With its gamer-friendly design, which includes glowing LEDs on the lid and orange metallic accents on the keyboard deck, the 15.4-inch Asus G50V-A1 seems to take a deliberate stab at the Alienware Area-51 m15x. And by most measures, it’s a fatal blow. Granted, the Alienware does boast some higher-end components, such as an Intel Core 2 Extreme processor, and slightly higher frame rates than the Asus. But the Asus G50V provides a similar feature set and frame rates that are thoroughly playable, at a price that’s $1,500 less than the Alienware. We were disappointed in the G50V’s battery life, which should have been a bit longer, given its size. And if you’re willing to step up to a larger, 17-inch system, you can save a few hundred bucks and get a few more frames per second with the Gateway P-7811FX. But for gamers who want a laptop that’s a bit more portable than the typical gaming system, the Asus G50V delivers competitive performance at an affordable price.
|Processor||2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45 Express|
|Memory||4GB of 800MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB (2 x 250GB) at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (wide x deep x thick)||14.6 x 10.3 x 1.3-1.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.3 / 8.8 pounds|
True to its gaming focus, the Asus G50V’s glossy black lid features blue LED strips along the sides and bottom of the lid; when the laptop is turned off, these accents are reflective silver. A “Republic of Gamers” badge, which looks like a soccer team’s logo, also glows blue at the top of the lid. Above it sits a silver Asus logo, while “Asus Republic of Gamers” is also written in small black text across a silver stripe at the bottom of the lid. Despite this abundance of design elements, the exterior of the case manages to maintain an attractive, sleek look.
Inside, the lid is framed by a glossy black display bezel with beveled edges that helps ease the transition from screen to case. Below it, a metallic orange keyboard deck grabs your attention, while a black row of quick-launch buttons, black keys, and black wrist rest keep the orange from being too distracting. The touch pad is framed by glowing blue LED strips; around the LEDs is a silver frame and mouse buttons.
Traditionally, gaming laptops have been massive desktop replacements. But by virtue of its slightly smaller screen, the Asus G50V takes up less room on your desk and is more portable than its 17-inch counterparts. It’s even lighter than the (also 15.4-inch) Alienware Area-51 m15x. Relative to non-gaming-oriented 15.4-inch laptops, however, the Asus G50V is bulky and slightly heavy.
The Asus G50V’s 15.4-inch wide-screen display has a sharp 1,680×1,050 native resolution–just shy of 1080p, though not enough to notice on our downloaded HD content. We’d likely appreciate the sharp resolution more if the G50V were equipped with a Blu-ray drive (it’s not). But as it is, even standard-definition movies look attractive, with excellent clarity and sharpness. Our only complaint is that the display’s glossy coating produced rather annoying reflections in our brightly lit environment.
Asus manages to squeeze a 10-key number pad alongside the G50V’s keyboard without ruining the typing experience–no small feat on a midsize system, and a feature likely to be welcomed by gamers. The wide touch pad and metallic mouse buttons are likewise comfortable. In a nice touch, the blue LED frame around the touchpad turns off if you disable the pad (via a handy light-touch key above the keyboard) to use an external mouse.
Next to the touch pad on/off key, a Power4Gear Extreme key lets you toggle among power-saving modes, and a Direct Console key to launch a system management utility (which is where you can control or disable the case LEDs). The final light-touch key launches Asus’ Express Gate software, which is essentially a light Linux environment that lets you launch a Web browser, make a Skype call, or listen to music (among other activities) without booting Windows. Next to the light-touch keys sits a small display panel that can be customized to display various system and battery statistics as well as e-mail and IM alerts.
|Asus G50V-A1||Average for midsize category|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks, S/PDIF-out||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, multiformat memory card reader, eSATA||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Asus G50V’s case is lined with some unexpected connections for a midsize laptop, including HDMI- and S/PDIF-out for high-definition video and audio, as well as an eSATA port for hooking up external SATA hard drives. What’s missing? Aside from a Blu-ray drive–which, while nice, is hardly a necessity–a remote control would have been welcome, particularly considering the laptop lacks dedicated media playback or volume controls. Also missing: decent sound from the laptop’s far-too-muddled Altec Lansing stereo speakers. In a nice touch, the company throws a coordinating backpack and USB optical mouse into the box so you’ll have everything you need for your next LAN party.
The Asus G50V is available in two nearly identical configurations, both with a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor, 4GB of 800MHz RAM, and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT graphics card. The only difference between the two is hard-drive capacity and speed; we tested the $1,699 G50V-A1, which includes two 250GB, 5,400rpm drives. The $1,899 Asus G50V-A2 packs smaller but faster drives–a pair of 200GB, 7,200rpm drives–and a Blu-ray drive.
On the standard suite of CNET Labs’ performance benchmarks, the G50V-A1 fell in line with the Sony Vaio AW170Y/Q–no surprise there, the two laptops are nearly identically configured–and held its own against such gaming-oriented systems as the Alienware Area-51 m15x and the Gateway P-7811FX. When it came to our Unreal Tournament 3 gaming benchmark, the Asus G50V-A1 posted a very playable 57.7 frames per second at 1,280×1,050 resolution.
The Asus G50V ran for 1 hour and 46 minutes on our video playback battery drain test. That battery score is rather disappointing, given that the G50V’s smaller size means it’s more likely than the average gaming laptop to be used in mobile scenarios. Even the 17-inch Gateway P-7811FX had longer battery life than the Asus.