Editors' note: This review is part of our Holiday 2008 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
We have tested and reviewed five retail laptops in the $800 to $1,000 range, and the Asus X83VB-X1 is the cheapest and most powerful of the bunch. Priced $849, it still managed to top our performance charts that include laptops that cost up to $999. This black-and-gold 14-inch mainstream laptop pairs a Core 2 Duo T5800 CPU--a chip you'll find offered on many laptops at retail this quarter--with a 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS graphics card. Casual gamers will be able to play older games at modest resolutions with this midrange card, though it proved it's hardly more capable than ATI's current integrated Radeon HD3200 graphics solution. We're not thrilled with the keyboard, and the mouse buttons are too stiff--two drawbacks on an otherwise well designed laptop that delivers excellent bang for the buck. Alternatively, the HP Pavilion dv4-1125nr sheds the GeForce graphics and $50 while providing flashy yet functional touch-sensitive media control keys and less clacky keys.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800|
|Memory||4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz|
|Hard drive||250GB, 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium 64-bit|
|Dimensions (width x height)||13.4 x 10.0 inches|
|Thickness||1.3 to 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.7 / 6.6 pounds|
The Asus X83VB-X1 delivers a little bling to the mainstream laptop buying public. The glossy black lid features a thin, golden graphic pattern with the "Asus" logo in golden lettering in its middle. Open up the up laptop, and you see more gold. The black keyboard decks fades to gold, resulting in a golden wrist rest. The laptop uses a plastic chassis, but it feels very solidly built. The middle of the lid flexes somewhat, but the wrist rest feels rock solid. It has a nice feel, with gently sloping, rounded edges and a glossy, smooth finish.
Unfortunately, the luxe feel of the chassis does not extend to the keyboard. The glossy keys feel light and suffer from dreaded clackiness. Also, the symbols on the keys are gold--not white--and are difficult to see in low light. Above the keyboard is a row of five buttons. We'd rather these control the volume and offer media transport functions--play/pause, rewind, fast forward--but instead they let you choose among various power management, screen, and wireless settings. Maddeningly, there is a button to turn Bluetooth on or off, but this laptop does not feature Bluetooth.
The touch pad is roomy--much larger than the touch pad on the 14-inch --and features vertical and horizontal scrolling regions. The mouse buttons are large but much too stiff. I found it required a bit too much force and effort to depress each--you'll find yourself making very determined mouse clicks. The Asus X83VB-X1 has room for a larger touch pad than the Pavilion dv4-1125nr for the simple fact that it's larger, despite both models having 14.1-inch screens. The Asus is a hair wider and a half inch longer front to back, while also being 4 ounces heavier.
The display is attached by two wide, sturdy hinges that keep the display from wobbling. The display itself features a standard native resolution of 1,280x800. The screen features LED backlighting, which results in a very bright image. The screen's glossy finish finds a good balance, helping make colors look vibrant but with only a small degree of distracting glare and reflections.
For a pair of small, integrated stereo speakers, the X83VB-X1's speakers provide surprisingly passable audio. It helps that they're located on the front edge of the laptop, where they can better project out than if they had been located along the back edge.
Three vents are located on the bottom of the laptop along with a large vent along the right edge. The vents keep the laptop cool and running quietly. Even when the GPU's cooling fan engages to push air out the right side, it does so with barely an audible hum.
|Asus X83VB-X1||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video, Webcam|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||5 USB 2.0, FireWire, eSATA, multiformat card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Asus X83VB-X1 boasts a healthy collection of ports, including some along the back edge. The laptop's five USB 2.0 ports are spread out among three sides of the laptop--one on the left, two on the right, and two in back. Also in back are HDMI, eSATA, and Ethernet connections. The battery is located under the front right corner of the laptop instead of its usual spot along a laptop's back edge. The media card reader turns up in an unusual spot, too: on the back of the left edge, right above the DVD burner.
The Asus turned in chart topping performance among five retail laptops we tested that fall between $800 and $1,000. It finished 4 percent ahead of its next closest competitor on CNET Labs' multimedia multitasking benchmark, while it and the Dell Inspiron 1535-143B enjoyed a 21 percent edge over the other three laptops here on our Photoshop CS3 benchmark. Overall, the Asus X83VB-X1 delivers outstanding application performance for mainstream buyers, particularly for the price.
Helping the Asus X83VB-X1 stand out is its Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS graphics card, with 512MB of video memory. While casual gamers will make use of this budget graphics card, we found that it delivers only a few frames more per second than ATI's most recent integrated graphics chip, the HD3200. The Pavilion dv4-1155se uses ATI HD3200 graphics and turned in 15.6 frames per second on Quake 4 at 1,280x800 resolution (with AA and AF turned off). With the same settings, the Asus X83VB-X1 turned in only 17.4 frames per second. We also ran 3DMark06 on these two systems; the HP scored a 1,569 and the Asus posted a score of 1,837, a 17 percent advantage. Lastly, thanks in large part to its discrete graphics card, the Asus X83VB-X1 does not meet the requirements to be an Energy Star; the Pavilion dv4-1125nr does.