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ASUS M70SA review: ASUS M70SA

With a mass of storage and a large breadth of features, the M70SA from ASUS is a solid performer and a decent media centre/desktop replacement to boot.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
3 min read

Much like theoretical physics, the exciting developments in laptops these days are at the small and large ends of the scale. While every company and their respective dogs are trying to jump onto the EeePC bandwagon, a number are similarly piling into the chariot reserved for 17-inch or larger multimedia desktop replacements. ASUS's M70SA is one such beast.



The Good

Reasonable speakers. High resolution screen. Blu-ray drive. eSATA port. HDMI. Monster storage. Reasonable battery life for the size.

The Bad

Dual-function trackpad can easily be switched by accident.

The Bottom Line

With a mass of storage and a large breadth of features, the M70SA from ASUS is a solid performer and a decent media centre/desktop replacement to boot.

The M70SA's design is passable. It's big, it's boxy and as desktop replacements tend to be, it's a little on the hefty side. ASUS has included Altec Lansing speakers to serve sound duties in 5.1, and by and large they pull through, being able to deliver decent volume and an acceptable mid-range, unlike Acer's 8920G which simply felt hollow.

ASUS gives a little more bang for buck in screen resolution over Acer's competitor as well, coming in at 1,920 by 1,200. It's only a minor increase, and it's up to the user whether they want a 17-inch 16:10 screen ratio, or the 18.4-inch 16:9 offered by the 8920G. In terms of vibrancy and colour though Acer's screen certainly took the lead.

Featured within the mousepad are touch sensitive multimedia controls — just tap the "Mode" button in the top right of the trackpad and the mouse turns off, making the multimedia buttons active. Cool idea in theory, but in practice we found ourselves turning on the multimedia buttons far too often when we were simply trying to tap to left click. Turning them off occasionally proved a chore as well, so we'd rather see a dedicated button to switch functions alongside the other shortcut buttons, just below the screen.

These buttons load Windows Media Center, flip between Splendid modes (ASUS's display presets, best avoided and left on "Standard"), turn off the mousepad altogether, and change between preset battery profiles.

The usual webcam and fingerprint scanner are included, and as seems to be the vogue these days software is included for facial recognition, should you wish to use it as a security pass.

If ASUS's motherboard history proves anything, it's that they know features. The same is true of the M70SA, which is truly bristling with bits and bobs. On the left-hand side is an antenna port for the included TV tuner, two USB ports, one FireWire port, an MMC/SD/MS card reader, and a Blu-ray drive for the full high definition experience. Well, as full as you can get on a laptop, anyway.

On the right, another two USB ports, microphone jack, headphone/SPDIF jack and Express Card 54 slot, while on the rear is a gigabit Ethernet, modem, VGA port, an eSATA port, HDMI and A/V in. The A/V-in port connects to a supplied breakout cable that in turn offers composite, S-Video and RCA input jacks.

Included in the package is an additional mouse, a remote that can be stored in the Express Card slot, a cable tie to keep things neat and a cleaning cloth for the screen.

On the inside is something special for the media-hoarders out there — 1TB's worth of storage, in the form of twin Hitachi 500GB drives. ATI's Radeon HD 3650 ensures seamless playback from the Blu-ray drive, as does Intel's Core 2 Duo T9300. The M70SA is also equipped with 4GB of RAM, but puzzlingly is supplied with Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit — which will only register 3072MB of memory, a fully fledged 64-bit operating system required to be able to use the remaining memory.

The full spread of connectivity is also available, offering 802.11n, Bluetooth and infrared.

Being a desktop replacement, we expected some decent performance numbers from the M70SA and it didn't disappoint. While the HD 3650 isn't the biggest kid on the mobile graphics block, having 1GB of video RAM on standby gave it a decent leg-up with a 3DMark06 score of 3,327. PCMark05 was appropriately knocked out of the park at 6,101.

Turning off all power saving features and setting screen brightness to maximum to test the battery, the M70SA survived one hour, 13 minutes and 13 seconds before kicking the bucket, a more than decent time thanks to its included 8-cell battery.

The ASUS M70SA is definitely a feature-packed laptop, and for the media hoarder that has it all it might be a good choice. If you're on a budget though and still want to indulge in the HD experience, check out Acer's 8920G.