C90S Review

Discussion in 'ASUS Reviews and Owners' Lounges' started by AlexOnFyre, Jul 14, 2007.

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  1. AlexOnFyre

    AlexOnFyre Needs to get back to work NBR Reviewer

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    As much as I wanted this to be in the news and reviews section, and to have the black text option available for my name, I don't really want to make you guys wait 3 or 4 days for formating and editing. I tried getting in touch with Andrew and he is busy, so I decided to just post it here. Enjoy!

    C90S Review

    [Notes: I have more gaming benchmarks, I can post them later. Also, I apologise for not having a detailed battery report, but I just didn't have time. One of my co-authors or I will have one within a few days.]

    Background and introduction:
    Upgradability, a concept so elusive we don't even know how to spell it yet. It has become relatively common place for laptop owners to upgrade their RAM and hard drives, but anything beyond that has been something of a pipe dream. Flashes of ingenuity have come over the years to make notebooks upgradable for short periods of time, or to open the doors for potential upgrades in the future. Earlier this decade it was all the rage to make laptops with desktop processors because, quite simply, mobile CPUs were not worth the money at the time. This allowed some users to upgrade their CPUs because desktop processors required desktop chipsets, and desktop chipsets allow for interchangeability of the processors of the same class.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The P4 motherboard (bottom) accepted any in the P4 range (top) allowing some upgradability for desktop processor users from about 2004-2005.

    This era quickly ended, though, as soon as mobile CPUs became a little faster, because desktop processors were just too hot and it was impossible to get more than an hour and a half of battery life out of them. Around this same time, the PCI-e standard was released for use in mobile form factor architectures. Not too long afterwards nVidia introduced the Mobile PCI-Express Module (more commonly known as MXM). The idea was to make a standard GPU card slot to be used industry wide, so that multiple GPUs could be compatible with the same mobile motherboard. It was incredibly exciting at the time, and still is, but has yet to blossom because of lackluster adoption by ODMs and the release of four separate types of MXM which is confusing to the end-users of the technology. This was because, although the slots for the GPU cards were uniform, the cards themselves were not all the same. The GPU on each card could be in any different place, as could the memory; this causes a problem when upgrading, as the thermal profiles of the new card may be entirely different from the old one, cooling that was based on the GPU being on the pin side of the card may no longer be affective if it is now closer to the center.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    As you can see, though these two cards are both compatible with the same MXM slot (Type II I believe), There are some notable differences to the architecture which would make cooling difficult.

    Asus believes they have finally solved both problems. The current generation of desktop Core 2 Duo processors use less power and generate less heat than the processors of yore. This makes them prime candidates for an upgradable CPU architecture. To solve the MXM problems Asus has chosen the MXM-Type II, presumably on information that there will be more processors based on that platform that fit the thermal envelope of a 15.4” laptop than any of the other types. In addition they have added a heat spreader to the module so that regardless of where the heat is coming from (the positions of the memory and GPU) it can be dissipated in the same way. [PIC] To further increase the system's potential they have designed a new fan system which transports the heat away from the main chassis of the system and blows it away. Hot air is transport down the copper lanes that you see, through the heat catcher and blown away by 4 of the largest fans to be in any notebook to date.
    (Most computers currently blow hot air through vents in the sides or bottom, which raises the ambient temperature around the computer, not completely cooling it.)
    These solutions have manifested themselves in the form of the brand new C90S system, which was so important to Asus that their QA tested EVERY SINGLE unit that came off of the line. Today we find out how sweet the fruits of their labor really taste.

    Specs as tested:

    Carrying Case: Included

    Warranty: 2 Years Warranty

    RAM: 3GB DDR-2 667 SODIMM (1X1G+1X2GB)

    HD: Seagate Momentus 7200.2 160GB 7200rpm S-ATA 300

    Operating System: Windows Vista Business 32bit DVD

    CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo Conroe E6700 2.66 GHz 1066FSB 4M

    Arctic Silver 5

    WiFi: Intel® PRO/Wireless 4965 802.11 a/b/g/n

    AC Adapter: One AC Adapter Included

    Webcam: Built-in 2.0 MP Webcam

    Bluetooth: Built-in Bluetooth™ V2.0+EDR

    Optical Drive: 8 x DVD-RW Dual Layer Super Multi

    GPU: Upgradable GeForce 8600 GT 512MB DDR2 MXM 2.0

    Screen: 15.4" WSXGA+ 1680X1050 Glossy

    Fingerprint Reader: Built-in

    Reasons to buy:

    Like many I was conflicted between buying this laptop, the G1S (also from Asus), the Compal IFL90 and even the Macbook Pro. I was looking for a mainstream sized computer with 17” performance. While all of these products would have certainly served me well, I chose the C90 because of the price point, superior processor options and what looks like a truly powerful notebook cooling system. (Keep reading to see if it more than just looks the part!) I also really like the 2MP rotating camera which was not available on the other models I looked at.
    In addition, Asus surprised me with their support of this system, calling their 1-800 number in the US put me in touch with a semi-knowledgeable sales associate that assured me that, given that there is a successful launch with a good number of sold units, Asus is more than ready to provide future upgrades for the system that will be available through the resellers.

    Where to Buy:
    I pre-ordered from GenTechPC (www.1toppc.com) with overnight shipping. Ken is a regular on the forums and has always been polite and helpful, he also had the best prices and I have heard quite a few good things about his company on the forums. The checkout system was painless and he patiently answered my hundreds of questions in the weeks before receiving the computer. I got a little bit of info about them off of their site, and from Ken:
    They have been around for about 10 years, but have only been selling laptops for about three. They specialize in Asus systems, specifically barebones models. GenTech is also looking to possibly expand its lineup to include other popular barebones models like Compal and Clevo at some point in the future. I highly recommend GenTech to anyone looking to buy Asus or Asmobile notebooks.

    Images:

    [​IMG]
    The box, unopened.

    [​IMG]
    The actual C90 box, I expected flashier, but the minimalistic approach is not bad.

    [​IMG]
    Very Well Packaged

    [​IMG]
    More detail on the packaging

    [​IMG]
    The notebook, opened, with protection still on it.

    [​IMG]
    The notebook al a fresco.

    [​IMG]
    Quicklaunch buttons.

    [​IMG]
    Front, the conveniently located card reader has been indispensable while writing this review.

    [​IMG]
    Left, all of the ports are here, in lieu of the back, because of the Turbo Engine. Also, do you see the little gold dot, next to the USB, below the Expresscard? That is a MCX TV-Tuner port. This would be great except for two things. In America you will never find MCX anything (outside of GPS hardware and antennae) and the card itself isn't included even if you could...so don't get too excited about that.

    [​IMG]
    Back, and of any ports they could have put on the back, I am glad they chose USB and AC power.


    [​IMG]
    Right, the usual Optical Drive side

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Top, one without flash to showcase the piano finish, another with, to show the nice dotted pattern.

    [​IMG]
    Bottom, I have outlined the ACE door in green

    [​IMG]
    The guts

    [​IMG]
    The detached ACE door

    [​IMG]
    The Turbo Engine, from the inside

    [​IMG]
    This is the bag that came with it, not bad.

    [​IMG]
    The accessory box

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    The accessories, out of the box. The battery is surprisingly small.

    [​IMG]
    Mystery Chip. Any thoughts?
    Build Quality:

    The notebook isn't as sturdy, in general, as many of its counterparts in the mainstream size gaming segment, but it is by no means a cheap feeling laptop. There is no uniformity to the quality of the computer though, so I can't justify that last sentence without qualifying it with exactly what I mean. Let me start with a test which every reviewer finds is a good idea to do, for some reason, and explain to you why it doesn't matter...ever. The "screen flex test," grabbing the computer by the corners of the screen and attempting to test it using "light" or "moderate" force. The screen does flex a little bit when pushed, but not more than feels comfortable for the materials. However, yes it does flex. In an attempt to justify having done the test, I figured a couple ways that this may be a factor in real life. First I tried opening and closing the lid multiple times, using only one corner and doing each side, I noticed very little of the previously tested flexibility. In my second test I stepped lightly and then moderately on the upper bezel of the notebook to see if there was any creaking or fragile feeling, there was a bit around the camera (which is fairly low in build quality, and would probably break if stepped on) but the frame itself was sturdy enough to handle about 50 pounds of my weight on a carpet maybe more but I didn't want to try it (I tried to emulate a small child somehow stepping on the screen, I dunno how, but they do it.) On a very good note the screen has little to no wobble at all. The hinges are very sturdy and seem magnetic upon closing.
    In the pictures above you may be having a hard time locating the latch, that is because there isn't one. Lo and behold, the hinges are in fact magnetic latches. I thought this was a very nice touch by Asus. As an additional test I tried bending the screen along a horizontal axis and could not.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Continuing in exploring the dichotomous build quality of the notebook we come to what may be the most important part, the user interface devices. On the touchpad, as you can see, there is a thin layer of silver paint which, while looking quite slick, however it feels quite the opposite. Mouse motion is poor, even on high sensitivity, and jerky since your finger will stick to the paint You can see that the sensitivity is hindered somehow in the synaptics tray tool, which shows a green pressure circle, at best. The yin to that yang, however, is that the mouse buttons are very nice, have a great tactile response and are a cut better than most touch pad buttons I have used. They are also very large considering the fingerprint reader in between them.
    The keyboard, on the other hand, feels great all around. The keys are large and have a great throw distance, everything is responsive and aside from the normal pet peeves about laptop keyboards (position of the Fn and Ctrl keys, as well as the Page Up-Page Down cluster being relegated to the right side) it is an absolute pleasure to type on.
    [​IMG]
    To anyone who uses the right shift key, be aware that Asus opted for vertically full-sized arrow keys, at the expense of cutting that key almost in half. It will not take long to get acclimated though, especially if you recognize it immediately, which I didn't.
    [​IMG]
    Quite simply, the fan assembly is built like a tank. I tried bending, squeezing, pulling, pushing, banging, all to no avail. I think it may have twisted a little bit when I tried to bend it...I think.
    Overall, the notebook is well made, with a couple of nice touches here and there, but it is obvious where Asus had to cut some corners. The most apparent is the thin plastic on the upperside of the chassis (where the keyboard and mouse are). It has quite a bit of give. The keyboard has some flex due to this as well, but unless you are a stickler about those things it is nothing to worry about. I enjoy the flex to some extent because it makes the travel distance for the keys a bit longer, and less carpel tunnel inducing, while not taking away from the responsiveness of the keyboard (this was not by design, but rather by the keyboard itself being good enough that the lack of support does not hurt it.
    What you should really take away from all of this is that the bottom of the case and the insides, especially the "Turbo Engine" fan system, is rock solid, whereas the lid and upper panel are much thinner and cheap feeling. It is important to note that, although these parts are obviously of lower caliber than other notebooks, they do not feel as though they will break easily. Asus puts quality where it counts here, with strong hinges, shock resistant insides and very strong feeling buttons and connections.

    Screen:
    The screen is gorgeous. Excellent color depth and contrast ratio, by qualitative observation though there is some noticeable light leakage around the edges when on a black screen, this doesn't visibly effect the picture with movie, games or during regular use. For my purposes (DVD watching and video gaming) the viewing angles are excellent, without an exact number, I could sit on the floor in front of the 2.5' desk it was on about 3 feet away and there was no discoloration. This should come as know surprise once you know that it has the same screen as the G1S. The same screen which many experienced a "graininess" issue with. I'm glad to say there is no such issue here. The screen is also fitted with Polarized Transflective gloss (also known as TrueColor, ColorShine or BrightView, depending on who is selling it) which allows for use outside without all the eye destroying sun glare that we love so much. [Note: Fellow forum member ViciousXUSMC will be doing an in-depth report on the screen brightness and view angles and the like.]

    Sound:
    The speakers are very good for laptop speakers, they have great mids, and acceptable highs, though the bass (like all laptop speakers) leaves much to be desired. With other laptop speakers in mind, you won't be disappointed at all by these.

    Webcam:
    Very nice, hardware-wise. It is very crisp for an integrated camera (2.0 Megapixels), and the refresh rate is pretty good as well. The only real compaint I have with it is the casing, which to me seems cheap feeling. I believe it will be sturdy enough for regular use, but again, it is obvious that some corners were cut to put this technology on there without significantly effecting the price. To show you the clarity, a picture I took with it:
    [​IMG]

    Heat and Noise:
    There is one major problem here. Right above the HDD, the left palm rest is a furnace. (For anyone comparing HDDs, less heat on the palm rest is a definite plus here. Thanks to ViciousXUSMC for this tidbit.) Heat radiates from the left side of the keyboard. This isn't constant, only after extensive use, but it does not cool back down without sleeping the computer. The insides of the system run very well, idling in the mid-high 50's and going up to the high 60's. The GPU was not strained to overclock, and was easily able to recover from becoming unresponsive if I went too far. The noise is nothing to complain about. The laptop is almost silent when idling, on battery I can only hear it if I try to. When things start getting hot, though, the C90's “Turbo Engine” is likely the coolest sounding fan system you have ever heard. When I say it sounds like a small jet turbine, I mean exactly that. If you were playing Flight Simulator X, you would feel like you were really in the ****pit of a Leer jet when you heard the fans. Even when it is noisy, it isn't offensive. Don't do any heavy gaming in class or business meetings and you will be fine.

    Features:

    -The ACE door

    Accessible, Convenient, Effortless. Is it three for three? Almost. None of the qualms brought about in the build quality section exist here, the ACE door and, indeed, the entire under belly of the C90 is rock solid (...heart touching? well, that's up to you). Four screws and you can slide off the door and have access to everything. Seriously, everything. CPU, GPU, HDD, WiFi NIC, Bluetooth module, Heat sink, RAM, everything is accessible. Only having one panel to take off, and four screws to keep track of, anybody who has worked on a laptop can tell you that is quite convenient. Effortless though? Not really. It is certainly easier to deal with than your average notebook, but that isn't saying much. Asus was apparently so sure that the ACE door was the simplest thing ever that they neglected to put any information on how to actually take it off. For your benefit I will explain it. It is easy, but not the first thing you think of.
    Make sure you are equipped with a screwdriver with a magnetic head (which any computer junkie should have, just make sure you've got it this time.) Unlike laptops you may have taken apart before, once you loosen the screws, you can't just lift the panel off, screws attached, you must remove each of the screws entirely from the door, two of which are in fairly deep wells (hence the magnetic screwdriver). once they are all out you pull the door from both sides smoothly out of the back and lift it off (the way you would with the battery cover on a remote control.) Putting it back on is just as simple, just do the opposite. One important thing to note, though is that there is one screw in the middle of the ACE door which is not actually attached, it is the screw for the optical drive. It is made that way so that you don't have to take the whole bottom off of the computer to replace just the DVD drive. It is marked by a disk symbol next to the hole. The ACE door screws are marked by a "C" and a picture of a screw. If you accidentally remove all five, the optical drive screw is the really short one. [​IMG](Green circles around ACE screws, a red one around the optical drive screw.)
    This process is relatively painless though, and anyone who is familiar with what the insides of a laptop look like will have no problems. I will be releasing a detailed guide to the architecture of this laptop soon, so that beginners to laptop building will be able to recognize the parts which you are probably only used to seeing in desktop form.

    --Turbo Gear
    [​IMG]
    Turbo Gear works very well. It is limited to 2.93 GHz though, so if you buy an E6700, the 20% "Overclocking mode" will be unavailable. (You will still be able to use the "Gaming mode", however, which overclocks 10%). The performance gains aren't spectacular, but are noticable, and the Turbo Engine (explained below) keeps things nice and cool inside. One excellent feature of the Turbo Gear Utility is the inclusion of the "Turbo Gear Enhanced VGA Drivers" which I found to be very successful in overclocking the somewhat slow DDR2 memory of the 8600M GT variation in this notebook. Compared to the stock drivers I got about 50 more MHz out of the memory.

    --Turbo Engine
    [​IMG]
    As one would expect, a Turbo Engine is going to be loud. This one is no exception...while gaming. Surprisingly, though, during light usage, the fans keep very quiet while maintaining very good temperatures. Having seen overclocking disasters on other computers, I was shocked to find this fan system kept the GPU temps from rising more than 5 degrees after being overclocked by 100-150 MHz. The sound it does make is not the usual computer hum, but the powerful whir one hears from an airplane's turbine.


    Performance:
    3DMark:
    Stock:
    [​IMG]
    CPU OC (2.93 GHz): [​IMG]
    GPU OC (Core-500, Mem-550): [​IMG]
    Both OC (2.93GHz+500/550): [​IMG]

    I feel as though the computer could be stable at higher clocks, but this is the highest I tested with no gameplay crashes (which happened at 500/600, haven't tested in between with gameplay)

    PCMark
    Stock: [​IMG]
    Overclocked: [​IMG]
    I did not overclock the GPU at all for this, for obvious reasons.

    HDTune:
    [​IMG]

    All Games were benched without overclocking (will post FRAPS screens later)

    Quake Wars:
    Max: 30 (V-sync)
    Avg: 25
    Min: 15

    Supreme Commander (Max settings)
    Max: 20
    Avg: 15
    Min: 8

    Other issues:
    -If you get the Intel Wifi Draft-N NIC, you need to download the drivers from support.intel.com, as they are not on the driver CD, this is because, at launch, the card was not officially supported by the C90.

    -I can only get the microphone to work when I have the microphone menu open. That is probably more my fault than the C90's

    -As a result of, I presume, the Wireless card not being supported officially by Asus, when the mobo goes into power-saver mode it screws up the wireless connectivity. Even when I plug back into the wall, the wireless adapter has to be entirely reset in order for it to work. (UPDATE: Seems as though that is only true while the internet is active. So if you switch back and forth without your browser or other internet applications open, it is fine)

    -Using the battery right now, typing with a couple of windows open and such (office usage) I am getting what I can safely estimate near an hour and a half. (It is at 46 percent after about 50 minutes). Enough to watch a movie? Maybe... if you are going to be traveling, an extra battery is worth the investment.

    Conclusion: My gripes about this system are not few. The left hand rest heats up a lot, the performance is not what we expected, the top of the chassis is a little flimsy feeling, and the camera casing looks like it came out of a cereal box. One would think, at this point, that I would say that this computer is not great, or not even good by some standards, but... one would be wrong. Every once in a while a laptop comes along that is more than just the sum of its 3DMarks. It happens that the computer, despite any complaints (and there are always some), is absolutely desirable. Many times during this test I had doubts about my purchase, I had major doubts about the future upgradbility of the system and after hearing some stories, the overall quality control. But those are when I was typing away, in the world of black and white, where things are either good or bad. At the end of the day, when I come back to the C90, just for pleasure, it just feels good to use. It has quirks that make it endearing (the palmrest heats up, but after holding a cold glass in my hand it was absolutely pleasant.) It has faults that are frustrating (you can't control the fans to cool off the notebook when you are idling, if there is heat build up). More importantly though, it has features you can't find anywhere else. I love the Turbo Gear program, it increases my performance in most applications by about 5%, which is more than any other notebook has given me. I love the ACE door, which makes it possible to entirely dissemble and then reassemble the whole system in less than 20 minutes. In addition, there is a built-in TV Tuner, though you need an MCX (F) to F (F) converter, which I have no idea how to find or make, and the card to put in it (which is cheap), it does have one. To anyone who is disappointed by the performance...don't be. Even though it isn't as fast as we thought, it is still a scream machine, and for the price there isn't anything better. I proudly recommend the C90 to anyone looking for a portable gaming solution.

    [I did not rank battery, because I don't have enough information, and regardless it won't be more than 90-something minutes. If you are in the market for this type of laptop, 90-something may be great (enough for a movie), if not...well I guess it would be a con, but you are not in the market...anyway, I did not rank the battery, it is up to you to judge that.]

    Pros:
    --Good Performance (even though it is less than we expected)
    --Very Quiet with light usage
    --Classy Styling
    --Gorgeous screen
    --Nice Webcam
    --Quality Biometric scanner
    --It DOES have a TV Tuner
    --ACE door
    --Turbo Engine (when it does get load, it sounds cool)
    --Turbo Gear
    --Nice feeling keyboard
    --Great connectivity, outstanding selection of ports.
    --Turbo Gear Enhanced VGA
    --Latchless Lid
    --Many of these features are unique to the C90, making it a little more special than most laptops. This outshines a lot of the flaws.

    Cons:
    --Flex on the keyboard
    --Flex on the whole keyboard side of the chassis
    --Left palm rest gets too warm with 7200 RPM HDD.
    --Some parts have a cheap plasticky feel (especially the webcam)
    --Inconsistency between unit and part configurations (some configurations give BSOD, some are fine. Right now it is suspected to be a driver issue with non-Vista C90's)
    --Poor touchpad
    --TV Tuner (even if the card were included) is useless to NTSC users (i.e. North America, Japan, the Phillipines or South Korea)
    --DDR2-based graphics card is a lot weaker than its GDDR3-based brother
    --If you get the Intel Draft-N card, you have to get the drivers yourself. (search “4965” on support.intel.com, then transfer over via thumb drive, or download directly if you have a hardwire as well)
    --I still can't get the microphone to work properly.

    Note that almost all of the cons (aside from the Vista one) are corners that Asus cut to make the system as affordable as it is. These may be deal-breakers to some, but just keep that in mind.

    Thanks to ViciousXUSMC and swoley for their contributions.

    **UPDATE:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2015
  2. The Forerunner

    The Forerunner Notebook Virtuoso

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    First Reply!!! Excellent Job!!
     
  3. swoley2k

    swoley2k Notebook Deity

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    There we go baby!
     
  4. nightfox91

    nightfox91 Notebook Evangelist

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    Finally, an excellent review with many many pics! + rep
     
  5. jbizzler

    jbizzler Notebook Consultant

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    Your like some C90S super-hero.

    C-Man!
     
  6. Patrick

    Patrick I beat spamers with stiks

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    Nice job!!! To bad ill be camping when mine arrive. I would have tested the battery, and see if there was some way to squeeze more out of it
     
  7. iph03n1xi

    iph03n1xi Notebook Evangelist

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    Nice review!

    It's so prettah!
     
  8. aoguy1989

    aoguy1989 Notebook Consultant

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    Good read excellant review! :D
     
  9. narsnail

    narsnail Notebook Prophet

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    great job, covered everything
     
  10. kickace

    kickace Notebook Deity

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    i love you....
     
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