Asus W3J+ Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (46,494)

by Nakul Chander

Overview and Introduction:

The Asus W3J is Asus’ premiere high-performance portable notebook (as opposed to a desktop replacement). This review is for the newer W3J model number W3J-H026P. The specifications for this model are as follows:

  • Intel Core Duo “Yonah” T2500 2.0GHz
  • 14″ Wide XGA LCD (Native resolution of 1280×768)
  • 2GB (2x1GB) DDR2 667MHz RAM (upgraded from stock of 1x1GB)
  • ATI Mobility x1600 256MB VRAM (512MB Hypermemory)
  • 100GB 5400RPM Hard Disk Drive
  • Built-In Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 A/B/G miniPCI
  • 8x Super Multi DVD Burner
  • 8-Cell Li-Ion Battery
  • Built in Bluetooth
  • 54mm PCI-Express Card Slot
  • 3x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 4 in 1 memory card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
  • S-Video Out
  • IEEE 1394 (Firewire) Port
  • Comes with Windows XP Professional
  • 13″ (length) x 9.7″ (width) x 1.18″-1.28″ (height)
  • Approx. ~5.4 LBS w/ US standard 8 cell and optical drive or ~5.0 LBS w/ US standard 8 cell and travelers drawers

The difference between this model and the old one (H017P) is that this model sports a T2500 processor as opposed to a T2400 at 1.83GHz and one stick of 1GB RAM instead of 2 sticks of 512MB. This makes it easier to upgrade to 2GB of RAM by just having to purchase an extra stick as opposed to two 1GB RAM to replace the 512MBs.


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Reasons for Buying:

This fall I am set to head to the University of California — Berkeley and I believed the time had come to acquire a new computer for my use. At first I had planned on building a desktop PC, but I soon realized that having a large and un-portable system would not be the most practical thing for a student living in a dorm. Therefore I turned my attention to the world of portable computers. The criteria I used in my search for my laptop was simple yet presented me with quite a few problems. I wanted a laptop that carried the new Core Duo processor and came with a fair amount of RAM as I am I going to be majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Additionally since I was an occasional gamer I wanted a laptop that had a dedicated GPU (video card). Lastly, this laptop had to be at maximum 6 pounds.

To make a long story short, I settled on the Asus W3J after reading numerous reviews and benchmark from a wide variety of laptops including the Dell Inspirion e1705, the Alienware Aurora, and the Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi. At the very end I decided upon purchasing an Asus W3J because I was sold on its superior build quality and because the specifications (listed above) fell into the general area of my requirements while not being overly heavy that I would have to receive a back surgery before my 20s. Furthermore, having lived almost 3 years of my life using a 15″ LCD with a native resolution of 1024×768 on my desktop, I found that I had no problem adjusting to a 14″ screen that was widescreen to boot.

Where and How Purchased:

I purchased the notebook via the reseller geared2play.com. Its owner, Eddie, is a participant in the Asus forums with well over 1000 posts. I purchased the laptop for $1729.00 (after a $70 rebate). However with the addition of an extra gigabyte of ram and 3 day select shipping, I ended paying $1910 up front. The price may seem a lot (and it sure did to my father), but I believe that you do pay more for the service rather than the product (in this case the quality of the product).

Build & Design:


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There is no other way to put it, but to say that the Asus W3J is one sexy beast. As soon as one takes the laptop of the Asus box (which by itself is yet another beautiful looking box), the eyes travel to the brushed aluminum lid. It’s hard to resist rubbing it a few times while soaking in the beauty. The elegance is not limited to just the lid. The beauty continues with the charcoal black color of the laptop, hotkeys that look as if it’s part of the chassis rather than buttons, stylish fonts on the keyboard, a touchpad that doesn’t detract from the design with oddly placed buttons, and an overall eye-pleasing look that cannot be conveyed by any photos.

However the W3J is no fragile beauty. The build quality of this laptop is top-notch. During my extensive testing (read: gaming) and circus acts with the laptop I have yet to hear a sound that strikes fear into my heart. The hinge is strong and sturdy and in fact requires two hands to open. There is none or very minimal wobbling with the screen nor are there any loose joints. Furthermore to a person who almost hurt his back lugging around 10lbs worth of textbooks every day for the past two years this laptop feels as light as a feature (but weighing around 5 and a half pounds still).

My complaints if any, is limited to two design problems. Number one (and the biggest) is the fact that is how the heat vent is placed on the right side and therefore makes it uncomfortable (especially while gaming) to use an external mouse. Secondly I do not like how tight the hinge is, because I constantly feel as if I will snap the screen while trying to open. However this issue is becoming more and more non-existent as I become used to the laptop.

Screen:


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The Asus W3J comes with a 14″ wide XGA with a native resolution of 1280×768. It has a Color Shine’ glossy LCD with Crystal Bright’ (extra bright) technology. My primary concern prior to my purchase was if the glare would be dehabilitating in standard use (i.e. other than for DVDs). Secondly (but not as much) I was worried if the small vertical resolution would be a problem. I am happy to report that neither of these were big problems when it came to using the computer. I never noticed the glare myself while looking straight at the screen, but in a few photos I could see reflections of the surroundings while taken at a slight angle. While on the topic of angles, I would like to report that the viewing angle of the W3J is not very wide. While it can easily accommodate the main viewer and perhaps one person on either side, any more than that and the screen is not very clearly seen. As for the screen resolution, a 14″ screen provides an excellent compromise between a performance and portability. I have yet to be disappointed by the screen resolution. Sure a larger vertical real estate would have been excellent, but the trade off with space would have been too much of a negative factor.


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Speakers:

Coming from a desktop system with an excellent speaker system set up, I set my expectations very low regarding sound quality. However I am quite disappointed to report that the sound is too low, even for a laptop. While watching a DVD I had to turn on subtitles or I would miss out on key conversations. At times I even felt my old large DS had a higher volume setting than the laptop. However plugging in an external speaker set or headphones negates this problem quickly. And considering I will be using headphones most of the time (in order to not disturb class or my dorm mates), this will thankfully not be a big problem.

Processor and Performance:

The new W3J is unique in that it will probably be one of the last set of laptops that use the Core Duo processors, as Intel is set to release their new Core 2 Duo (Merom) processor in July. However, the fact remains that the Core Duo T2500 is still one of the more powerful processing unit available. The fact that it is Dual Core allows for excellent multitasking, such as watching movie while compiling a program.

Those who look to have high performance may need to do an extra step after their initial boot up — reformat, or at least extensive clean up. The system is riddled with bloatware (unnecessary programs), that hog system resources (no matter how extensive they are). At first boot-up I found approximately 40 processes running and over three-quarters were useless to me (i.e. Intel’s wireless utility — I prefer the Windows’ utility).

On both sides of the chassis one can see several hotkeys that aid in the use of the laptop. On the left side, there is a CD Audio launcher and standard CD playback buttons (play/pause, stop, etc). The CD Audio launcher will launch Windows Media Player if computer is on, or will play CD Audio without the Operating System if system is off. On the right side, one can find buttons for Power4Gear (power settings), Bluetooth, Splendid Video Technology (changes screen contrast), wireless connectivity, and for the touch pad. However to be able to use these buttons require extra processes to be running. I found that I had use for only the Power4Gear and Bluetooth buttons so I disabled the other processes.

Benchmarks:

The following benchmarks are done with stock drivers. The other data is provided for comparison purposes only.

Super Pi

Super Pi checks the time it takes to calculate pi to 2 million digits of accuracy. This test was run with the “Super Performance” profile as that allows for full utilization of the CPU.

Notebook

Time

Asus W3J (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 14s

Asus W3J old model (1.83Ghz Core Duo)

1m 23s

Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 12s

Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 14s

Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60)

1m 23s

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)

1m 36s

Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)

1m 48s

HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 39s

Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)

2m 10s


3D Mark 05:

This test was run with the “Game” profile as that allows for full utilization of the GPU (video card) and CPU.


Notebook

3D Mark 05 Results

Asus W3J (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)

3,949 3D Marks

Asus W3J old model (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)

3,925 3D Marks

Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)

1,791 3D Marks

Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)

4,236 3DMarks

Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)

7,078 3D Marks

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)

2,092 3D Marks

Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB)

2,530 3D Marks

Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)

2,273 3DMarks

HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)

2,536 3D Marks

Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB)

2,090 3D Marks


PC Mark 05

This test was run with the “Game” profile as that allows for full utilization of the GPU (video card) and CPU.

HDD – XP Startup

5.65 MB/s

Physics and 3D

174.61 FPS

Transparent Windows

420.79 Windows/s

3D – Pixel Shader

87.09 FPS

Web Page Rendering

3.2 Pages/s

File Decryption

49.88 MB/s

Graphics Memory – 64 Lines

1117.48 FPS

HDD – General Usage

3.84 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit

106.68 Pages/s

Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression

23.83 MPixels/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression

4.08 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption

32.56 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD – Virus Scan

24.27 MB/s

Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency – Random 16 MB

8.21 MAccesses/s


HDTune:

HDTune measures the general speed (transfer time) of the hard disk drive.


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Everest:

This test was run with the “Super Performance” profile.

Test

Memory Read

4,381 MB/s

Memory Write

1,418 MB/s

Memory Latency

101.3 ns

Heat and Noise:

The W3J is a quiet machine. In fact I can boldly claim that my both my desktop and my desk fan (which is supposed to be quiet) is louder than the machine. However once the optical drive is used, the noise is incredible. At first I was afraid that I was scratching the disk since the machine itself started to shake. However it is normal operation according to the manual. So if you are in a no-talking area, do not use the optical drive.

Considering the laptop is equipped with a dedicated GPU in a small space it is understandable that the heat will be an issue for most. The fact that the heat vent is placed on the right side makes it even more uncomfortable if you are using an external mouse especially when gaming. The air blown out of the vent is rather hot, and can cause discomfort. This is also true if the laptop is on your lap although the air is not nearly as hot as it is on the right side. Additionally the right palm rest gets mildly warm and I tend to sweat making me have to wipe it occasionally to prevent my palms from slipping. However for normal usage heat was never a problem and I don’t mind keep the laptop on my lap for a few hours typing away.

Keyboard & Touchpad:

The keyboard on the W3J is superior to any notebook keyboard I have used. The keys feel sturdy although a bit noisy (so don’t go typing away while someone is trying to sleep). The keys require a bit of pressure to press, so at times I happen to miss letters while typing because I don’t press hard enough. However this a very small issue. Additionally my finger tips have occasionally gotten trapped under a key when typing away furiously. It is a minor nuisance and is probably because I am more used to desktop keyboards. Lastly, and to me the most annoying thing about the keyboard is the placement of the Function key and the left control key. Since I’m a heavy user of the Control + key shortcuts (Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V, etc), I tend to make mistakes when I’m not paying attention.


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I’m not a touchpad fan at all and so I did not expect great things from the touchpad on the W3J. But it has exceeded my expectations (albeit low ones). The tracking is consistently accurate, and the scroll feature works majority of the time. In addition the buttons have enough of a clickable area to be comfortable. Lastly one cannot deny the beauty that of the single button style. But I still prefer to use an external mouse (the Bluetooth makes this very easy to do).

Input and Output Ports:

The disadvantage of the fact that the rear and the hinge for the screen is the battery pack is that there are no ports on the rear. But still Asus has managed to cram in a wide variety of ports on either side of the laptop.


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Left Side:

  • Kensington lock port
  • 1 USB 2.0 port
  • VGA 15-pin Video-Out to connect to an external monitor
  • 10/100 Ethernet port
  • 56k Modem
  • Optical Drive


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Right Side:

  • Audio line-out
  • Microphone-in
  • 4 in 1 memory card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
  • PCI 54 mm Express Card Slot
  • Infrared Sensor
  • IEEE 1394 (Firewire) Port
  • S-Video Out
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • DC Input


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Rear Side:

  • Battery Hinge

The Asus provides a wide variety of ports, but the most striking omission is the lack of a DVI port, and the relatively low number of USB ports. There is also an infrared sensor that I cannot think of a use for but I am sure there is something.

Wireless:

The W3J comes with the Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 A/B/G miniPCI wireless card built in. I had no problem in connecting to my network (all I needed was to input my WEP key and add the laptop’s MAC address to the router). However I dislike the Intel utility that shipped with the laptop. I found that it constantly dropped the connection. I just disabled it and allowed Windows to configure the wireless networks, and have not yet had a problem with it.

It also shipped with built Bluetooth that was painless to set up. The hotkey to turn off and on Bluetooth worked like a charm. This is a great addition because I didn’t have to waste a USB port for my mouse.

Battery:

Do not expect to have 5 to 6 hours of gaming and movie watching on this laptop with the battery. I found the battery to last anywhere between 2h 30m to 3h 30m depending on the screen brightness, the power profile, if Bluetooth and wireless is on or not, and other power consuming features. I found this to be reasonable because I will not be doing power intensive tasks unless I am plugged in, and at no time will I require more than 3 hours on battery. If more battery power is needed, one can always replace the Hot-swappable optical bay with a second 6-cell Li-ion battery.

Operating System and Software:

The W3J shipped with Windows XP Professional edition (SP2). As I mentioned above it shipped with quite a few additional software. Few may even wish to reformat XP to a pristine state. Included with the laptop was a trail version of Norton Anti-Virus (90 days), ASUS DVD (a stripped down DVD software), NERO OEM version (not the full version), Infineon Security Platform Solution, Power4Gear, and other small programs. The drive was originally partitioned into three FAT32 drives (including one hidden) but a simple script (accessible via the desktop) allowed for the conversion into NTFS (preferred by XP).

Customer Support:

I have no first hand experience regarding Asus customer support (and I hope it remains that way). The laptop ships with one year of global warranty. Be wary though, upgrading any parts (sans the RAM) can void this warranty.

Conclusion:

In the end, all I have said can be shortened into a few sweet words: the Asus W3J is fully worth it. This excellent laptop packs quite a punch inside of its small and sleek chassis, all while maintaining excellent build quality and looking quite incredible. The asking price may be quite steep, but like all great services, it’s worth it.

Pros:

  • Beautiful
  • Excellent build quality
  • High performance while still being portable

Cons:

  • Low volume level
  • Heat vent on right side
  • Expensive


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