Asus A7J 17-inch Core Duo Notebook Review
Design - Part II
The left side of the A7J has a lot of connections for you to use. Starting from the front to back, you have the card bus slot, IR, SD/Memory Stick reader, WiFi On/Off switch, mini Firewire, audio I/O, USB2.0, telephone and LAN jacks. That's a lot of stuff along the left side of the laptop, which means wires may be getting in the way of your mousing if you're left-handed. You can also get the A7J configured with a TV tuner and those jacks will appear between the audio I/O and the USB port.
The WiFi switch is much too small -- you can barely feel it and it's hard to flip if you don't have nails. It's a bit of a nuisance and Asus should have made it easier to use.
The back of the A7J there are four USB 2.0 ports, DVI, D-Sub, and S-video connections, and a Kensington laptop lock port. The system's exhaust is also located on the back to be sure not to block this area. DVI is not something you see on every laptop, but it is something more commonly found on units with 17" screens or greater.
The DVI output is a nice touch.
I know that customers of another manufacturer have suffered with hinges that cracked, and unfortunately there's no way to determine if these hinges by Asus will break prematurely unless I spend all day opening and closing the lid instead of writing this article. There are three large hinges holding the screen to the base and they appear sturdy and well constructed. Pushing the lid in various ways only made the screen wobble slightly, and there was no audible creaking or undue flexing in the hinges.
Update: June 6th, 2006 I've taken a closer look at the Asus A7J's hinges and they are indeed steel hinges. This can be seen by removing the decorative caps at each end of the "fold" by undoing four screws. Some laptop manufacturers use plastic hinges which will crack easily over time which increases the risk of the screen breaking from the base. Asus made sure this doesn't to their customers by using metal hinges.
The Asus A7J uses steel hinges which means it will be hard to break!
The whole unit itself feels solid and passed a few rides on the subway and a few attempts at twisting the body. If you don't properly pick up the laptop, the covers underneath the laptop flex a bit so be sure to give the A7J proper support. The unit does weigh 9 pounds so give it some respect! Two hands are definitely needed when moving around this big laptop.
The DVD tray is much sturdier than the one found on the W5F and does not wobble when opened. Though the right side of the laptop only has two features, it has the second biggest annoyance on the A7J (the first annoyance being the swapped CTRL-Fn keys). When ejecting the DVD tray, the tray will get blocked depending on the way you plug in the power adapter. The following picture illustrates:
The power cable blocks the DVD tray.
On the bottom of the laptop is your battery, fan intakes, and hatches covering the upgradable bits on the A7J. The battery is a bit tricky to remove since Asus only gives you very little grip and the battery fits snug in its spot. The battery can be locked in place so it doesn't accidentally fall out (never happened to me, but I suppose it could eject accidentally). There is a business card holder so you can tell a good samaritan where to ship your laptop when you lose it (or to tell the thief where to find the manuals after they've ganked your computer ;-) ).
The bottom-side of the laptop gets fairly warm, so be sure not to cover the vents if possible. More about this in the Thermals section.