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Asus M70VM-7T031C review

Verdict

A monster of a Centrino 2 laptop: fast, surprisingly long-lasting and very well-equipped for the price

Review Date: 17 Jul 2008

Reviewed By: Matthew Sparkes

Price when reviewed: (£900 inc VAT)

Manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of design more than ever before at the moment, as Asus and countless others shrink laptops to unprecedented sizes and prices in the mini-laptop wars. However, it seems that the bulk Asus removes from one end of its range is ending up in the other, specifically in laptops like the 4kg-plus M70V.

At such a weight the laptop is virtually impossible to pick up with one hand, and we also struggled to fit it in all but the largest of bags - both of which make for a real problem as far as portability goes. This is really more of a luggable desktop replacement machine than a regular portable.

So it's too heavy to carry for long, but the laptop drains the battery a little slower than it saps your energy when on the move. Despite the huge 17in display it needs to power, it lasted just one hour and 40 minutes in our intensive test and a creditable three hours when idle. This should get you through all but the most epic of DVDs on a long journey.

And those uncomfortably wide dimensions bring some real benefits too. It may break your back carrying it up the stairs, but once you collapse you can enjoy the massive 1,920 x 1,200 resolution that lets you stack a Word document beside a website with ease. This is the sort of real estate that you normally need a desktop TFT to provide.

There's just as much space inside the machine as there is out, too, with two identical 320GB hard disks giving well over half a terabyte of space in which to store video, audio and games. There is also a Blu-ray drive to pipe HD content to the massive, high resolution screen - fully capable of displaying the full 1080p experience, even if you don't quite see the benefit you would on a 40in TV.

The 41cm wide chassis is also so large that even with 35mm of wasted space on each edge, the keyboard is still comfortably full-size, and has room enough for a separate number pad. Typing on the board is comfortable, and as the wrist rest is so deep you get the sensation of typing on a desk with a recessed, built-in keyboard. What the huge notebook lacks in comfort on the move, it more than makes up for when on a desk. The only criticism was that we repeatedly hit insert when reaching for the Delete key; a real pain when word processing, although the severity of these quirks is often very personal and subjective.

A lot of excellent additional features also litter the chassis; a fingerprint reader for secure logins, a swivelling webcam that can capture in front or behind the notebook, and HDMI and eSATA ports for hooking up HD cameras, external displays and storage.

The sound produced by the notebook is impressive, too, helped by the inclusion of two separate Altec Lansing tweeters above the keyboard and a small sub-woofer on the bottom of the case. It can't rival a standalone set of speakers in volume, but can easily fill a small room with music and watching films is equally satisfying.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the notebook, though, is that it's one of the first we've seen to conform to Intel's new Centrino 2 platform (along with the Sony VAIO VGN-SR19XN). This fifth iteration of the company's platform specifies that energy-efficient 45nm Penryn processors be used, alongside a specific Intel draft-n Wi-Fi chip. It's a step more evolutionary than revolutionary, but more can be read about Centrino 2 here.

On first inspection, the Asus compares well to our A-Listed enthusiast notebook, the Dell XPS M1730. But Asus informs us that the 2.53GHz T9400 processor present in our sample won't be in UK models - instead we'll be getting the bottom-end P8400, running at 2.26GHz. It's not the end of the world in terms of speed - the M70 won't score the 1.29 this sample achieved, but you can still expect something above 1.1 from the P8400, which is faster than the 1.06 of the Dell.

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