Multimedia and Other Features

In my last laptop review, I made a comment that laptop speakers are generally too small to produce good sound. I’m happy to say that the A7J is an exception to this as the audio pumped through these speakers is excellent! Honestly, I’m truly amazed by it, so let’s take a closer look to see why the A7J succeeds where others fail so miserably.

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The difference is in the larger speakers flanking the keyboard – larger speakers means you have a wider frequency range, which translates into deeper bass and better treble. Of course these speakers can’t compare to larger desktop speakers, but as far as laptops go they sound excellent. Asus did not stop there because they also threw in side-firing speakers in the base of the unit. At a glace these look like fan grills, but they are really speakers. While watching a DVD, these speakers make a distinct improvement in surround sound effects.

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While watching Return of the King, certain segments sound more immersive and enveloping specifically the sequences where the Eye of Mordor speaks — it sounds like it’s coming from all around! Music, well, doesn’t suck. Often playing music on a laptop is embarassing, but the A7J actually has enough “omph” to it to pass as an occasional sound system. Bass response is fairly decent. It doesn’t have much punch, but it is still fairly good.

I would compare these speakers to the Compaq V2410 or the Asus W5F, but there’s really no point – the A7J’s sound quality is so obviously superior.

The Asus A7J also supports dedicated SPDIF output using a digital/headphone combo jack on the left side of the laptop. To have digital audio output through this jack, you must specify the correct option in the Realtek software. Though the digital audio is great for watching DVD movies, it doesn’t handle analog signals. So sources like MP3s, game effects, or DiVX movies will have to be used with the standard stereo jacks (headphone or line-out).

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You can use the front-panel media controls to play a CD or DVD without having to open the laptop, which is handy if you want to just listen to music and want to conserve battery life. Pressing the Media button, the laptop will power-on but not power the screen if the lid is closed. There are also controls that will let you skip tracks/chapters and play/pause.

The one problem with the front panel controls is that there is no volume control, which means you will have to open the lid and use either Windows or the Fn-F11/F12 keys each time. The W5F has a quick-access volume control so I don’t see why the A7J shouldn’t either.

Other Features

The web camera is a useful tool for business and personal use but with just 1.3 megapixels, don’t expect it to capture every little detail. For business people, it helps you get face-to-face time even when working remotely and can help capture important data for later use (i.e. a photo taken while at the client’s site). With the proliferation of WiFi hotspots, cellular Internet, and video conferencing abilities in messaging apps (like MSN Messenger and Skype), you will likely find the built-in camera increasingly useful.

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To make the camera a bit more useful, Asus includes Life-Frame software which can capture videos and still pictures. Interestingly, Asus also has Video Security software which can monitor motion and sound an alarm, update a website, or email you when triggered. Aside from security, the same software can be used to update a personal website to give it some dynamic content.

The A7J comes with a list of optional features which are really kind of cool. The first option is video-input functionality that comes in the form of a dongle or a cable TV jack. This will allow your A7J to receive and decode input signals including digital TV and turns your laptop into a TV replacement. If you get the video-input option it will come with a remote control to go with it.

There is also a card-sized remote control that will control just the A7J’s multimedia functions which is similar to the front panel buttons.

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