this 16-inch laptops comprise a growing category, perhaps because they sit between the semiportable, 15-inch, mainstream systems and the heavy, 17- and 18-inch models that are essentially desk-bound machines with hinged screens .
Asus' laptop is a little too heavy for our tastes, especially after reviewing the much lighter and thinner Lenovo Y650, which also had a 16-inch screen. Adding to the sense of ennui we felt about the total package , the chassis design on our review model was semisleek, but far from sexy. The best thing we can say about the glossy, gray-and-white striped, plastic interior and exterior is that it didn't collect fingerprints. Still, the F50SV-A2 felt sturdy and well proportioned on our laps and on a desk, even if it was a tough fit for many laptop bags.
A multitouch-pad inset in the palm rest controlled well, but the silvery plastic button bar beneath rests on a rocker, meaning clicking left or right is a little labored. We generally prefer separate left and right mouse buttons.
The keyboard certainly can't be faulted for not being large--it expands across the width of the laptop and includes a number pad, as well--but on extended usage, it felt a little too mushy and flat. The number pad area would have been better served by a series of dedicated media control buttons, which the F50SV lacks. A small, chrome button bar above the function keys launches a handful of programs, including Windows Media Center and an instant-on set of applications called ExpressGate that don't require XP to start-up and use. The ExpressGate instant-launch browser had spotty functionality, and while instant launch capability is a good idea, these apps didn't shave much time off what it would have taken to wake the Windows OS up from sleep.
Having a built-in Blu-ray drive makes this a tempting choice for movie buffs. While the system scores points for including BD for around $1,200, the built-in Blu-ray software is WinDVD, which gave us a few problems with setup. And the speakers didn't impress, sounding too washed out and soft to provide a compelling Blu-ray experience.
The standard 1366x768 16-inch screen resolution gets the job done for most video and gaming purposes, but the lack of 1080p is especially disappointing since both the Blu-ray drive and the GT 120M processor are great for showing off higher-res images. On a Blu-ray-free machine, such as the recently reviewed Lenovo IdeaPad Y650, 720p-level resolution is more forgivable.
F50SV-A2 Average for category [mainstream]
Video VGA-out, HDMI VGA-out, HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/54 ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive BD-ROM/DVD burner DVD burner
Three well-spaced USB ports and an Ethernet port line the laptop's left side, while VGA and HDMI (and a fourth USB port) join a center-connecting power jack on the back, which is good for desktop or TV-side connections. The Blu-ray drive loads from the right side. Four USB ports are generous, but we would have gladly traded one for an eSATA port instead.
With a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 and 4 GB of DDR2 RAM, the F50SV-A2 is a pretty powerful system. The Nvidia GeForce G 120M GPU is an intriguing new release that's targeted as a mainstream video card for casual gaming, adding decent graphics power.
In anecdotal HD-streaming and video playback, the F50SV-A2 performed with no complaints. Gaming-wise, Asus' 16-incher could be considered a mainstream-capable gaming laptop, running Unreal Tournament 3 at 60.6 fps in our benchmark tests, which led the pack against 16-inch mainstreamers such as the Dell Studio XPS 16 (57.8) and the HP Pavilion dv7-1285dx (43.2).
Battery life was disappointing, running only 1 hour and 31 minutes in our battery-drain test. For a system that will remain plugged in on a desk all the time, that would be fine, but we expect more from notebooks that are touted as portable.
Asus includes a two-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system, as well as a one-year, accidental-damage warranty for protection against drops, fires, spills, and power surges, which is much better than the competition average. The company's support Web site has improved over time, so it's now somewhat easier to find driver downloads, manuals, and FAQs online.
hbailla, Thursday, May 21, 2009