Best known in the United States as a manufacturer of motherboards, PC components, and laptops for other vendors (Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, and others), Asus has begun churning out its own models stateside over the past year or two. The company's attractive, powerful $2,599 W2V makes a strong impression with its speed, elegant design, and impressive multimedia capabilities.
Outfitted in a black, brushed-aluminum chassis measuring 1.4 inches thick, 17.6 inches wide, and 12.7 inches deep, the W2V is wide but has a sleek, high-end appearance. At 7.5 pounds, it's quite light for a desktop replacement, yet it feels extremely sturdy. The three-prong AC adapter brings the W2V's weight to 8.7 pounds.
The Asus W2V's expansive keyboard and average-size touch pad provide plenty of room for typing and navigating documents with comfort, and the mouse buttons are flush with the case, making for a very clean aesthetic. To the right of the keyboard are five buttons to quick-launch commonly used applications and turn the touch pad on and off so that you don't displace the cursor while typing. Above the keyboard sits a crisp 17-inch wide-screen display with a fairly fine 1,680x1,050 native resolution; the screen delivers rich colors, smooth playback, and excellent off-axis viewing, making it great for video.
A true-blue multimedia system, the W2V comes equipped with and has a number of features for playing DVDs, burning discs, and working with photos. You get a full suite of ports and slots--four-pin FireWire, VGA, S-Video, and four USB 2.0 ports--as well as a four-in-one flash-card reader (supporting the MultiMediaCard, SecureDigital, and Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro formats), a Type II PC Card slot (though no ExpressCard slot), and a fancy slot-loading, double-layer DVD burner. The Asus W2V is also one of a select few laptops to include a built-in TV tuner for watching and recording live programming. Rounding out the package are a wireless mouse, a remote control, a USB-interface radio-frequency antenna for catching TV broadcasts, and a dongle for connecting cable and satellite boxes. Networking connections include modem, Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
Our test unit was built on a 2.13GHz Pentium M 770 processor; 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 RAM; a large 100GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; and an ATI Mobility Radeon X700 GPU with 128MB of VRAM--a top-notch configuration six months ago, but inferior to those of the current breed of Core Duo systems, such as the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV600 and the Dell Inspiron E1705, which are comparably priced. Nevertheless, on the SysMark 2004 portion of CNET Labs' benchmark tests, the W2V delivered a strong score that was in line with those of the Gateway NX850XL and the previous-generation . The Asus W2V was less adept at gaming, though, posting a mediocre 20.9 frames per second on our Doom 3 tests.
The W2V's support package was disappointing. The standard one-year warranty covers parts and labor, but you'll have to pay to ship the laptop back to a repair depot for service. Also, phone-support hours are limited, and the call is not toll-free.
|BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2.13GHz Pentium M 770; 1GB PC4200 DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon X700 128MB; Fujitsu MHV2100AH 100GB 5,400rpm
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2.13GHz Intel Pentium M 770; 1GB PC4300 DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 256MB; Hitachi Travelstar 541010G9AT00 100GB 5,400rpm
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 760; 1GB PC3200 DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 128MB; two Fujitsu MHT2060BH 5,400rpm