New Asus laptops focus on design distinctiveness

The Consumer Electronics Show doesn't officially begin until Thursday, but today Asus gathered the press to show off several interesting new notebook models based on Intel's latest mobile CPUs. We expected one of the world's largest manufacturers of portable PCs to be showing systems based on the Arrandale and Pine Trail platforms, of course. What we didn't expect was the sort of designs Asus rolled out.

My hipster sources tell me that collabos are all the rage these days, so I suppose it's only fitting that Asus has teamed up with designer Karim Rashid for a series of fashionable netbooks. The cooperative effort came up with a uniquely textured exterior designed to play with light, create shadows, and hopefully stave off fingerprint smudges. This exterior finish is available in 80s-friendly hot pink or a subtler shade of brown gold. The former is a glossy affair, but the mocha flavor's finish is more textured, with almost a rubber-like feel.

Under their flashy exteriors, these new netbooks feature Atom N250 processors, 1GB of RAM, 10.1" 1024x600 displays, 250GB hard drives, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Nothing novel there, then. According to Asus, these new systems are officially priced at $499, but are expected to sell for less when they actually hit the market.

While the high-fashion netbooks are probably niche products, I think the design of one of Asus' new mainstream notebook platforms looks even better. For years, Asus has been looking at ways to incorporate bamboo—a renewable and eco-friendly resource—into its high-volume notebook products. They've finally cracked the formula with the U Series Bamboo Collection, which melds plastic-impregnated bamboo with gorgeous brushed aluminum. The contrasting materials make for an original aesthetic, one that instantly reminded me of the interior of a high-priced Jaguar or Aston Martin—except the U Series will be quite a bit more affordable, with some systems selling for around a grand.

Members of the bamboo collection will be available with Core i3 and i5 processors, switchable graphics, and USB 3.0 connectivity. There's no word on what sort of screen sizes will be available, but given Asus' current mainstream notebook platforms, I'd expect at least a few options between 13 and 16 inches.

If you've been following TR for a while now, you know that big gaming laptops aren't really our thing. Still, there's a lot to like in Asus' G73 gaming rig, whose surprisingly restrained design eschews the bling usually associated with gaming systems in favor of a matte black finish and angular lines inspired by the F-117 Stealth Fighter. The wedge-shaped chassis puts the LED-backlit keyboard at a comfortable 5° angle while allowing for larger exhaust ports that pipe heat out the back of the system and away from the user.

Asus says the G73 will come with a selection of Core i5 and i7 processors, up to 8GB of memory, a 17.3" 1920x1080 display, Radeon Mobility 5870 graphics, and optional Blu-ray. At least one configuration will sell for just $1600, too, which isn't a bad deal for a system that should be able to play recent games smoothly at its native 1080p resolution.

Asus saved its most outlandish new notebook for last. The NX90 was crafted in conjunction with lead Bang & Olufsen designer David Lewis, which explains the relatively large speakers that jut out from either side of the screen—and, indeed, the notebook itself. Most of the system, including its expansive top panel, is covered in aluminum polished to a near-mirror finish. There are other unique touches, too, such as dual touchpads that sit on either side of the keyboard.

Bang & Olufsen gear isn't cheap, and neither is the NX90. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $2500 for this high-concept desktop replacement. In exchange, you'll get a Core i5 or i7 processor, an 18.4" 1080p display, GeForce GT 335M graphics, and a Blu-ray reader. A 16" NX60 derivative will be available, as well, although there's no word yet on pricing.

Hit the image gallery below for more high-res shots of Asus' new notebook designs.

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