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Asus G50Vt-X1

>> Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Available exclusively from Best Buy, the Asus G50Vt-X1 ($1,249.99) has the look and feel of a high end gaming notebook, and it has some cool features, like one touch over clocking and interactive lighting effects. Although it can’t match the 3D performance of some high octane (and high priced) gaming rigs, it has more than enough chops to run today’s DirectX 9 (DX9) gaming titles with ease. With a shiny piano black lid sporting a touch of blue detailing and a glowing Asus Republic of Gamers logo badge, the 7.2 pound G50Vt-X1 has “gaming system” written all over it.

A pair of blue light strips embedded in the sides of the lid completes the look. The same glossy black trim surrounds the 15.6 inch display, the 1,366x768 resolution of which is fine for most multimedia applications but a tad skimpy for 3D gaming (Alienware’s Area-51 m15x has a 1,920x1,200 screen but is much more expensive). The screen is plenty bright and offers good viewing angles from all sides. A 1.3 megapixel Webcam and microphone array are built into its upper bezel.

As is the case with most 1.3 megapixel cameras, image quality is grainy but adequate for e-mailing photos and using Skype. The silver keyboard deck contains a full size black keyboard and a nice wide touch pad, both of which are responsive and comfortable. The touch pad is framed by a strip of blue LEDs that match the exterior lighting. Above the keyboard are a small 3.1 inch Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display and four touch sensitive buttons that let you change the look and performance of the G50Vt-X1.

The button on the left takes you into the Direct Console applet, where you can toggle among three processor modes Normal (2.26GHz), Turbo (2.38GHz), and Turbo Extreme (2.49GHz) on the fly, without having to reboot or enter the BIOS.

The console also lets you change lighting effect modes to flash according to CPU and memory activity (Interactive), flash every two seconds (Fancy), or a combination of both (Advanced). You can choose to turn the lights off to conserve battery power as well.

Direct Console is where you program the OLED to show CPU and memory usage, battery level, MSN Instant Messages, and the Sender and Subject header from incoming Outlook e-mail messages, if you so desire. The button with the lightning bolt icon activates Express Gate, a Splashtop application that lets you surf the Web, play music, view photos, and conduct online chats, all without having to power up the system or boot into Windows. The Power Mode button toggles among various battery power states, and the Touch Pad button turns the touch pad on or off.

Three speakers (two above the keyboard and one on the bottom of the chassis) manage only average audio output with no real bass response. The G50Vt-X1 offers a nice variety of multimedia ports : HDMI, VGA, FireWire, external SATA (eSATA), S/PDIF audio, and four USB ports are scattered around the back and side edges. A multiformat card reader and an ExpressCard slot are located on the left side of the chassis, and on the right is a multiformat DVD burner with LightScribe labeling capabilities.

A good size hard drive (320GB) comes with 64 bit Windows Vista Home Premium installed. With a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor, 4GB of system memory, and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GS graphics controller, the G50Vt-X1 turned in some respectable scores on our benchmark tests. Its PCMark Vantage score of 3,690 was above average for this class of notebook, as was its Cinebench 10 score of 4,615 and Windows Media Encoder score of 6 minutes and 48 seconds. In Turbo Extreme mode (2.49GHz) the system scored 3,703 on PCMark Vantage and finished the Window Media Encoder test in 6 minutes and 5 seconds.

While both Turbo Extreme scores are somewhat faster, the overall performance gain is minute. The G50’s 3DMark06 (1,024x768) score of 8,873 blew away the iBuypower Battalion 101 CZ9 Ultra's score by more than 3,700 points, but its iTunes conversion score of 3 minutes and 54 seconds was just a tad slower (the iBuypower needed 3 minutes and 33 seconds to encode the 11 songs). An impressive score of 74.3 frames per second (fps) on our Company of Heroes test (run at its native resolution, with effects set to maximum) is evidence of this system's DX9 gaming prowess.

The G50 managed only 23.9fps on the DX10 version of this test, however bumping the processor speed up to 2.49GHz hardly made a difference, producing a score of 24.4 fps. Unfortunately, the G50’s 6 cell battery lasted a scant 1 hour and 35 minutes, which is not quite enough to get you through a full length DVD movie without requiring a charge. In terms of budget gaming, test for test, the G50Vt-X1’s scores were very close to usually trailing, just a tad the $1,399 Gateway P-7811FX, which has a 17 inch screen and is a little less portable.

Despite its weak DX10 gaming performance and low resolution display, however, the Asus G50Vt-X1 is a good deal for gamers who refuse to pay thousands of dollars for a gaming notebook and who need a gaming rig they can travel with. Besides, solid DX9 performance and a high coolness factor are hard to come by at this price.


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