At a Glance
Powerful, light, and with an always-on lid LCD, the Asus W5fe-2P025E is perfect for people with heavy schedules.
Priced at $2199 (as of April 11, 2007), the W5fe-2P025E hits the elusive ultraportable sweet spot: It's big enough to be full-featured, yet so light that you won't think twice about taking it on the road with you. This 4-pound unit is the first notebook we've seen equipped with a 2.25-by-2.75-inch Windows SideShow LCD--a bright, easy-to-read secondary screen in the lid that displays e-mail messages, calendar appointments, and more without your having to turn the notebook on. After hours, you can use the LCD to play a game, listen to music, or flip through photos.
The Asus's relatively short battery life--a few minutes shy of 2.5 hours in our tests with a 4800-milliamp upgrade--was a big letdown. (Fortunately, the company offers a 6600-milliamp battery, for $179.)
Crafted of sturdy, attractive magnesium alloy, the W5fe-2P025E measures 12 inches wide by 8.9 inches deep by 1.2 inches tall. The dark casing feels smooth and solid in the hand, and the bottom protective panels are thick and sturdy. The 12.1-inch WXGA screen is plenty bright, and the keyboard--with its textured touchpad--has a great layout. Just about every connection and port that a small to midsize business might need is present. For networking you get gigabit ethernet, a modem port, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless communications. The integrated 1.3-megapixel Webcam can swivel 235 degrees to capture images both in front of and behind the screen. Three nearby buttons support one-press snapshots and volume adjustment. The Asus LifeFrame software offers almost as many photography options as a low-end digital camera--among them, flash and continuous shooting--all presented in a slick Vista-inspired tabbed and filmstrip interface.
Three USB ports, a four-in-one shared media card reader, and an ExpressCard slot offer multiple opportunities for expansion. You can add an external display with the VGA port or S-Video-out port, or introduce digital speakers via the combination headphones/S/PDIF port. The 5400-rpm hard drive can hold a whopping 160GB of content. You can upgrade both memory and storage yourself, though you'll have to discard the shipped 1GB of RAM first.
The W5fe-2P025 is equipped to handle virtually any type of work as adroitly as a full-size notebook. Powered by a 2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 and 1536MB of RAM, the ultraportable earned a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 74, the same mark posted by the number-one desktop replacement system in our June 2007 issue's laptop roundup, the HP Pavilion dv9000t. It ran Photoshop CS2, Microsoft Office, and other big applications without a problem, and it even burned DVDs (albeit slowly). The only things this machine can't handle are 3D games--a consequence of relying on integrated memory instead of a dedicated video controller.
If battery life is all important to you, Asus's 2.4-pound U1F, which holds out for 6+ hours, might be a better match. But the W5fe-2P025 has a much better keyboard, and with its best battery option selected (we didn't test this) it should last at least 4.5 hours on a single charge. And for cutting-edge SideShow technology, this model is currently the ultraportable to beat.