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Asus W2J 17 inch Digital Media Core Duo Notebook Review

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Asus
Tagged:

Features and HTPC Functions

The Asus W2J is designed to be a home entertainment laptop. I know a lot of vendors have misappropriated this term to mean different things, but I assure you that Asus is using this designation properly for the W2J. Let's break down its features. It has DVI and digital audio output thanks to the onboard ATI X1600 graphics and the integrated Realtek ALC882 codec chip respectively. With these two features, you can connect the W2J to a high-definition TV and a digital audio receiver to get a true home theater experience.


With all the accessories that come with the W2J, the Asus W2J transforms into a very capable HTMPC (the M standing for "mobile"). With a click of a button on the remote or by using one of the quick launch keys on the laptop, you get all the conveniences of Windows Media Center Edition and access to all the special hardware on the W2J. Before I go into reporting my experiences of using the W2J as an HTPC, here's a list of the media features of the W2J as we received it:








  • AverMedia TV Tuner add-in card

  • Digital audio output using mini optical cable

  • Individual Front, Center/Sub, and Surround speaker jacks

  • FM Radio and DTV antenna

  • DVI and S-Video output

  • IR Windows Media Center remote control

  • RCA Audio Video input (VIVO!)

 

That's a pretty complete list of digital media features!



For this review, I tested all the features to see how it all worked together. First off, after connecting all the cables and dongles to the W2J, you have a real mess of wires and cables but most of you won't be using all features at once anyway. Though there is a FM Radio antenna built into the DTV antenna, you don't really need it to get radio stations --  I managed to tune the same amount of stations with or without it. So if you're travelling with the W2J, feel free to leave the bulky antenna at home.


The included remote had very good range and functioned really well at extreme angles thanks to the wide IR receiver bundled with the W2J. The remote can also be used on other PCs by plugging in the receiver to a free USB port.


TV Tuner Issues


The Asus W2J comes with an AverMedia TV Tuner installed so you can watch cable, satellite, or air broadcast shows on the laptop. But I found that the tuner hardware was not compatible with Windows Media Center 2005 despite having installed the latest hardware drivers from Asus' website. The only way I got the tuner to work was if I used Asus' own media center software Mobile Theater v4.0 instead.


The following two images shows you what happens when I attempt to watch live TV on both Windows Media Center and Asus Mobile Theater.



TV Tuner works using asus Mobile Theater v4.0.
(Coincidentally a report on IDF was being shown on a local news station :).



In Windows Media Center, I get a Decoder Error instead.


The fact that the decoder worked in Asus' software and not in Media Center leads me to believe that there's a configuration issue on the laptop. I suspect that if given more time I'd be able to figure it out.

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