At a Glance
This pricey but lavishly equipped Media Center notebook includes a built-in TV tuner.
If a big-screen notebook tops your wish list but you hate how big and heavy these units can be, check out the Asus W2U00V0B. This high-performance machine sports a gorgeous 17-inch wide-screen display and weighs only 7.4 pounds, rivaling Apple's 6.9-pound PowerBook G4. The skinny, half-inch-thick screen is even light enough to raise open with one finger.
The W2U00VB's brushed metal design features a slot-fed, left-side DVD burner and a 100GB hard drive. It also goes the PowerBook one better with a built-in TV tuner and Windows Media Center Edition 2005 for TiVo-like recording, all for a retail price of $2599. As a bonus, the W2U00VB turns in better-than-decent battery performance for a portable its size, lasting 2.3 hours on one charge. Equipped with 1GB of RAM and a powerful 2.13-GHz Pentium M 770 processor, the W2U00VB turned in a very good WorldBench score of 97.
Yet I can't give this notebook a complete thumbs-up, primarily because of the way the keyboard is mounted. Feature for feature, the keyboard is a good one, with a fine layout including a large touchpad with comfortable mouse buttons. The problem is, it's all perfectly level, and it seemed as if I had to extend my arms impossibly far across the vast wrist rest to type. There should be feet on the underside of the notebook or thicker hinges to tilt the keyboard forward. If you share this ergonomic issue, you'll need to find a way to prop the machine up, or attach an external keyboard. That said, a large wrist rest can sometimes be great for those who use a notebook on their lap and need extra space to wield a small optical mouse.
Apart from the keyboard, this is a good entertainment unit. Movies, photos, and video clips looked splendid on the big screen. For work, icons are small but readable. The Media Center remote feels light and has an intuitive button layout. Music CD sound is pretty good, with bass tones boosted by the notebook's built-in subwoofer speaker, but movie volume drops slightly, a common problem with many notebooks. In the long run, I would probably feel compelled to bump up sound with external speakers.
The W2U00VB provides a generous number of audiovisual connections that will suit this purpose, including a headphone mini-jack, an S/PDIF port, and an audio-in jack, each of which can double as a surround-sound line-out for a multispeaker system. Unfortunately, all the A/V ports except the coax connector are on the front of the notebook where no one needs a mess of wires interfering with typing.
A lack of keyboard tilt is the only serious flaw I could find in this gorgeous, light (for its size), 17-inch wide-screen entertainment notebook.