Asus A7J review

Price when reviewed

It isn’t often you see a manufacturer submit two notebooks into a Labs, but Asus’ A7J and W5F are such different machines we couldn’t resist. This A7J is the entertainment choice, boasting a 17in widescreen display. Its 4.2kg bulk means it’s the stay-at-home type, and moving from room-to-room will most likely be its longest journey.

Asus A7J review

It’s fitted with an AVerMedia Hybrid M115 card, a digital/analog TV and FM tuner, and runs Windows XP Media Center Edition. Thanks to the inclusion of a remote control and an external aerial, everything you need is provided in the box. There’s a custom AV input for analog sources and output is via DVI, VGA and S-Video.

Fortunately, Asus doesn’t skimp on the core components. Our judges all gave high scores for speaker and screen quality, and the 17in 1,440 x 900 panel is superior to that of the Dell Inspiron. The A7J also has a fantastic keyboard – the superb action matched only by the Evesham Voyager C550 – and a webcam that’s leagues ahead of the others here for quality.

At 100GB, hard disk capacity is respectable, but you’ll soon fill it if you record plenty of TV programmes. You can archive these to DVD using the dual-layer DVD writer – it supports all formats including DVD-RAM.

Putting this goliath through its paces in our benchmarks, it clocked up a solid 0.91 for Overall 2D performance, matching the Fujitsu Siemens and Sony. The big Dell accelerated away to 1.02 thanks to the quicker 2GHz T2500; the A7J has to make do with a 1.83GHz T2400.

However, the Asus hits back with 3D power: the Dell’s integrated Intel graphics are trampled on by the A7J’s ATi Mobility Radeon X1600. With 256MB of VRAM and capable of sharing another 256MB from main memory, it played Far Cry and Half-Life 2 at 36fps and 35fps respectively, only beaten by the Evesham. But, with 4x AA and 8x AF, the A7J could only manage 25fps and 22fps.

Battery life was the poorest we saw at one hour, 52 minutes under light use, and just one hour, 19 minutes with heavy use. Dell’s 17in Inspiron blitzes this with four hours, 40 minutes (under light use), but neither notebook is really designed for use on the move.

Screen quality and the ability to play games are higher priorities for those wanting a notebook this big, and here the Asus beats the Dell convincingly – for less money. The two-year collect-and-return warranty can’t match Dell’s faster, longer on-site service, but at £92 less the Asus is the better choice.

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