The ASUS W90 was designed with one goal in mind; blow all other gaming notebooks out of the water. The W90 features two ATI Radeon Mobility 4870 graphics cards connected in CrossFireX, an Intel T9600 processor, 6GB of DDR2 memory, and an 18.4” WUXGA display. With this configuration it can achieve upwards of 15,000 points in 3DMark06 and manage to fluidly play Crysis at 1920x1080 resolution. Selling for only $2,199 could the ASUS W90 be one of the best gaming notebook values on the market today? Keep reading to see for yourself.
ASUS W90Vp-X1 Specifications:
Build and Design
The W90 looks like a gaming notebook no matter how you try to explain it. The 18.4” chassis is far bigger than any other type of notebook, including any portable workstations. Compared to other gaming rigs the color scheme is very tasteful, with brushed metal panels and a moderately sized ASUS logo front and center. I tend to prefer the professional look over the fancy glossy painted gaming notebooks which make you stick out in a crowd.
The ASUS W90 is one of the largest notebooks that has passed through our office, with only the HP HDX Dragon and Dell XPS M2010 being larger. The 18.4” frame is designed to provide adequate cooling under stress down an Intel T9600 processor and two ATI Radeon Mobility 4870 graphics cards. This means a very thick chassis to provide airflow for 3 cooling fans and a sturdy frame so the notebook doesn’t bend when you try to pick it up. It feels like a tank, in both weight and size. Build quality is fantastic, better than most ASUS notebooks I have reviewed. Fit and finish are excellent and the materials used feel as if they will show little wear over the life of the notebook.
Access to system components is easy through a rear access panel that covers most of the bottom of the notebook. The main area houses both graphics cards, system memory, processor, wireless cards, and heatsinks. The hard drives are located in their own separate area, mounted in a tray designed to hold two drives. Our configuration only used one drive, leaving one slot open. Installing your own additional drive would be quite simple and cheap, needing only screws to attach the drive to the assembly.
The ASUS W90 has one of the “all-glass” style of displays, with a sheet of plastic over the LCD. It looks great and gives the notebook a clean appearance, but it increases the amount of reflection by about a factor of 10. Sitting in a bright office setting you can see a perfect reflection of your upper torso in the background. After a while you get used to it and it doesn’t become as much of a problem, but it is worth noting since not everyone likes them. The panel has a 1920x1080 resolution, great for gaming or enjoying a 1080p movie. Colors are bright and vibrant, and contrast is excellent with the glossy panel. Vertical viewing angles are above average with a modest viewing sweet spot before colors start to wash out or invert. Horizontal viewing angles are excellent, but at steep angles you start to see reflections more than the screen.
One odd behavior we noticed during the review was the system wanting to shutoff when the display lid was closed to around a 45 degree angle. Most notebooks detect the screen closing really close to the keyboard, so it was a surprise to find the notebook shutting down when we wanted to move it to another location by slightly closing the screen.
Keyboard and Touchpad
ASUS had no problems fitting a fullsize keyboard on the W90 with its 18.4” frame and still having space left over for touch sensitive media keys on one side. The keyboard has very squared off chiclet style keys in a traditional frame. It is very comfortable to type on for extended periods of time and has excellent support to prevent any noticeable flex. Key action is smooth with a quiet crumpling plastic sound when pressed. All of the keys are fullsize with the only odd arrangement being the location of the direction keys merged between the keyboard and number pad.
The large Synaptic touchpad is one feature of the notebook that I really love. It has sloped edges around the perimeter, instead of a hard barrier to show the edges of the touch surface. The texture is smooth with a light matte texture. It is easy to use even after my hands were sweating from sitting on top of the notebook for a couple of hours. The touchpad buttons are easy to trigger without much force needed to click. They have shallow feedback and give off a muted click when pressed, not an obnoxious snap.
Ports and Features
Port selection is good, but ASUS left a lot of room open that could have been used for more ports. It is sad that the 14.1” ASUS N81Vp has more ports than the 18.4” W90 gaming notebook. The system includes four USB ports, eSATA, FireWire, VGA, HDMI, modem, LAN, and an antenna port if you get a model with a TV tuner. The notebook also features a 8-in-1 card reader and ExpressCard/54 slot.
Left: Kensington Lock slot, 1 USB, Headphone/Mic
ASUS includes a wireless Bluetooth mouse and backpack with the W90, and they are actually not that bad at all for freebies. The backpack offers some protection for the notebook beyond a slipcase and with the brick carried along as enough room for a school book or two. The shoulder straps are adequately padded with additional material at the top to lug around the 16+lbs of the notebook and accessories. The front of the bag has a semi-rigid face for protection against impacts and the rear has pockets to conceal the waist strap when not in use. The mouse felt cheap compared to most Bluetooth competitors, but considering it was free we can’t complain much. It is powered by two AA batteries and fits comfortably in your hand.
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