So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
A good all-purpose notebook that falls short of greatness
- Excellent variety of connections
- No Blu-ray, dim screen, no Gigabit Ethernet, low battery-life
The ASUS M51VA-AS045G is mid-range laptop with a fantastic array of connections and strong processing performance. Unfortunately the screen’s default dimness may prove annoying for novice users and the lack of Gigabit Ethernet at this price point is disappointing.
Price$ 1,999.00 (AUD)
If you’re not looking for a Blu-ray capable unit and you don’t mind a screen that is only average, the ASUS M51VA-AS045G is a notebook that has "future-proofing" written all over it, thanks to an excellent variety of expansion options and strong hardware performance. The sad exceptions to this are its inability to play Blu-ray discs and the absence of Gigabit Ethernet.
HP’s good value Pavilion dv5-1009TX proved that it is possible to fit a Blu-ray player into a $2000 laptop without causing financial collapse (although there may be a few people who disagree on that point.) Given that it is touted as a “Multimedia Notebook” it would have been nice to see the M51VA-AS045G equipped with a high-def drive, instead of the dual-layer DVD-RW it comes with.
More problematic is the notebook's screen. Although it displays pictures with vivid colour contrasts, there’s a distinct dimness that requires tinkering in the advanced settings of ATI’s Catalyst Control Centre to improve; this may be a bit complicated for novice users.
These points aside, the M51VA is a largely well-endowed notebook. The built-in HDMI allows it to connect to modern LCD and plasma panels, while FireWire S400 connectivity means it will work with devices like cameras and camcorders. The ExpressCard/54 slot is a welcome inclusion as are the four USB2.0 ports. Most impressive is the inclusion of an e-SATA port. This underutilised port allows speedy data transfers to external drives like the Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II (WDH2Q20000) and is gradually becoming more mainstream.
The ASUS is no slug when it comes to performance, with a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 CPU, 4GB of DDR2 RAM and a 320GB serial ATA hard drive that spins at 5400rpm. The unit comes with the 32-bit edition of Windows Vista, which results in the system only using 3GB of the RAM. This doesn’t stop the laptop from performing fairly well, however. ASUS also throws in a 250GB external hard drive that looks good and works quite nicely.
In our WorldBench 6 tests the M51VA managed to score 96. This means that most hardware-intensive tasks such as video encoding and 3-D rendering can be performed efficiently. Our iTunes benchmarking, which strains the CPU by converting 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, provided further proof of the system’s strength by performing the task in the excellent time of 67sec.
While the ATI Mobility Radeon HD3650 GPU won’t be blowing the socks off gamers anytime soon, it’ll still play plenty of classics like F.E.A.R. and Half Life 2 without any problems. In our 3DMark 06 benchmarks, the ASUS returned a score of 3705.
The notebook is quite user-friendly. The keyboard is full-sized (with the exception of the small Ctrl and cursor keys, which will take getting used to), so it is easy to use. The number pad is rather small, but it is still fairly useful for those needing to bash out calculations.
For those on the go, the weight may prove to be a bit of an issue with the M51VA coming in at 2.85kg without the power supply and 3.3kg with everything included. Our battery test result doesn't help the case either, with the 6-cell lithium-ion battery lasting just 1hr 19min.
The M51VA features 802.11n wireless networking as well as 10/100 Ethernet. At this price point we’d expect to see Gigabit Ethernet, so the slower connection was disappointing. Bluetooth 2.0 is provided as well, which is good news for those with compatible accessories.
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