Useful shortcut keys include the switch to turn the wireless on and off and next to this a button that switches between the Asus power saving modes – Game, Quiet Office, Battery Saving and High Performance, each of which adjusts screen brightness and CPU speed. I found that the notebook chucked a fair amount of heat out of the CPU exhaust when in High Performance mode, so I left in on Quiet Office most of the time. There are also controls for the webcam and microphone running down the right hand side of the notebook.
To get all of these widgets working you need to have the right software installed. Hopefully this will be done when you buy the notebook, but I had to install them manually on the review sample. This leads me to complain about the Asus web site – downloading from it is painfully slow, with even the smallest utilities taking too long to come down. Asus really needs to drag its support site into the 21st century and upgrade its backbone as customers are really not getting the online service they deserve.
On the upside, the keyboard is good to type on for a notebook this size, though there was another downer when the ‘End’ key suddenly fell off for no apparent reason!
In terms of battery life we are not yet able to run a test such as MobileMark as it does not yet support Vista. (Come on Bapco, pull your finger out!) However, I did use both the standard and the extended battery. The former was unfortunately suffered from engineeringsampleitus and I was barely able eek out even an hour and a half from it. By contrast, the extended battery was taken from a production model and was impressive – easily staying the course for fours solid hours. Combined with battery saving mode this battery means that notebook was actually useful as a tool for working, though the weight increased from the standard 1.6Kg to just over 2Kg, a price certainly worth paying for the increased productivity.
Windows Sideshow is a interesting feature, but as yet hardly essential. Aside from that though, anyone that buys a notebook today is missing a trick, as the marvellous sounding Santa Rosa platform is imminent. The W5Fe can be viewed as an interesting technology introduction but I’m looking forward to seeing a Santa Rosa notebook designed from the ground up with Vista and Sideshow in mind.