Asus W2Jc review
A powerful laptop with plenty of features and a superb screen. The price is high, but it's worth it
Asus has never been afraid of building big, fast notebooks, and the W2Jc takes this a step further by placing TV and all-round entertainment at centre stage. It's not just the huge hard disk, dual-core processor and dedicated 3D card that make it stand out, it's the array of extra components that Asus has managed to pack into the 395mm-wide chassis.
The integrated TV tuner is the central player. It's a hybrid analogue/digital card, and - unusually - Asus uses its own software rather than choosing Windows Media Center Edition as the OS. The DVI port on the W2Jc is also unusual in being an HDMI port (Asus provides a converter to DVI-I), so it's compatible with most high-definition TVs. However, HDCP rights-management isn't supported by the W2Jc, so you won't be able to feed out HDCP-protected high-definition content from the laptop to a TV; this is one advantage of the Toshiba Qosmio Q30.
If you just want to use the W2Jc itself, Asus integrates a subwoofer into the base of the notebook. It manages some impressive, room-filling volume, but bass reproduction still isn't wonderful; we'd keep a pair of external speakers on call. The 17in widescreen on the W2Jc is great for TV, though. Viewing angles are excellent, and the screen itself is easily bright enough to watch a film from across the room. The resolution of 1,440 x 900 means you'll also be able to work comfortably.
You can even use it for gaming. ATi's Mobility Radeon X1600 isn't quite the latest and greatest mobile GPU, but it happily played our low-end 3D benchmarks at 1,024 x 768. Far Cry played at 21fps, while Call of Duty 2 ran better, with an average of 29fps. Neither of these ran smoothly with anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering on, but if you can live without either you'll be able to find a huge number of titles that the W2Jc will play.
Application performance is even better. The Core Duo T2500 has a clock speed of 2GHz, and 1GB of PC2-5300 RAM meant that the W2Jc surged through our application benchmarks to a score of 1.03, which means there's very little that will bring the machine to its knees. Coupled with the accurate and detailed screen, the W2Jc is an excellent choice for digital photographers.
Storage won't be a problem either, as the W2Jc ships with a huge 100GB hard disk - a 5,400rpm SATA model. Removable storage takes the form of a slot-loading DVD-RAM drive, as well as a memory card reader above the PC Card slot. It reads SD, MMC and Memory Stick Pro cards - CompactFlash is the only notable omission. Security-minded users should also note the built-in TPM module, which allows on-the-fly hardware encryption using Infineon software.
Our only gripe ergonomically is that the front of the chassis has a particularly sharp edge, which means that there aren't many typing positions that are comfortable. The mouse buttons are completely flush with the surrounding chassis, which is a nice enough design touch, but along with the fake carbon-fibre texture, using them day-to-day takes a little getting used to. The keyboard has a solid base that makes typing a comfortable activity, and the right-hand side of the chassis has shortcut buttons for starting up Media Player, Internet Explorer and turning the wireless and Bluetooth components on and off. There's also a control for turning off the touchpad, which is useful for extended periods of typing.
The extra-deep wristrest and heavy screen mean the W2Jc isn't a natural travelling companion, as it's at risk of unbalancing and toppling onto the floor when sitting on most laps. A weight of 3.59kg means you won't want to take it too far anyway, and an intensive-use battery time of less than an hour-and-a-half is yet another reason to avoid taking it on your travels. The light-use battery time of three hours is a little more reasonable, but it's best to think of the W2Jc as a laptop you can use once you've arrived at your destination, rather than while on the way.