The G50V, one of ASUS' newest gaming notebooks, is the $1,699 sequel to its successor, theG1. Its 15.4-inch display may fool you into thinking this is a mainstream notebook, but the G50V's gaming hardware, glowing lights, and neon orange accents--not to mention performance scores--will make fraggers give it a second look.
The brightly colored orange and black G50V screams gaming laptop, but its 15.4-inch display is much smaller than the typical 17-inch gaming systems we're used to. And at just a hair over 6 pounds, it's not too heavy to tote around occasionally, either. The keyboard is large, and a small number pad is on the right side. However, the keys take a bit more force than we're used to; the system didn't always recognize every letter we hit. The touchpad and buttons both offered great feedback, and we like that these keys have a brushed metal finish, which felt sturdy under our fingertips.
Four soft-touch buttons reside above the keyboard: The first launches the ASUS console for overclocking, changing the lights, and customizing the messages; the second opens Windows Media Center in Vista or ASUS' ExpressGate quick-boot operating system; the third button switches between three power performance profiles; and the fourth toggles the touchpad on and off.
Display and Audio
We like the G50V's 15.4-inch, 1680 x 1050 high-definition display; colors looked crisp and the picture was bright overall. Even better, though, is the system's secondary 3.1-inch OLED, placed just above the keyboard. You can use this screen to display system resources, including available memory and CPU task percentage, or display a custom message. In our case: "Todd Rules the School." There's also the option to turn on an e-mail indicator icon, if you're running Microsoft Outlook, and support for Windows Live Messenger alerts.
Our system came with a DVD burner (a Blu-ray option is available as well). The G50V also has an eSATA port, a single HDMI port for outputting video and audio to an HDTV, and an HDTV tuner, but an antenna was not provided so we were unable to test its performance. ASUS said that HDTV tuners will not be included in mass production units.
The ASUS G50V has two Altec Lansing speakers directly below the display and a single down-firing speaker underneath the unit, which produced crisp audio, but lacked strong bass. In Call of Duty we could clearly hear the shouts around us and our footsteps, and gunfire and explosions weren't overly tinny. We also listened to Common's Be; his voice was perfectly clear, and the synthesized beats in the background were just as sharp. We do wish the speakers were louder; they pumped out enough noise for us while sitting at a desk, but they won't be loud enough for entertaining groups.
ExpressGate On Board
ExpressGate is ASUS' version of Splashtop's instant-on environment powered by Linux, which you can launch by pressing a small lightning bolt key above the keyboard when the G50V is off. ExpressGate allows you to do the basics, such as chat, surf the Web, listen to music, and make Skype calls. We liked having the option to boot up quickly and send off an e-mail, access our music quickly, and check sports scores, but we didn't use it that often because of its limited use. While it takes only 8 seconds to launch ExpressGate--compared with the 1 minute and 19 seconds the G50V took to boot to Windows--gamers will want access to the OS.
The ASUS G50V has plenty of power under the hood, including Intel's Centrino 2 platform with a 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor. There's also 4GB of RAM, and two 250GB hard drives for a total of 500GB of storage. The G50V performed well against similar-size mainstream notebooks, scoring 3,304 on PCMark Vantage (which measures Vista application performance). That's a little less than 200 points above the category average. However, this mark is significantly lower than the more-affordable 17-inchGateway P-7811FX, which scored 3,994 on the same test.
Powered by the mid-range Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT discrete graphics, the G50V fared well against the category averages during our gaming and graphics tests but, not surprisingly, fell short of the top performers. On 3DMark03 (which tests DirectX 9 performance), we pulled in a score of 18,832, which bested the 12,797 average. Still, it's much lower than the P-7811FX, which notched 28,529. Similarly, on 3DMark06 the G50V scored 5,662, which is 443 points above the average, but again, much lower than the P-7811FX (8,679).
The ASUS overclocking console let us boost our CPU speed from 2.53 GHz to 2.79 GHz at the touch of a button. Although the performance boost was minute in 3DMark03 (150 points) and in 3DMark06 (121 points), we did see a noticeable boost in PCMark Vantage, as the score rose to 4,201 from 3,304, which helped it best the aforementioned Gateway P-7811FX system's score.
With F.E.A.R. set to autodetect and with a resolution of 1024 x 768, the G50V cut through this game like butter, averaging 87 frames per second. Even at its native 1680 x 1050-pixel resolution, it was able to slice through at 56 frames per second. In Crysis, we were able to maintain a playable 19 fps with the resolution set to a low 1024 x 768 and graphics on medium. When we bumped the graphics up to native, we saw an average of 16 fps; the game was playable, but the graphics weren't as sharp as they could have been, and firefights were a bit laggy. Still, these scores aren't bad considering the G50V is targeted towards the enthusiast gamer market, and not so much the hardcore gamer, who would probably prefer the much more expensiveAlienware Area-51 m15xfor its higher performance scores, or even ASUS' own G70s. The m15x delivered a speedier 31 frames per second with the same graphics settings.
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
The G50V achieved data transfer speeds of 20.7 Mbps 15 feet away from our router, and 18.2 Mbps at a distance of 50 feet. That's better than the average, which is 18.2 Mbps and 14.9 Mbps at the same distances. The 2 hours and 32 minutes of battery life is just two minutes shy of the average for desktop replacement systems, which typically have dismal battery life, drained by large displays and powerful graphics processors. Compared with the average mainstream machine, the G50V drained an hour and five minutes faster.
Although the ASUS G50V's scores are very good for a 15.4-inch notebook, customers should think seriously about the Gateway P-7811FX, which has better raw performance scores and costs $300 less while delivering a larger display. While the Gateway is heavier and has worse wireless performance, it lasts 42 minutes longer on a charge. But if you dig a profile that more resembles a mainstream computer, and flashing lights for some LAN party wowing, check out the ASUS G50V.