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It's been a while since we had an 'ordinary' notebook from Asus through our labs. Everything we've looked at recently has either been a netbook like the Eee PC 1000HE or a premium ultra-portable along the lines of the Asus U6V - high time, then, to examine something a little more mainstream with the company's N50Vc. A 15.4in entertainment notebook, it has all the features you'd expect of a good multimedia-focused machine. That means plenty of memory and storage, discrete graphics and a Blu-ray drive all wrapped in a nice glossy chassis with a reasonable price tag slapped on the box.
Like many notebooks aimed at this market, the N50Vc has an attractive imprint design running across the lid and inside around the keyboard. In this case, it's a rain-like pattern consisting of lines of tiny random silver dots, which looks good against the piano-black lid. Unfortunately, it does little to disguise fingerprints and other marks, though it appears to be a bit more scratch-resistant than most.
Opening the machine up, you'll be greeted by an attractive interior. In addition to the inevitable 2.0 megapixel webcam, the unusually wide (at top and bottom) glossy-black bezel contains a light-sensor that the N50Vc uses to automatically regulate its screen's backlighting - an uncommon but welcome feature on a notebook.
Another unusual touch is the lid's hinge, which protrudes from the bottom bezel at an angle to give this Asus notebook a unique visual feature aside from its imprint.
This angled hinge leads smoothly into the inevitable touch-sensitive bar with multimedia controls and shortcuts. Again, though, Asus' implementation is unique as far as we're aware: blue volume controls to the right are always available, but a single blue toggle to the left switches the rest of the 'buttons' between white-backlit shortcuts and blue-backlit multimedia controls.
Unfortunately, the touch-controls aren't particularly pleasant to use, with poor sensitivity aggravated by small contact points and the slightly rounded, slippery surface of the bar. Thankfully, though, in yet another unconventional touch, Asus has provided duplicate multimedia controls as secondary functions on the keyboard's cursor keys.
Below the piano-black touch bar is a narrow black metal mesh strip hiding the speakers. The rest of the N50Vc's bottom half, aside from the matte black keyboard and chromed touchpad buttons, has an attractive (once all the horrible big stickers are removed) brown glossy finish bearing the same 'rain' pattern as the lid.
Above the keyboard are the power and Instant-On buttons, which being close together and the same shape might occasionally mean you'll press the wrong one. The Instant-On button, for those not in the know, boots the notebook from a powered-down state into Asus' Express Gate OS in around three seconds. This Splashtop Linux-based OS allows access to common tasks like browsing the web, playing music and online games, chatting or looking at photos. And, if at any stage you want to do something more complex, you can just continue loading Windows.