ASUS Z63A Whitebook Laptop Review


Operating System and Drivers

The final part of the process involves installation of the operating system of your choice. I used Windows XP (Home), but I always consult Tweak Hound’s XP Installation and Tweaking Guides. It actually took less time to do a clean install of XP than it usually takes to clean off all the crap software that comes pre-installed on a factory notebook.

Installing XP on a notebook is the same as installing on a desktop, with a few twists. First, power up and hold the F2 key to enter the BIOS/CMOS setup. There are very few choices on a notebook BIOS compared to a desktop (and no ?tweaking’ options to speak of). Make the dvd/cd drive the first entry in the ?Boot Sequence’, then Save-Exit and boot to the XP installation cd. Create a new partition and install using NTFS (the ?Quick’ format is fine for modern hard drives). When the XP install is finished, perform a few basic tweaks to clean up the GUI (Windows Classic views, etc) and insert the Asus driver cd and load drivers for the LAN (not wireless ? you’ll need a wired internet connection). When finished, go straight to ?MS Windows Update’ and take all that’s offered in the ?High Priority’ category. Do it twice to make sure you’ve got everything. At that point, re-load the Asus driver cd and install the drivers in the order they appear on the Setup screen (Intel .INF, ATK-ACPI, Graphics, Unified Audio, Enhanced Audio, and so on). The drivers on the cd were almost as current as anything on the net, but check at Asus Support and Intel Centrino central (compare the dates).

When all the basics are running right, go ahead and install the Intel wireless software. You can use the Asus version on the cd, but I like the raw Intel version (PROSet) better. After it’s installed and re-booted, open the PROSet main screen by right-clicking the PROSet icon on the taskbar. Click ?Tools-Adapter Settings, select ?Advanced’, scroll down to ?Intel Throughput Enhancement’, unclick ?Use Default Value’, select ?Enable’. Scroll further down to ?Roaming Aggressiveness’ and note that you can change the behavior of your wireless in a fundamental way. Moving the slider to the right tells the adapter to abandon your current connection and automatically re-connect to better connections as they become available. I used this on the bus to seamlessly maintain an internet connection all the way to the city. The adapter kept searching for ?hotter’ hotspots as we passed them, only to drop it as a better one came in range (no pop-ups, no having to manually select, nada). At the other extreme, moving the slider to the left gives you the wireless equivalent of matrimony, and limits connection to one approved transmitter.

Your last driver install should be Asus PowerGear. If you choose to use it (you can start from the Start menu for a single use or load automatically with Windows), you have the option to modify any aspect of 9 different power settings, from ?Maximum Performance on AC’ to ?Maximum Battery Life’. Playing with the screen brightness and other settings in ?Max Life’ will give you well over 4 hours of active use on a single battery. If you don’t use it, go to the ?Power Options’ on the Control Panel and make sure the ?Laptop’ Power Scheme is selected, as this setting activates Intel’s SpeedStep technology (mostly cpu throttling) that makes the Centrino magic happen.

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