Asus N90Sv review: Asus N90Sv

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MSRP: $1,799.00

The Good Attractive design; Blu-ray combo drive; nice, large keyboard; great sound quality.

The Bad Average performance, battery life; multimedia laptop without multimedia controls; huge.

The Bottom Line It's not an ideal multimedia laptop, but the Asus N90Sv A2 is a good-looking, well-appointed desktop replacement.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

If you're easily impressed by size, you'll love the Asus N90Sv A2. Its 18.4-inch display is big and beautiful. Its dual-hard-drive setup gives 1TB of storage, and its 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 130M graphics card has no trouble delivering HD content to larger screens. It's a good-looking laptop, too. We just wish the N90Sv A2's overall performance were more on par with its large price tag.

P rice as reviewed / Starting price $1,799.99
Processor 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550
Memory 4GB, 800MHz DDR2
Hard drive 1TB (500GBx2) 5,400rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel GM45 Express Chipset
Graphics 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 130M
Operating System Windows Vista Premium
Dimensions (WD) 18.1x12.2 inches
Height 1.6 -1.9 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 18.4 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 9.4/10.4 pounds
Category Desktop replacement

It's tough to make a laptop as large as the N90Sv disappear into its surroundings, but Asus pulls it off to some degree without making the laptop boring. Actually, it's a very attractive system in glossy black mixed with glittery bronze, then pinstriped with dark gray lines as well as a subtle wave pattern in the same color. It's definitely a laptop we wouldn't mind leaving out in a living room, den, or kitchen. The whole thing collects fingerprints with the slightest touch, but that's something we've come to accept and we just keep a cleaning cloth nearby. Again, there's no real way to hide the fact that this thing is so big; it's something you'll want to think about before you buy.

The keyboard on the N90Sv is large and comfortable and there is a separate number pad on the right side. Asus calls it a chocolate keyboard (it is a big rectangle reminiscent of a chocolate bar) and it has concave key-caps designed to contour to users' fingers. The touch pad is reasonably large and there is only one button below it for handling left and right clicks. Missing is a nearly standard row of media-control buttons, which is an odd omission for an entertainment-focused laptop. Function keys are clearly labeled so it makes hunting for play/pause, stop, and fast forward/rewind controls a little easier. At least there's a jog wheel for controlling volume in a panel of controls to the left of the keyboard. At the wheel's center is a mute button, too. Also in this panel are buttons for turning on and off the touch pad, changing power modes (high performance, battery saving, entertainment, and presentation), adjusting color and contrast schemes for the LCD, and starting 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 to music and photos on the laptop without waiting for Windows to boot--although we find that consumers rarely use these pre-Windows environments. All of the buttons and dials are surrounded in the glow of blue lights, by the way.

The massive 18.4-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,920x1,080-pixel native resolution, which is perfect for 1080p HD content, and what we'd expect for a notebook of this caliber. Games and movies look incredible on it and it gets plenty bright for comfortable use regardless of what's onscreen. Above the keyboard is a set of four-way stereo speakers, which can get quite loud and still sound very good. Lastly, a Webcam and mic are built into the frame above the display.

  Asus N90Sv Average for category [desktop replacement]
Video VGA, HDMI VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Four-way stereo speakers, mic-in jack, headphone-out jack (2, 1 with S/PDIF) Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.
Data 4 USB 2.0, multiformat media-card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/54 ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive Blu-ray combo DVD burner [high-end: Blu-ray]

With such a large chassis, the port assortment the Asus N90Sv has doesn't take up much space. In fact, the only things on the entire left side are the optical drive and card reader. It has everything we expect to find on a desktop replacement, but an eSATA and a Mini-FireWire would have been nice extras considering the system's size and price. However, you do get the Blu-ray combo drive for reading BDs and reading and writing CDs and DVDs. And since there's an HDMI output in back, you can easily connect to a larger monitor or TV for watching HD content.

The Asus N90Sv is available in three versions: the A1, A2, and X1. The differences between the models are in the storage capacities and optical drives. We reviewed the A2, which has two 5,400rpm 500GB hard drives and a Blu-ray combo optical drive. The A1 has the same Blu-ray combo drive, but uses two 5,400rpm 250GB hard drives. The X1 is outfitted with a DVD burner and a single 7,200rpm 320GB hard drive. Otherwise, the systems are the same.

All things considered, performance was kind of disappointing for a laptop that's a penny shy of $1,800. The similarly priced and configured Sony Vaio AW125J/H, for example, outpaced the Asus in all of our lab tests. Of course, the system doesn't feel slow and does have a good amount of processing and graphics power to easily supplant a desktop for general and entertainment use. It could be that the 5,400rpm hard drive isholding it back, so if speed does matter to you, you may want to sacrifice the Blu-ray combo drive and get the Asus N90Sv X1 with its 7,200rpm hard drive instead.

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