ASUS M50VM-B2 Review

by Reads (53,829)

by Charles P. Jefferies

The ASUS M50VM is a well-built 15.4-inch desktop replacement notebook based on the latest Intel Centrino 2 platform. The M50VM is designed for multimedia enthusiasts and gamers. It features a powerful Core 2 Duo processor, 500GB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce video card with a whopping 1GB of memory. Read on to see how the M50VM did in our tests.

 

Before we start the review, I would like to give a special thanks to Justin Nolte at XoticPC.com for sending us this unit for evaluation.

System Specifications & Pricing


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Our ASUS M50VM is the B2 variant, and has the following specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor (2.53GHz, 6MB L2, 1066MHz FSB, 35W TDP)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium w/ SP1
  • Intel PM45 + ICH-9 chipset
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce 9600M-GS with 1024MB of DDR2 video memory
  • 500GB 5400RPM Hitachi hard drive
  • 8X DVD-RW Super Multi drive
  • 8-in-1 card reader
  • Built-in 1.3 MP megapixel camera
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100AGN, built-in Bluetooth

As of the publishing date, the M50VM-B2 is currently listed at $1,549 on XoticPC.com.


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Reasons to Buy

The ASUS M50VM is aimed at customers looking for a powerful desktop replacement notebook with reasonable portability and battery life at a value price. The large screen, powerful Nvidia graphics card, and large hard drive make it appealing to multimedia enthusiasts and gamers.

Design


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The M50VM has an understated look – it will not turn many heads when viewed from a distance. ASUS follows the glossy trend like the rest of the mainstream market. The palmrest area and the back of the lid have a striped imprint design, which looks detailed. The back of the display has the same striped design.


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The keyboard is surrounded first by glossy black trim, then by a silver stripe. Above the keyboard, the circular Altec Lansing speakers have a chrome ring around them, which looks high-end. The area immediately below the display is a strip of black brushed aluminum surrounded by glossy black plastic. This area is where keyboard status lights and multifunction buttons are located; it is also surrounded by a chrome border.


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Above the display is a built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam. It can rotate 180 degrees and has a mirrored border. The array microphones ensure accurate sound quality. I found the webcam’s quality to be average – the person on the other end will be able to see you without issues.

One characteristic of the M50VM is that it is noticeably larger than a standard 15.4" notebook – see the picture below, where the M50VM is compared to a standard-size HP Pavilion dv5t notebook:


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Also note the relatively large screen bezel in the other pictures.

The reason it is large is because ASUS integrates a full keyboard in this machine; it features a standard keyboard in addition to a separate numeric keypad. The larger footprint is one of the prices paid for the numeric keypad addition (more on the keyboard later).  

Overall, the ASUS M50VM looks stylish without being flashy – this is a notebook that would be at home at a LAN party and a business meeting. It is not as sleek as mainstream notebooks from HP and Toshiba, but still looks modern.

Build

The M50VM is made of high-strength plastic and is mostly flex-free. The palmrests barely flex, even under modest pressure. The chassis is resistant to flexing, which shows it has a strong internal frame. The display is very strong, and does not flex easily. The display also does not wobble, even when the notebook is shaken (or stirred) – this is impressive. No ripples appear on the display when the back of the lid is pushed on. The bottom of the notebook has strong plastic. The M50VM is well made inside and out. Its weight with battery is 6 lbs, 12.6 oz.

Processor & Performance

The M50VM-B2 is a strong performer thanks to its powerful components.

All benchmarks were done with the Nvidia 177.72 video card  drivers from www.laptopvideo2go.com.

System Performance Benchmarks

Windows Experience Index (WEI)


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WEI is not the most accurate benchmark, but is a reasonable way to see how it stacks up against other Vista systems. The RAM performance is especially strong, thanks to the fast DDR2-800 RAM.

Overall System Performance using PCMark Vantage


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Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage is a new benchmark exclusively for Windows Vista. It stresses every component of a computer to its limits, especially the hard drive and CPU.


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*Insert wPrime

wPrime is a multi-threaded CPU test – it is similar to SuperPi but has a few more features. It is a much more accurate benchmark for dual-core CPUs. Please see our big comparison thread here.

Hard Drive Performance using HDTune 2.55


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I expected higher results from the 500GB hard drive, though as it stands, the drive is reasonably fast and responsive. This is the highest-capacity 2.5-inch hard drive available on the market as of writing.

Gaming Performance

The following benchmarks will focus on the M50VM’s Nvidia GeForce 9600M-GS 1GB graphics card. This graphics card is roughly on par with the older GeForce 8600M-GT.

3DMark06


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This score is on par with a DDR2 memory-equipped 8600M-GT, which is a balanced card for modern gaming. Note that this benchmark was run at the default 1280×1024 resolution, and not 1280×800.

A score of 3675 means the M50VM can play all of today’s games with medium settings and resolution (1280×800).

3DMarkVantage


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Real-World Gaming Performance

Crysis

Crysis has become the most famous (or infamous) game benchmark today, as it is more demanding than any other game. I benchmarked Crysis using the Crysis Benchmark Tool 1.05 Final from Guru3D.com. The game version used is 1.21. I used all high and all medium settings during two runs. The benchmarked results are as follows:


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The game is more than playable at a 1280×720 resolution with medium settings, and it looks great.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4 is a popular first-person shooter. It has a large online gaming community and is quite demanding on a computer’s hardware

Prior to benchmarking, I patched the game to version 1.7. The following settings were used for benchmarking. They are a mix of medium and high; these settings push the M50VM to its limit while keeping the game visually appealing and playable. I benchmarked the first two levels of the game using FRAPS.


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The benchmark results are as follows:


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The game is more than playable, and it also looks great.

Overall, the ASUS M50VM makes a strong showing and is a good choice for gamers and multimedia enthusiasts. This notebook comes fully loaded out of the box – no need to do any aftermarket upgrades.

Screen


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The M50VM is available with several different resolutions. Our M50VM-B2 review unit has a 15.4" WSXGA+ display with a glossy finish. The display has pristine picture quality – it is incredibly clear and bright. Contrast is excellent with pure whites and deep blacks. Viewing angles above average, though nothing to write home about. There is some color shift horizontally. The picture darkens when viewed from below and washes out viewed from above. There is some backlight leakage from the bottom of the display, but it is not noticeable when looking at anything but a solid black background.

A convenient feature of this display is the ambient light sensor, which automatically adjusts the screen brightness according to the surrounding light. It is nice not to be greeted by a blindingly bright display in the dark. The ambient light sensor is located above the keyboard area.

Speakers


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Despite the Altec Lansing badge, the M50VM’s two stereo speakers are like typical notebook speakers – tinny and no bass. Given the brand name badge and multimedia focus of this notebook, I expected better sound quality.

Heat & Noise

This is an area where the M50VM really shines. One clear advantage the M50VM has over competing notebooks is that there is no air intake for the single fan on the bottom. You can easily use this notebook on your lap without issues.


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Heat is pulled out of the notebook though a large vent on the left side of the notebook. Under full load, the fan is difficult to hear, and at idle, it is silent for all practical purposes (even in a library, this machine would be nearly impossible to hear).

The notebook remains cool top and bottom – even while running benchmarks, the machine never rose more than a few degrees above room temperature.

I am most impressed with the thermal design of this notebook. This is by far one of the best cooling solutions I have seen on any notebook. Well done, ASUS.

Keyboard


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The M50VM’s keyboard is easy and enjoyable to type on. It is quiet and offers solid tactile feedback. It is easy to feel your way around this keyboard. There is a hint of flex around the upper left side, but it is not noticeable.

My gripe with this keyboard is that there are no true dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys. This is one of the sacrifices ASUS made by including the numeric keypad in a 15.4-inch chassis. The keys are only dedicated if the number lock is turned off. As someone who uses those keys frequently, I found this to be an inconvenient setup. I have to give up number pad functionality in order to use those keys.

Overall, the keyboard is quite good with the exception of its lack of certain dedicated keys.

Touchpad


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Finally, a touchpad surface that is not glossy! The touchpad is simple to use on the M50VM – its matte black surface is easy to track on, whether your fingers are moist or dry. The touchpad buttons offer quiet clicks that will not annoy your neighbors. In-between the touchpad buttons is the fingerprint reader, which offers an extra layer of security. The ASUS security manager software allows you to use the fingerprint reader to log into websites and other applications – it is a great tool.

Input & Output Ports

Another area where the M50VM stands out is its comprehensive array of input and output ports. Follow me on a picture tour (all descriptions are from left to right):

Left Side:


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VGA, heat exhaust vent, USB, IEEE 1394 (mini-Firewire), eSATA, HDMI, 8-in-1 card reader, ExpressCard/54 slot

Right Side:


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Microphone, headphone, S/PDIF, 2x USB, optical drive, USB

Back:


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Kensington lock slot, 56k modem, Gigabit Ethernet, power jack

Front:


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Infrared port, wireless on/off switch

Port variety and quantity is outstanding on the M50VM. Two notable ports are the HDMI and eSATA ports. The HDMI port transmits audio and video through one cable and can be used to connect to HDTVs, projectors, and monitors. The eSATA port provides the full bandwidth of SATA to external hard drives.

Wireless

The M50VM features the latest-generation Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100AGN, supporting 802.11a/b/g/n wireless signals. I had no trouble connecting to a variety of secured networks.

Battery

A six-cell battery is standard; it is 11.1V, and 4800mAh. With the screen dimmed and while surfing the Internet, I measured 2:30 in power saving mode. This machine is not designed for extended trips away from the plug, but 2:30 out of a desktop replacement is respectable.

Operating System & Software

ASUS includes a variety of utilities with the M50VM. The only real "bloatware" is Norton Antivirus, though 30 days of protection is included at no charge. The ASUS utilities are, for the most part, useful, especially the Power4 Gear Express power management software. There are perhaps too many pre-installed utilities; users can pick and choose which ones to keep.

Customer Support

ASUS has a leg-up on competing notebook makers when it comes to warranty coverage. Not only is the M50VM covered by a two-year international warranty, but also one year of accidental coverage. The accidental damage warranty covers drops, fire, spill, and surge damage. Icing on the cake is a 30-day Zero Bright Dot LCD warranty, which gives you insurance against dead pixels. Overnight shipping is paid both ways for warranty replacements. This is the grand slam of warranty coverage in the mainstream notebook business.

Through XoticPC, customers are provided with lifetime 24/7 domestic tech support. XoticPC allows customers to return their notebook within 15 days of the ship date for a full refund (minus shipping). Full details of XoticPC’s warranty services and coverage can be found here. 

Extras


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ASUS sends the M50VM with a bag and mouse. The mouse is small but usable; it is great for travel. It features an optical sensor and is corded. The bag is just large enough to fit the M50VM, and of decent quality. There is enough room for the notebook, power adapter, mouse, and a few magazines both inside and in the external compartment.

 

Conclusion

The ASUS M50VM is an impressive notebook in more ways than one. Strong overall performance and a fantastic display make this a winner among gamers and multimedia enthusiasts. Other high points include excellent warranty coverage, a vast array of input/output ports, great input devices, and an outstanding thermal design. The ASUS M50VM is a smart value no matter the configuration; if you liked what you read in this review, then it is difficult to go wrong with this machine.

Pros

  • Gorgeous WSXGA+ display
  • Strong performance
  • Solid build quality
  • Great input devices
  • Vast input/output port array
  • Outstanding thermal design (cooling system)
  • Reasonable battery life

Cons

  • Larger than a normal 15.4-inch notebook
  • Missing dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys
  • Middling 500GB hard drive performance
  • Disappointing speakers


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