Dec 07, 1999

Plain jane, but practical


ASUSTek L7300 (ASUSTek Computer Inc) Notebook computer System specifications: Intel Pentium II 366MHz processor, 64MB SDRAM, 4.8GB IDE HDD, built-in 24x CD-ROM drive, 3.5'' floppy drive, 13.3'' TFT active colour LCD with 4MB RAM display on board, 256-bit AGP graphics accelerator, 32-bit PCI stereo sound system, USB port, FIR and ZV ports (see below), CardBus support, lithium-ion battery, Win98.
Price: RM7,999
Review unit courtesy of NTR Newtech Resources Sdn Bhd, (04) 282-5993, via Fast-Tech Industrial Services, Ipoh.


I HAD just about made up my mind to part with my hard-earned ringgit for a notebook computer when the ASUS L7300 landed on my desk, waiting to be reviewed.

How timely, I thought. This should help in my decision-making process.

Though I personally prefer desktop PCs to notebooks, it was great to be able have some measure of mobility.

ASUS notebooks made their way to Malaysian shores via Penang sometime in the middle of last year. While they maintained a relatively low profile, they're definitely in the same league as some of the most sought-after notebook computers.

Priced at RM7,999, the L7300 model is aimed at entry-level users. This regular A4-sized notebook computer, dubbed an all-in-one notebook, is not your stylish show horse, but it comes complete with all the necessary parts and peripherals.

These include a built-in hard disk drive, modem card slot, 24x CD-ROM drive, floppy disk drive, USB port, a fast infrared (FIR) transmission port and two PC card slots.

This is for real

ASUSTek is renowned for its solid and reliable motherboards, and this reputation extends to its notebook PCs. Don't be put off by its clone tag. If anything, its Taiwanese origin should be a plus -- after all, Taiwanese companies are busy churning out full PCs and peripherals for many of the big names in the industry.

Also, it was heartening to note that the L7300 is Y2K compliant.

The design, like I said, is nothing to shout about. A member of the ASUS L7000 family, the L7300 ain't exactly a slacker when it comes to hardware specs, as you can see above.

Functionality and ease of use get high marks here -- the microphone and stereo speakers are slotted neatly on the front panel for easy access, and the screen is ``roomy'' enough for you to view video CDs without squinting. (If you prefer DVDs, ASUSTek offers a similar 14-inch model with a DVD drive.)

Navigating with the ALPS touchpad was difficult at first for a desktop alien like me, but it soon became second nature. The keypad is comfortable and requires only a light touch.

I didn't have the chance to test its fast infrared (FIR) feature, but it was reassuring to know that it's there if I ever needed it.

The ZV (zoom-in video) port allows you to connect the notebook to a TV set for video-conferences. Again, I didn't get the opportunity to check this out.

Comfy cruiser

The nine-cell lithium-ion battery boasts of three hours of uninterrupted computing, and it's true to its word if you're doing mainly wordprocessing, and not hard number-crunching.

With the help of my other half (who made a cameo appearance in our Nov 23 issue -- ED), I installed Star Office 5.1, which is available for downloading via the Internet, courtesy of Sun Microsystems.

This all-in-one suite includes wordprocessing, spreadsheet, database, e-mail, scheduler, calculator and simple graphic applications.

To surf the Net, just plug the phone jack in -- the L7300 comes with a 56K modem onboard. Alternatively you can plug in a Psion PCMCIA Gold card, which was what I did.

Either way, it worked well without any inconveniences. Downloading pages was a breeze.

Service counts My only contention with the L7300 is the weight. While notebook-wielding road warriors may consider it a featherweight, at just a little over 6lbs for a fully integrated unit, the weight seems to accumulate around your shoulders when you, say, walk about 200 metres in the heat of the day.

While I've had very little experience with notebooks (caveat here), I have to say that after a rational study against its likely contenders, ASUS is one-up with its offer of a three-year local warranty for the mainboard. In addition, it also promises a 72-hour turnaround time for problem cases.

Reliability and support are a big plus in my book, and should figure prominently in yours too when it comes to buying a computer, of whatever form factor.

Pros: Decent value for money.
Cons: A bit heavy.