A swivelling Webcam and an all-white carbon-fibre case highlight the ASUS W5A, an ultraportable laptop weighing just 1.8 kilograms (not including its power adapter). Vanilla-hued laptops are not my favourite, because of the smudge factor if nothing else, but I had a ball taking snapshots and making videos using the ASUS Mobile Vision Camera W5-A01, a rotating camera set in a snazzy chrome frame centred at the top of this portable's 12" wide-aspect screen, and the LifeFrame Webcam software.
- Webcam features and software
- Poor speaker quality, uninspiring performance
Lightweight and fully equipped, the 1.8 kilogram W5A goes one step further than most ultraportables, coming with a swivel Webcam.
Price$ 2,999.00 (AUD)
The Webcam swivels 180 degrees for shooting in front of or behind the laptop. Three screen-frame shortcut buttons provide a quick way to activate the camera and take a picture, zoom into a scene digitally up to three times, and turn on the microphone for sound with videos. LifeFrame puts the bare-bones Webcam software found on other laptops to shame with its rich set of options, including interval capture, motion-detection, and even special photographic effects such as sepia. Pictures appear alongside the live window as drag-and-drop thumbnails bound for a folder, email or the recycle bin. Picture quality isn't bad for a 1.3-megapixel PC camera, but I was disappointed in the 30-frames-per-second video. The audio usually kept up with the action, but quick movements blurred. Still, I was happy enough with the quality to send a few pictures and short videos to friends I haven't seen in a while.
Beyond the camera, the W5A is nicely equipped overall, featuring a three-in-one memory card reader, a FireWire port, an S-Video-out port and three USB 2.0 ports. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi handle your short- and long-range wireless communications needs. However, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combination drive is the only optical drive available for the W5A, so you would be able to burn CDs but not DVDs.
The matching white keyboard's slightly undersize
Boasting a native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, the W5A's 12.1" screen is readable and makes a fine small movie screen, too, but you'll need headphones. Despite a nifty volume jog dial provided on the right side of the case, the stereo speakers--located beneath the screen--emit terribly weak audio.
The W5A is fairly easy to expand for a small laptop. Although a base 256MB of memory comes built-in, you do get one accessible slot for upgrading the RAM. The 40GB hard drive also slides out of its own separate compartment in the bottom of the unit.
Equipped with a 1.73GHz Pentium M 740 CPU, the notebook earned a PC WorldBench 5 score of 76. The rear-mounted power pack, which adds about a couple of centimetres to the footprint of the laptop, lasted 2.9 hours on one charge during our tests.
But I still like the W5A for its good keyboard and fun camera. Those looking for a lightweight laptop with a built-in Webcam that's super-easy to use can't go wrong. To sweeten the pot, ASUS throws in a battery-operated cordless Logitech mouse, two nylon carrying cases (one is a sheath), and a pretty good Acrobat manual.
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