box that contains all of the accessories and software. There are many extras to mention.

First is the manual and a story book giving the history of Lamborghini and the notebook. The driver and restore CD’s are also here, along with the Nero install CD. Windows Vista is pre-installed on the notebook, so most of the drivers are for that OS. However, ASUS hosts Windows XP drivers for -everything- on their support site in case you want to downgrade, which is the first thing I’d personally want to do.

Here we have the power adapter, two AA batteries for the mouse, soft LCD cleaning cloth, quick-reference card for support, phone cable, cable tie and an m-DVI to DVI-D converter.

One common complaint for the VX1 was the uninspired mouse. It was pure black and didn’t look to fit in with the overall scheme at all. ASUS listened and has patched that up with the VX2. The mouse model is the same, although the mousepad has an added cushion for your comfort.

Am I keeping you in suspense? With accessories out of the way, let’s check out the laptop itself. Finally.



Closer Look at the VX2

The box opens up like a jewelry case, which is fine since the laptop costs near as much as a nice engagement ring. The VX2 is kept safely inside the felt pouch, safe and sound and free of scratches.

If yellow is not your color, ASUS also has a pure black version, although I was unable to find any photos of it. The yellow will prove the more popular version though and will likely be easier to locate in an e- or re-tailer.

Overall the VX2 looks quite similar to the VX1, although there are a few minor changes. The ASUS and Lamborghini logos remain in the same positions, although the faux intake is larger.

Here are some close-ups. You might notice some remnants from the black felt bag, which I didn’t notice until after the shots were taken. That can be brushed off with a cloth or duster.

There are a few LEDs located right below this mesh which light up when the respective function is being used. While in use, these lights are of virtually no use, but others sitting on the other side of the table with jaws dropped will notice them.

Excuse the room in the background. Such a small area and a big laptop.

If you read my review of the VX1, you’d know that one of my ultimate gripes was the fact that the beautiful laptop was plastered with needless stickers. ASUS again has taken care of this issue with the VX2.

The only stickers included are brand related badges, as you can see above. If you wish to keep these on the laptop (for whatever reason), you can peel them off here and paste them yourself. This is pointless though, as it would ruin the overall look of the laptop and defeat the purpose of having the nice leather.



Closer Look Cont.

ASUS is not new to adding leather to their notebooks, so it’s no surprise to see them add it to the revised Lamborghini. You can click the photo below for a near full-resolution image to better see the texture and also the touchpad. Yes, that’s a thumbprint reader you see there, and throughout all of my tests, it performed exceptionally.

Here are a few more close-ups.

Right beneath the screen you’ll find the power, bluetooth enable, performance button, wifi enable, touchpad enable and also the button for quick access to the media player.

The opposite end has no additional buttons, but you can see the fine-stitched leather that runs along the entire laptop.

Unlike the VX1, this notebook includes a high-performance 1.3 megapixel camera, which certainly beats the 0.35MP camera seen on the recently reviewed A8Js. ASUS didn’t want to sacrifice any class when it comes to the webcam, so there is a chainmail-like guard around it. The camera swivels so you can line up appropriately, and it stays completely still when the notebook cover is closed.

The obligatory shot of the keys.

The bottom is where things get interesting. What’s the first thing you notice? Would it be the hubcap?

This hubcap is modeled after those found on the stock Gallardo. Stock meaning non-Spyder, non-Superleggera. It’s simply here to be visually appealing, and that it does well. It’s not exhaust however, but rather underneath is a leaf-blower fan to blow warm air out the nearest exit.

On the right side of the laptop you’ll find an express port, media card reader, IR port, audio ports, single USB port, firewire port, exhaust area, modem port and finally the power jack.

On the left side is the LAN port, video out, VGA, dual USB ports, DVI port and the optical drive. The back of the notebook is clean of anything except the Kensington’s security port.

Normally I try to include photos of the laptop with the back panels removed to show what’s underneath, but this was not possible with the VX2. It’s built secure, so it will be difficult to take apart if you want to take a peek inside. I was not comfortable removing some of the panels as it felt like something was going to snap. The VX2, like the original, includes a stylish bag.

In the picture above you can see the shoulder strap and also the felt bag that will fit your VX2 before putting it into the larger bag. Placing it in this felt bag first will protect it from scratches, or if you don’t mind carrying it around without a handle, you could simply use this bag if you wanted.



Technical Specs

In this section I will take a look at what makes the VX2 so great and also compare it to the previous generation. Granted, the new notebook should be better than the previous. It’s just the normal progression of things. But even at the time of the VX1s release, it wasn’t decked out by most standards. Things have certainly been improved here.

Included is one of the top-end mobile processors Intel offers, the T7400 running at 2.16GHz with 4MB of L2 cache. 2GB of ram is still included here, so the notebook should be perfect overall for anything, it certainly will have enough ram to get you by. One of my gripes with the VX1 was it’s weak graphics card. No more.. here we have a nice GeForce Go 7700 card, which is far superior to the 7400VX. Thank you ASUS.

Once again we have a 160GB hard drive in addition to market standard wifi and optical drive. Improved here though is the 15.4" LCD screen, which is now in widescreen format, 1680×1050 compared to the VX1’s 1440×900. This is essentially 27% more pixels in virtually the same sized screen, so the picture is a lot crisper on the VX2.

June 1, 2007 Edit: The VX1 had actually used a resolution of 1440×1050, therefore the 27% figure I provided was incorrect. The increase is actually 1.512MP to 1.764MP, or an increase of 16.6% pixels on the VX2. Due to the fact that the monitor is a smidgen larger, the “crispness” I described would not be as noticable, but there should be a minor difference. Thanks to critic from our forums for pointing out this error.

That all said, here is a direct comparison of the two. It’s not hard to argue that the VX2 certainly got better treatment, primarily thanks to the GPU upgrade.

Feature
VX1
VX2
Processor Intel T7400 (2.16GHz)Intel T7400 (2.16GHz)
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce Go 7400VX 512MBNVIDIA GeForce Go 7700 512MB
Memory 2GB Elpida DDR2-667 5-5-52GB Nanya Tech DDR2-667 5-5-5
Hard Drive Seagate 160GB 5400.3Seagate 160GB 5400.3
Monitor15" SXGA+ Bright LCD15.4" SXGA+ Bright LCD
ConnectivityIntel 802.11a/b/g + Bluetooth WiFi
56k Broadcom Modem
Intel 802.11a/b/g + Bluetooth WiFi
56k Broadcom Modem
OpticalMatshita UJ-842S Dual Layer Burner (4x Write) LG GMA-4084N Dual Layer Burner (8x Write)
Et cetera Windows XP Professional Windows Vista Ultimate

One rather large difference is that the VX2 includes Windows Vista, which is not surprising since the VX1 was released before Vistas official launch. Not only is it Windows Vista, but the full-blown Ultimate edition. This allows you to take advantages of BitLocker since this notebooks motherboard includes a TPM chip.

Installation and Setup

If you have been reading the site for a while, you might already know that I am not a fan of Vista. In fact, I dislike it quite a bit. I won’t get deep into reasons, but I tend to run into many issues while using it. After initial setup of the notebook, I jotted up a quick text file in Notepad in order to keep track of benchmarking scores. As I saved the file, Notepad crashed entirely, which required me log out and back in, while losing everything I already had typed. No, I am not joking.

Why do I mention all this, you ask? Reason being that during testing, as you will see later, I focus more on Windows XP rather than Vista, for various reasons. One, many of the benchmarks I like to run do not function. Second is the fact that performance was degraded throughout the games due to lack of good video drivers. I don’t believe it’s fair to review a notebooks hardware and have it receive poor ratings due to an OS it had forced upon it. Therefore, much of my testing will be performed through XP. Essentially, I want to review the notebook for what it is, not for what it isn’t. Vista performance will get better down the road, but I consider it still far too clunky to use in any of our reviews. Once we find Vista as a viable benchmarking platform, we will begin using it.

As I mentioned earlier, ASUS does not include any WinXP drivers on the included CD-Roms, which is understandable since it’s not the pre-installed OS. However, their support website includes drivers for absolutely everything for use under Windows XP. If you dislike Vista, then it’s good to know that ASUS fully supports XP if you wish to install it instead.

All of that said, the initial setup was as simple as they come. Turn on the laptop, follow the simple prompts and within minutes you are at your desktop. If you’ve installed Vista before, you know what the setup is like. The only thing different is at the Wallpaper selection screen, there are three Lamborghini-specific ones to choose from. If you format and install XP instead, these wallpapers can be found on the driver CD-Rom.

The desktop was quite familiar to me, as I’ve reviewed ASUS laptops before. ASUS, unlike a few others, do not completely bloat their notebooks with trial ware. There are a variety of utilities available, but they are VX2 specific and produced by ASUS themselves, therefore free and included with the laptop. The absolutely only trial ware installed is Norton Internet Security, but allow me to stop myself from ranting before I even start.

Overall the setup was very simple, no hitches or complaints to mention. I apologize for the complete lack of screenshots here. I had forgot to take any prior to shipping the notebook back. Read on the next page to see my initial impressions of the VX2.



Initial Thoughts, Software


The VX2 quickly became one of the most enjoyable notebooks I’ve used. I found it comfortable to use, especially while typing thanks to the soft leather, opposed to the usual rough plastic. I didn’t feel the same way about the touchpad, however. This didn’t come as a surprise, since I’ve disliked virtually every one I’ve touched even since I bought a Dell Inspiron 5150 a few years ago. The problem is not the touchpad itself, but rather the left and right buttons. I just cannot seem to use them comfortably. I found the touchpad on the A8Js more comfortable to use overall.

It all depends on how you use a touchpad. I like to rest my entire hand on it and push the buttons with my thumb. If you push the buttons with a finger other than your thumb, you will not likely find it uncomfortable. On my Dell, the buttons are rather large, and I can use the touchpad no problem without even having to lift my hand. I cannot use it as such with the VX2s touchpad. The touchpad works and works well, I simply could not find a comfort zone, so I stuck to the mouse. But, that is another story. Bluetooth is a wonderful technology, but I run into a good share of problems with it as well.

The first issue I had was setting up the mouse initially. I had to run the Bluetooth detection setup five times before it detected my mouse. The second issue is not really an issue, but the fact that the mouse goes to sleep rather fast. If you set the mouse down and go to type anything, you’ll need to move the mouse and wait a second before it kicks back in.

Those two gripes aside, the notebook was an joy to use.

Ridding the Beast

Since the VX2 is focused on performance, it’s kind of ironic I wanted to first replace Vista with XP Professional. This proved a straight-forward process as any other. Boot up with WinXP disc, format and install. ASUS must have anticipated folks like me, so they are kind enough to offer every single driver on their website for XP. Essentially, once done installing everything off their site, you will have a fresh ASUS VX2 laptop, minus Vista. Even the thumbprint reader functions the same in XP as it does in Vista, which was nice to see.

I did run into a few problems though, but they are easily taken care of once you know what to do. First was the fact that I could not get the Bluetooth mouse detected, even though the drivers were installed as well as the mouse turned on. I un-installed/re-installed for close to 45 minutes and got absolutely nowhere. Fed up, I pushed the Bluetooth enable button on the laptop, which triggered a new hardware detected instance. It proceeded to install the correct driver through Windows update. Once that was completed, the mouse was detected no problem.

The sound also gave me a few problems, which I still haven’t figured out entirely. You need to first install the UAA drivers before installing the Realtek drivers. Your sound will be functioning after installing both, but the problem is that when I muted the volume, it wasn’t actually muted. Shutting down Windows would still play the chime and Windows would ding whenever I did something to prompt it. In order to have no volume at all, I had to slide the volume bar all the way to the bottom. I am unsure why this was, but other than that the sound worked great.

The last issue I had was trying to get the WiFi to function. Again, this process took me well over an hour and became frustrating quite quickly. I re-installed the drivers off the ASUS support site numerous times, following the directions to a T, with absolutely no luck. It turns out all that I needed to do was search for the official drivers from Intel, which was for the 4965AGN wireless device. Technically, I am unsure how these specific drivers differ from the ones off the ASUS site, but the fact is, these ones worked. Once installed, WiFi was no problem.

I understand that most people will not be downgrading to Windows XP when they already have Windows Vista Ultimate installed, but these experiences are for those who do plan to. Although I ran into a fair amount of problems, they were all rather simple to fix. The only problem that remains is the fact that the volume does not actually mute, despite the icon reflecting just that.



Testing Methodology, Benchmarks

As I mentioned, I will not be testing the laptop with Windows Vista, since many of the programs I wanted to use would not run. Instead, I formatted and installed Windows XP Professional and used the drivers/software that are available on their support site. To elaborate on why I prefer Windows XP, here are a few quick reasons. Far more than others, it’s due to the fact that Vista really drags down performance in some applications, especially since the NVIDIA drivers are not half as good for Vista as they are for XP. In fact, Half-Life 2 had it’s average FPS cut in half. Therefore, I want to give performance results representative of what the notebook is capable of, rather than giving performance results that are held back thanks to the lackluster OS.

I will state that some benchmarks did run in Vista, and most of them didn’t have major decreases. Some would not run at all though, such as Super Pi. It would start up, but as soon as a calculation was executed, it would crash. I’ve had Super Pi function in Vista before, but it’s really hit or miss. It was a miss in this situation.

That also said, the VGA drivers off the ASUS support site were not used, due to complications that arose. While the games would deliver solid performance, the gameplay would be very sticky. There were a few instances where the game would lock up entirely, then snap out of it after a few moments. I downloaded the latest WHQL drivers (97.92) from LaptopVideo2Go, which took care of those problems completely. I am not sure what was wrong with the drivers ASUS supplies, but it’s something you should be aware of.

Before testing, minor applications were closed, such as MultiFrame and Splendid. Everything system specific was left in-tact, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, TPM, power saving utility, audio and so forth. For comparative purposes, we will be showing the results of the VX2, VX1 and the recently reviewed A8Js. Here are the simple specs for each notebook:

Lamborghini VX2
Lamborghini VX1
A8Js

Intel Core 2 T7400 (2.16GHz)
2GB DDR2-667 (2×1)
NVIDIA Go7700 512MB
160GB Seagate 5400.3
8x DVD-RW-DL

Intel Core 2 T7400 (2.16GHz)
2GB DDR2-667 (2×1)
NVIDIA Go7400VX 512MB
160GB Seagate 5400.3
4x DVD-RW-DL

Intel Core 2 T7200 (2.0GHz)
1GB DDR2-667 (1×1)
NVIDIA Go7700 512MB
120GB Hitachi 5400RPM
8x DVD-RW-DL

For our synthetic benchmarks, the VX2 compared nicely to the VX1. Since both of these laptops include the same CPU and memory, it wasn’t a surprise. Our 3D Mark and PC Mark results show just how much more suitable the VX2 is for gaming, however.

Benchmark
ASUS Lamborghini VX2
ASUS Lamborghini VX1
ASUS A8JS
3D Mark 01 236021566022467
3D Mark 06 Overall 24078302675
3D Mark 06 CPU 183418401737
PC Mark 05 478442744699
HD Tune 99.0MB/s Burst
32.9MB/s Average
16ms Latency *
66.3MB/s Burst
34.7MB/s Average
17ms Latency *
67.4MB/s Burst
33.0MB/s Average
17.8ms Latency *
HD Tach 132.0MB/s Burst
35.0MB/s Average

15.8ms Latency *
84.5MB/s Burst
36.8MB/s Average
16.2ms Latency *
116.7MB/s Burst
35.1MB/s Average
16.9ms Latency *
Super Pi 1 M – 24.375s *
8 M – 306.797s *
1 M – 24.156s *
8 M – 306.15s *
1 M – 25.938s *
8 M – 330.70s *
Sandra Arithmetic 19842 / 13734 19813 / 13607 18410 / 12665
Sandra Multi-Media 118567 / 63883 117174 / 63395 109386 / 59096
Sandra Memory 3896 / 3906 3942 / 3949 3574 / 3596

Here are a few miscellaneous tests. When compared to the original, the VX2 proved a little better for DVD Playback and a lot worse for book reading. I believe this to be thanks to the larger screen and the greater white surface area. While the VX2 took two minutes longer to rip a DVD, it proved half a minute faster for ripping a CD to FLAC.

Real World Benchmark
ASUS Lamborghini VX2
ASUS Lamborghini VX1
ASUS A8JS
Depleted Battery to Fully Charged *2h 40m 2h 30m 1h 50m
DVD Playback On Battery 2h 41m 2h 36m 2h 14m
Book Reading on Battery 2h 23m 2h 59m 2h 25m
DVD Ripping *33m 51s 31m 33s 30m 01s
CD Rip to FLAC *18m 33s 18m 58s 19m 23s

For our gaming tests, I am comparing directly to the A8Js which utilizes the same graphics card, but slightly smaller CPU. All results were gathered with FRAPS 2.82 and were manually played through. No time demos here.

Game
VX2
1024×768
VX2
1440×900
A8Js
1024×768
A8Js
1440×900
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 80.36750.57285.98353.800
Oblivion45.28937.15645.81737.800
Ghost Recon: AW 34.49037.15634.36722.483
NFS: Carbon 21.070N/A20.933N/A

The VX2 fell behind the A8Js in every gaming related test, but not that far. The VX2 actually performed far better in GRAW at 1440×900, but that’s the only advantage we saw. Although both notebooks have the same GPU, I would have figured the VX2 would have the better scores, thanks to the better CPU. I shift partial blame to the choice of video drivers used. On the A8Js, the drivers that were included with the laptop were used. Since the VX2 doesn’t support XP naturally, I used newer video drivers found on LaptopVideo2Go. It could be that the A8Js had drivers that were better suited for it, or that the VX2 just doesn’t have the same airflow scheme as the A8Js. Many factors could come into play.

Regardless, these were still good scores, so gaming is definitely something you can get into with the VX2.



Final Thoughts


After using the VX2 for two weeks, I am impressed overall. As a primary computer, it will suit you well thanks to it’s great specs. It’s good for gaming, multimedia and even getting some work done. This was the third ASUS laptop we’ve taken a look at, and despite the larger screen, the DVD playback was the best on the VX2, at 2h 41m. Just note that book reading will kill the battery faster, unless you have white text on black background since it should use less power.

The most important factor about the laptop is the fact that it retails for $2,699. This is far from cheap, considering comparable notebooks can be had for $1,000 less. There are a few things to take into consideration. As for hardware, the VX2 is near top of the line, thanks to it’s T7400 CPU and 2GB of ram. The midstream 7700 Go GPU wil allow you to get your game on, but more often at lower resolutions than native. Add to that, we have a 160GB Seagate drive, high-quality WiFi and more peripheral connectivity than any one person needs.

As far as special features, we have the fingerprint reader, 1.3 megapixel webcam, Lamborghini styled mouse, leather interior and of course, the fact that it’s Lamborghini inspired. If you want a laptop with Lamborghini’s name on it, or this color for that matter, you’ll have to pick up the VX2. It comes at a premium as I mentioned. Although ASUS obviously does not release information in regards to cost of various aspects, the luxury of the Lamborghini name no doubt costs a few hundred dollars by itself. Coupled then with the largest version of Vista there is, it’s easy to see why it retails for $2,699.

It’s hard to say that this is a good price for the notebook, because really, it isn’t. However, if you are a huge Lamborghini fan/owner, the cost might not be that much of an issue. I admit, if there was a well designed BMW inspired notebook available, I’d easily pay the premium to pick it up. I enjoy Lamborghini’s, but I am not personally such a fan that $2,700 would be warranted. Essentially when it comes down to it, everything that the VX2 offers over less expensive laptops is the unique design and Lamborghini name, not to mention the full-blown Windows. If Lamborghini had nothing to do with the notebook and there was no Windows installed, it would no doubt cost $800 less.

As high as the price may be, I’m not going to weigh it too heavily in my score, simply because this is one of the classiest notebooks on the market and is set out to a specific audience. The closest competitor would be ACER’s Ferrari notebook, which I personally find has bland appeal. Not that Ferrari’s are bland, but the notebook is. It doesn’t come close to the VX2. The ACER however retails for ~$300 less on average, for similar specs. The biggest primary difference is that the VX2 has a slightly better GPU.

The main point to stress is that it’s up to you to determine the value. If you are not a fan of Lamborghini, you should get a normal laptop with comparable specifications.

I am convinced that I love the notebook overall, but no laptop is perfect. None. The primary thing I did not enjoy about the VX2 was the touchpad, but again, that could be just me. If you use your index fingers to deal with the left and right keys, you’ll be fine. If you are like me and use your thumb, it will probably be uncomfortable.

Vista is also a personal gripe of mine, which isn’t helped by the fact that NVIDIAs current mobile Vista drivers are not ideal. Aside from issues I encountered there, Vista worked fine (except when Notepad crashed on that one occasion). Any problems you have in Vista… will be Vista, not the laptop. After I installed XP and the proper drivers, it was smooth sailing.

Aside from those issues, I cannot immediately think of anything else I disliked. The notebook was a joy to use. It’s fast, looks great and never requires an oil change. I give the ASUS Lamborghini VX2 an eight out of ten, and will finish off with a quick pros/cons roundup.

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