In recent years, car enthusiasts have been treated to a veritable showroom of automobile-sponsored notebooks, including the Asus Lamborghini VX2s (AK039G), Itronix Hummer GoBook VR-1, Acer Ferrari 1100 and Toshiba Portege R500 (okay, so the last one isn't actually a car, but it sure does sound like one). It seems that as long as there are millionaire-wannabes in the world, there will be sports car laptops.
This latest model off production line is a subtle reworking of the Lamborghini VX2. It trades in its predecessor's Blu-ray drive for a sleeker body and some extra grunt beneath the hood. However, despite some beefier components and a year of additional factory work, the VX3 offers a near-identical ride to the one we took before. VX2 Mk.2 would be more apt.
The version we tested came installed with an Intel T9300 Core 2 Duo 2.5GHz CPU and 4GB of DDR2 RAM. These are substantial improvements on the previous Asus-Lamborghini we looked at, which made do with a T7400 CPU and 2GB of RAM. In terms of performance, however, we didn't notice much difference between the two machines, with our benchmark tests returning similar results. Elsewhere, the VX2's 160GB hard drive has been increased to 320GB, which should provide more than enough room for applications and personal data.
Anything sponsored by Lamborghini needs to instil a sense of elitism and class if it hopes to snag prospective buyers. This is something Asus is acutely aware of. We've come across some pretentious marketing drivel in our time, but the Lamborghini VX3 really takes the biscuit. Apparently, it's a "living, breathing machine impassioned by the Lamborghini's soul of fearsome power and luxury". Breathing? Also, it has been "built to be beautiful, for the beautiful", so some cosmetic surgery may be required before you're allowed to buy one.
Arrogant posturing aside, this is an incredibly handsome product that will have no trouble turning heads. Much like a Lamborghini sports car, it will make envious passers-by want to spit on it. The hood-inspired lid certainly demands attention with its splashy yellow paintjob and Lamborghini badge. The sports car leanings extend to the notebook interior, with a plush leather palm rest complimented by bright yellow stitching. The glitter-dusted keys are also very attractive (if you like sparkly stuff) and pleasingly tactile.
Adding to the automobile effect, the VX3 makes a 'revving' sound whenever you boot it into action. Unfortunately, the audio sample plays even when the speakers are muted, which could be embarrassing if you're trying to discreetly check your emails in a board meeting.
Compared to most sports car-branded notebooks, the VX3 is surprisingly small — almost a Micro-Machine if you will. Its 305x220x31mm dimensions and 1.68kg weight are perfect for showing off in public (which is the primary reason for owning this baby in the first place.) Unfortunately, the unit's underpowered battery is ill-suited for portable use, especially when it comes to watching movies. In our DVD playback test, the VX3 held out for a paltry 45 minutes. This is barely enough to get you through a TV show, let alone a feature-length film. Subsequently, all public ego-massaging must be limited to quick bursts. (Note: Apparently, a second 9 cell battery also ships with the notebook, though this was not supplied to us and thus could not be tested).
In our benchmark tests, the Lamborghini showed good speed for everyday tasks, though its performance-to-cost ratio does leave a little to be desired. In WorldBench 6, the machine did well in the WinZip compression and 3ds Max 3-D rendering tests, yet it showed some slowdown in the multitasking tests. In Blender 3D, it took the dual-core CPU, using both of its cores, 1min 13sec to complete our test render — above average but not spectacular.
For gaming, the Lamborghini has a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 9300M graphics card, which scored 1668 in 3DMark06. It's capable of producing decent frame-rates in many current DirectX 9– based games, but it's not powerful enough to play them with high image-detail enabled. Older games, on the other hand, will run without a hitch, as its score of 15251 in 3Dmark 2001 amply demonstrates. All up, the machine should be able to handle almost anything you throw at it when it comes to day-to-day applications, including e-mail, word processing and photo editing.
With its $4599 price tag, the VX3 is more than a little overpriced for the components you're getting, but the same could be said of almost any luxury item. What you're paying for is the prestige and status that comes with owning a Lamborghini notebook, with every detail, however small, born out of the sports car's spirit of passion. (It says so right here.)