by Andrew Baxter, New York USA
Asus W2v 17″ screen multimedia notebook (view larger image)
The Asus W2v is a 17″ screen notebook designed as a full fledged multimedia machine, and as such includes the Microsoft Windows Media Center 2005 OS. The W2v packs power with its Pentium M 2.13GHz processor and ATI X700 128MB graphics card. With the number of ports and features on this notebook you’ll probably get a bit giddy discovering all of the capabilities of this machine, serious techies and discriminating buyers apply here.
Specs for Asus W2v as delivered from PROPortable.com:
- Processor: Intel Pentium-M 770 (2.13Ghz; 533mhz w/ 2mb Cache), Intel 915PM Chipset
- Screen: 17″ WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050) Color Shine (glaretype) & Crystal Shine (high brightness)
- Memory: 1024MB DDR2 533 (2 x 512) running in Dual Channel Mode – up to 2GB supported
- Hard Drive: 100GB; 5400RPM
- Graphics Card: ATI Mobility Radeon x700 PCI-Express Graphics w/ 128MB VRAM
- Wireless: Built-In Intel PRO/Wireless 2915 A/B/G miniPCI, built-in Bluetooth
- Optical Drive: 8x Panasonic UJ-845c Super Multi / Dual Layer; Slot Load DVD Burner
- Battery: 8-Cell Li-Ion; Approximately 3-4 hours of normal use life
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition 2005
- Dimensions: 15.56″ (length) x 11.37″ (width) x 1.06″-1.56″ (height) 1.06″ (thickness of front not including feet) – 1.56″ (thickness of rear including feet) ~Less than 7.5 LBS w/ standard 8 Cell Battery, DVD Burner, TV Tuner
- 2 year global parts and labor through ASUS (*Zero Bright Dot LCD Policy – free panel exchange within 30 days (Directly with Asus)
- Software – Norton Internet Security 2005 – 6 month trial, W2v Driver & Utility 1.0, NERO OEM Suite v6.3, AsusDVD XP v6.0, Power Director DE v3.0, Medi@Show SE v2.0
- Ports: VGA-out (out to Projector, Plasma, LCD or CRT at high res for dual or clone view), S-Video-out (out to a TV), Composite Video / Audio-in (in from a Playstion, DVD player, etc), 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN, 4 in 1 memory card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO), Built-in TV Tuner for Analog Cable, 4 USB 2.0 ports
- Price: $2,599 (USD)
Included in the box — AC adapter, IR Receiver, Mouse, Power cord, Microsoft MCE Remote, Asus sport headphones, cable quick connect, S-Video out, Composite AV in, IR extender, batteries, 2 coax connectors, 8-cell lithium ion battery, Asus W2v laptop (view larger image)
Notebook case that comes with the W2 (view larger image)
Asus W2 Box
This W2v notebook is on loan as a review unit from PROPortable.com, many thanks goes to PROPortable owner Justin O’Dea for organizing the review and the efforts he provides in the Asus forums on NotebookReview.com to help the community.
Justin started a thread for owners of the W2v to list their impressions and provide reviews and feedback, for an extensive thread and insight into other individual owners experiences with the W2v you are invited to read and post comments to the following forum discussion thread: Asus W2v User Feedback and Impressions
The Asus W2v retails for approximately $2,599, it’s a high number but if you look at the prices of equivalent notebooks it’s actual in line or cheaper.
It’s always good to know what’s out there when considering a particular type of laptop, so let’s list off a few competing 17″ screen multimedia style laptops to the W2v:
- Toshiba Qosmio G25 ($3,000 / 9.5lbs / XP MCE 2005)
- Dell XPS M170 ($3,419 / 8.7lbs / XP MCE 2005)
- HP ZD8000 ($2,400 / 9lbs / XP MCE 2005) ()
- Voodoo Envy u:703 ($3,000 / 13lbs / XP Pro)
All of these notebooks are slightly different but in the end are offering a 17-inch screen with the capability to play TV and be a full fledged multimedia center. The Toshiba Qosmio G25 is probably the most direct competitor to the Asus W2v in terms of what it is trying to achieve. The G25 offers an instant-on TV feature that the W2v does not, but it’s also more expensive (listed at $3,000 on Toshiba.com) and weighs 2lbs more than the W2v making the Asus machine look like a thin-and-light in comparison.
Size comparison: Asus W2v 17″ screen notebook, ThinkPad Z60t 14″ screen notebook, ThinkPad X41 12″ screen notebook (view larger image)
Build and Design
The ASUS W2 looks sleek and elegant, and also carries a professional look — putting a grungy bumper sticker on the lid of this laptop would certainly look out of place and ruin a pretty laptop. The W2 uses straight lines and sharp squared, not rounded, corners. The case of the notebook is constructed of an aluminum alloy and this is apparent by looking at the lid. The casing color is dark grey, which is my personal favorite choice for a laptop — dark grey carries that professional yet still cool and futuristic look.
Many Asus laptops use a magnet closing mechanism for the screen, and the W2 carries on that tradition. This has the benefit of no moving parts used to keep the lid closed, and leads to clean design. I find it’s a little harder to lift the lid with this method, there’s nothing great to grip onto when opening the lid, but the bottom line is that it works and you’ll just have to use two hands to push down on the base while lifting the lid.
The screen hinges are strong and you’ll get no wobble of the screen unless you physically force it. The lid protection you get is also good, it’s a metal alloy used on the lid and not some flimsy plastic material used on this area that you get with the cheaper budget laptops.
Overall the W2 feels very solid and looks the part too. That’s not to say it is bulky looking, quite the opposite, it hides its size well. Granted, it is a larger 17″ screen laptop that’ll weigh around 7.6 lbs (or there about), but relative to other laptops with a 17″ screen that’s light, maybe the lightest 17″ laptop there is outside of the Samsung M40 (not available in North America). The W2 is pleasing to look at, and there’s nothing annoying about the look such as we hear about from Dell Inspiron 9300 owners that generally dislike the “white bumpers” Dell put around the Inspiron’s edges.
The LCD matrix of the W2 being reviewed has an aspect ratio of 10:9 and features an anti-flicker coating to reduce reflections and refractions of light rays. The resolution on the W2 is 1680 x 1050 (WSXGA — Wide Super eXtended Graphics Array). The size of the screen in and of itself makes the display quite striking. The horizontal viewing angles are good, the vertical viewing angle is okay but not great (the screen uses a TN+Film matrix and that tends to hurt vertical viewing angles a bit). The finish on the screen is a glossy one, which is the popular trend at the moment. With a glossy screen you will get more reflection on the screen under bright lighting, but you’ll also get an impression of a higher contrast and sharper image — some like this and some do not, it depends on your personal preference and conditions you work under.
Watching a DVD on the W2v screen (view larger image)
3D graphics example on W3v screen (view larger image)
The contrast, brightness and response time of the screen is overall excellent, and there’s no funky complaints you hear about on other notebooks such as “sparkles”. It’s not the brightest screen I’ve ever seen and the competing Toshiba Qosmio screen is brighter, but it’s ahead of the rest of the pack and very good. Worth mentioning is that Asus backs up a zero-dead pixel policy if you find an annoying one dead pixel within 30-days of purchase.
Ports / Buttons / Inputs
On the top right corner of the W2 keyboard area there is a column of rectangular buttons. The big silver button is the Power On/Off button that’s actually quite pretty with its blue LED, then below that are five quick-launch buttons that do the following:
- button to launch the default web browser
- button to launch the default e-mail client
- button to turn Bluetooth on/of
- button to block the touchpad to avoid accidental presses when typing
- button to toggle the Power4 Gear power-saving modes
Right side buttons Power/Browser/E-mail/Bluetooth toggle/Touchpad toggle/Power4Gear
There are two groups of light indicators to give feedback on system status. One group is placed on the left, next to the screen hinge, and these lights indicate hard disk drive activity, Num Lock status, Caps Lock status and Scroll Lock status — all of these indicators use a blue light LED.
The second group of indicator lights are located at the center of the front panel. This group of indicators consists of a power indicator, a battery charge indicator, an incoming mail indicator that glows when you have a new message, a WLAN connection indicator (glows when the integrated adapter sends or receives data packets), and a Bluetooth on/off indicator light.
On the front of the W2 are the following ports, placed for convenient access:
- Audio/video input for connecting audio/video source via RCA cable
- Combined headphones/SPDIF output
- Microphone input
- Combo-connector: audio input coupled with headphones output with support of 3D sound imitation (3D phone)
- A consumer infrared port, which works with the enclosed remote control in the multimedia ASUS Mobile Theater application
Front view of W2v ports (view larger image)
On the right side of the W2 you’ll find the ports:
- D-Sub connector for an external monitor
- IrDA port
- Card-reader (supported formats: SecureDegital, MMC, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card)
- PC Card slot for one card of type I or II
- FireWire port
- Three USB ports
- Vents for heat dissipation
Right side view of W2v (view larger image)
And on the left side of the Asus W2 are the following:
- 1 USB port
- Slot loading DVD-RW optical drive
- TV antenna input,
- TV-out/S-video port
- RJ-11 modem connector
- RJ-45 network connector (Ethernet)
- Power connector
- Kensington lock
Left side view of W2v (view larger image)
On the back side of the W2 we just have the following:
- Battery bay
Back side of W2v (view larger image)
On the bottom of the notebook is:
- access to the hard drive
- access to memory
- access to miniPCI card for TV tuner and wi-fi card
- CPU and cooling system.
There is also a battery cell, an integrated low-frequency speaker and vent holes on the bottom.
Under side of Asus W2v (view larger image)
So what’s missing port wise? Not much, although a DVI output port would have been nice to have as this is a media center PC and you’ll likely have video stored on it that would be nice to get a high quality output to a larger TV. Oh well, the experience you get with the 17″ screen is good anyway.
Lastly, I’ll mention I like the flap used on the left side to the cover ports there and provide a cleaner look.
Left side ports with cover flap down
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ASUS W2 has a full-size keyboard with black colored keys; the letters are white and the function keys use blue lettering to indicate what the “Fn” key does in conjunction with them. The block of arrow keys are somewhat separate from the main keyboard; the Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys are a single vertical column on the right; a numeric pad (in conjunction with the Fn button) and a Windows is available. It’s too bad there’s not a dedicated number pad as there is room on this notebook for such a thing. Overall the keyboard is very comfortable to use and the button configuration is rather standard — which is good.
Asus W2v keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
The touchpad has a minimalist style look with buttons that are even with the notebook surface, a lot of people dig this look, personally I prefer raised buttons such as you see on a ThinkPad so it’s easier to “feel”. However, the actual touchpad has a conveniently rough surface and so is easy enough to feel. There’s no additional scroll button on the touchpad, which I like to see on this size notebook. You can customize the touchpad sensitivity and tweak it to your preferences, a double tap registers as a double left click as you would expect. There’s a good chance you’ll be using a mouse with a desktop replacement size machine, I do and would actually recommend it just because it’s easier and you’ll be at a desk anyway with this machine.
Software and Operating System
The W2 comes with Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, which is basically XP Pro with a whole bunch of multimedia features added in. To see the Microsoft site for full coverage on this OS (and a plug for their upcoming Xbox 360) visit the following page: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx
The media center package is extensive, and my feeling is that a lot of people are not all that familiar with it. It allows you to do such things as easily watching and recording live TV and seamlessly downloading and displaying programming guides for your local area. Now, instead of me going into everything the MCE 2005 addition adds, I’ll defer to an already written review of the OS by CNET as it is somewhat beyond the scope of what I know and can cover:
Are you done reading that review yet? Some will use this functionality as the main reason to buy a W2, while some will just figure it’s a nice value add. To get full value out of this notebook it is highly recommended you utilize this software addition to the Windows XP Professional OS and discover its power.
Outside of the operating system included stuff you’ll get the following:
- Norton Internet Security 2005 (6 month trial)
- W2v Driver & Utility 1.0
- NERO OEM Suite v6.3
- AsusDVD XP v6.0
- Power Director DE v3.0
- Medi @Show SE v2.0
Processor and Performance
The ASUS W2v is based on the Sonoma platform 2.13GHz Intel Pentium M processor, the top speed Pentium M available right now is 2.26GHz so you’re just about at the top of the ladder here and this processor is more than fast enough for most any gaming or media application you’ll use. The 2.13GHz Pentium M is used in many high-end gaming systems such as those from Alienware, Voodoo PC and the Dell with their XPS line.
The included ATI X700 graphics processor with 128MB of dedicated RAM is going to give you the gaming performance you want for Half Life 2 or Doom 3 style games as well. The standard 1GB of RAM is very generous and then the 5400RPM is going to give you improved performance over the more standard 4200RPM drive. In my experience it took 35 – 40 seconds to get to the Windows welcome screen and a total of 55 – 60 seconds for the W2 to be ready for the user to launch an application, this is with the stock configuration and you could use msconfig to remove some startup applications and other tweaks to get a faster bootup. It’s my feeling that the Media Center features added onto the OS might slow things down a bit with bootup.
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 W2v (2.13GHz Pentium M)||1m 35s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|ASUS V6800V (1.86GHz Pentium M)||1m 44s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 28s|
Benchmarks for the Asus W2v (ATI X700 128MB Graphics Card, 2.13GHz Pentium M) compared to the Asus V6800V (ATI X600 64MB Graphics Card, 1.86GHz Pentium M).
|Futuremark PCMark04 Scores|
|Asus W2v (2.13GHz)||Asus V6800V (1.86GHz)|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression||3.89 MB/s||3.38 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption||30.63 MB/s||27.28 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression||26.15 MB/s||24.38 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing||12.32 MPixels/s||10.67 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning||1714.47 MB/s||1908.66 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check||3.07 KB/s||2.86 KB/s|
|File Decryption||61.2 MB/s||54.95 MB/s|
|Audio Conversion||2837.7 KB/s||2519.14 KB/s|
|Web Page Rendering||6.28 Pages/s||5.47 Pages/s|
|DivX Video Compression||58.75 FPS||50.47 FPS|
|Physics Calculation and 3D||199.64 FPS||170.77 FPS|
|Graphics Memory – 64 Lines||1859.56 FPS||1611.55 FPS|
|Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores|
|3DMark Score||2426 3DMarks||906 3D Marks|
|CPU Score||3765 CPUMarks||2981 CPUMarks|
|GT1 – Return To Proxycon||10.3 FPS||3.9 FPS|
|GT2 – Firefly Forest||7.0 FPS||2.8 FPS|
|GT3 – Canyon Flight||12.7 FPS||4.4 FPS|
|CPU Test 1||2.0 FPS||1.6 FPS|
|CPU Test 2||3.2 FPS||2.5 FPS|
HDTune hard drive benchmark results:
It’s been so long since I’ve used a laptop with decent speakers, so the W2 is a real treat in that department. While I’ve heard some complaints of the speakers being “not good” for the W2, I have to believe that was an early issue for Asus because I’ve had no such problems. With the included 4-channel built-in speakers I can hear sound from various angles at a high quality sampling, and then on the underneath of this laptop is a built-in subwoofer to give you bass. In my use listening to music and movies has been a joy and not a chore, no headphones nor external speakers needed — with other laptops I always have to recommend doing such things. And don’t worry about volume, I cranked the speakers up to full volume using the Fn + F12 combo and it was loud, loud, loud. Seriously, as I type the speakers are set to 2 notches above volume off and it’s almost too loud even at that low a setting. Speaker wars with a laptop anyone?
Heat / Noise / Fans
Although the speakers are loud, the operation of the laptop is not. No clicking hard drive, no vacuum noise level fan. Now, you can hear the fan when it kicks in after more demanding types of usage (this happened after I ran 3D benchmarks for instance and would do so for gaming), but it’s not overly loud or annoying. Some have complained about the noise you get from the slot drive when the internal gears turn to accept a CD, but unless you’re a monk in a monastery trying to avoid distracting your fellow monks from praying (and I know you’re not), that really isn’t a problem. It’s not that loud, and in my opinion a darn cool and pleasing sound.
The W2v stays cool under general types of usage such as web browsing, movie watching or office application use. Furthermore, it stays cool in all of the right areas such as palm rests and keyboard. The feet on the bottom front of the laptop raise the machine so that you get air running underneath to will help with cooling.
If you start gaming or pushing the processor for extended amounts of time then the back right side, where the fan and vent is, will start pushing out some rather toasty air. When running the 3D benchmarks on the W2v the front area remained cool, but the back vent made for a nice hand dryer. Okay, so the air being pushed wasn’t quite that hot or blasting that hard, but it was a nice way to warm my cold hands rather quickly. I don’t recommend having this notebook in your lap period, it’s not designed for that, but especially don’t do it when running games because that back right corner will make your legs uncomfortable.
With the W2v you get an 8x Panasonic UJ-845c Super Multi / Dual Layer; Slot Load DVD Burner as part of the standard package. The slot load drive is better than a standard tray loading drive both aesthetically and functionally. You get tired of a continuous march of those flimsy tray loading optical drives that 99.9% of laptops have. A slot drive means you just push the DVD/CD a slight amount and the drive will slurp it in the rest of the way. This is better than the hassle of popping out a flimsy tray and then pushing a CD onto a small circular hub as you wonder if you’re going to snap the tray off you’re pushing so hard to get the CD in place on the hub. The optical drive is not modular, so you won’t be able to upgrade it or use the bay as a secondary battery/hard drive, for a mostly stationary laptop I don’t see that as a problem though.
The Asus W2 comes with an 8-cell Lithium Ion battery rated at 3 — 4 hours of life. I’m happy to say that this is indeed the range of battery life I got when set to medium brightness, wi-fi on and minimal usage. With brightness at full, wireless on and playing a DVD I got 2 hours 17 minutes of life which I also consider good for a desktop replacement style notebook. The reality is you probably won’t be carting this laptop onto a plane (it’s too big for that) but for those times when you won’t be near an AC adapter it is nice to know the battery is better than your average desktop replacement notebook where battery life is often 2 hours or less.
The Asus W2v comes with an Intel 2915 a/b/g built-in wireless card so you can connect to a wireless access point that uses 802.11 a/b/g frequency. The card is used in many a Centrino laptop and works well. I wasn’t able to pick up quite as many access points with the W2v as my ThinkPad X41 notebook that has an antenna housed in the screen (in my apartment the W2v can see 3 access points while the X41 reports seeing 8 — the 5 below 45% signal strength are not detected by the W2v), but when within 100 feet of a router you’ll have no problems connecting, and often further out will work quite well still. Bluetooth and IR communication ports are also available in the W2v for short range communication.
Usually I’ll recommend relying on the manufacturer for support when buying a notebook, meaning you should do research into what that support is like from the brand name stamped on the notebook. Asus is a bit different, you should do your research and buy from a reputable reseller because they’ll be your best line of support for an Asus notebook purchased, and since Asus sellers are quite often quite passionate about their business and reputation then they’ll treat you well. PROPortable provided the W2v to me for review and Justin O’Dea, the owner of ProPortable, is one such person you’ll find this is true for. You can email him, IM him, call him, post to the Asus forum here on NotebookReview.com with your questions for him (he’s user name PROPortable) and if all else fails you can probably use smoke signals or the bat-signal to get his attention too. In other words Justin and his company have a pretty open line of communication, I still haven’t figured out when that guy sleeps or eats. Or does he? If you’re outside of the U.S. then do the research needed to find a local Asus reseller that has a good reputation.
The Asus W2v is for the type of buyer that knows exactly what their needs are from a notebook, it offers a lot and if you aren’t going to use half the features then you’re better off saving some money getting an Asus notebook that’s not so choc-a-bloc with features and options. However, if you’re looking for a notebook that provides a built-in TV-tuner, nice large 17″ screen, high-end everything (X700 graphics card, processor, optical drive) and Windows Media Center Edition 2005, excellent array of ports and design that should please even discriminating tastes, then check the W2v out. Is $2,599 a lot of money? Yes, but it’s in line with or cheaper than similar notebooks that don’t stack up to the W2v. The final line is that the W2v is recommended to those that do their research and know it fits their needs, because this notebook is the best option in its class.
- Quite thin and light (7.6lbs) for a 17″ screen notebook
- Dark-grey finish and aluminum-alloy casing looks and feels great, good build.
- Overall excellent number of ports
- Windows Media Center 2005 and built-in TV tuner make this an interesting portable TV/computer hybrid with a lot of applications and ways to use.
- Lots of things included with purchase such as a free carry case that fits the W2v well and is good quality, mouse and headphones also included
- No DVI output port, would have been nice in a multimedia notebook
- No dedicated number pad that some 17″ notebooks have
- A certain level of tech savvy needed to appreciate and understand all of this notebooks features
Visit the following thread to see other user feedback on the W2v: Asus W2v User Feedback and Impressions