Not all laptops are designed to be carted around town. Some are supposed to sit in your room looking pretty, playing movies and music. The 18.4-inch NX90Jq from Asus is just such a machine. Our model packed a quad-core, 1.73GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 6GB of RAM for the frankly ludicrous price of £2,000 or so.
So you like lightweight little netbooks and ultra-portable laptops like Apple's do you? Move along, chum -- this isn't the computer you're looking for. Make no mistake about it, the NX90Jq is huge.
It arrived in the CNET UK skyscraper in such a massive, heavy black box that we thought somebody had mistakenly dropped off a gravestone. We couldn't see any names carved on it, so we immediately set about polishing our finely chiselled bodies by doing some bench presses with it.
With a screen size of 18.4 inches, the NX90Jq is incredibly wide. Add onto that the extra two inches either side of the screen for the speakers and you're left with a laptop measuring a whopping 530mm wide. At 36mm high, it's not exactly slim either, so good luck finding a carry case big enough to help you lug its 4.4kg body across town.
We had a few laptop carry cases lying around that have put up with transporting the meanest of gaming machines, but none of them could sufficiently contain the mighty size of the NX90Jq.
The NX90Jq was designed by David Lewis, who also designs products for premium audio firm Bang & Olufsen. The evident focus on looks hints that the NX90Jq is much more suited to remaining static on a table in your modern, minimalist living room than being hauled around in a scruffy bag like some awful common laptop for the masses. The NX90Jq is certainly of the opinion that it's a higher class of computer, thank you very much.
The outer casing of the NX90Jq is made of a highly reflective, polished metal. When you first lay your eyes on its closed form, you'll be met by a reflection of your own face. That's either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the quality of your face, but this feature will no doubt come in handy for those who just can't decide between splashing out on a computer or a mirror.
The shell feels well built and doesn't offer much in the way of flex. It is, however, susceptible to bumps and knocks, as proven by the fairly conspicuous dent we found in the lid upon the machine's arrival. We don't know what the previous user of our laptop did to it. The laptop may have suffered a minor drop, or been used to defend against a buffalo attack. Either way, be aware that the lid can be dented.
As anyone who has ever tried to hug their own reflection in a shiny mirror will tell you, mirrors don't deal well with fingerprints. We found the NX90Jq quickly turned from a shimmering slice of artistic design on our desk into a grubby lump of offensive metal in our oily hands. If you have hyperactive kids who like nothing more than to smear your favourite tech products in jam, you really shouldn't consider buying this laptop. At the very least, buy some sort of steel cage for the kids first. Pop a ball in there with them -- they'll be fine.
Once you open up the massive lid, you may have to take a moment to compose yourself -- this is probably like no laptop you've ever seen before. It's unusual in several ways. Firstly, thanks to the extra width provided by the speakers, the lid is considerably wider than the base of the laptop, which, frankly, looks odd when you close it up.
Secondly, Asus has evidently decided that trackpads are too boring sat in their traditional place below the keyboard. Asus has, therefore, slapped one on either side of the keyboard, complete with two sets of buttons for clicking around with.
It's certainly an unusual move and not one that we're particularly keen on. Having the trackpads next to the keyboard felt intensely unnatural to us. Even after several hours of use, our hands hadn't become used to it and kept trying to trace out gestures on a trackpad that wasn't there.
To fill the gaping void left by a regular trackpad, Asus has served up a big slice of that shiny metal for you to rest your wrists on. Like the metal found on the lid, it wants nothing more than to accommodate as much of your finger grease as possible. It's an irritating design decision. We understand the desire to keep the laptop's appearance as minimalist as possible, but we'd like this guy so much more if Asus had whacked in a massive glass trackpad down there and scrapped the two awkward ones on either side of the keyboard.
The NX90Jq's mission is to be a beautiful media player sat in the corner of your room. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we're not convinced that the NX90Jq is much of a looker. Gigantic? Yes. Shiny? Yes. Beautiful? Well, that's a matter of opinion. The general consensus on the CNET UK team is that this laptop looks far too weird to be called beautiful.
The only place we saw the NX90Jq fit in with its surroundings was in the awful press photo above, showing it proudly sat in a dismal, grey, concrete living room. If you happen to live in a bunker, the NX90Jq will probably look great.
If the NX90Jq is going to be your seductive, living-room media machine, then you'll want it to excel at two things -- audio and video. We hoped, therefore, that the speakers would pack a punch and the screen would have the sort of clarity that makes large men called Bruce weep with joy.
We fired up the speakers and were fairly pleased by the results. The high-end frequencies were very clear and detailed, which we'd expect, given Bang & Olufsen's input. If you mainly listen to classical and acoustic music, you'll find the speakers do the job adequately.