ASUS F50SV-A2 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (41,534)
  • Pros

    • Good performance
    • System stay cool under stress
    • Nice design and build quality
  • Cons

    • Mediocre battery life
    • Very high power consumption

by Kevin O’Brien

The ASUS F50SV-A2 is a midrange gaming notebook that offers an Intel P8600 Core 2 Duo Processor and a NVIDIA GeForce GT 120M 1GB graphics card in a 16” shell. The notebook also offers a built-in Blu-ray drive for watching movies on the 16:9 display or outputting them through HDMI to your home entertainment system. Priced at $1,149 ASUS has this F50 competing against the HP dv6t, Gateway MC series, and Dell Studio XPS 16. Is the ASUS F50 worth checking out? Read our full review to find out.

ASUS F50SV-A2 Specifications:

  • Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (1066MHz FSB, 3MB L2 Cache)
  • Chipset: SiS 671DX+968
  • Memory: 4GB DDR2-800 (2GB x 2GB)
  • HDD: 320GB 7200rpm
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 120M 1GB GDDR2 VRAM
  • Display: 16.0” WXGA 1366×768 Color-Shine (Glossy)
  • Optical Drive: BD-ROM + DVDRW+/-
  • OS: Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64 bit)
  • Wireless: Atheros AR928x B/G/N Wifi and Bluetooth 2.0
  • Battery: 6-cell battery
  • Dimensions: 14.96″ x 10.43″ x 1.4″ ~ 1.64″
  • Weight: 6lbs 5.9oz, 7lbs 5.2oz travel weight
  • Warranty: 2 year global, 1 year accidental damage
  • Price as configured: $1,149

Build and Design
The ASUS F50 has a slick design that looks clean and very modern. In a way you could easily compare it to the look HP uses in their notebooks having most of the surfaces color-matched and glossy. The palmrest and touchpad surface share the same design, with the pattern flowing seamlessly through both surfaces. Above, the keyboard keys are matte black with glossy black trim bordering the keyboard. The F50 lacks touch-sensitive multimedia keys, instead having only quick access buttons for Instant-On, power switching mode, Web browser, touchpad disable, and power.

Build quality is above average with solid plastic used throughout the notebook, which helps reduce flex and protect components. The screen cover gives adequate protection against impacts and the display shows no ripples when you press firmly on the back cover. The palmrest has good support and only flexes under strong pressure from your hands. Under normal activity it feels rock solid. The keyboard is the same, with minimal flex under heated typing.

ASUS gives quick access to user-serviceable components through two access panels on the back of the notebook. One bay houses only the hard drive, while the other has the processor, memory, and wireless card. No “warranty void if removed” stickers were present on the covers, but one was stuck to one of the processor heatsink screws.

Display
The 16” display is above average in terms of viewing quality, but I really wish ASUS could have included a higher resolution panel. When manufacturers stick with lower resolutions on larger panels pixels become more apparent and screen real estate seems wasted. The panel is a Samsung model, with the part number being 160At01-A05. Overall the panel looks good with good color saturation and contrast levels thanks in part to the glossy surface.

Screen brightness is fine for viewing in a bright office environment … even at lower brightness settings. Outdoor viewing is limited by glare off the glossy surface, but it might be usable if you found a big tree to sit under with lots of shade. Vertical viewing angles are normal, having a narrow viewing sweet spot before color starts to wash out or invert. On the F50SV you have about 10 degrees forward or back before you start to see colors changing. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, staying true even to very steep angles.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the F50 is full-size with numberpad, using all of the space provided by the wide 16” chassis. It is comfortable to type on, but the key shape might take a bit to get used to. Individual key action is smooth with a light audible click when pressed. Most keys are shaped with a cupped surface on top and wide sloped edges. The F50 is designed with more of a flat top and narrow sloped edges. If you are used to sliding your fingers across the keyboard to other keys, you will catch your fingertip on the edge of each key. After typing for a couple of hours you get used to it, but it does feel weird if you aren’t expecting it. One odd feature of the F50’s keyboard is a rather large right-side control key, which is wider than the shift key on that side, coming in at 33mm wide.

ASUS includes a large Synaptics-based touchpad on the F50 which is comfortable to use and quick to respond to finger movements. The texture of the touchpad surface is matte and was easy to slide your fingertip across even when moist. The touchpad surface is recessed from the palmrest, and defined by a smooth ridge, making it hard accidentally slip off the surface. The touchpad buttons are operated through a seesaw-style button which requires a solid press to activate each side. It has a shallow throw with minimal feedback.

Ports and Features
Port selection on the F50 is adequate, but the layout seems awkward for a notebook of this size. No ports are located on the right side, reserved only for the optical drive. three USB ports are on the left side and one additional port on the back. No eSATA port is included, limiting fast external storage, which is odd considering many new notebooks include them. The remaining ports include LAN, VGA, HDMI, and audio jacks for headphones and a microphone.

Included with the purchase of the notebook are a wired USB optical mouse and carrying case. The mouse is average, but works great in a pinch when gaming. The carrying case provides some mild protection for the notebook against drops, but more importantly it keeps the new finish free from scratches right out of the box. If you plan on buying a new case anyway, it can be a temporary case to protect the F50 in the meantime.

Performance
System performance is very good for a midrange multimedia notebook, thanks in part to the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GT 120M graphics card. The system was able to easily play games like Call of Duty: World at War and Left 4 Dead at native resolution and high settings without drastically slowing down or inhibiting gameplay. In Call of Duty with settings maxed, resolution set to 1366×768, and 2X anti-aliasing the game ran at 24-25 frames per second (FPS) under light action and dipped to under 20FPS under heavy action. With some mild tweaking it wouldn’t be hard to bump framerates even higher. Left 4 Dead at max detail settings, 1366×768 resolution, and anti-aliasing set to 2X ran above 30FPS throughout most of the game, only slipping to around 28FPS under heavy action.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Sony VAIO FW (Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz)
30.373 seconds
Dell Studio 17 (Core 2 Duo T9300 @ 2.50GHz) 31.574 seconds
Dell Studio XPS 16 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 31.827 seconds
ASUS F50SV-A2 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 31.857 seconds
HP Pavilion dv6z (AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 @ 2.10GHz)
38.519 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB) 6,303 PCMarks
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 6,005 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470) 6,002 PCMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650) 5,982 PCmarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 4,119 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 graphics comparison against notebooks @ 1280 x 800 resolution (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 5,152 3DMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB)
4,855 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 3,254 3DMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650) 2,974 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470) 2,598 3DMarks

 

HDTune for the built-in hard drive:

 

Speakers
Speaker performance is average, with sound lacking low and midrange frequencies. Peak volume levels are decent for watching a movie or listening to music in a small room, but headphones or external stereo speakers would really be best. The speakers are mounted below the palmrest and lap-firing, which may get blocked by clothing if you have the notebook placed on your lap.

Battery
Battery life is limited by the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120M graphics card, making the notebook draw 29 watts at idle even when it lowered its clockspeed. With the system in balanced mode, wireless active, and screen brightness set to 70% the ASUS F50SV-A2 managed to stay on for 1 hour and 36 minutes with the 6-cell battery.

Heat and Noise
Noise under normal use is minimal or completely silent. Under light activity surfing the Web or typing a document the fan spins down and off, only spinning up to occasionally cool the system back down. Under heavier loads when gaming the fans stayed on constantly at a lower speed, which was audible but nothing that you could hear from across a room. External thermal performance was very good, with the system keeping its cool around the keyboard and palmrest. Under a full load the exhaust temperatures peaked at about 110F, with internal GPU core temps reaching 150F. Another source of heat was the power brick, which reached almost 120F when the notebook was under high load.

Conclusion
The ASUS F50SV-A2 gave strong performance in our benchmarks and real-life game tests, thanks mostly to the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120M graphics card. When not gaming though the graphics card had an abnormally high power consumption rate, making the system draw almost 29 watts at idle. For users who might want to take the notebook to class, it barely made it above 1 hour and 30 minutes in our tests.

I really enjoyed the design and great build quality, which should allow the notebook to last until it is no longer fast enough to run the latest software. Overall I think a perfect change might be swapping the Blu-ray drive for a higher resolution screen, but I may be biased already owning a Blu-ray player. If you are in the market for a higher performing multimedia notebook, check out the ASUS F50SV, but make sure you are always within range of a power outlet.

Pros:

  • Good performance
  • System able to keep its cool under heavy CPU and GPU loads
  • Nice design and build quality

Cons:

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Very high power consumption at idle




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