Asus – W90 review

class-leading desktop replacement with ATi's flagship mobile GPU
Photo of Asus – W90
£2,175

Asus has carved itself an impressive reputation in the notebook market, with the majority of its models offering just the right mix of quality, design and value. The W90 represents the firm’s flagship desktop replacement, and with one of the most luxurious specifications we have ever seen it almost justifies its £2,175 price point.

A colossal 18.4-inch screen dominates the laptop’s lid, and as you’d hope it boasts a full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. That extra 1.4 inches on the screen means the W90 is considerably easier on the eyes when reading text compared to most desktop replacements, and makes the system better suited for watching movies at medium viewing distances. That said, the screen is not as bright or vibrant as we would have liked, and certainly doesn’t boast contrast levels as rich as those we have seen in Clevo alternatives, or MSI’s £1,200 GT725.

At the heart of the W90 beats a Core 2 Duo T9550, one of Intel’s fastest dual core mobile processors. With a clock speed of 2.66GHz it’s fast enough to get the best out of the rest of the specification, which is just as well as this Asus is mightily endowed.

6GB of memory is a huge amount by even desktop standards, while a pair of 320GB SATA II hard disks can be configured in either RAID or standalone configurations. A Hitachi Blu-Ray player is also included, making the W90 a great choice for high definition video fanatics, and the huge screen is ably accelerated by ATi’s fastest mobile video accelerator, the Mobility 4870 X2.

Aesthetically Asus has done a great job. Despite its colossal dimensions the W90 feels extremely robust and solidly put together. The metallic-blue finish is subtle and understated, whilst the leather finishing just above the keyboard adds a little luxury. Sound is provided by audio experts Altec Lansing, and with surround speakers adorning both the front and side edges it creates a suitably impressive soundstage for a laptop. Also adorning the outside edges are four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA interface, Gigabit LAN and Firewire, while external display capabilities are provided by both HDMI and VGA ports.

Much of the W90′s substantial weight comes from the well-proportioned battery, which, with a rating of 93Wh, allowed the notebook to last for more than an hour even under heavy use. It may not sound like much, but this is impressive indeed for a desktop replacement, particularly one with an 18.4-inch display. Nevertheless, at 7.6kg it is a far from portable machine, even when using the high quality backpack Asus bundles with the laptop. The power brick alone – which is actually more of a breeze block – weighs more than the laptop used to tap out this article.

In our performance tests the W90 showed an impressive turn of speed. In 2D productivity test PCMark Vantage it managed a desktop-challenging score of 4,066 points, whilst in Cinebench R10 it scored over 5,500 points. With its Radeon 4870 X2, however, the W90 is clearly aimed at gamers and, true to form, it provided stunning frame rates in both FarCry 2 and 3DMark Vantage, easily eclipsing other laptops we have tested using the competing GeForce GTX280M. In Crysis Warhead and GTA IV it struggled compared to its Nvidia nemesis, however, proving that there is still optimisation work to be done by ATi’s Mobility driver team.

All in all the W90 is an impressive hulk of a notebook. Its 7.6kg bulk will rule it out as a realistic option for the daily commute, but if you need gaming grunt and simply don’t have the space to justify a desktop computer, this is a great choice.

Company: Asus

Contact: 0870 1208340


Verdict
Although not without its limitations, the W90 is an impressive and capable desktop replacement. Those looking for the best multimedia and gaming experience available need look no further than this, though for nearly a grand less we'd recommend you also consider MSI's exceptional GT725.