The Asus W3V is a notebook you'll want to show off, boasting a sleek profile and a brushed graphite exterior that just screams cool. At only 33x24x3.27cm and weighing in at 2kgs, the W3V fits into the light and portable notebook category, yet it still has the grunt inside of a mid-sized model. Asus has gone for some interesting design flourishes on the W3V series, including attaching the screen via a stylish hinge which also sports the unit's power button on the side. The screen itself doesn't attach via a latch when closed -- rather, it's held shut via a series of magnets, meaning all you need to do to open the notebook is apply a bit of pressure to lift the screen. This could result in the unit accidentally opening while you're traveling, but that never occurred during our tests with the W3V.
The W3V looks extremely neat with the screen closed -- there's a discreet Asus logo on the top, an opaque black strip sits on the edge of the screen and a silver trim surrounds the unit. All of the notebook's ports are arrayed on either side (rather than at the back), allowing for easier access for any USB devices or networks connections. Also on the side are quick access buttons for some of the notebook's functions -- on the right are five control buttons for music playback, while on the left are quick sync buttons for wireless (such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi).
Asus is positioning the W3V as a multimedia powerhouse, and has accordingly fitted it out with specs that should be able to handle most gaming and entertainment tasks. The W3V we tested sported an Intel Pentium M processor running at 2.13Ghz, 1Gb of DDRII RAM, an 80GB hard drive and a 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X600 HyperMemory graphics card. Prospective buyers can customise the CPU (Intel Pentium M 730-770), hard drive (40 to 100GB) and memory (up to 2GB DDRII 400/500MHz). Connectivity options are fairly standard for a higher-end model such as this, and includes built-in 802.11a/b/g, built-in fax/modem, Bluetooth and 10/100/1000 Ethernet. Disappointingly, the W3V we tested only had three USB 1.1 ports (not the much faster 2.0) -- Asus assures us, however, that retail models will ship with three USB 2.0 and one IEEE 1394 port. Still, with only three USB ports, you'll probably need to invest in some sort of USB hub if, like us, you have plenty of devices that need to be plugged in. Rounding off the W3Vs ports are an S-Video out and a three-in-one memory card slot (for MMC, SD and Memory Stick/Memory Stick Pro).
On the display side of things, the W3V's 14" WXGA LCD screen (1280x768) is impressively bright and portrays games and movies with ease. Audio is handled via a built-in Intel high definition compliant audio chip, with the W3V having two speakers located underneath the front of the unit. Don't expect ear splitting volume, however -- turning the W3V volume's up to full isn't as satisfyingly loud as it could be, so you'll need to be fairly close to get the full impact from movies and music.
The Asus W3V showed above average performance under Bapco's MobileMark 2002 productivity test, scoring an impressive 226 points which ranks it in the upper tier of high performance laptops. Our tests showed very little lag or slowdown, even with multiple memory hungry apps like Photoshop, IE and more running at the same time. Connectivity also proved to be a cinch -- we got the W3V up and running on our CNET.com.au 802.11 g wireless network with no hassles at all. The W3V didn't prove to be the longest lasting unit, however, as MobileMark battery tests maxed it out at 136 minutes. A separate test running Doom 3 saw the unit last for a similar two hour time frame.
Speaking of Doom 3, we tested the resource exhaustive game to see how the W3V could handle the latest system pushing titles, and it performed admirably if not as impressively as its mobile gaming powerhouse claims would have you believe. The game defaulted to the lowest quality settings (600x480 resolution) on start-up, but we managed to run it fairly smoothly at 800x600 resolution with effects, shadows and bump mapping all switched on (with some noticeable slowdown at some enemy heavy sections later in the game). Running Doom 3 at 1024x768 resolution, however, saw the game's frame rate drop considerably. Bottom line is if it can run Doom 3 at a decent mode, then it should suffice for most other current or about to be released games.
On the entertainment side, the W3V handled DVD and film playback well, even with multiple applications running concurrently. And while Asus assures us it won't be the case with retail versions of the unit, we had to install the laptop's DVD drivers and software before we could get a movie to work. An Asus spokesman says the W3Vs should be ready to play DVDs straight out of the box. Strangely, the W3V doesn't have an option where you can play DVDs without booting up the computer (as is becoming standard with most entertainment-focused notebooks), but it does allow you to do this with CDs. Unfortunately, no on-screen indicators appear when you have the CD on, so it'll be a matter of guesswork in regards to what track number you're on.
As a package, the Asus W3V is a good looking machine that boasts decent performance both as an entertainment and work unit. But possibly its biggest downside relates to heat issues, which could be a significant factor for you depending on how you interact with your laptop. The W3V's cooling fan pumps out significant heat on the right hand side of the unit, blowing it directly where your mouse hand would be should you prefer to use your notebook with an attached USB mouse instead of the built-in mousepad. The heat even extends to below the keyboard where your right hand would rest during typing, but it doesn't get to the same temperature as the side of the notebook. If you can, we suggest some test time with the W3V before committing to see whether the heat issues impact on your personal use.