Reviewer: Anthony Fordham
ASUS is one of the more successful Taiwanese brands that has access to cheap factory labour and a wide range of parts from other Taiwanese manufacturers. That means that company can produce powerful machines at lower price points, and the spec of the F3JP lives up to that potential.
What’s really surprising and pleasing about this machine is how good it looks. It looks stylish and expensive, and nothing at all like the generic grey-box PC that is its heritage.
The F3JP is a sensible mix of modesty and power. While the display is a lower resolution 1280 x 800 unit, the CPU is a beefy Core 2 Duo T5500, running at 1.66GHz. Use of Core 2 Duo technology means the chip is more powerful, but paradoxically uses less power thanks to its lower clock speed.
The Mobility RADEON X1700 graphic chip is very solid indeed and allows for the majority of games to be played at the display’s native resolution. An 80GB hard drive, meanwhile, is standard.
Like the MSI notebook, the F3JP includes a DVI-out digital video port, which allows you to connect it to a larger LCD display or even a HDMI TV with appropriate conversion cable.
The F3JP comes with a basic installation of Windows XP and not much extra software. ASUS does include a few free anti-spyware and basic antivirus packages, but it’s worth upgrading to a premium antivirus system.
Activating the wireless network adapter in the machine proved a bit of a chore, since not only did we have to flip a switch hidden under the PC, we also had to check the installation of the network adapter drivers as well.
Because Windows is installed very “clean” without fiddly extra custom management programs like you find on Sony’s VAIO series and others, getting the notebook up and working is very quick and seamless.
Thanks to the combination of CPU, RAM and graphics chip, the F3JP is an excellent performer at this price point, pipped only by the slightly better specced MSI machine. The inclusion of a 1.3MP digital camera gives it a bit of extra functionality, and the DVI-port makes it a very flexible machine when it comes to multimedia.
It works well for games, although a couple of the more modern titles tax the graphics chip somewhat. Movie playback and music are of course smooth and trouble free, as is the case with all machines running Intel’s latest CPU family.
This is a stylish, powerful, well-appointed machine that makes good choices when it comes to balancing specification and price. The fact this notebook looks as good as it does is a compliment to the team at ASUS. Normally cheaper notebooks look cheap, and the F3JP looks expensive. Fortunately, the style is backed up with considerable substance. If it wasn’t for MSI’s killer 17″ display, this would be the notebook of choice in this roundup.
A final note
This notebook was reviewed in conjunction with three other models – follow the links below for those other reviews:
Some final thoughts on this round-up of four models?
It’s clear that Dell needs to look at the competition and see where everyone else is hitting on performance – the Inspiron was the only machine without a Core 2 Duo CPU. Fortunately Dell is likely to upgrade it soon.
The Toshiba machine has the typical high build quality the company is famous for, and good performance to boot. But the newcomers to the field do give you more for your money, and the fact so many parts are standardised now means having a solid warranty is less significant as a selling point. The “no-name” brands offer the same 1-year standard and 3-years extended as the big players anyway.
ASUS has a stylish and powerful machine that looks great and performs just as well. If you want a 15″ machine that tips the scales at less than 3 kg, this is definitely the unit for you. On the other hand, if you want as much computer for you money as you can get, MSI wins easily.
The fact it has a 17″ display at this price point shouldn’t be overlooked. What’s doubly impressive is that MSI manages to include the same CPU, a better graphics chip and slightly bigger hard drive as well! That makes the L745 pick of this litter, by a long shot.