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Asus W5000 review: Asus W5000

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The Good White chassis; silky keyboard; built-in camera.

The Bad Absence of catch on the lid -- there's a possibility you'll scratch the screen.

The Bottom Line Spritely performance and an attractive case design makes the Asus ideal for home office tasks in an IKEA-obsessed age. While the laptop won't look out of place on your kitchen table, the absence of a catch on the screen carries a risk for anyone who does a lot of travelling

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6.5 Overall

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Style-conscious bohemians who want to steer away from the bland offerings of most laptop manufacturers will find the Asus W5000 appeals to their tastes. Rather than a sedate black, this laptop is all-white. Apple helped to establish this look with the iBook -- if you liked that design, but are committed to Windows, then the W5000 is the closest match to Apple's chassis in the PC realm.

The Asus is not just a looker. Under that bright white hood there's a 1.73GHz processor, a DVD writer and a small Webcam ingeniously built into the screen. Travellers may find that the lack of a decent catch on the screen and the conspicuous mug-me styling makes the Asus less than ideal for field work. Others will love its neat layout and lightweight chassis.

Design
The lid on the Asus is a pure-white plastic compound which feels slightly grippy to the touch, while the base is a silver grey. The Asus is lithe, at 30mm thick, and it doesn't weigh much more than two bags of sugar with the battery. The DVD drive is not swappable, so there's no weight to be shed there. At 305 by 240mm, the top of the Asus is a couple of centimetres larger than a sheet of A4 paper. If your current handbag, rucksack or briefcase can store A4 documents, the chances are the Asus will fit just as easily.

The Asus' keyboard is a delight to use -- the finish on the keys gives them a very lightly knurled feel. Although the depth of travel on the keys mean it's possible to catch your fingers on adjacent keys during fast typing, you'll only notice this if you have a very fluid typing style, where your fingers barely rise above the board during transition from character to character. Although the pure-white colour of the keys certainly makes this machine gorgeous to behold, you should be aware that the Asus will benefit from regular cleaning -- the keyboard has a tendency to advertise the dirt and grime it collects.

Underneath the Asus there are hatches that make it easier to replace key components like the memory or hard disk. Although the hatches improve accessibility, they still require you to use a screwdriver, not something that's often to hand. Because of this hatch-based system, there's no need to take the entire laptop apart to access upgradeable parts -- reducing the risk of static damage when you're tinkering about with the machine.

The left-hand side of the Asus includes a VGA port for external monitor connections, one USB port, a microphone socket, a headphone socket and a PC Card slot. On the right-hand side there is a DVD drive, another USB port, FireWire, Ethernet and modem connections. Asus has made the wise decision to leave these ports uncovered, so there is nothing to snap off or lose when you plug peripherals into the laptop.

The battery bundled with the W5000 slots in just below the screen-hinge, on the rear of the laptop. This battery runs almost the entire length of the W5000 and is uncomplicated to unclip if you need to change batteries during travel. Unfortunately, the battery sticks out from the rear of the unit in an unsightly bulge. It's almost as if it were an afterthought -- as though the engineers realised they needed to fit a battery into the chassis a few minutes before they had to submit the final plans.

As with the other models in the current Asus range, there is no mechanical catch to keep the screen clipped to the keyboard during transport. Not only is there no catch, there's no magnet to keep the lid shut either. When it's closed, the laptop screen sits against the keyboard, held by gravity and the resistance of the hinge. Carrying the Asus loose in a large bag puts it particularly at risk -- there's the possibility that a sharp object, such as a key, might slip between the screen and keyboard, scarring both.



Features
The Asus W5000 runs an Intel Pentium M processor with built-in Wi-Fi and 512MB RAM. This means its hands are bandaged tight, ready to go several rounds with any home office task. Hobbyist video editing and older games are not beyond the W5000 -- the onboard FireWire connection makes it compatible with almost every camcorder out there. Disappointingly, this is a four-pin FireWire port, not a six-pin version. This means you won't be able to power FireWire devices via the FireWire port.

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