Editors' note: This review is part of our Back-to-school 2009 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
The Asus UX50V-RX05 is closer to an oversized Netbook than a mainstream laptop. If you took the Asus Eee PC 1005HA and doubled its weight and price, you'd basically end up with the UX50V. This 15.6-inch laptop shares many design cues with the Eee PC 1005HA, with its sleek profile, tapered edges, and glossy chassis. Unfortunately, it also shares roughly the same performance profile as a Netbook, thanks to its underpowered, single-core CPU. The supposed benefit of an energy-efficient Core 2 Solo chip is extended battery life, but the Asus UX50V failed to deliver in this regard in testing. It does offer dedicated graphics in the form of the 512MB Nvidia GeForce G105M card, which means casual gamers can play some games at modest settings.
Though the overall design of the Asus UX50V is fetching, this $749 laptop simply requires too great a sacrifice in terms of application performance (without any gains in battery life) to merit a strong recommendation. Your money will go farther elsewhere: the $749 Dell Studio 1440-022B or the $799 Toshiba Satellite E105 are better options for general mainstream use. Also, the $799 Sony Vaio NW125J/T offers the same screen size and aspect ratio as the Asus UX50V but with a more balanced configuration.
|Processor||1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500|
|Memory||4GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB at 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GS45 Express|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia GeForce G105M|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||15.2 inches wide 10.1 inches deep 1.1 inches high|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.8 / 6.4 pounds|
The Asus UX50V is glossy and thin. The lid and wrist-rest are buffed to a high sheen; it's quite possibly the shiniest laptop to grace CNET Labs in recent history. The piano-black chassis is sure to attract stares from across the coffee shop, but it's also an extreme magnet for fingerprints. To help you keep up appearances, Asus throws a cloth in the box for frequent wipe downs.
The laptop cuts a clean, thin profile, with gently sloping sides that run from 1.1 inches along the front edge to 1.3 inches in back. Despite its thinness, the chassis feels very solid, with practically none of the flex common to many laptops in the sub-$1,000 price range. All the ports are located on the back edge, keeping the front and sides looking neat and tidy. Ethernet and USB ports located in back don't present any real problems, but we'd prefer the headphone jack on the front edge where it would provide more head-bobbing room for headphone wearers. Only a small Wi-Fi on/off switch and ExpressCard slot (with hidden USB port) populate the left side, and a slot-loading DVD player is the only thing you'll find on the right. A thin speaker grill runs nearly the length of the front edge. Perhaps in an effort to maintain its clean look and sleek lines, Asus omits a strip of media control keys from the UX50V. Given the design and specs and obvious entertainment appeal of this laptop, we'd classify it as an unfortunate omission.
The 15.6-inch screen is of the extra-wide, 16:9 variety, making it a perfect fit for movies. The screen features a 1,366x768 aspect ratio and a glossy screen coating. The screen coating runs beyond the screen to the edges of the lid. Movies and games look good, with vibrant colors and crisp edges. Behind the aforementioned speaker grill are two small speakers that emit predictably weak audio.
Because of the wide, 15.6-inch screen, Asus finds room for a separate number pad. The keys are of the Chiclet style, popularized by the Apple MacBook. The keyboard is roomy and comfortable and backlit. Unlike the Toshiba Satellite E105's backlit keyboard, which is either on or off, the Asus UX50V's keyboard features three brightness level settings. Plus, you can enable an ambient light sensor (Function-A) to make automatic adjustments. It's more of a wow factor than actually useful, but still cool nonetheless.
Below the keyboard is a glossy touch pad, which blends in with the rest of the laptop's piano-back finish, but also creates needless drag on your finger tip when mousing. We'd prefer a matte finish, even if it meant the overall design may suffer by a small degree. (Or perhaps along with the defingerprinting shammy cloth, Asus could also include some mousing talc.) Below the touch pad is a single mouse button that's one of the more poorly designed we've come across. It's stiff and recessed, making it harder to depress than we'd like (and didn't loosen over the week we used the laptop). It doesn't offer enough travel either, making it difficult to keep engaged when attempting to drag the cursor to highlight a passage, for example. We typically write each laptop review with the laptop we're reviewing, and in this case, it wasn't long before we reached in a desk drawer to fish out a mouse to avoid using the Asus UX5V's glossy touch pad and recessed mouse button.
|Asus UX50V-RX05||Average for thin-and-light category|
|Video||HDMI, VGA, Webcam||VGA, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mulitformat memory card reader||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
There aren't any surprises among the Asus UX50V's collection of ports and connections. Two utilities from Asus, however, help it stand out somewhat. First, Express Gate greets you upon start-up. It's an embedded Linux OS that lets you get online (via a browser based on but looking nothing like Firefox), access your photos or music files, and chat or Skype without first booting to Windows. Second, the integrated Webcam above the screen comes with facial recognition software, which means there's one less password for you to remember in your life. Using the Asus SmartLogon app, the Webcam will snap a series of shots of your mug during the set-up process, which you can then choose to use upon start-up to log on to the machine. SmartLogon is a bit buggy, as evidenced by the hiccups it adds upon start-up; you'll sit through a couple screen blinks before you get to the Vista log-on screen where the camera searches for your face. You simply need to sit in front of the camera before it locks in and recognizes you. In most cases, we found it faster to simply enter our Windows password, but it's still a cool sci-fi feature that's fun to play around with.
The Asus UX50V uses a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Solo processor, while practically any other laptop near the Asus UX50V's price will feature a standard dual-core processor. To wit, the other laptops on retail store shelves at this price range feature a dual-core chip. And not just dual-core chips, but dual-core chips with faster clock speeds. As you can see from our application performance charts, the Asus UX50V came in dead last--and by considerable margins. Not surprisingly, it had the most trouble with our Multitasking benchmark, which puts multiple processing cores to good.
Intel Atom-based Netbooks have posted better benchmark scores on this test, albeit running Windows XP rather than the more demanding 64-bit version of Vista Home Premium. The Asus UX50V outpaced the Atom-based Netbook crowd, however, on our iTunes benchmark, where it was able to convert an album's worth of MP3s to AAC files in less than half the time. During anecdotal testing, we experienced frequent pauses when running multiple apps, switching from one window to another or simply navigating Windows. These blips are not felt to near this degree on a modern dual-core laptop. While the Asus UX50V makes concessions on the processor front, it boasts the best graphics subsystem of the bunch. Its 512MB Nvidia GeForce G105M is a budget laptop GPU that's capable of decent frame rates if you keep the settings modest. It was able to post only 6.4 frames per second on our standard Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark at 1,280x800 pixels. In anecdotal testing, we got a smooth and consistent 60fps when we dialed the resolution back to 800x600 pixels. The laptop features hybrid graphics, letting you toggle between the dedicated GeForce graphics for improved performance or integrated Intel graphics to extend the battery life.
Given the low-end processor, relatively high-end graphics (for the price), and 16:9 display, we are left to conclude that the Asus UX50V is best for those whose chief priorities are watching moves and some casual game play. Even a less expensive dual-core laptop with integrated graphics is a better choice as a workhorse laptop for general use.
|Raw (annual kWh)||51.14|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$5.80|
The Asus UX50V features a standard six-cell battery and ran for 2 hours and 38 minutes on CNET Labs' demanding video playback battery drain test. Other systems on the chart bested that time because of the simple fact that they use extended-cell batteries. Given the scores, we'd prefer a dual-core system with a nine-cell battery rather than this setup here that pairs an energy-efficient single-core processor with a six-cell battery. We ran our battery drain benchmark with the Nvidia GeForce graphics enabled; during normal Windows use under the battery saving mode, the laptop lasted just over 3 hours--good but not great, considering the performance hit the Core 2 Solo processor requires.