The Asus W3 runs a Pentium M770 with a front-side bus of 533Mhz and 512 MB RAM. This is more than adequate performance for any office tasks, and even enthusiastic video editing and some modern games -- more on that later though. The W3's Power4 Gear+ chipset, with a power-saving module for longer battery life, increases the time the laptop can run without a recharge or battery swap.
Graphics and office applications sit easily on the W3's 1280x768 pixel widescreen LCD, which is less glary than the screens on some laptops, such as the Toshiba Qosmio range. Nevertheless, the W3 does suffer from some reflectivity in bright office environments and we would have preferred a completely matt finish to the display. The ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics processor makes it a credible Photoshop machine, and because it's a widescreen laptop, it's suited to watching widescreen DVDs on the move.
If you want to use a tool like Premiere to edit your digitised video captured using the W3's Firewire port, you should consider supplementing the base memory. There's space to install 1GB in the W3, but no more than that. If you want to watch your video on an office projector or television screen, the laptop includes a TV-out in the form of an S-video connector. Most modern televisions and almost all projectors are compatible with this form of video output.
Although S-video output from the W3 was far superior to what we've seen from most Media Center PCs, laptops generally appear to be better equipped to output a clean S-video signal. S-video can't come close to DVI and even struggles to match VGA, but the W3 does provide a passable S-video output for presentations. Most projectors will include a VGA input, so you can always hook the laptop up with a superior VGA connection.
The built-in DVD±R means you can burn movies or data onto writable discs. The W3 also has an Audio DJ controller system that lets you copy audio CDs to a predetermined file at the press of a button, without booting into Windows.
The W3's speaker system is just loud enough to fill a small bedroom, but won't have you jumping out of your skin when zombies attack in Half-Life 2. There's a headphone jack for a more personal computing experience, and an internal microphone concealed in the display.
Battery life on the Asus W3 is rated at 3-4 hours in Office Mode and our experience confirmed this. Unfortunately, watching a DVD or performing intensive graphics tasks reduced this to around 2 hours. Office applications installed as expected and performance in Excel and Word was equal to what we've seen on much more powerful desktop machines.
Ramping up our demands a little, we installed Half-Life 2 on the W3, and it managed to render action at a completely playable frame rate. We couldn't push graphics settings as far as we've managed with dedicated gaming machines like the Alienware range, but given the W3 is not pitched as an entertainment platform, we were happy to discover it could cope with casual gaming. Don't buy this as a games machine, but if you like to snack on some tasty zombie death between spreadsheets, you won't be disappointed.
During tests we found it slightly offputting that the W3 evacuates hot air through its right-hand side chassis vent. This means any right-hander will find their mouse hand is constantly warmed by the laptop. If you're using the W3 on location in Alaska, you'll love this feature. For most people, however, a hand dripping with sweat might not give the best impression during a presentation.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide