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Asus V1J Santa Rosa review: Asus V1J Santa Rosa

The Good Non-glossy display; fast graphics performance.

The Bad Looks; screen is fiddly to open; slow memory.

The Bottom Line The V1J doesn't come cheap, but it offers excellent performance in most respects, has a wealth of features and puts most of its older Centrino rivals to shame

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8.3 Overall

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The Asus V1J is one of the first laptops we've seen that uses Intel's next-generation Centrino technology. The underlying technology, codenamed Santa Rosa, will officially be known as Centrino Pro in business laptops such as this. It features a new Core 2 Duo processor, fast 802.11n wireless capability and DirectX 10 graphics.

Design
The Asus V1J is an unlikely candidate for a design award. It isn't particularly ugly, but the 'John Major grey' finish does it no favours whatsoever. Asus does its best to spruce things up with some silver trim around the edges and a silver Asus logo on the lid, but its designers aren't fooling anyone -- this thing looks as though it emigrated from Dullsville, Tennessee.

The V1J isn't the ideal candidate for road warriors. Its 15.4-inch screen makes it a tad too large to take everywhere, but Asus has kept the weight to a respectable 2.7kg, so it's not too heavy considering its girth.

Opening the lid can be tricky as the screen latch is positioned almost underneath the laptop. It's fiddly enough to open when using two hands, but we wouldn't be surprised if users developed some mild form of repetitive strain injury trying to unfasten it one-handed.

Everything else is arranged logically enough. The USB ports are well spaced -- two on each side -- and the shortcut buttons are discreetly positioned above the main keyboard. The rotating 1.3-megapixel webcam sits at the top of the screen where it should be, and the keyboard and mouse both feel good in use. Usefully, Asus has made the keyboard spill-proof, so it's safe to take on a liquid lunch.

Features
The V1J uses the latest iteration of Intel's Centrino technology. This first appeared towards the end of 2003, marking the arrival of laptops built around Intel's vision of wireless freedom and long battery life. To qualify as a Centrino laptop, PCs had to sport an Intel wireless adaptor, Intel motherboard and the Intel Pentium M CPU.

Last year the Centrino platform was spruced up with dual-core CPUs and given the official title of Centrino Duo. The latest update, codenamed Santa Rosa, keeps the Centrino Duo name, except in business-oriented laptops such as the Asus V1J, where it's known as Centrino Pro.

Being a Centrino Pro laptop, the V1J sports an all-new processor, in this case a 2.2GHz Intel T7500. It's pretty similar to the previous Core 2 Duo processors (codenamed Merom), but instead of a 667MHz front-side bus (FSB), it uses a faster 800MHz FSB, which theoretically speeds up the connection between the CPU and memory subsystem and makes the laptop run faster.

Intel's geeks have been working overtime to ensure the FSB throttles back to a lower frequency in order to help prolong battery life when the V1J isn't being used for CPU-intensive tasks. They've also improved the way the CPU copes with single-threaded applications, ie most games. Centrino no longer lets a game run full-whack on a single core while leaving the remaining core to sit idly by, eating compute cycles and draining battery life. It now shuts off the idle core and ramps up the clock speed of the active core.

The V1J uses 1GB of 667MHz PC2 5300 DDR2 memory, which is something of a surprise -- in more ways than one. Firstly, we'd have preferred 2GB of memory, and secondly, we'd like to have seen memory that runs at 800MHz to match the improved FSB speed. As it stands, the 1GB installed in the V1J is a significant bottleneck when running memory-intensive applications.

One thing we can't grumble about is the laptop's graphics capability. Asus could, quite forgivably, have opted for the X3100 graphics adaptor integrated with the new chipset, but it's gone for a slightly more potent Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT chip. This is fully compliant with DirectX 10, so it'll run future games coded in Microsoft's fancy new application programming interface (API), and, of course, run current 3D games. See the Performance section to see how it fared.

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