ASUS Lamborghini VX3-A1Y Review

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$3299

Pros: Luxurious design; Blazing performance; Separate Power Mode switch

Cons: Very expensive; Nine-cell battery makes it awkward to carry; Subpar display and sound; Shorter-than-expected battery life

Verdict: This flashy, lightweight notebook doubles as a status symbol and performance powerhouse.

The name says it all. The ASUS Lamborghini VX3 is a luxury notebook, offering plenty of style and top-notch performance, thanks to its 2.5-GHz processor, 4GB RAM, and discrete graphics. We recommend it to executives who like to show off on the go--not just because of the size, but because they're the only ones who can afford the $3,299 price tag and possibly the only ones who'd want such a bold-looking machine.

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Three Thousand-Dollar Baby

Designing the Lamborghini notebook took more than just slapping the company's crest on the lid. According to ASUS, the two companies worked closely to iron out the VX3's refined details. The lid, available in black or a striking yellow, is coated with the same paint as real Lamborghinis. Applying four layers takes 48 hours. The result is a vibrant, nearly scratch-proof surface. A narrow black speaker stretches across the top of the lid; beneath are icons for power, battery-charging, Wi-Fi connectivity, and Bluetooth connectivity, with corresponding white lights. It weighs 4.4 pounds with the nine-cell battery, the same as the 12-inchAcer Ferrari 1100, but at 1.2 inches thick, it's slightly slimmer.

Underneath the lid is a titanium-alloy frame, with a durable sapphire crystal webcam embedded in the bezel. On the frame, above the keyboard, is a Mode button, from which users can choose High Performance, Entertainment, Quiet Office, and Battery Saving power modes. We love the quiet, full-size keyboard and think ASUS made good use of the 12-inch-wide deck: The keyboard extends almost to the edges. Like theASUS U2E-A2B, ASUS' other luxury ultraportable, it has a genuine leather palm rest. To match the Lamborghini theme, this palm rest has yellow cross-stitching.

The touchpad has a slightly trapezoidal shape and rubbery surface, which feels smooth, but dragging your finger across it is a little slow. The mouse buttons, also rubbery, are on the stiff side, as they are on many ASUS notebooks. Both the pad and buttons are rimmed in titanium alloy to match the hinge. The system also ships with a leather bag, a mousepad, and a Bluetooth mouse, whose slick color scheme makes it look like a race car in its own right.

Display and Sound

The VX3's 12.1-inch screen has a resolution of 1280 x 800. When we watched Mean Girls, the color and brightness were good, but the reflective screen limited our viewing angles, especially when we pushed the screen forward or backward (viewing from the sides wasn't so bad). Despite the attractive speaker strip on the lid, the sound quality was weak.

The 0.3-megapixel webcam offered blurry image quality but fluid movement, with sound that synced well with moving mouths. The Life Frame 3 software suite includes plenty of neat features, such as continuous shooting, night and portrait scene modes, and special effects, including filters, accessories, and frames, which might be overkill for such a low-resolution camera.

Lamborghini VX3 Features

The VX3 outpaces the competition in nearly all performance categories, and we're not surprised, given the components inside. In addition to the Lamborghini namesake, the VX3 has a 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 processor and 4GB of RAM to power Windows Vista Ultimate. The VX3 is a strong option for people who want to carry lots of information with them wherever they go. The 320GB hard drive is the most storage you'll find in a system this size. We wish it had hard drive protection, though.

The VX3 has four USB ports, as well as ports for HDMI, Ethernet, modem, headphone, and mic. You'll also find an ExpressCard slot, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, a fingerprint reader between the mouse buttons, and an 8X DVDRW DL drive.

Go Speed Racer!

The VX3's PCMark Vantage score of 3,828 is 1,000 points above average for a thin-and-light (which is the category this machine falls into because of its 4.4-pound weight). Its discrete Nvidia 9300M GS graphics card with 256MB of video memory scored 5,460 on 3DMark03 and 1,677 on 3DMark06, which means despite the screen's tiny size, you can still use it for gaming. On our F.E.A.R. frame-rate test, it notched a playable 54 fps with autodetect settings on and a screen resolution of 800 x 600. At maximum settings and a resolution of 1024 x 768, the frame rate dropped to 12 fps. If laptops could compete in road races, the Lamborghini VX3 would leave the Ferrari in the dust: The latter notebook scored only 2,683 on PCMark Vantage and 1,765 on 3DMark03.

Our hands-on tests confirmed the VX3's power. Out of the box, it booted up in 50 seconds, which is slightly faster than average for a Vista notebook. When we enabled High Performance mode, we were able to watch a movie at full screen while running a virus scan in the background (we noticed one instance of motion blur when we launched the movie, but not again). We also had no problem downloading iTunes, running a virus scan, defragging the hard drive, and installing Vista updates. Be sure to take advantage of the mode button: When we performed the same functions in Office Quiet mode, we saw much more motion blur in the movie.

Battery Life and Wireless

The VX3 ships with a three- and nine-cell battery. The nine-cell adds an extra inch to the back of the notebook--not to mention almost a pound of weight--making it awkward to carry. For all that heft, it lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes on our DVD rundown test, which means you can expect at least 5 hours of typical use. That's right on target for a thin-and-light, but given its nine-cell battery (and all the bulk it adds), we'd expect more. The U2E's eked out 7:33 of endurance on a productivity test, but that notebook has a slower ultra-low voltage CPU. The VX3's 802.11n wireless driver delivered strong throughput of 18.8 Mbps at 15 feet but dropped to 11.5 Mbps at 50 feet.

Warranty and Support

ASUS backs the system with a two-year parts-and-labor warranty, including free shipping and 24/7 phone support, plus one year of coverage for accidental damage. That's standard for ASUS, but it's generous for the industry.

Lamborghini VX3-A1Y Verdict

Those who can afford the $3,299 ASUS Lamborghini VX3 will enjoy fast performance, discrete graphics, and bragging rights. If you can live with a slightly smaller 11-inch display but still want a notebook that will turn heads, check out the leather-clad ASUS U2E ($2,699), whose ultra-low voltage processor lasts longer. If performance is key and you're on a budget, the $1,999 Acer Ferrari isn't a bad deal. But for power-hungry road warriors with money to burn, the VX3 is an attractive option.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300
Operating System MS Windows Vista Ultimate
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 4GB
Hard Drive Size 320GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Display Size 12.1
Native Resolution 1280x800
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Nvidia 9300M GS/256MB
Video Memory 256MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.0
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
USB Ports 4
Card Slots ExpressCard
Card Slots 5-1 card reader
Warranty/Support free shipping/24/7 toll-free phone
Warranty/Support Two-year parts and labor, one-year accidental damage
Size 11.9 x 8.8 x 1.2 inches
Weight 4.4 pounds
Company Website http://usa.asus.com