Asus W5F Review (pics, specs)

by g_man Reads (86,583)

by Ivan Gabric, Croatia

Overview and Introduction:

The Asus W5F is somewhere between being an ultraportable and just “portable”.  The W5F features a 12.1″ widescreen glossy display, built-in optical drive, the Intel Core Duo processor and excellent battery life.  It’s a well built notebook with a nice design and is moderately priced at around $1,700.


My W5F was purchased configured as follows:

  • Intel Core Duo Processor T2300 1.66GHz
  • 1 GB DDR2 533 MHz SDRAM
  • 12.1″ WXGA Color-Shine (Glare-type) and Crystal-Shine (High brightness) LCD
  • Embedded Intel 945GM
  • Hard Drive: 2.5″ 80 GB (5400 rpm) HDD
  • Optical Drive: Built-in DVD-RW
  • Communications: Modem, LAN, WLAN (802.11 a/b/g), BlueTooth
  • Sound: Integrated Intel High Definition Audio chip (Azalia)
  • Ports: 1.3 Mega Pixel web camera, 1 x Express card 54, 1 x Microphone-in jack, 1 x Headphone-out jack (S/PDIF), 1 x VGA port/Mini D-sub 15-pin for external monitor, 1 x TV Out (S-Video composite), 3 x USB 2.0 ports, 1x IEEE 1394 port, 1 x RJ11 Modem jack for phone line, 1 x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert
  • Dimensions: 305 x 220 x 31mm (W x D x H) (12″ x 8.6″ x 1.2″)
  • Weight: 1.6kg (3.5lbs)
  • Also Bundled: Standard DVD software and a small Bluetooth mouse (Logitech rebranded to Asus) and a carrying bag


Asus W5F out of the box (view large image)

Reasons for Buying:

The most popular laptops are mainstream 15.4″ WXGA notebooks — but I instead wanted a smaller notebook that I could:

  • Easily carry around
  • Use for prolonged periods of time without external power
  • Use for the next 2 years
  • Watch movies and use for light work

This meant that a 12.1″ – 14″ laptop would best fit my needs.  I settled on the Asus W5F in the end, but it had had fiece competition in the form of the Sony SZ line, IBM/Lenovo Z61t, Apple MacBook, and Dell Latitude X1.

Where and How Purchased:

Since I live in Croatia, it was a problem to get a custom built model of the Asus W5F so I went with one offered by a company named Mikronis.  It was paid for with hard earned cash, 14,500 kn, which translated into dollars is about $2,500.  In the USA you can get the W5F for about $1,700, but with 22% tax here in Croatia the price climbs quickly on you.  If I could have bought it for $1,700 I would have considered it a very fair price!

Build & Design:

The Asus W5F design is very simple, it uses straight edges and clean lines.  My model is black and there are no antennas or any other external features sticking out.  I don’t think it’s as stylish or trendy as the Sony and not as business-like as the IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad laptops but rather falls somewhere in between those notebooks.  I adore the simplicity and elegance of the black magnesium lid.   Asus isn’t flashy, it’s very moderate, but given the choice between glossy piano black casing and moderate I choose this.

The laptop itself is very thin, most ports are located on the sides, while the rear is occupied by the batterypack.

The build quality is average, again not like the IBM ThinkPad level of ruggedness but not bad overall.  The plastic casing doesn’t bend, the screen hinges are good, there is no screen flex, and there are no hot spots on the palm rest area or the keyboard. The screen is held down only by the hinges and there is no latch mechanism, you can open it with one hand, but it’s firm enough when closed so that it will not open by itself or under stress. 


Size comparison of Asus W5F to a toy poodle — and you decide which is cuter (view large image)


Size comparison to 8.5 x 11 paper (A4 paper) (view large image)

Screen:

The W5 series has a 12.1″ glossy screen. The resolution is 1280 x 800.  The screen is absolutely fabulous, the colors are vivid, there is no ghosting, video played on it looks great, the text is crisp.  I use the screen set at 70% brightness during normal use. I find the glossy screen reflections are minimal and not annoying.  It’s all praise for W5 in the screen department.

The light leakage is minimal and present on the bottom and the top of the screen, but in use it’s not noticeable.


The screen in almost completely dark, the image is a bit fuzzy because of the camera and high ISO value (view large image)


Light leakage test, there are 2 dark spots left and right but while watching you will not notice them (view large image)


All white test, brightness is evenly distributed all around (view large image)


(view large image)

Angle views, no color distortion, the fuzziness is due to high ISO value on my camera


(view large image)

Speakers:

The W5F is a small laptop with small speakers to match, they are good enough for some basic sound needs — maybe even listening to some music and a watching a film if you’re not too picky.  The speakers are loud enough but there is no bass. Considering the size and given this is an ultraportable the speakers are okay.

Processor and Performance:

I love the Intel Core Duo equipped in this notebook — it’s excellent.  I’m not a power user but sometimes when I do need some CPU power this processor has got it.  My desktop machine (dual core AMD Opteron 165 @ 2.6 GHz) is only a bit faster when compared to the Core Duo in CPU demanding operations.  The memory speed department for the W5F isn’t that great, memory reads are quite slow, but more that enough for most users and applications.

The hard drive performance is what would you expect from normal 2.5″ drive, slow but passable.

Overall performance in Windows and CPU related applications is great, almost excellent, graphics benchmarks are not included below because there is nothing to expect from an integrated graphics solution notebook.  However, some non-high end games are certainly playable, for example I play chess master with 3D chess sets without any problem.

Benchmarks:

PCMark05

Notebook PCMark05 Score

Asus W5F (1.66GHz Core Duo)

2,839 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron e1405 (1.66 GHz Intel T2300) 2,879 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite M70 (Pentium M 1.86GHz) 1,877 PCMarks

 

Super Pi Results

Notebook

Time

Asus W5F (Core Duo @ 1 GHz – power save mode)

2m 8s

Asus W5F (Core Duo @ 1.66GHz – normal speed)

1m 23s

Gateway M255 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 15s

Lenovo Z61m (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 16s

IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 45s

IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)

1m 36s

Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)

1m 48s

Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)

1m 52s

Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)

2m 10s

HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 39s

Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)

1m 46s

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s


HD tach

Average Read:  28.7 MB/s
Burst Read:  81 MB/s


(view large image)

Everest Ultimate Edition 2006

Memory Read: 3841 MB/s
Memory Write: 3020 MB/s
Memory Copy: 2931 MB/s
Memory Latency: 99.2 ns

Heat and noise:

Thermal management keeps the CPU at around 50-51 C.  This seems a lot to me because I am used to 35-45 C from my desktop Opteron processor.  All the same, it’s quite satisfactory, as it’s not warm for me to hold the W5F in my lap.  Only when you put your hand on the exhaust do you feel warm air.  During full load usage you can see processor temps up to 65 C, but it’s still only hot air coming from the vent — there is NO heat rising to the keyboard area and the palm rests, and it’s stil comfortable to hold in the lap at these temps.  Under full load and when using a lower CPU speed (battery performance mode) the temperature stays around 55-57 C. The fan is very quiet for temperatures up to 55 C, after the system reaches that temp the fan kicks in faster and it’s audible but not irritating.

Keyboard and Touchpad:


(view large image)

The keyboard is very good, there’s almost no flex at all, it’s very nice to type on it.  Not as good as a ThinkPad keyboard but getting there. My model has an additional letter so I have a smaller Enter key but for a laptop of this size it’s quite a good size. The FN is the leftmost key — I like it that way but some people don’t (sometimes the Ctrl key comes before the Fn).  The top-row F keys all have a function:  volume, screen, sleep, wlan, switch output and kill touchpad.


Wireless switch and Power4Gear button (adjusts processor speed) (view large image)

The touchpad is in line with the case (as in it’s not lowered into the case), but it’s meshed so you have very good control.  It’s fast and precise — one of the best touchpads I have used.  The only thing I miss is the IBM/Lenovo light for the keyboard so I can type in the dark (I actually don’t need it but it’s cool)!

The touchpad has the function of horizontal and vertical scroll and I have become addicted to this feature, it works perfectly and is a very natural way to scroll.

Input and Output Ports:

Front:


Front view of Asus W5F (view large image)

Back:


Back view of Asus W5F (view large image) – Kensington lock, USB, SVHS, DC in

Left:


Left side view of Asus W5F (view large image) – Modem, LAN, USB, Firewire, DVDRW, Card Reader

Right:


Right side view of Asus W5F (view large image) – Express card, volume knob, Mic in, Headphones/SPDIFmini, USB, and VGA

Underside


(view large image)

Wireless:

The W5F is equipped with the Intel 3945 a/b/g mini wireless card.  Nothing special here: it has good reception and good throughput — around 20Mbit when close to the access point and around 12-14 Mbit when on the other side of my flat.  That’s with WEP encryption.

The Bluetooth 2.0 is excellent and works perfectly. No WAN adapters here.

Battery:

I got 2 batteries in my pack — a 3-cell and 6-cell battery.  The 3 cell is in line with the back of the laptop while the 6 cell sticks out about an inch and raises the machine slightly, which is actually good for typing.


lid closed with 3-cell battery in (view large image)


lid closed with 6-cell battery in (view large image)

The 6-cell model can supply power for up to 3 hours and 45 minutes if WLAN is on and screen brightness is set to 60%.  With WLAN off and screen at 60% I get 4 hours and 20 minutes out of the 6-cell and 1h and 50 min out of the 3 cell.  Maximum load drains the 6-cell in 2h and 30 minutes. If you use wireless and have your screen brightness at a moderate level then using both batteries you can go up to 5.5 hours without recharging.

Watching DVD’s I get some 3h and 30 minutes from the 6-cell. You can improve the battery stamina by reducing CPU power.  I use 1 GHz per core at 1V.  Instead of Power4gear supplied by Asus I chose Notebook Hardware Control to manipulate the CPU speed but both programs are basically doing the same thing.

Overall battery performance is very good. And the batteries charge up quite fast.

The power brick is quite small and light and never gets warm — a big plus for Asus (actually it’s made by delta electronics).  It’s rated at 65W but NHC reports max usage power at 40W so there is a lot of headroom for the power brick.

Operating System and Software:

My model came without an OS but using the supplied driver CD and my own Windows CD I had the machine up and running in under 2h.

Customer Support:

The W5F I bought has a 24 months standard warranty.  You can upgrade the RAM without voiding the warranty but that’s about it — everything else you do to change the laptop configuration voids the warranty. Asus has all the drivers on their web page and so a clean install is quite easy even with out the supplied CD.

Conclusion:

Asus W5F is a definitive best buy for anybody looking for a small, slim, portable, durable and powerful notebook under $2,000!


Pros:

  • Good design
  • Solid Build quality
  • Good battery life
  • Very good performance levels
  • Well priced (outside of Croatia at least) — $1,700 in the U.S.
  • Quite small and portable

Cons:

  • No fingerprint reader (not for me but for some people it’s a problem)
  • No cute little light to shine on my keyboard when in the dark
  • No trackpoint pointing stick
  • No serial port (I need it to use JTAG interface)
  • No Gigabit LAN
  • No Infrared port (but you get Bluetooth so it’s not a big problem)


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