Laptops continue to outsell desktop PCs and the continuing evolution of ‘desktop replacement’ laptops is one of the reasons. The Asus F70 series (we’re reviewing the F70SL-TY076C here) certainly has the screen to do it, claiming to be the first notebook with a 17.3-inch display. This sounds a mite exciting, until you remember that 17.0-inch screens are relatively commonplace in large portables.
The 0.3-inch improvement does mean the F70 has a true 16:9 aspect ratio, though, which Asus claims gives it a ‘Full High Definition 1080p display’. This is not true: HD 1080p requires a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, so quite how does a 1,600 x 900 screen, as fitted to the F70, match up?
Hype excepted, this is a good screen and it does well with Standard Definition movies. The sound is good, too, as there’s an Altec Lansing sound system with SRS surround built in. The bass is still weak, but it delivers better mid-range frequencies than many.
The keyboard is light and easy to use, as it’s full size and has a separate number pad. The touchpad is big, smooth and has a dedicated scroll strip down the right-hand side. There’s a see-saw button bar for the mouse buttons, though the buttons are much stiffer than they should be and make a click loud enough to annoy librarians.
Round the edges of the case are four USB sockets, along with Ethernet, external VGA, microphone and two headphone jacks, the second doubling as an S/PDIF connector. It also has an HDMI socket which supports HDCP, so you could get full 1080p on an external monitor or TV.
The main hardware spec is good, but not spectacular. The processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo T5850 processor, with 4GB of main memory and a 320GB SATA hard drive. There’s a dual-layer DVD rewriter, an ExpressCard slot and one for both SD and MemoryStick cards. A 1.3-megapixel webcam is set in above the screen.
The graphics chip is an Nvidia GeForce 9600, which is powerful enough for most of the things you’d want to do, but is not going to run the latest games smoothly; certainly not at anything like full resolution.
Supplied software includes Norton IS 2008 and Nero 8 Essentials, as well as a number of Asus utilities, such as the strangely-named Splendid for screen colour settings and the more utilitarian Data Security Management for setting up an encrypted data vault.
Under test, PCMark Vantage returned an index of 2,701, which is fair, though there are rival laptops which do better. Battery life on a machine this size is less important than on a netbook, but you won’t get through a feature film running full-screen: we saw 1 hour and 39 minutes of Spider-man 2 before the screen faded to black and the machine shut down.
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