Audio and the Camera
Unfortunately most laptop speakers are a bit underpowered to create exceptional sound – laptops are just too small to be able to create any good low-frequency sound. As a result laptop audio usually feels tinny and flat which is really noticeable in music, and the Asus W5F is no exception to this. For spoken dialog, the audio is clear and there isn’t much bass to muddy speech which is good for applications like video conferencing. Movie watching using the built-in speakers is passable and you will get better audio from a decent pair of headphones (I found cheap gaming headphones better at producing full-range sound). Music sounds the worst of the three applications with no distinguishable bass and overexposed treble.
Digital Audio Saves the Day
Even though the small speakers on the W5F are unexceptional, the Asus W5F blows away the competition by supporting Digital Audio output. Thanks to the Azalia codec, The W5F is capable of outputing a digital audio signal ( i.e. a DVD movie, or properly encoded movie file) using the headphone/SPDIF output jack. All you need is a mini-optical cable (see picture below) and have the audio control panel output any digital audio signal.
Digital output will only work for digital audio sources like movie and audio DVDs, and formats like MP3s, regular music CDs, and other sources will not be heard on your receiver.
I watched a few minutes of Star Wars: Episode III on this laptop and it is awesome. Most laptops don’t have digital output capability, much less laptops of this size! Combine this feature with the 100GB HDD and the mere 5 lbs. of weight, and you have yourself a truly mobile HTPC!
I think the Digital Audio feature will sway potential buyers to the Asus W5F since many of us use laptops for more than just work and games.
The Web Camera
It goes without saying that the built-in web camera is fairly useful for business and leisure purposes. The extra functionality to flip it so it can capture other people or things around you is very useful in capturing a boardroom whiteboard, or friends sitting in the same room. Since the camera acts like a USB webcam, you can use it with your favourite video conferencing application or use the camera’s software (called Asus Lifeframe) to record videos or capture still images.
To complement the web camera there is a security application called Asus Video Security that will monitor changes in the camera’s field of view (similar to a motion sensor) and alerts the user in different ways like via sound or email. You can specify detection sensitivity, whether the software should email you during an alert, and you can even have Video Security run a webserver which updates every interval you specify.
A more interesting application of this software is to have it act as an updating webcam for a website. For bloggers and geeks, this could be just the thing to spice up your otherwise dreary homepage.