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Asus' G50V gaming notebook

Gaming to go at 15.4 inches

Manufacturer Asus
Model G50V-A1
Price (Street)
Availability Now

The gaming notebook is not a new breed, but over the past two years, it has enjoyed a trickle-down into the mainstream. A province once exclusively occupied by manufacturers like Alienware and Voodoo PC using re-branded Clevo systems whose hulking proportions barely qualified them as portable, gaming notebooks are now produced by every major manufacturer in the market. Dell has become schizophrenic, with a line of specialized XPS gaming machines competing directly with its Alienware subsidiary, while rumors abound of HP swallowing Voodoo PC whole.

Asus, on the other hand, has seldom had much differentiating its gaming hardware from its garden-variety notebooks. While you might need to buy a dedicated gaming notebook full of flashing lights and pretty colors just to get a halfway decent GPU from another manufacturer, Asus will cheerfully sell you a GeForce 9600M in a more traditional shell. If you prefer something a little more exciting, Asus' new G50V offers a more focused approach to mobile gaming, employing Intel's exciting new Montevina platform, a GeForce 9 series GPU, and of course, a flashy aesthetic. Keep reading to see if this new system will help Asus push its notebooks into the American mainstream.

The G50V at first glance
The G50V isn't so much a single notebook as a series of models based on the same chassis. Today we'll be looking at the G50V-A1, which slots into the market between the G50V-A2 (which sports a Blu-ray drive but less storage capacity) and the G50V-X1 (which has a faster 7,200-RPM hard disk and a more economical 25W Core 2 Duo).

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 2.53GHz
Memory 4GB DDR2-800 (2 SO-DIMMs)
North bridge Intel PM45 Express
South bridge Intel ICH9M
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 9700M GT 512MB GDDR3
Display 15.4" TFT with WSXGA+ (1680x1050) resolution and CCFL backlight
Storage 2 5,400-RPM, 250GB Western Digital Scorpio
Audio Realtek ALC663 HD audio
Ports 3 USB 2.0
1 TV antenna input
1 4-pin FireWire
1 analog headphone output
1 analog headphone output/S/PDIF output
1 analog microphone input
Expansion slots 1 8-in-1 card reader
1 ExpressCard 34/54 slot
Communications 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via Intel WiFi Link 5100AGN
Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR
10/100/1000 LAN
Input devices "Full size" keyboard with dedicated number pad
Trackpad with two-finger scrolling
Camera 2.0 megapixel webcam
Dimensions 14.6" x 10.3" x 1.6" (371 mm x 262 mm x 41 mm)
Weight 6.5lbs (2.8kg) with battery
Battery 6-cell Li-Ion 4800mAh
Warranty Two years, one-year accidental damage replacement coverage

The G50V houses Intel's new Montevina platform, complete with a Penryn-based Core 2 Duo T9400 cruising at 2.53GHz, an Intel WiFi Link 5100 wireless adapter with draft-n support, and a shiny new PM45 chipset. In addition to supporting the 1066MHz front-side bus used by Intel's new 45nm Core 2 mobile processors, the PM45 has a dual-channel memory controller capable of handling DDR2 or DDR3 memory (Asus goes with DDR2-800 memory in the G50V) and a PCI Express 2.0 interface for discrete graphics chips. The PM45 is joined by an ICH9M south bridge chip, which notably includes an integrated Gigabit Ethernet MAC. Taken together, these components make up Intel's Centrino 2 platform, which promises improved performance and higher power efficiency than its predecessor.

Asus dips the G50V into gaming territory by equipping it with an Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT graphics processor backed by 512MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory. The 9700M has 32 DirectX 10-class "compute cores" and a 128-bit memory interface, and it's largely derived from the G96 GPU that powers desktop graphics cards like the GeForce 9500 GT. Nvidia clocks the 9700M's core at 625MHz, its shaders at 1550MHz, and the chip's memory at an effective 1600MHz. The chip also includes support for PureVideo HD, which provides hardware decode acceleration for all current high-definition video formats.

While hard drive technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, capacity in notebooks is still at a premium. The G50V-A1 ships with a spacious 500GB spread between two 250GB, 5,400-RPM drives configured to run as independent disks. More performance-oriented users could easily pop one of these drives out and replace it with a high-end SSD to enjoy the benefits of a high-performance system drive coupled with a higher capacity storage drive, just as enthusiasts have long done in desktops. Dual drive bays aren't new to the world of gaming notebooks, but in a system of this size, they're welcome nonetheless.