capsule review

Asus W5F

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Asus W5F-G013H Notebook

    PCWorld Rating

    Fast, affordable ultraportable offers web camera that swivels 180 degrees.

Asus W5F
Photograph: Chris Manners

The 3.9-pound Asus W5F ultraportable notebook is small but mighty. Our $1499 (as of April 18, 2006) review unit came with a 1.66-GHz Core Duo T2300 chip, 512MB of onboard RAM, and a bottom-accessible memory slot for attaching up to 1GB of memory. The laptop's WorldBench 5 score of 88 compares favorably to the 82 earned by Dell's Inspiron E1505, a full-size entertainment notebook equipped with the same processor and twice as much RAM. The W5F's score was only 16 percent behind that of the average 2-GHz dual-processor notebook with 1GB of RAM. Also, you can work in multiple windows without a system slowdown; for instance, in our multitasking test, the W5F quickly converted a video file to another format while we browsed the Internet.

The W5F's white carbon-fiber case includes an integrated multiformat DVD burner and a built-in 1.3-megapixel swivel Webcam that can rotate vertically 180 degrees to capture still and moving images behind the notebook as well as in front of it. The included LifeFrame camera software has an auto-detection feature and instant e-mail attachment, among other useful options. Three shortcut buttons on the right side of the screen bezel provide one-touch control of the microphone, volume, and shutter for quick snapshots.

The 1280-by-768-pixel wide-aspect 12.1-inch LCD is bright and readable. The keyboard, though small, is easy to type on. The short 2.5-mm keystroke gives it a hard feel that is initially disconcerting, but I quickly acclimated to using a lighter touch. The layout is comfortable, including a long spacebar and a small, textured touchpad. Only the stiff mouse buttons put me off.

The case design was generally fine, though I encountered a couple of annoyances. The W5F's optical-drive eject button responded slowly and required a couple of presses each time I tried to eject a disc. And white cases can be difficult to keep clean.

Like most notebooks in its class, the W5F has integrated graphics and modestly loud audio. Connections include three USB ports, an ExpressCard slot, an S-Video-out port so you can use a TV as an external monitor, a FireWire port, and a four-in-one media-card reader, all conveniently located on the sides. A combination on-off switch at the top of the keyboard controls Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless communications.

The hard drive (100GB in our review unit) is easy to remove from its bottom compartment for replacement or upgrading. Docking the W5F is strictly a do-it-yourself project via third-party USB products: Asus sells no port replicators or docking stations.

The rear-mounted 6-cell 4.4Ah battery lasted for 3.1 hours in our tests, an average length of time for a notebook battery. If you want to stretch your unplugged time, you can buy an optional nine-cell 6.6Ah battery for $179.

The W5F comes bundled with Microsoft Works 8. The printed user manual seemed to cover the W5F's features adequately, though its lack of an index made finding information quickly a challenge. There is no electronic manual.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Fast, affordable ultraportable offers web camera that swivels 180 degrees.

    Pros

    • Fast
    • Thin and light

    Cons

    • Smudgeable white case
    • Stiff mouse buttons
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