Asus’ G50Vt rolls an impressive array of hardware into a bulky-but-inexpensive package, with a heavy-handed dose of flair smeared on top. While the style might not be for everyone, and battery life makes its wall adapter an essential umbilical cord for use, it offers a very reasonably priced and playable system for those who want to game on the go without dropping thousands on pricy boutique systems.
Features and Design
Unlike Asus’ basic G50V model, which comes in a variety of different outfits, the G50Vt comes in only one $1,250 configuration sold at Best Buy. It gets an odd sized 15.6-inch XGA display, driven by a Nvidia’s powerful GeForce 9800M GS graphics card with 512MB of RAM, and a 2.26GHz Intel Centrino 2 Duo Mobile processor at its core. Memory and hard drive space are both supplied in abundance: 4GB of PC-5300 DDR2 RAM and a 320GB hard drive.
Besides an array of lights that rivals the Brooklyn Bridge at night, the G50 also sports a secondary LCD screen that can be set to display e-mails, battery life, and other messages regardless of what’s on the full display.
Weight and Size
When we first pried the G50 from its box and got a feel for its heft, we almost thought Asus had made a mistake and shipped us a notebook from six years ago. At 7.3 pounds and 1.6 inches thick, the G50 is one of the beefiest 15-inch notebooks on the market, and a total throwback to the days when Pentium III processors ruled and mammoth notebooks were lugged across the earth. For a gaming notebook, some extra flab is to be expected, but the Asus even tips scales against similarly equipped machines. The Alienware M15x, for instance, hits 7 pounds flat and 1.3 inches deep. The G50’s power brick (which is an essential travel item thanks to the machine’s dismal battery life) is also an anchor in both size and weight. In short: the G50 sits pretty on a desk, but don’t expect to do too much truly “mobile” computing with it.
The Circus Comes to Town
If Apple’s MacBook resembles the Volkswagen of the notebook world and ThinkPads are more akin to BMWs, Asus’ G50vt is the Honda Civic with a neon underglow kit that rattles by your house at 2 a.m. with the stereo blaring. It’s meant to get noticed.
The main hook for the eyes comes in the form of copious LED lighting plastered all over the case. Blue LEDs illuminate the badge on the lid, run down its sides, light up as indicators above the keyboard, and rim the touchpad. We’re talking one step away from the deck of the starship Enterprise, here.
Further cranking up its visual volume, Asus has adorned the lid with a swirling blue-on-black graphic that’s exclusive to the Vt version. The light-up LED bars get covered over in a translucent chrome trim, and the wrist rest sports a hexagonal embossed pattern that looks as if it’s been lifted directly from the body armor in Crysis. The rest is an amalgamation of finishes, from matte black on the bottom to gloss silver and black trimming the keyboard and display. Even the keyboard has been given a glittery coating, giving it a subtle shimmer.
The combined effect of all the glitz and glam is, well, a matter of taste. Some in our office loved the notebook and couldn’t wait to bust it out in public. Others nicknamed it “the Voltron laptop” and saw it more as a laughable spectacle. Much like the highly customized tuner cars of the world that it seems to draw some inspiration from, individual impressions may vary.
Ports and Connectivity
When it comes time to hook the G50Vt to a television, add peripherals, or pull data off a portable device, there really aren’t too many tasks the machine isn’t up to. It’s curriculum vitae is quite impressive: four USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, 1394 FireWire, eSATA, HDMI, VGA, an SD/MMC card reader, audio input, output and S/PDIF ports, and even a connector for an external Wi-Fi connector.
Not only does it include four USB 2.0 ports, they’re scattered across the machine with one on the left, one in back, and two on the right. This comes in handy when hooking up different devices. For instance: right-handed gamers will prefer the right ports for portable mice, the back is useful for portable hard drives and other devices that might sit behind a computer, and the two left-hand jack is readily accessible for devices like thumb drives.
For exterior displays, the G50 includes both an HDMI connector for high-def plasma and LCD displays, and a classic VGA port for legacy monitors. While we would have liked to see a DVI port for hooking up modern LCD computer monitors, the ease of converting from HDMI to DVI mostly makes it a nonissue, and if forced to choose between one or the other, HDMI is probably more useful in the end.
We were downright surprised to find a niche antenna connector on the G50vt, which is an absolute rarity on any notebook with built-in Wi-Fi. The N-female connector actually makes it possible to hook up exterior antennas to the book, which can be useful for anything from snagging Wi-Fi from a neighbor when your cable modem conks out, to wardriving with an antenna trailing out your window.
Image Courtesy of Asus
Despite its relatively modest price, the G50Vt performed extraordinarily well in our gaming performance tests, chewing up even demanding games with authority. Asus built this thing to play, and play it does.
We first stretched our gaming legs on the G50 with BioShock, which is an older title, but fairly representative of the type of middle-of-the-road title many gamers might interested in playing on a notebook. It uses DirectX 10 to create detailed bump-mapping on surface and atmospheric effects like shimmering water. After setting every feature to high, we were still able to stride through the game with the G50 barely breaking a sweat, rendering every detail with a smooth, flawless frame rate.
Since the G50Vt sliced through older games without so much as a hiccup, we fired up Crysis to run the machine through the ringer. Although we had issues with strange keyboard shortcuts booting it out of full-screen mode originally, and had some foreign characters crop up in corner, once we ironed out the kinks, it did an admirable job playing through an infamously demanding game.
After setting the resolution to the computer’s native full-screen, we managed to keep all settings at high and still have a playable, game, even if it did occasionally show signs of choppiness during scenes of extreme on-screen action. After turning anti-aliasing to 2x, game play began to crumble, but backing other settings down to medium returned the game’s silkiness. Overall, we were able to maintain extremely impressive graphics settings without losing playability, and highly commend the G50Vt for its hardware prowess.
In boot tests the G50Vt managed to get Vista running in about 58 seconds, which is respectable given the sluggish scores so many other notebooks rack up when saddled with the OS. Asus also includes a feature called Express Gate, which is like a built-in mini OS that snaps up quickly for applications like Skype or Web browsing. We were able to go from zero to homepage loaded in 45 seconds with it. That’s impressive compared to Windows Vista, or even many OS X machines, but given the limited capacity you end up with inside Asus’ groomed OS, the time savings didn’t really justify using it much for us.
Gorging on Batteries
Not surprisingly, the festival of lights dotting the outside of the G50, combined with its hotrod internals, make it an absolute battery hog when running full bore. In our testing, we only managed to wring about 45 minutes from the machine with games playing, lights blinking, and performance set to maximum.
Sadly, the machine doesn’t dial down very well, either. Asus does provide utilities to turn down the notebook’s excesses, but we had to laugh when we saw that even the book’s “power-saving mode” lights up the rear badge, one light bar, and the blue strip around the touchpad. An energy miser, it is not. After turning on every energy-saving setting, but leaving Wi-Fi on and surfing to simulate typical airport-type use, we managed to swing about 1 hour and 45 minutes – not an impressive figure for a notebook
Filling the tank is no quick exercise, either. In our testing, the G50 only managed to store away a single percentage point worth of charge for every two minutes it was plugged in as we worked. This makes the process of filling it up from nothing an agonizing affair best left to be completed overnight.
Image Courtesy of Asus
One of the G50’s most interesting features sits nestled directly above the keyboard next to the indicator lights. A small blue LCD screen acts as secondary display, which can be set to show battery life, new e-mails CPU usage, memory, and other functions through Asus’ software. While it could easily be called a novelty, we found the battery monitor to be genuinely useful, along with the e-mail indicator.
Though the Altec Lansing tag on the G50’s audio system might lead buyers to believe the speakers are something more than ordinary, we found them to be fairly unremarkable in testing. They lacked volume even at the highest settings, rattled the keyboard at punctuations in music, and barely even hinted at any bass – all hallmarks of a standard pair of notebook speakers. They’ll work for Windows sound effects and quick YouTube clips, but extended music, movie or game sessions will definitely demand a pair of headphones.
If you’re willing to accept the limitations of a gaming notebook, including poor battery life, size, bulk, and debatably gaudy styling, the Asus G50Vt delivers many times over in sheer speed and performance. It shocked us with its capabilities, and with a pricetag of only $1,250, we would even call it bargain for the segment.
• Screaming performance
• Reasonable price
• Unique look
• Convenient secondary display
• Stellar connectivity
• Awful battery life
• Extremely large, heavy
• Loud styling
• Mediocre sound quality