capsule review

Asus W1N

At a Glance
  • Asus Pentium M 1.7GHz CPU 768MB 15.4 80Gb DVDDual Combo Drive Model W1N

Asus W1N
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

With a brushed-aluminum lid, hidden screen hinges, no-gap mouse buttons, and a polished metallic touchpad--the wide-screen Asus W1N is a sleek piece of industrial art. Unfortunately, sharp edges make the W1N a literal pain to use, and missing features prevent it from functioning as a complete entertainment unit.

With a 1.7-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M processor, the W1N earned a WorldBench 5 score of 82, which beat out all but one of the notebooks we've tested with this processor. (The winning notebook was the IBM ThinkPad T42, which earned a WorldBench 5 score of 83.)

But while the W1N performs well, it falls short of its multimedia potential. Although this 7.1-pound notebook includes a wide, 15.4-inch screen, a fixed DVD burner, a few bundled games, and even a built-in IR receiver for an optional remote control, the North American version of this notebook lacks the Mobile Theater software, built-in TV tuner, and handheld remote bundled with Asus notebooks sold in other regions of the world. Plus, the stereo speakers produce mediocre sound, despite the W1N's subwoofer and optional 3D audio mode for simulated surround sound.

As for usability, the 7.1-pound W1N is about as prickly as a hunk o' metal can be. Typing is easy, and the well-laid-out keyboard has an extrafirm feel. However, the W1N's unique launch buttons are slow and stiff, and built uncomfortably into the sharp right edge of the notebook. Pressing these buttons is painful and tedious--which is too bad, because they'd be useful; one even toggles among ten different preset power modes to suit your workload. A stiff lid tab makes opening the notebook an unpleasant, finger-stabbing chore.

With the rear of the W1N housing the battery--which lasted a respectable 3.1 hours in our tests--most of the W1N's ports are on the notebook's left side. This design is unusual but workable. The ports sit behind one long, protective door, which has a small cutout that reveals a four-in-one SD Card, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro media reader. On the front of the system sit four audio and video ports, including an S/PDIF-compliant digital audio port and a nonworking AV input. Asus says North American units of the W1N will not have a working AV input since these machines do not come with the TV tuner and home-theater software.

The W1N's memory and hard drive are user upgradable. Our test unit came with 256MB of built-in system memory and a 512MB card filling one slot on the bottom of the notebook. According to a company spokesperson, Asus will flip that arrangement in future shipping units to make upgrades less expensive. The hard drive sits in an accessible bottom compartment protected by a cover held in by two small screws.

The documentation could have been a lot better. The printed manual is titled "Wise Wide Wild." Asus says this odd mantra is short for the equally odd slogan: "Wise for your mind, wide for your eyes, wild for your soul." With no index, the manual is difficult to search and offers little extra information, such as how various preset power modes slow performance, or how you upgrade RAM and storage. The downloadable Acrobat version of the manual has no hyperlinks whatsoever. The $2450 price tag does not include any major application software.

This exotic looking wide-screen notebook turns heads and performs well; however, half-baked entertainment features and sharp edges dampen its attraction.

Asus W1N

WorldBench 5 score of 82, 1.7-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M, 768MB of DDR333 SDRAM, Windows XP Professional, 15.4-inch screen, 80GB hard drive, rewritable DVD drive, four-in-one media card slot, built-in V.92 modem and gigabit ethernet, 802.11g wireless, touchpad pointing device, USB mouse, 8.4 pounds (including S-Video to Composite adapter, AC adapter, headphones, and phone cord). One-year parts and labor warranty; free 8-hour weekday toll-free tech support.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Asus Pentium M 1.7GHz CPU 768MB 15.4 80Gb DVDDual Combo Drive Model W1N

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