Sixteen-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.
The $1,249 Asus F50SV-A2 packs a Blu-ray drive and a new mainstream Nvidia graphics chip into a relatively on-the-go package that's lighter than gaming beasts, but heavier than a standard laptop.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$1,249 / $1,149|
|Processor||2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600|
|Memory||4GB, 800 MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 7200 rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce G 120M|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.96 inches wide by 10.43 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||16 inches|
|System with adapter /System weight||7.36/6.4 pounds|
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 1,366x768 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|
|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.