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The immediate comment our photographer made when he first saw the Asus W5F was, “is it for girls?” He has a point. The W5F is small, neatly formed and clad in iPod white, enhanced with some rather fetching blue lights. It’s cool, but looks wise it’s a world away from a masculine ThinkPad.
However, it would be unwise to dismiss the W5F merely as a style affectation. With a 2GHz Intel Core Duo CPU there’s no doubt that this notebook punches above its fairly modest 1.6Kg weight. This notebook is currently available with Intel Core Duo T2300 and T2400 CPUs but this version featuring the 2GHz T2500 will be available from June. The suggested price will be around £1,399 but actual online prices are likely to be lower.
At 1.6Kg with the standard battery this is a wonderfully portable notebook, without any real compromises in terms of hardware. Along with a decent 80GB hard disk there’s a DVD Rewriter, an optical drive built-in, and a 12in widescreen display with a respectable 1,280 x 768 resolution. The 512MB of RAM supplied in the review sample is cutting it fine, but there is a least an empty slot so it’s tempting to make sure that’s occupied so as to have a least 1GB on board.
One noticeable highlight is an integrated 1.3 Megapixel webcam. Sony was one of the first to introduce a webcam into its ultra-portables but for some reason no longer does so, which personally I don’t understand. Businessmen are likely to want to video conference for well, business, or to see the wife and kids while on trips away from home. If so, why lug around an external web cam when you can have one built-in?
The camera does swivel round 180 degree, which is useful if you want to show something other than yourself, but the bezel still seems bigger than it needs to be. It’s a shame though that the bezel at the top is so thick – it does spoil the otherwise smart lines. At least there are controls for activating the camera and taking pictures built directly into the bezel on the right.
Visually, the strip underneath the screen containing the speakers is attractive. The power button with a glowing blue backlight is very cool, as is the thin blue strip that lights up between the two mouse buttons in the track pad. The power and the hard disk activity lights on the bottom left are also eye catching.
But the W5J doesn’t just appeal for its magpie attracting abilities though. The keyboard is one of the most crucial areas of a notebook and the one on the W5F is as good as it gets on a machine this small. The typing action is firm, helped by the solid construction of the notebook as a whole. The enter, shift, and backspace buttons are reasonably sized, and the Delete, Page Up/Down and arrow keys are all logically placed, which meant I was typing at speed and navigating my documents quickly after only a few minutes. With some notebooks it takes ages to get used to their idiosyncrasies.
As a Centrino notebook 54a/b/g Wi-Fi is of course built in, along with Bluetooth 2.0 and both of these can be easily switched on and off at the flick of a switch located above the keyboard on the left.
The are three USB ports on the notebook, sensibly located all round it, one on the left, one right and one at the rear. The DVD-Writer is located on the left along with a FireWire port and Ethernet and modem ports. There’s also a card reader that can accept SD, MMC and Memory Stick cards.