by Jordan Becerril
Asus W3V (view larger image)
Asus W3V Specs
Overview and Introduction:
The Asus W3V is a jack-of-all-trades notebook. It combines portablility (5 lbs), power (Sonoma 1.86 Ghz CPU 533mhz FSB, ATi X600 64mg), and beauty (aluminum and carbon fiber casing) into an elegant package that draws many looks. I do have to say that if you are interested in a desktop replacement but hesitant to look like you really are dragging a desktop around, this is the notebook for you.
Reason For Buying:
I'm one of those obsessive compulsive buyers. I search and search for the best, even if it takes me months before I finally put my money down and make the purchase. When I went looking for a laptop I wanted something that would stand out, be able to do more than my current desktop, and do it for a reasonable price. After considering an IBM Thinkpad T43, Dell Inspiron 6000, and the Sony FS series, I came away feeling like I could do better. The ThinkPad lacked styling and was too expensive, the Dell was just kind of boring, and the Sony seemed too flimsy and lacked any power behind the styling. What brought me towards this relatively unknown brand was the review posted a while back on the Asus V6V. That to me looked like a great option and when I saw its smaller sibling, I became obsessed. This truly was the notebook for me.
Where and How Purchased:
This was quite an ordeal for me for a couple of reasons. The first problem with Asus is that it has not yet sold any of its models to a major computer retailer, so instead there are many smaller online dealers whose service reputation is sometimes harder to research than larger corporation resellers. I was unlucky with the first retailer I went to for buying. I received 2 credit card charges for two W3V's from this Asus dealer, when I tried to buy the notebook via the dealer's website it said that the card number was rejected, so i tried again to no avail. When I checked my credit card statement it showed two purchases for $1,899. I immediately removed these charges from my account but this whole ordeal caused me a lot of stress. I was able to get the notebook from Agearnotebooks.com with free 2 day shipping, who I highly recommend. Also if you reside in the United States, now is an especially good time to buy because they are offering a free 3rd year of warranty coverage as a promotion thing for the summer months.
Form and Design
This truly is the W3V's forte. From the brushed aluminum cover to the elegant blue LED power button, the designers at Asus were on the mark when they made this design. It is simple yet elegant with a blue LED theme. One of the great features of this design is the battery location, well, depending on how you look at it. By putting the battery on the back in an inconspicuously sized package, the rest of the laptop is slimmed down and has more space for higher performance components. The downside to this is that when you hook everything up (power supply, wireless mouse, USB connections) It looks like a patient on the operating table with cables coming from every which way. Other than that I don't think there would be many people who would dislike this design.
Asus W3V left side view (view larger image)
Asus W3V right side view (view larger image)
Asus W3V top view of lid (view larger image)
Asus W3V Screen (view larger image)
The 14.1 WXGA 'Glaretype' widescreen is one of the many highpoints of the W3V with only one minor flaw which I will get to later. The colors are vibrant, and my desktop backgrounds appear as if the screen is just a window to the place where the photo was taken. Luckly there were no dead pixles on my notebook as Asus does not offer their 'Zero Pixel' guarentee on the W3V which they do offer on some of their other models. DVD playback is slightly grainy but the blacks are very good, no light leakage that i can tell, or any of the sparkles which people have complained about. The other little flaw is that when you take the brightness down the the lowest setting, one side is noticably lighter than the other, though this immediately dissappears on the next setting. Overall this is a great screen with great image quality.
The speakers on the W3V are no different than the speakers on other notebooks, sound quality is slightly tinny with little bass to speak of. I would recommend a good pair of external speakers or headphones, the new version of Intel's integrated sound, Azilla, has many improvements over its predecessor and included a S/PDIF optical out (part of the headphone jack) which supports 5.1 surround sound.
Processor and Performance:
The Intel Pentium M 750 1.86 Ghz with 533mhz FSB is a powerful processor in such a small package. The performance gain over my desktop AMD Athlon XP 2800+ is quite noticable, especially in the load times for Half Life 2. I would say that it takes less than half the time to load a level compared to my desktop. Startup is quick as well, about a minute. The 60GB 5400 RPM hard drive is quiet yet agile, copying a large file from one partition to the other took noticably less time then my desktop. The 512 MB of included RAM also is enough for demanding applications, though another 512 would unlock the full potential of the 533 mhz FSB. I played Half Life 2 in the highest resolution allowed for widescreen mode and was quite impressed with the performance. There was no lag visible on the screen and the images flowed togeather seemlessly. I would have never expected such excellent performance on a demanding game such as Half Life 2, but the ATI X600 does the trick. A notable fact is that in the newest BIOS update, ATI has included a new feature called Hypermemory which allocated memory from the system for the video card. When running Half Life for the first time this feature was on so I cannot compare the performance from before with the performance after.
We use Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed. The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy. Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark:
Comparison of notebooks using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|ASUS W3V (1.86GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 37s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz)||3m 3s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 28s|
Keyboard and Touchpad:
Asus W3V keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
The overall feel on the keyboard is solid, the keys have a good amount of travel on them for a notebook. Asus has however relocated a couple of keys from their usual places such as the Ctrl key which instead of being at the easy to locate bottom left of the keyboard, is replaced by the Function key and is instead moved over one to the right. The other moved key is the Delete key, which is moved to the unreachable top right corner. Other than those two grievences the keyboard is fine for normal word processing and everyday use, though it takes a little getting used to.
Input and Outport Ports:
The included ports on the W3V are 3x USB 2.0, 1x Firewire, 1x PCMCIA, SD/MMC & Memory Stick slot, VGA out, S-Video out, Headphone/ (s/pdif) and Line In, Microphone built in, Ethernet, modem. All ports seem to work just fine, though it would have been nice if there was a DVI out and a PCI Express slot, but I have a feeling that I wouldn't need those too often. There are USB connectors on both sides of the notebook, two on the left and one on the right for ease of connectivity.
This notebook supports 802.11 a/b/g and from what I have experienced, works flawlessly. As I type this review I'm at the library using the wireless internet and the setup took less than a minute and the speed is very quick. Windows XP defaults the download speed at about half what it should be but after the settings are changed the adapter works at full capacity. The two wireless antennas are located on the top of the screen.
Battery life is good, I used the notebook for about three hours off and on, with the wireless and bluetooth functions off doing various tasks from minor photo editing to word processing. If you undervolt the laptop, which is quite safe, I think it does offer quite a boost in battery life: I got about half an hour more out of the laptop with it undervolted than without.
Asus included Windows XP Professional with a bundled disc as a backup in case you format the hard drive. Also bundled with the notebook is a three month subscription to Norton Internet Security 2005, Nero, Asus' DVD Program (works very well), as well as a backup disc. One bonus that I realized when I started up the computer for the first time was the lack of useless software I didn't need. The only program installed was Norton Internet Security.
So far I am very pleased with my choice to purchase the W3V, it has been worth every penny from the sticker price of $1899. What other notebook can be taken on the road with little hinderance, play a graphically intense game such as Half Life 2, connect to a wireless phone via bluetooth, and look so darn good in its aluminum and carbon fiber body? As far as regrets, there are few areas in which the W3V could be improved upon, such as the minor (and I mean minor) heat under the right palm rest and the location of the control and delete keys. With the ATI X600, a 1.86 Ghz Sonoma based processor with 533mhz FSB this little notebook plows through most things put in its way and is a great companion on trips. Overall the Asus W3V is as good on paper as it is in real life, no joke.
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