Asus W1776Gc-LH review

Price when reviewed

This latest W-series notebook from Asus doesn’t look much different from its predecessor. But that’s okay, because we rated the W1Nb (see issue 122, p114) very highly. There’s still the brushed-metal effect chassis, plenty of power from a high-end Pentium M and a bright widescreen display. What differentiates the W1776Gc-LH are the integrated TV tuners, one analog and one digital, allowing you to watch one channel while recording another.

Asus W1776Gc-LH review

The FlyDVB-T Duo Mini can take one digital and one analog input via the supplied cable. This avoids the need for a Freeview set-top box, as the W1G will do it for you (check for coverage in your area). The front panel also has an infrared receiver for the Type II PC Card-sized remote.

The signal is handled by Asus’ Mobile Theatre software. Essentially akin to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, it offers easy access to TV, music, video and photos. Like MCE 2005, you can create discs from Mobile Theatre and schedule TV recordings from an online schedule provider. However, the application is incredibly sluggish, even with the power of the 2GHz Pentium M 755 and 1GB of PC2700 RAM. It also has a restrictive lack of options – often letting you adjust only the source folder – and isn’t nearly as easy to use as MCE.

The sluggishness in Asus’ Mobile Theatre software isn’t seen elsewhere, though. The Pentium M is a powerful chip, able to rival its supposedly beefier Pentium 4 cousin. Our real-world application benchmarks show some amazingly fast scores for a mobile processor. Complex tasks in Excel, Access or Word will be handled with ease, while 2D graphics manipulation and rendering won’t keep you waiting long either.

The DVD writer is speedy, as it’s a fast 8x drive from Pioneer. It’s positioned well too, with only a single USB port sharing the right-hand side with it. Films viewed from this drive are enhanced by the glossy coating of the 1,280 x 800 screen and helped by the backlight.

The screen suffers from a touch of lag, although you’ll notice this more on the Desktop than in films. The narrow vertical viewing angle is also irritating, as at about 20 degrees colours noticeably distort. However, this is typical of the thin TFTs used for laptops, and the horizontal viewing angles approach 180 degrees. The lid, although solid-looking, doesn’t protect the back of the screen as much as we’d like, so it would be a bad idea to place it into a full bag. However, should some ill befall the W1776Gc-LH, Asus provides a reassuring two-year collect-and-return international warranty.

As well as some Carmel-generation components, the ATi Mobility Radeon 9700 isn’t at the forefront of today’s technology. It copes fine with Unreal Tournament 2004 – a game of its generation – at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. However, Halo and Doom 3 proved more troublesome at the same resolution, with 18fps and 12fps respectively. Gaming notebooks tend to be monstrous in their proportions though and, while this notebook is no ultra portable at 3.3kg, it’s still considerably smaller than behemoths such as the Rockdirect Xtreme Ti (see p69).

With all these high-performance components, we didn’t expect much from the battery. Our light-use test ran for two hours, 46 minutes, which isn’t too bad for a performance notebook. However, the intensive test shows that you can expect a minimum of around one hour, 20 minutes’ battery life if working away from a power socket.

A flip-down flap covers an extensive range of ports down the left-hand side of the chassis. It hides a gigabit Ethernet and modem socket, as well as a Type II PC card, a 3-in-1 media card reader and the TV input complementing the mini-FireWire and two extra USB ports. At the front is a set of audio ports, including S/PDIF out and AV-in plugs.

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