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Laptops

Asus N50V preview

This desktop replacement laptop is a stunner, with a sleek chocolate body, an excellent keyboard and features such as Blu-ray and a nifty fingerprint scanner. There are definitely some drawbacks to its Matrix-like design, but even so, it's worth a serious look

We remember when Asus' laptops looked like they were designed by 5-year-olds with broken crayons. The G2P gaming laptop was hideous, the V1J was meh and the A7Tc? Wow. Just... wow. Thankfully the firm's got its act together and begun to churn out gorgeous laptop after gorgeous laptop. Its latest stunner is the N50V -- a desktop replacement designed to handle all manner of hi-def content -- though pricing and release dates are yet to be confirmed. We'd wager it will be out before the end of the year.

Upsides
We've said it before, and we'll say it again -- the N50V is a good-looking machine. The lid has delicate curved edges and a dark chocolate finish that almost appears purple in some lighting conditions. Look closely and you'll see dozens of vertical dotted lines that are reminiscent of the scrolling green code from the Matrix movies.

Lift the lid and it's a similar story. The wrist rest has the same Matrix-style lines, but is finished in a much lighter brown with hints of purple. We appreciate that some users may not like the colour -- having gotten used to the hordes of black and silver laptops -- but this makes a really refreshing change.

It's not just about colours, though. There are other nice touches including the rounded mouse selector buttons -- which have a fingerprint reader tucked between them -- and an absolutely gorgeous keyboard with a dedicated numerical keypad. It's exceptionally easy to type on because the keys are so large. We imagine users with small fingers might take a while to get used to them, but for the average person it's wonderful.


We can't get over how fantastic this keyboard is -- it's epic

The N50V is a Centrino 2 laptop with a solid core specification. It comes with a Core 2 Duo T9400 with a core frequency of 2.53GHz, plus 4GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce 9650M GT graphics card -- so it's a very capable all-round machine.

The 320GB hard drive is fairly middle-of-the-road by desktop PC standards, and even by laptop standards -- Asus' M70 managed to ship with a 1TB drive -- but this should only affect pirates persistent file-sharers. Most notabele, however, is the inclusion of a Blu-ray drive. With this, you'll be able to watch high-definition movies on the laptop, or on a large, external display.


A Blu-ray drive is pre-installed, so you can watch movies on the laptop or pumped onto your TV

Our sample of the N50V came with no operating system at all, but final versions are expected to ship with a version of Windows Vista. It does, however feature Express Gate -- a Linux-based graphical user interface that boots in as little as 8 seconds. Here, you can perform most of the tasks you'd do in Windows, without the hassle of booting Vista. It has a Web browser, a music player, online games, a photo viewer, instant messaging client and Skype.



Downsides
Earlier we fawned over the N50V's design, but there are negative aspects to its aesthetic pleasantness. Most of the laptop's surfaces are glossy, and readily attract fingerprints.

Within hours, our sample had lost its looks and turned into a giant, smudge-infested mess. Worse still, because the machine has a fingerprint reader, it's all too possible for a thief -- albeit a very skilled one -- to lift one of your prints and use it to log into Windows.

You'd think the N50V was teeming with ways to connect to the outside world, since it's a desktop replacement laptop. To an extent, it is, but the number and arrangement of IO ports isn't all it could have been. It only has three USB ports, for a start -- the same number as a 7-inch Eee PC.

One of these ports is situated on the right side of the laptop and will most-likely be dedicated to a USB mouse, leaving just two USB ports for connecting external devices. Asus has included an eSATA port, to which you can connect an external hard drive, but it's situated directly at the front of the laptop. Why not have it at the side or rear so it's out of the way?


We should probably get out more, but the N50V has some of the best mouse-selector buttons around

The N50V has a large, 15.4-inch display, but we're not convinced by it. First of all, it's glossy, so it's unnecessarily reflective, and worse still, its vertical viewing angle is very limited. We had to tilt it to a 145-degree angle -- as far as it'll go -- in order to get an even picture. Once tilted to this odd angle, the picture quality was pretty good, but seeing the screen slanted so far back is a bit unnerving.

Outlook
The N50V is a great-looking, well-equipped laptop. It's not perfect by any means -- the storage is limited and the screen has issues -- so the Asus M70 might be a better bet. But if you want a stylish desktop replacement with plenty of power and features, it's worth a look. We'll have a full review of the N50V with performance benchmarks once Asus can supply one with all the proper drivers, operating system and software.

Edited by Marian Smith

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