Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
The $949 15.6-inch Asus G50VT-X5 certainly looks the part of a gaming laptop, with splashes of color, lights everywhere, an extended keyboard, and a small secondary OLED display. Its components back up those appearances, too, with a 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GS graphics card and adequately powerful 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 processor--a good set of components for a sub-$1,000 system. The 17-inch Gateway FX P-7805u is still our pick for a mainstream gaming laptop, but if you have a good reason to get a slightly smaller display and don't mind the flashy design, the Asus G50VT-X5 is a great way to play games on a budget.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$949|
|Processor||2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450|
|Memory||4GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GS|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
|Dimensions||14.8 inches wide by 10.4 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.4/8.8 pounds|
One look at the laptop's lid and you can tell this isn't a business notebook. It has a glittery black-and-brown design, with a lightning/flame accent on the lid and beams of LED lights going up each side and across the middle. The lights are controllable to a degree; the side beams can be shut off entirely, but the middle beam and emblem never shut off unless the system is asleep or turned off. If you sleep in the same room as your computer, this might keep you awake at night.
Above the keyboard is a small OLED display that can be set to alert you of e-mail or IMs, give you a heads up on battery life, show memory and CPU usage, or display a custom greeting. To the right of it is a series of touch-sensitive controls for shutting off the touch pad (and its frame of LED lights), quickly changing performance settings depending on what you're doing (office, entertainment, high performance), and launching a console with controls for system overclocking, settings for the laptop's LED lights, and what's shown on the OLED display.
There's also a control to start up a secondary Linux-based OS called Asus Express Gate. This lets you get faster access to the Web, Skype, and IM, as well as music and photos on the laptop without waiting for Windows to boot--although we find that consumers rarely use these pre-Windows environments.
The keyboard on the Asus G50VT-X5 is a decent size, but the separate number pad (increasingly common on 16:9 15-inch laptops) is cramped. The nearly-standard row of media-control buttons are absent, which is an odd omission for such a flashy laptop.
The 15.6-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is the 16:9 equivalent of the standard 1,280x800 resolution of most 15-inch laptops. These wider 16:9 displays are great for HDTV-style content, although 1080p video will have to be scaled down. Gamers taking advantage of the high-end GPU will also have to dial down their resolution to match the screen.
|Asus G50VT-X5||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA, mini FireWire||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
We were happy to find both HDMI and eSATA ports without sacrificing a USB port or FireWire. This fixed-configuration retail model does not come with Bluetooth, however, so you'll need a USB dongle if you're going to use a Bluetooth wireless gaming headset or mouse.
For PC gaming on a reasonable budget, we still prefer the Gateway FX P-7805u for its bigger screen and better benchmark scores (thanks to a faster processor and more onboard GPU memory), but the Asus, which has a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450, is still a strong performer and one of the only 15-inch gaming laptops currently available. Both of these systems are faster than the numerous Intel Core 2 Duo T6400-powered laptops available one price-tier down (ranging from $600-$899).
In Unreal Tournament 3, we got 91.6 frames per second from the Asus G50VT-X5 at 1,280x720. By way of comparison, the Gateway P-7805u gave us 120.8 frames per second in the same test (with the resolution tweaked to 1,280x800 on account of its 16:10 display). That means both systems could handle newer games with graphics options turned to medium or high and still maintain a 30-plus frame rate.
The G50VT-X5 ran for 3 hours and 2 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is competitive for a gaming system, and decent for a 15-inch laptop. But this requires an extended-life nine-cell battery that sticks out significantly from the back of the laptop.