ASUS W2P00VB Review: More than Just a Notebook

This notebook model easily handles office and multimedia tasks, DirectX 9.0 games and graphics applications. The built-in TV-tuner together with a widescreen 17.1" matrix makes this notebook an entertainment and multimedia center, too. Add here a few more attractive and useful functions and you will get a great portable replacement for your home or office system.

by Galina Sudareva
05/16/2005 | 09:05 AM

Choosing a home a computer, most of us would think of some typical tasks the machine is expected to perform and certain requirements it should meet, like:

 

Yes, a desktop personal computer is a very useful appliance and is now to be found at almost every home, I guess. A home notebook instead of an ordinary computer is a less common phenomenon, although there are notebooks that meet all of the above-mentioned requirements and can make a good substitute for a desktop PC.

One such machine is going to be the subject of this review. It is the W2P00VB model from ASUS. This notebook is an embodiment of recent advances in computer-building, being based on the new version of the Centrino platform. It also boasts an astounding 17.1” LCD screen, an inbuilt TV-tuner, and an original appearance. With all that is can really become a full-featured replacement of a desktop computer, while retaining the advantages peculiar to mobile devices.

Design and Ergonomics

The ASUS W2P00VB borrows the basic design solutions from the ASUS W1J00Ga model that we have reviewed earlier. Despite rather large dimensions (395x293x28mm) the notebook resembles a thin folder (or book) of a large format. The W2P00VB looks elegant and exquisite but official at the same time: straight lines and sharp, not rounded, corners. The case of the notebook is made of an aluminum alloy as you can guess looking at the texture of the lid. The ASUS W2P00VB differs from the silver-color ASUS W1J00Ga as it has a dark-gray case with silvery insertions on right and left sides only.

The spring latch is simply missing here, just like in the ASUS W1J00Ga. So, to open the notebook, you only have to lift the lid up and set the screen at a comfortable angle. When closed, the lid is held with the help of a small magnet built into the top of the screen bezel. This magnet attracts to the metal surface of the case. The LCD matrix of the reviewed model has an aspect ratio of 10:9 and features an anti-flicker coating for reducing reflections and refractions of light rays.

Notebook users have long been putting up with desktop LCD monitors being better than typical notebook matrixes. If a notebook has a TN+Film matrix, the viewing angles and the contrast ratio are generally poor. If the matrix is manufactured by MVA or S-IPS technology, it is very slow, as a rule.

The striking thing about the ASUS W2 is not just the sheer size of the screen but also the excellent image quality it provides. Although a TN+Film matrix is in use here, it is no worse than its desktop counterparts of the same type. It has rather wide viewing angles (yes, the narrowness of the vertical viewing angle, typical for all TN matrixes, is observed here, too, but this doesn’t interfere with your work), a good contrast ratio and an accurate color reproduction. The W2 matrix even surpasses the desktop ones in the resolution: 1680x1050 or WSXGA (that is, Wide Super eXtended Graphics Array Plus – I really wonder why such abbreviations are so popular among the manufacturers; I think it would be more convenient to use bare numbers instead).

The surface of the matrix isn’t matte but glossy, following the current fashion. The notebook manufacturers tout this as a means to improve the color reproduction and the contrast of the matrix, but it’s not that simple as it seems. Under bright external lighting the glossy coating does create an impression of a high-contrast and sharp image, but on the other hand, all brightly lit objects behind your back (lamps, walls, etc.) will reflect in the notebook’s screen as in a mirror. If it’s dim, like in the evening, you notice that the contrast of the matrix is in fact the same (it can’t be improved with the help of the glossy film alone), so this gloss brings no real advantages. That said, it all depends on your personal taste and work conditions that you are going to like the gloss or not.

Our measurements showed that the brightness of the matrix can be varied from almost zero (5 candelas per sq. m. – it’s too low even for working in total darkness) to 99 candelas per sq. m. The latter number is nothing exceptional, but it means the matrix looks normal in any conditions, maybe except if you want to play a game or watch a movie on a bright sunny spring day. The contrast ratio, according to our measurements, is about 250:1. That’s an excellent result for a notebook screen, even if you compare it to desktop monitor models.

The gamma curves suggest that the color reproduction is set up accurately. The level of blue is too high, but apart of that everything is all right.

The matrix response time looks somewhat untypical in comparison with desktop monitors. Most of the range it remains close to the maximum value, about 40 milliseconds. The declared response time of the matrix (it is measured on black-white-black transitions and corresponds to the rightmost point of the graph above) is a little more than 25 milliseconds. Of course, many modern TN+Film matrixes are going to be faster both on black-white and black-gray transitions, but the matrix of the ASUS W2 performs well enough for a notebook. It is going to do fine with games and movies.

Overall, the matrix of the ASUS W2 is among the best notebook matrixes we’ve ever met. It offers sufficiently wide viewing angles, good color rendition, excellent contrast and low response time. These things combined make it an excellent choice for a multimedia notebook, like the reviewed W2. It is really possible to work comfortably or enjoy movies on a notebook with this matrix. You won’t even think of an external monitor.

In the top right corner of the notebook’s top panel there is a vertical column of rectangular buttons. These are a Power On/Off button (beautifully highlighted with a bright blue LED) and five quick-launch buttons:

The Power-On and quick-launch buttons are larger and are located differently on the ASUS W2P00VB than on the ASUS W1J00Ga where these buttons are placed on the notebook’s right side.

There are two groups of indicators of the system’s status here. One group is placed on the left, next to a screen hinge, and consists of a hard disk drive activity LED, and Num Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock indicators. They are highlighted with the same bright blue like the Power On/Off button.

The second group is located at the center of the front panel, and this is very handy since the LEDs can be seen both when the notebook’s lid is opened or closed. These indicators shine though a decorative grid on the left in the ASUS W1J00Ga, their labels being on the top panel above them. This group consists of a power indicator (alight when the notebook is on), a battery charge indicator, an incoming mail indicator (alight when you’ve received new e-mail messages), a WLAN connection indicator (it lights up when the integrated adapter sends or receives data packets), and a Bluetooth connection indicator (it’s alight when this connection is activated).

The ASUS W2P00VB’s full-size keyboard is made of opaque black plastic; the letters are white, while the functional keys are marked with blue (press and hold [Fn] to use them). The block of arrow keys are separate from the main keyboard; the Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys are a single vertical column on the right; a numeric pad and two Windows keys are available. The Insert, Delete, Print Screen and Pause keys are in the top row, next to the functional keys, and have a smaller size. The keyboard is overall handy and comfortable.

The touchpad with a conveniently rough surface has two main buttons instead of the mouse’s ones, but doesn’t have an additional scroll button (one gets used to such amenities soon).

On the front panel of the ASUS W2P00VB, besides the system status indicators, there are:

The following components are found on the notebook’s right panel:

The left panel of the ASUS W2P00VB carries the following:

There’s only a connector to the accumulator battery at the rear panel.

On the bottom of the notebook there are cells of the hard drive, memory, miniPCI card, CPU and cooling system. There is also a battery cell, an integrated low-frequency speaker and vent holes here.

The following table summarizes the communicational capabilities of the W2P00VB notebook:

Software Bundle

Like other notebooks with an inbuilt TV-tuner from ASUS, the W2P00VB comes with the ASUS Mobile Theater application preinstalled. This interface is intuitive and handy, combining all the necessary tools for watching TV programs and viewing photographs, playing and recording DVDs, CDs and video clips, and listening to audio files. This application is being regularly updated. Particularly, they have added new functions, made the application faster and improved the interface in the new version.

The ASUS Mobile Theater allows to switch quickly between the applications and to control the selected mode easily. The main window of the program contains the following controls:

  1. Photo: opens up a control panel where you can view, sort (by name or date) and create slideshows out of the pictures stored in the My Pictures folder.



  2. Music: This button opens a window where you can play audio and DVD discs as well as MP3 files and radio recordings. The buttons and submenus help you select all the necessary settings, browse through and play back the recordings stored on the hard disk of the notebook.



  3. Burn: This is a convenient and intuitive tool for creating (burning) discs.



  1. TV: This opens up the TV channels panel with appropriate buttons and submenus. It allows setting up, viewing and recording selected TV channels as well as reproducing and sorting records by name or date.





  2. Video: This button opens up a window with settings pertaining to video clips and their playback.



  3. DVD/VCD: With this control panel chosen, you can start to watch DVD or VCD discs as well as to choose their settings (select the language of the movie and the subtitles, configure the speakers and so on).



  4. DV: Here you can view videos from your digital camcorder.



  5. Settings: Opens the control panel that allows configuring each of the Theater’s modes.

Of course, we made a check of the inbuilt TV-tuner. So, we attached the antenna cable to the appropriate connector and launched the application for watching TV. Auto-scanning revealed almost all the channels we could have had with the antenna attached to an ordinary TV-set. The image quality was good, but it depends on the antenna’s reception quality. Besides that, the ASUS Mobile Theater supports scheduled recording and frame capturing. The enclosed remote control is another convenience for watching TV.

Configuration

The ASUS W2P00VB is based on the second-generation Centrino platform whose basic points have remained the same since the first Centrino, viz. a Pentium M processor, a mobile chipset with an integrated graphics core or with support of a discrete graphics controller and dedicated graphics memory, and a wireless network controller.

We think it’s going to be interesting to compare the technical characteristics and the test results of this notebook with those of an older platform. We took an ASUS W1J00Ga as an opponent to the W2P00VB.

So, both models are based on discrete chipsets: the ASUS W2P00VB on the i915PM (Alviso), and the ASUS W1J00Ga on the i855PM. Intel’s new mobile chipset i915PM supports the PCI Express bus with its increased bandwidth and the ability to turn some of the lanes off under low loads or in the sleep mode. Then, the ASUS W2P00VB employs a new ATI RADEON Mobility X600 controller with 64 megabytes of dedicated graphics memory and a PCI Express interface, while the ASUS W1J00Ga uses an ATI Mobility RADEON 9700 across an AGP interface, with 64MB memory.

More about the differences between these two machines, the central processor of the W2P00VB works with a 533MHz FSB (this is one of the improvements of the new version of the Centrino platform) whereas the W1J00Ga has a 400MHz FSB. The former uses DDR2 SDRAM clocked at 533MHz, and the latter works with DDR333 SDRAM. Each notebook has two memory slots preoccupied with two 512MB modules (the maximum supported memory amount is 2048MB). One of the slots is accessed from the bottom of the case. We couldn’t find the location of the second memory slot on either notebook.

Yet another innovation in the new Centrino, and accordingly in the ASUS W2P00VB, is the next-generation standard of integrated audio, Intel High Definition Audio. This is an important aspect since the reviewed notebook is intended for work and entertainment alike. That is, it is expected to serve for watching TV and video, for listening to music and for playing games, so the quality of the sound must be up to the mark. So, Intel’s HDA technology was developed for high-quality multi-channel recordings with support of 7.1 speaker systems. Such features as simultaneous playback of two audio streams and reproduction of older audio files in the 7.1 format are supported, too. This technology also provides for dynamic reassignment of audio ports (the function of a port is automatically adjusted depending on the device attached, so you can plug any audio device into any available port and the system will do the rest).

Cutting it brief, Intel’s High Definition Audio supports more audio channels of a higher quality than previous standards had. The following table compares it with the AC’97 standard:

AC’97

HAD

20-bit, 96kHz
stereo

32-bit, 192kHz
multi-channel

Fixed bandwidth

Dynamic bandwidth

Assigned DMA channel

General DMA channels

Codecs enumeration during BIOS boot-up

Software codecs enumeration (bus driver)

Limited codec configuration

Unlimited codec configuration

12MHz synchronic impulses provided by main codec

24MHz synchronic impulses provided by ICH6-M

No ISOCH support

ISOCH power saving functions

Besides the stereo speakers, both notebooks use a subwoofer for reproducing bass.

Unlike in the W1J00Ga, the optical drive in the W2P00VB is trayless, slit-loaded. Unfortunately, it proved to be rather noisy at work.

The cooling systems of the two notebooks, on the contrary, are very quiet. We measured the temperatures of the notebooks with an infrared thermometer as they were crunching through the Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004 test:

Testbed and Methods

We performed our tests in the OS preinstalled on both notebooks, namely in Microsoft Windows XP Professional with DirectX 9.0c installed. Before the tests we disabled power-saving and network services, the audio subsystem, antivirus software, and screensavers. The notebooks were tested at the maximum screen brightness setting and at the maximum resolution of the LCD matrix.

We used two power modes in the tests. First, we selected the Always On power mode for the maximum performance and the shortest battery run-down time. Then, we switched to the Max Battery mode for the maximum battery run-down time.

Our tests:

  1. Performance benchmarks: synthetic (SiSoftware Sandra 2005, PCMark 2004), office and multimedia (Business Winstone 2004, Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2004), games (3DMark 2003 3.40, Quake 3, Unreal Tournament 2003);
  2. Battery life tests (Battery Eater Pro 2.50).

Performance

First we would like to present the results of office and multimedia tests since a notebook is expected to provide enough performance in such applications in the first place. The Business Winstone test runs scripts of the following real applications, several scripts at a time: Internet Explorer, Outlook, Word, Excel, Access, Project, PowerPoint, FrontPage, WinZip, and Norton AntiVirus Professional Edition.

The Multimedia Content Creation Winstone tests determines the performance of a computer in the following multimedia applications: Windows Media Encoder, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, NewTek LightWave 3D, Steinberg WaveLab, Dreamweaver MX, and Director MX.

The results of these two tests are tabled below:

The performance is overall high. Note also that the W2P00VB is 12% and 16% ahead of the W1J00Ga in Business Winstone and Multimedia Winstone, respectively. The difference is even higher when the notebooks work on their batteries – 20% and 24%. This gap in performance comes as the W2P00VB uses a new chipset, a CPU with a higher clock rate (2.13GHz against 2.0GHz), and a faster FSB (533MHz against 400MHz). We constructed diagrams for a comparative analysis of the results of the tests:

Both notebooks perform very well in SiSoftware Sandra 2005 and PCMark 2004, too. These tests, benchmarking not only the speed of the system at large but also of all its subsystems, are clear evidence of the advantages of the new version of the Centrino platform over the older one. Note also that both notebooks slow down almost in double when they switch to work on their batteries and the systems enter the power-saving mode. The results of the tests are presented in the following table:

SiSoftware Sandra 2005 reports the CPU of the W2P00VB performs 47% faster in average than the CPU of the W1J00Ga (the results produced by PCMark04 seems to be closer to reality; the difference of 6% corresponds better to the difference between the clock rates of the processors, that is 2.13GHz against 2.0GHz). The memory subsystem of the ASUS W2P00VB consisting of DDR2 SDRAM clocked at 533MHz is found to be 20% faster than the DDR333 SDRAM employed in the W1J00Ga (this is the average percentage for both tests).

Using a faster hard drive, the W2P00VB is about 9-14% ahead of the W1J00Ga in the disk subsystem tests.

The higher bandwidth of the PCI Express interface tells on the results of the graphics subsystem tests: PCMark 2004 says the graphics subsystem of the W2P00VB outperforms the W1J00Ga by 10%.

The ASUS W2P00VB doesn’t go far from the results of the W1J00Ga in games, although we might have expected better. On the other hand, this can be explained by the use of the new PCI Express interface in the new notebook. The graphics controller is also designed for this interface and the advantages of PCI Express, particularly its high bandwidth, are only going to show up more clearly in upcoming applications. So far the performance of the W2P00VB in games is not much better than that of the ASUS W1J00Ga with its older AGP-interfaced controller.

So, these notebooks passed the 3DMark03 3.40 test successfully, with the following results:

As you can see from the table, the W2P00VB is about 10% and 12% faster than the W1J00Ga when powered from the wall outlet and by the battery, respectively. The gap grows somewhat in the autonomous mode because the notebooks drop down the frequency of the central processors, and the W1J00Ha drops it to 600MHz, while the W2P00VB to 800MHz. That’s why the latter has a certain advantage in this mode.

Next, we tested the notebooks in Quake 3 with two graphics quality presets:

The W1J00Ga is 28% ahead of the W2P00VB in the first mode. With the second preset, however, the W2P00VB wins, being 5% faster than the W1J00Ga. The results are listed in the next table:

For better comparison, the numbers are presented as diagrams below:

The W2P00VB and W1J00Ga perform fast enough in Unreal Tournament 2003. They are almost equals when powered from the external source, if we make allowances for possible measurement errors, but the W2P00VB is evidently better in the autonomous mode (due to the above-explained reasons). It’s in average 16% faster in the botmatch-antalus test, 4% faster in botmatch-citadel, and 21% faster in flyby-asbestos.

These data are presented visually below:

Next we measured the battery life time with the help of Battery Eater Pro 2.50. As usual, we performed the battery life tests at the maximum screen brightness and in three test modes:

The test wouldn’t work in the classic mode, producing the following error message and then showing just a blank open window:

Anyway, we have got the results. Here they are:

The numbers are high enough, considering these notebooks are rather large and heavy and thus are not optimized for work in the field. You can also see that the new version of the Centrino platform provides a gain, although small, in the battery life (the W2P00VB lasted longer in the Classic and DVD modes than the W1J00Ga did).

The following diagram helps to compare the results in a visual way.

Conclusion

Having completed our tests we can now claim that the ASUS W2P00VB can really make a full-fledged substitute for an ordinary desktop workstation (we don’t mean a gaming station, sharpened for the latest 3D games, here). This notebook model easily handles office and multimedia tasks, DirectX 9.0 games and graphics applications. The built-in TV-tuner together with a widescreen 17.1” matrix makes this notebook an entertainment and multimedia center, too. Adding to the notebook’s appealing features are the wireless network adapter, LAN controller, and Bluetooth controller. Overall, this is a highly tempting model based on the second-generation Centrino which looks nice and can work hard – at home, in office or on a trip.

As for defects, we can name only two: the optical drive is rather noisy and the temperature of the case is somewhat too high in hardest applications (in other words, the notebook may get too hot, but it is natural, considering its size).