Asus W7J Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (122,890)

by J.K.


Asus W7J 13.3″ widescreen notebook (view large image)

Overview and Introduction

The W7J is Asus’ entry in the relatively new 13.3″ widescreen notebook segment.

 
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In the United States, Asus is better known for their quality line of main boards than their notebooks. Until recently, I had no idea Asus even made notebooks. The Taiwanese company is exceedingly more popular in Europe and Asia.

The model I’m reviewing is the W7J-3P014P in Carbon Black. The notebook is configured as follows:

  • Intel Core Duo T2400 1.83GHz
  • 1 GB DDR2 533MHz SDRAM (2×512 MB)
  • 13.3″ WXGA Color Shine (Glare Type) and Crystal-Shine (High Brightness) LCD
  • Hard Drive: 100 GB; SATA 5400 RPM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce Go 7400 PCI-E Graphics w/ 128 MB VRAM (256 MB w/ Turbo Cache)
  • Wireless: Intel PRO Wireless 3945 A/B/G miniPCI
  • Optical: 8x Super Multi DVD Burner
  • Battery: 6-Cell Li-Ion
  • Sound: Azailia compliant audio chip
  • Dimensions: 315mm x 226.5 x 29 — 36.9mm (W x D x H) [12.4″ x 8.92″ x 1.142 — 1.453″]
  • Windows XP Professional

Reasons for Buying:

My previous workhorse notebook was a Dell Inspiron 8200. Note the word “was.” The notebook finally kicked the bucket two weeks ago.

This was both a curse and a blessing. I regularly dragged my Dell Monday through Friday to and from work for presentations. The Dell decided to ascend to the puffy clouds over the weekend and of course on a Sunday. Good grief.

Luckily I had been browsing Notebookreview’s Asus forum for about three months. I narrowed down my choices to the W3J+ and the W7J. Ultimately, I chose the WJ7 because of its portability. I was really getting tired lugging around the old Dell, which weighed in at a hefty 8.0 lbs. With the AC adapter and other miscellaneous accessories, the weight quickly exceeded 14 lbs. Also, the fact that the W7J had discrete graphics was icing on the cake.

Where and How Purchased:

I purchased the notebook from PROPortable.com. The owner of PROPortable, Justin, frequents Notebookreview’s Asus forum. Justin consistently gives reputable advice and is respected by forum members.

The purchase price for the W7J is $1,499 (MSRP), which is a steal taking into account the specifications. There are other online retailers that sell this notebook for less, but I felt the service I received from Justin and his staff was well worth the extra cost.

Build & Design:


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What surprised me when I first started browsing Notebookreview was the size of the Asus forum. I fully expect the Sony or HP/Compaq forum to be huge, considering the popularity of their notebooks. But Asus? I thought to myself, either A) Asus has a lot of problems and owners are complaining or, B) Asus has a lot of happy owners bragging about their machines. I’m happy to report it’s the latter. One of the qualities most talked about in the forum is build quality. The W7J does not disappoint.

The W7J is not as flashy compared to other notebooks. The design is quite simplistic yet stylish. I work in an office where literally laser printers have grown legs and gone missing. Last thing I need was a notebook with shiny “steal me now” aluminum trim all over it.

 
Top lid of the W7J (view large image)
 
Another shot with flash(view large image)

It’s hard to describe the finish of the W7J. At first glance, the finish looks matte. However, under different light angles you can almost make out what is best described as metallic flakes in the finish. The surface does attract smudges. After an afternoon of presentations the lid looked like a third grade finger painting project.

A good amount of the notebook is made from a blend of carbon fiber and plastic. There is hardly any flex within the chassis. The only flex is found around the palm rest when applying more than usual pressure. Protecting the screen is mixture of magnesium alloy and plastic. Impressively, pressing hard on the screen lid exhibited no ripples. The screen is secured to the chassis by metal hinges. Hinges are not overly tight but on occasion I had to use two hands to lift the screen. There is no latching system; the cover stays closed by the retention of the hinges.

Overall the W7J is a well built, solid machine.

Screen:

The W7J incorporates a 13.3″ WXGA LCD screen with a native resolution of 1280 x 800. It has Color Shine (Glare Type) and Crystal Bright (High Brightness) technologies.

Coming from a traditional 15.1″ screen, I was somewhat worried the 13.3″ screen would be too small. After two weeks of typing reports, I have found the screen to be first-class. Brightness of the screen is quite good; I consistently run the screen at seventy percent brightness. Text is sharp and clear.

New to the model is V-Cut screen technology. In a nutshell, V-Cut utilizes prisms to decrease weight, increase screen brightness, and lower power consumption. Sounds fabulous, but it is not without side effects. I noticed the bottom left and right corners of the LCD is slightly darker then the rest of the screen.

Light leakage was minimal. The only visible light leakage is on the bottom edge of the screen.

 
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I was impressed by the viewing angles. Vertical viewing angles are adequate while horizontal are much better. Once you adjust the screen to that sweet spot the screen easily accommodates three people side by side.

Mounted above the screen is a 1.3 mega-pixel video camera. You won’t miss it considering Asus plasters a huge “Built-In Webcam” sticker on the right palm rest. Now my co-workers think I’m some sort of internet pervert.


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Quality of the camera is reasonably nice for a 1.3 mega-pixel. The camera works well with MSN Messenger and Skype. Asus includes a security utility unimaginatively named Asus Video Security. This program allows a user to configure the camera to take pictures of would be vandals scoping out your new toy.


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Speakers:


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The speakers on my old Dell 8200 were nothing to brag about, neither are the ones on the W7J. The speakers are mounted in front just underneath the screen. Volume is sufficient and does not get distorted when you turn it up. However, don’t expect earth shattering bass.

Volume can be controlled by using the function keys or by a nifty two-way radial switch. Rotate the switch up to raise the volume, down to lower the volume. A simple yet brilliant design.


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In an office setting it is proper etiquette to not have your volume cranked up to instant deaf. I suspect the woman working next to me must have called in sick that day and missed the memo. I swear I can hear her instant messages from the break room. To drone out her rudeness I often put on a set of ear phones and listen to music. I inserted my Britney Spears CD and prepared for another productive day. What’s this? This is not the intro to Baby Hit Me One More Time. It sounded like a F1 engine. What I was hearing was the CD-ROM spooling the CD through the ear phones. Good thing this only happens during the beginning of the CD or else I’d have to sabotage my coworker’s internet connection.

Processor and Performance:


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Under the hood Asus shoehorns an Intel T2400 1.83GHz Core Duo processor. Combine that with 1GB of DDR2 memory, the system makes quick work of all my word processing tasks.

A minor gripe. Why tease us with only 533MHz DDR2 memory? The system can handle 667MHz. On top of that, 512MB of original 1GB is soldered on to the motherboard.

Situated on the upper left corner above the keyboard is a power profile button. Pressing this button instantly changes the power profile of the notebook.

NVIDIA’s GeForce Go 7400 handles all the video tasks for the notebook. Compared to newer graphics cards the 7400 is a donkey. But I rather have a donkey than a snail that is the Intel GMA 950. Integrating a more powerful video card would be catastrophic. I imagine the heat generated would be rather unbearable.

Benchmark:

The following benchmarks were conducted using stock drivers. Power profile was set to Game to allow full utilization of the CPU/GPU.

SuperPi

Notebook

Time

Asus W7J (1.83GHz Core Duo)

1m 15s

Asus W3H760DD (2.0 GHz Pentium M)

1m 33s

Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 16s

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)

1m 18s

Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)

1m 29s

Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 41s

Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 53s

IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)

1m 45s



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3D Mark 05

Notebook

3D Mark 05 Results

Asus W7J (Core Duo 1.83GHz, nVidia 7400)

1,974 3D Marks

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

3,925 3D Marks

Sony VAIO SZ2 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce 7400)

1,851 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


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PC Mark 05 Results

HDTune


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Everest

 Memory Read:  3394 MB/s
 Memory Write:  1364 MB/s
 Memory Latency:  98.6 ns

Heat and Noise:

For daily use the W7J is virtually silent. Only audible sounds are from the hard drive and the CD-ROM. I switched the power profile from Quiet Office to Game. Going on eight hours, I don’t recall ever hearing the fan.

The W7J gets considerably warm around the palm rests, warmer then any other notebook I have used. It has been 100 degrees almost everyday of this week in Los Angeles. Using the W7J my palms have been sweating more than a thirteen year old in an adult book store. What’s generating all the heat? I suspect it is a large part due to the hard drive. Asus integrated a 2.5mm hard drive where others would have used a 1.8mm.

2.5mm drives are faster than 1.8mm drives. The fastest 1.8mm drive I have found that didn’t cost an arm and a leg spins at a meager 4200 RPM. 2.5mm drives come in 5400 and 7200 RPM flavors.

I’m willing to bare the heat annoyance for the ability to upgrade to faster hard drives in the future. Now I know why Asus plasters all those stickers on the palm rest. It is probably to protect the finish from my sweaty palms. Clever.

An exhaust vent is situated on the right in between the USB and Fire-wire port. I prefer an USB mouse instead of the touch pad. Using the mouse approximately 4-5 cm away from the vent I could barely feel the exhaust heat.

Keyboard and Touchpad:


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The keyboard is exceptional and exhibits no flex. Keys have a very responsive feel with good travel and feedback. My only complaint is the layout. The Backspace, Enter, and right Shift key are noticeably shorter. I constantly hit the Home key instead of the intended Backspace. After a couple of minutes, my report soon resembles something written by Master Yoda. Like, the layout I do not.


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The touchpad surface is made of the same material as the rest of the notebook. I had rarely used the touchpad on my old Dell so I did not have any high expectations. From what I gather, the touchpad is responsive and easy to use. If the touchpad is not your cup of tea, you can easily disable it using the function keys.


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Input and Output Ports:

With the battery occupying a good amount of real estate, majority of the I/O ports are evenly distributed along the left and right sides of the notebook.


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Left Side:

  • RJ-45 Ethernet Jack
  • RJ-11 Modem Jack
  • 1 x USB 2.0 Port
  • 4-in-1 Card Reader


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Right Side:

  • 54mm Express Card Slot
  • Microphone-In
  • Line-Out
  • 1 x Firewire
  • 1 x USB 2.0 Port
  • D-Sub VGA Out


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Rear Side:

  • DC Input
  • 1 x Video Out Din
  • 1 x USB 2.0 Port
  • Kensington Lock Port

Wireless:

Completing the Centrino package is an Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 A/B/G miniPCI wireless card. If you skim any notebook forum you will find that the 3945 is not well liked. Complaints range from poor reception to constant dropped connections. Despite all the hate, I actually have had no problems connecting and staying connected to the wireless router at home or work.

Powered by Broadcom, the W7J boasts Bluetooth with EDR 2.0. Having no Bluetooth devices I hurried down to my local Best Buy looking for a Bluetooth mouse. My efforts were to be in vain. None of the walking blue drones could find me a Bluetooth mouse. Yet they were more than quick to sell me a replacement plan for a mouse pad. Until I can source a Bluetooth mouse, the Bluetooth capabilities will be temporarily untested.


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A toggle switch is located on the upper left corner above the keyboard. This switch allows you to disable wireless signals at the flip of a switch.

Optical Drive Performance:

Since data on floppy disks are easily corrupted and my boss can’t grasp the concept of flash drives, data is usually passed along the office on CDs. Of course by the time the CD gets pass down to me, it looked like someone had used it as a hockey puck on asphalt.

A quick search of the model number on Google tells me the drive was manufactured as a joint project by Toshiba and Samsung. The drive spun the hockey pucks and read them without incident.

Burning CD/DVDs also proved to be no problem for the drive. Although not as fast as desktop counterparts, the drive was still remarkably brisk. Cheap media was not an issue. DVD, uh, backups written on cheap Ritek media played first-rate on my set top box.

Battery:

 
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Bundled with the system is a 6-cell battery. The battery is rated at 4800mAh. Once installed, the battery sticks out from the back ever so slightly.

Battery technology is constantly improving. Reading the reviews of other notebooks, anticipating 3-4 hours should be fairly reasonable. My deceased Dell was four years old and it would run just over two hours with general use.

Power4Gear is the bundled power management software. There are eight different power profiles ranging from Super Performance to Battery Saving. I tested battery prowess using the Battery Saving profile. Battery Saving profile runs the LCD brightness at 17% and the processor at 25%.

Because I needed my daily fix of online poker the wireless was left on. I disabled Bluetooth and disconnected all USB devices.

Using my trusty stop watch the battery clocked in at paltry 2 hours 40 minutes. I can not help but to feel slightly disappointed. I was hoping the battery would achieve at least 3 hours.

I frantically searched the Asus forum looking for answers. Thanks to an observant member, he noticed the top mounted camera was warm to the touch. This led me to believe the web cam was stealing valuable battery power even when not in use. I disabled the web cam under hardware profiles and retested the battery. This time around the battery lasted 3 hours 5 minutes.

Unlike its older brother, the W3J, the W7J does not have a modular bay so a modular battery is out of the question. If you want more juice your best bet is a 9-cell 7800mAh battery which should available late August.

Operating System and Software:


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Bundled with the system is Microsoft Windows XP Professional (SP2). The first time I shutdown, I’m greeted with 46 critical Windows updates that need to be installed. Damn. According to the pretty sticker, the W7J is Vista capable. I’ll believe it when I see it. Knowing Microsoft, I’ll need a 4GHz processor with 8GB of memory to run Vista.


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I guess Asus felt 1 GB of memory was colossal. There is enough bloat ware during start up to sink a battleship. Luckily most are effortless to uninstall. First to reach software Valhalla was Symantec Norton Antivirus. The 90 day trial version is utter crap.

Customer Support:

The W7J comes standard with a 12 month global warranty which should be plenty. But if you are riding with the likes of 50-Cent where a bulletproof vest is your daily attire, an optional 24 month extended warranty is available. With the extended warranty, the 12 month warranty is extended for a total of 36 months. (3 years)

I have not had a chance to call or e-mail technical support. I hope it stays that way. Asus has all drivers available for download online on their website, www.asus.com. Make sure you select “Global” as your location; looks like the webmasters at usa.asus.com fell asleep at the keyboard and forgot to update the site.

Being the W7J is an Ensemble unit, any modifications to the original specifications will void the warranty.

Conclusion:

Asus has earned a reputation for producing some of the best notebooks available. Companies like IBM, Apple, Dell, have all one time or another trusted Asus to manufacture their notebooks.

Crammed into this little machine is a lot of value. You get a speedy processor and plentiful amounts of memory. The screen is bright enough to give you a radiation tan. Discrete graphics permit you to play something other than Solitaire all day at work. If you’re having a mid-life crisis, fire up the webcam and make some new friends online. How can you put a price tag on that? For $1499, that’s a bargain.

Pros

  • Design and build quality
  • Great performance without sacrificing portability
  • Impressive screen
  • Excellent webcam along with security software

Cons

  • Heat
  • CD-ROM spooling is audible through headphones
  • Soldered memory that’s not removable


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