ASUS Z63A Whitebook Laptop Review


Older games, newer games, and DVD Playback

My son and I play Battlefield 1942 online together. The Compaq was not capable of reasonable gameplay at any video settings. On the other hand, ASUS Z63A was able to use the highest video settings and 1024x768x32 resolution to achieve consistent game performance at 30 to 70 frames per second. The lower values were for scenes with a lot of smoke.

I also tested the ASUS Z63A using several other older (DX 8 and 9a) games, such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Sturmovik, Microsoft?s Motocross Madness and Flight Simulator 2002, and several others, with excellent results. When I tried to play some of the most recent 3D-intensive games, however, I got jerky performance (1 to 6 fps in Half Life 2, Doom 3, and Far Cry) or outright failure to load (Tom Clancy?s Splinter Cell 3). These observations support the results of the 3Dmark03 and 3Dmark05 benchmarks.

DVD playback was spectacular with the ASUS Z63A. The colors and detail were theater-crisp, playback was jitter-free, and the special effects were flawless (slow-mo, freeze-frame, etc.). Using the default PowerGear settings, I observed over 3 hours of continuous, full-screen DVD play on a single battery charge, using the highest picture-quality settings.

Benchmark conclusions

I expected that the ASUS Z63A notebook would be fast, but I was astounded at the performance difference it exhibited in benchmark and everyday computing activities, compared to a fairly modern Compaq with similar memory bandwidth and CPU clock speed. I found in everyday usage that the ASUS z63a notebook will fly through any modern application I could throw at it.

In fact, CPU-specific benchmark results show that the Z63A (M760 2.0 GHz) is the equal of my overclocked Pentium-4 3.2 GHz desktop when you compare raw computing power. This is amazing when you consider that the M760 draws only 25 watts of power versus over 80 for my Pentium-4 hot-plate. The net result is that the Sonoma combination of low-wattage cpu and DDR2 memory technology will provide an honest 3-4 hours of battery life, whereas the same battery would run my P4 desktop for, what, 30 seconds? Hell, the PPK battery probably wouldn’t run my desktop’s fans for 4 hours.

I also expected that the Z63A would suffer in 3D games, but I was pleasantly surprised that it is capable of running all but the latest 3D-intensive shooters. The integrated Intel GMA900 graphics of the Z63a are substantially less capable than the latest ATI Mobility Radeon x300 and x600 graphic cards (as shown in the 3Dmark03 and 3Dmark05 database comparisons), but these cards usually require a larger 15.4- or 17-inch frame, which defeats the purpose of the whole building your own more mobile notebook (our “PPK” edition).

There is an alternative for a 14-inch notebook with killer 3D-graphics, however, if you’re willing to pay the price. Asus recently released a version of the Z63a that uses the Radeon x600 (64 MB) card, but the Asus W3V is available only as pre-built (Pentium M 750 at 1.86 GHz, 512 DDR2-533) for $1600 to $1700 internet price. A similar configuration of a Z63a whitebox would cost around $1050 (see Shopping List, page 2).

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