by Pier Barbieri, Massachussetts USA
Asus W3V top view with its brush metal look lid (view larger image)
I am a college student coming from abroad, and when I knew I was coming to the US, I started shopping for a laptop with three things in mind: portability, design and performance. Moreover, as for any college student, price was important. Yet, I realized quite fast that certain decisions would compromise the above options. The first question would have been the perennial Apple vs. PC, but as the former is switching to Intel, I decided to wait for the newer PowerBooks (or X86Books in years to come 😉 ). So, when that was gone, the inquiries were…
- First or Second Generation Centrino? Or AMD Turion? I wanted to take it to class, and not suffer from battery life, so I dropped the third option after reading a lot about the HP Compaq V2000 and the HP L2000. Then, I decided to go for the newest Centrino because of the improved graphics, overall performance boost, and improvements on battery. That is how I dropped the Alienware Sentia.
- Screen-size? After having seen many 12 inch laptops, I can say I could have gone for one of them without trouble. Yet, I believe 14″ wide is the best size if you are looking at movies (lack of cable on campus), online TV or whateve. Besides, a 14″ screen notebook accommodates a decent keyboard.
- Build-quality? I wanted something that could last more than a semester, around two years. That is how I first put my eyes on ASUS. Of course I did not know then, but after reading for a while, and seeing their awesome build qualities in the models they produced for others, I decided to go to their site www.asus.com, and check the models out.
- Price? Of course, you will have to pay a little extra for that quality. But ASUS dropped 200 bucks off this beauty some weeks ago, and now it is really competitive priced, especially if you consider the 150 dollar ATI graphics processor included.
Buying the W3V
My experience with Star Tech was just brilliant. Mr. John Fierst, my assistant in helping me with my purchase, was helpful and nice even when I was telling him about deals others were offering me. For that service, and the student discounts, I decided to buy my W3V with them. It arrived promptly, well-protected, and with clear and concise information.
What is Included
In the box, I found the laptop (duh!), a very good and responsive wireless Logitech mouse, a sleek and well-designed (as well as really light) Asus messenger bag, manuals, CDs, and an Original WinXP Pro CD (another nice touch) and install guides. Very complete, and very unusual (who offers those kinds of freebies when you buy a laptop these days?)
A free bag is included with the W3V (view larger image)
- Intel Pentium M 750 – 1.86GHz w/2MB L2 Cache – 533MHz FSB
- 14.1″ WXGA (1280×800) Glare Type – “Color-Shine” and “Crystal-Shine” TFT LCD – Wide Aspect: 250 nits high brightness
- PCI-Express ATI MOBILITY RADEON X600 w/64MB VRAM. (dedicated video card, as I was explaining)
- 512MB DDR2-533 DDR 2 SODIMM Memory. (1 SODIMM, so you can upgrade later)
- 60GB 5400rpm Ultra DMA/100 Hard Disk (believe me, it is fast!)
- 8x Dual Layer DVD Burner/24xCDRW Drive (and you can take it out to add an extra battery, or make the laptop lighter with the Travelers Drawer)
- Built-in Intel/Pro Wireless 2915 802.11A/B/G LAN Card.
- Build in 10/100/1000Mbps fast Ethernet Controller.
- Built in Bluetooth (very cool, internal feature without annoying USBs and all); 3x USB 2.0, 1x IEEE 1394 port; 1x S-Video (TV-Out); 2x Audio jacks: 1x Microphone-in / 1x S/PDIF
- 4.8 Pounds with 8-Cell Battery, 13″ x 9.7″ x 1.18″~1.28″ (WXDXH)
- 8 Cell Battery: 3 to 4 hours as advertised by ASUS.
- Two Year Asus Global Warranty
Right side view of the Asus W3V with the included free wireless Logitech optical mouse (view larger image)
As I was talking about the build quality, it is the first thing you notice. And it is just beautiful. Brushed aluminum cover, great gapless touchpad (much better than my old Toshiba, where dust was deposited over time), hidden buttons (for XP-less CD Player or Bluetooth, WIFI and others), great-looking and distinct blue LED lights, and nice hand resting area.
Asus W3V touchpad (view larger image)
One complaint would be that, even when built in extra strong carbon fiber body, it is not as light as I expected it to be. Of course, it is lighter than any other 14 inch widescreen I have tested.
The Glossy Screen
The W3V screen is a widescreen glossy format type (view larger image)
WOW! That was my first impression. Amazing! And the widescreen for movies! You can notice the 250 nits of brightness, especially when plugged in, but also if you use it in SuperPower (almost the same as HighPower). To be honest, I had my doubts about the glossy choice, but it works just fantastically for me, even better looking than some Sony S series XBrite screens I have seen.
Turning the W3V On For the First Time
The great news did not end with the freebies. ASUS is very serious about the W3V being a business light yet powerful laptop. So, you will find no annoying software, AOL offers or Customer Reply Software. The OS install is clean, nice and fast. You even have the choice of installing the official Screensaver or not!! In my opinion, that is very cool. If there is something you do notice (and I will not complain when the New England winter comes), is the heat under the right palm rest area. It is not as bad as stated in some of the posts in the NotebookReview.com Discussion Forums, but it is there. Is it true? Yes. Is it bad? Not enough to discredit the overall performance.
It just flies. I used to own a Toshiba M35X, and this baby doubles the speed. I am used to running Outlook, around 5 Firefox browser windows, MSN, AIM, iTunes, Word, and the Bluetooth Sync at the same time, and you cannot even notice it. It never hiccups at all. One thing that was not that satisfactory is that when you do close it (no latch, but a nice magnet system), it does not go automatically to hibernation. Thus, if you forget about it, you might run out of battery while on the move.
The hard drive is fast, and very quiet too. No comparison with the Toshiba. You can clearly notice the difference in hard drive speed when loading games, documents or even mails in big lists.
When converting songs (which is supposed to push processing power) I achieved almost 3x the speed than with the Toshiba, and I was playing music at the same time.
Regarding the DVD-RW drive, I cannot say is as silent as the HDD, but you do get used to it. After a while, you won’t even notice it. It just spins a bit in the beginning, making it obvious that it is reading, but later, during the DVD, you won’t even think about it.
ATI delivers. Well, even if it is not the X700, which rivals anything from nVidia, this is the best 14-inch graphics performance laptop you can find, comparable to the brand new Sonys coming out these days. You get 64 MBs of dedicated video RAM, but you can add some more yourself, by taking from the computer RAM. I would not recommend it, as it works perfectly as it is, but I have tested some, not all of the latest games. I could run Sims 2, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, and even HL2, which was very cool, even when the details were not in MAX resolution.
We all know that every laptop has the same problem with sound speakers. You cannot turn it up as much as you would like to, but when it is there, the sound is crisp, clear and beautiful. The Azalia chip does its part when you connect it to another source, like Harman Kardon speakers or others.
The Wifi works just perfecty. It picks up signals (A, B or G), and it connects without trouble. I haven’t even plugged in an Ethernet based network connection to the W3V yet, and I have had it for a while now. With the built-in Intel wireless card, forget the difference between cables and wireless. You can turn wireless on or off with a nice hidden button, just like Bluetooth.
I did not use much of the Infrared, because better technologies (next paragraph) are included in this laptop, but it is there, and it works fine.
I just have to mention Bluetooth. This is a revolution for me. I wirelessly sync my Nokia 6230 with Outlook in a matter of seconds, with contacts, to-dos, and even agenda. It works perfectly, with the Toshiba drive included, or the Nokia software for download at www.nokia.com. I never had a problem, and it is one of the coolest features of the W3V. You have a shortcut button for it too, and it works flawlessly.
The keyboard is a pleasure to use. Honestly, I expected the Bluetooth, the graphics, and the screen, to be very nice, but not this. It is the best keyboard I have ever tried. It even beats the HP DV1000, which I really liked. It is soft, silent and the design keeps dust and dirt off (just like the rest of the laptop).
Asus W3V keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
Input / Output Ports
You get the following ports with the W3V:
- USB 2.0 ports – 3 of them
- SD/MMC & Memory Stick slot
- VGA out
- S-Video out
- Headphone/ (s/pdif) and Line In, Microphone built in
- V92 Modem
The USB ports are well distributed, as you get two on the left, and one on the right. I find the ones in the back rather annoying, but luckily, it is not the case with this laptop. There are no connections there on the back, as it is the place for the sleek and compact Bamboo Hinge Battery, as ASUS calls it.
You could complain that there is no DVI, but I never use it anyway, so it was not an issue for me. Yet, as this laptop can very well edit video, it could have been a nice extra.
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)
Inspired in “Oriental tradition”, it is hidden in the back (replacing ports), and it gives you enough battery life, considering the power of the graphics processor, which consumes far more power than the Intel 915 chipset. I got around four hours of life, saving a lot of power, and with low brightness. It is acceptable, yet not breathtaking.
I just love the W3V! I’m confident I’ll have the best looking laptop on campus, and probably one of the fastest too. No hiccups, good performance, just minor problems when coming back from Hibernation (every once in a while). I am happy with my purchase, dazzled by the graphics performance, surprised with build-quality (especially the keyboard) and in love with the screen.
- Performance (go Intel!)
- Weight (even if it is not THAT light)
- Bluetooth (just perfect)
- Heat (not that bad, but noticeable)
- Hibernation problems (hey, I am trying hard to find problems)
- Battery life could be better (once again, being really picky)
- It’s high maintenance because you will want to take good care of it. You will definitely not want to throw it around, too beautiful for that!
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