I purchased a new notebook about a week ago and I’m really liking it quite a lot. I was leaning strongly toward a Dell XPS 14z, but I spotted the Asus U46E-BAL7 for a reasonable price at Best Buy and decided to go with that instead. What attracted me most was its sleek brushed aluminum platinum-colored case. It almost looks like a 13″ Macbook Pro. Excellent specs for its price and the Asus name sealed the deal for me. I’ve built a number of desktop pc’s in the past and Asus is arguably the best motherboard maker out there. I have no doubt that their notebooks are built with the same level of quality and reliability.
- Intel 2nd Generation i7-2640M 2.8GHz dual-core processor with 4MB L3 cache and Turboboost (up to 3.5GHz)
- Intel HD 3000 Integrated Graphics Processor (sandy-bridge), 12 EU’s, 650-1300MHz
- HM67 chipset
- 8GB 1333MHz DDR3 memory
- 750GB 5400RPM Seagate Hard Drive
- Double-layer DVD±RW/CD-RW Optical Drive
- Wireless-B+G+N and 4G WiMAX
- 14″ LED-backlit widescreen TFT-LCD display (1366 x 768 res)
- Chiclet-style keyboard and large touchpad
- 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet LAN port
- 1 USB 3.0 and 2 USB 2.0 ports
- HDMI and VGA ports
- 8-cell Li-Ion battery
- built-in multi-format flash card slot, 0.3MP webcam, headphone and mic jacks
- power jack is on back, out of way of other ports
- Outside Dimensions: 1.1″ H x 13.1″ W x 9.6″ D
- Weight: 4.9 lbs
- 65w power adapter
- Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit
A large part of my motivation to get a new notebook was to launch myself back into creative writing. I’ve sort of been loathe to sit at my desktop pc – it tends to make me feel like I’m still at the office not to mention it reminds me too much of my old gaming routine. My previous notebook, an Alienware Sentia, was going on 8 years… the wireless wasn’t functional anymore and the wrist area had some stubborn sticky remnants from some labels that wore off. I think I paid like 2 grand for that damn thing. My how things have changed. For $830, my pretty new Asus U46E-BAL7 has put a big smile on my face and given me some added enticement to get busy with writing. The specs exceed what I need by a lot but it’s nice having the extra performance on tap if I ever need it for something like video editing. There’s no discrete graphics card but that’s probably for the best. I don’t want to fall off the wagon and turn it into a mobile gaming platform.
I read some customer reviews on Best Buy’s website before buying and I noticed some complaints about a single small speaker, which I found rather funny. I mean, plug in some freakin ear-buds for Pete’s sake. Really, who wants power-sucking high fidelity external speakers on a notebook? Light weight and battery life make a lot more sense. I can easily go a couple of 3 hour sessions on a single charge. One minor little detail I really like is a function button that toggles the touchpad on and off – the screen even flashes a graphic in acknowledgment.
I couldn’t help running some benchmarks, just for fun. Hey, I’m an engineer after all.
- PCMark 7 score (default settings): 2576 PCMarks
- Sandra Lite 2012: 2.97 kPT
- Cinebench 10 (single-CPU): 5576
- Cinebench 10 (multi-CPU): 11472
- 3DMark Vantage CPU Score: 10150
- 3DMark06 1280×768 (DirectX 9 benchmark): 5001 3DMarks
- 3DMark Vantage 1280×1024 (DirectX 10 benchmark): P2107 3DMarks*
*using the “freeware” version of 3DMark Vantage… which only allows running the more graphically intense Performance Preset as opposed to the Entry Preset that is intended for notebooks. Lame, right?
Impressive CPU performance and surprisingly passable performance in DirectX 9 games for the integrated Intel HD 3000. Anandtech posted an interesting article about Sandy Bridge, if interested, while Intel has gone through the trouble of compiling a list of games considered “playable.”
I only have a few minor quibbles about the notebook so far. First, while I love the feel of the chiclet keyboard, back-lighting would have been a sweet enhancement for low light conditions. Second, the inclusion of an HDMI out port is nice, but why bother with it if the DVD drive is not a Blu-ray one? Next, I don’t understand the integration of a low-res (0.3 Megapixel) webcam. Other notebooks I’ve seen with built-in cameras are typically over 1 Megapixel. I wish the Asus folks had skipped the camera altogether in favor of a Blu-ray drive. Oh well, you can’t expect perfection at $830. Lastly, there were no recovery DVD disks included in the box. Took me just over an hour to make a set of 3 dual-layer DVD recovery disks, so not a big deal. I deleted a few programs, ran Windows Update, and installed MS-Office and a couple other programs before making the disks. So, the minor inconvenience worked out for the best. None of these shortcomings mattered that much to me.
Overall, the Asus U46E-BAL7 is an incredible little powerhouse of a notebook – awesome speed, storage, connectivity, and long battery life, wrapped in a gorgeous little package.
Scott Stein at Cnet did a review on the nearly identical Asus U46E-BAL6 in Nov 2011. That earlier model used the 2.7GHz i7-2620M processor with same 4MB L3 cache, same 8GB of DDR3-1333 memory, and oddly, a better webcam (1.3 Megapixel). The BAL7 would have a very slight performance boost over the BAL6. He ran some video creation and encoding benchmarks that showed some impressive scores. It highlights the Sandy-Bridge/Intel HD 3000 graphics chip’s advantage over discrete graphics cards in that arena since it shares the CPU’s on-die cache memory.
Meanwhile, in late Oct 2011, Jarred Walton at AnandTech did a very thorough review of the Dell XPS 14z, which is a very similar attractive notebook and the one I initially considered for purchase. However, it has lower specs compared to the Asus U46E-BAL7. For an equivalent price, the base XPS 14z model is equipped with a weaker i5-2430M 2.4GHz processor with 3MB L3 cache, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB HD. Oh, but it has a backlit keyboard and it’s a tad thinner. That might be worth a hit on performance to some people. Me, I decided to go with the Asus.