The 4.3-pound W7S is certainly sleek (view photo gallery). We like its pearl-white finish with brushed-silver accents (a black chassis is also available). In fact, this notebook makes the Apple MacBook, the best-selling 13.3-inch and most famous white portable, look nearly dated. And ASUS includes extras you might expect to find only with a pricier machine: two batteries, a Bluetooth mouse (done in the same color scheme as the PC), both a neoprene slip case and a nylon shoulder case, and even an S-Video-to-RCA adapter cable. But our favorite feature is what you don't get: noise. The W7S is wonderfully quiet, even when churning through 3D operations. Even the 8X dual-layer multiformat DVD burner (with LightScribe disc labeling) is quieter than most, making the W7S great for playing movies when work is done.
The glossy 13.3-inch widescreen would make any portable DVD player pale by comparison. Employing ASUS' Splendid Video Intelligence technology, the 1280 x 800-pixel panel is particularly bright and crisp. Colors popped, and we saw little motion blur when watching Pirates of the Caribbean. As is typical with 13.3-inch LCDs, viewing angles side to side were excellent, but the screen washed out when viewed from above. The built-in speakers were weak but should suffice for personal use.
The W7S includes a comfortable, quiet keyboard. The letter keys are nearly full-sized (18.5mm key pitch, just shy of the 19mm standard), but some of the ancillary keys are truncated. Still, even fast typists should be able to acclimate quickly. We do wish this system had dedicated multimedia keys, and the touchpad's mouse buttons are a tad small, but since you get a mouse in the bargain, we won't complain. The unit provides all the ports you would expect, as well of plenty of hardware features: a 1.3-megapixel webcam, an 8-in-1 card reader, an ExpressCard slot, a 160GB 5,400-rpm hard drive, and Bluetooth. The only thing missing is a fingerprint reader.
The W7S-B1B runs on Intel's Centrino Duo platform and comes with a 2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 CPU and 1GB of RAM, with a maximum of only 1.5GB (we would prefer to see 2GB at this price). But that doesn't seem to affect performance: Its score of 4,358 on PCMark05 is among the best we've seen for a thin-and-light (very close to the Dell XPS M1330), demonstrating that the W7S can handle business chores and multimedia applications with aplomb.
The new Nvidia Geforce Go 8400M graphics engine is a solid midrange GPU and delivered a well-above-average score of 2,738 on 3DMark03. The W7S is no gaming rig, but you will be able to get playable frame rates from today's top-shelf 3D games if you dial back the resolution and graphics effects. In its favor, the GPU is Direct X 10--compatible, so you'll be ready for those games as they arrive. Still, we would have preferred to see what this notebook could do with more than the included 128MB of VRAM.
Battery life on our DVD rundown test from the smallish six-cell battery (which is included with the W7S-A1W and W7S-A1B SKUs) was 2 hours and 21 minutes--typical for this class of machine. The W7S-B1B we tested includes a second nine-cell battery that bumped up the weight to 4.8 pounds and pushed runtime to 3.5 hours, which should translate to at least five hours of normal use. Wireless throughput from the integrated 802.11a/b/g/n radio was competitive with others in the class: 17.3 Mbps at 15 feet from the access point and 13.5 at 50 feet.
The installed Windows Vista Home Premium OS has all the multimedia bells and whistles, and ASUS includes the Nero 7 Essentials CD/DVD-creation suite on CD as well. However, the retail version of the W7S will be available only with Windows Vista Business. You can also order the unit with Vista Business if you prefer. As as is the case with all ASUS systems, the company backs the W7S with a two-year warranty and 24/7 toll-free tech support.
Whether you're a business traveler or are just looking for a notebook to have around the house, the ASUS W7S won't disappoint. It delivers solid performance and plenty of features in a stylish, compact package.
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