Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a DIY notebook and install your components without having to crack open the manual?
That’s what Asus expects people to do with its compact new Z62J notebook. This 5.5-pounder features a 14-inch glossy screen, a built-in camera, an nVidia GeForce Go 7300 videocard with a 128MB frame buffer, and support for Intel’s Core Duo/Centrino Duo CPUs.
The best part of the Z62J is the ease with which it can be built—anyone can put this notebook PC together. Really.
Asus forgot to include the driver CD (which contains the manual) when it shipped the notebook to us, but who the hell needs it? To install components there’s no need to look for a hidden panel to remove the top panels and keyboard; just flip the notebook over, pop off three panels, and begin assembling. We installed a 100GB Seagate SATA drive, 512MB of DDR2/667 Corsair RAM, an Intel Core Duo T2500 CPU, and an Intel 3945ABG Wi-Fi card in less than 15 minutes. The only real rocky moments were squeezing in the hard drive, and figuring out the wire orientation on the Wi-Fi Mini PCI Express card.
Our worst moment came when we dropped a screw on the floor. As every builder knows, screws that get dropped on the floor immediately disappear into the abyss, home to your lost socks. Because this is a common problem, we recommend that notebook-kit makers bundle extra screws in a plastic bag labeled “extra screws,” as finding a replacement for a proprietary screw is impossible.
That might not be a problem in the near future, however. Intel is pushing hard for interchangeable standards in notebooks, so it’s possible that you’ll eventually be able to swap display panels, power bricks, keyboards, and screws if its Common Building Block (CBB) initiative takes off. Intel foresees notebooks with the same customization of desktops one day. The Z62J is actually one of the first notebooks to adopt the CBB initiative.
The build quality of the Z62J is good, but not great. The shell is plastic, the keyboard is a bit spongy, and the mouse buttons are hard on tender thumbs. The 1280x800 Color Shine screen, however, is gorgeous and bright. Sadly, the Z62J lacks ExpressCard support, which can be useful for adding high-bandwidth I/O items like RAID. Of course, if forced to choose between PC Card and ExpressCard, we’d take the legacy PC Card, but it would be optimal to have both options.
Asus actually sells two different versions of the Z62, the J version with the GeForce graphics, and an F version with slower but more battery-friendly integrated Intel graphics.
The Z62J isn’t perfect, but we can’t imagine finding a notebook that’s easier to build. The biggest issue for notebook DIYers is where to get these suckers. Asus says the kit will be available for purchase here.
Month Reviewed: August 2006
+ THE BIG SLEEP: You can literally build this dual-core-ready notebook in 20 minutes!
- THE BIG EASY: A steep price tag makes the Z62J a tough sell in the days of $800 notebooks.