Summary

Our Score

8/10

Review Price free/subscription

Pre-installed software includes a suite of Asus utilities, CyberLink's Power2Go and trial versions of Microsoft Office 2007 and Norton Internet security. Nero Essentials 8 and WinDVD BD are provided on discs - the latter needing to be installed before you can watch Blu-rays.

Having already mentioned quite a few things that this machine does differently to most, it's no surprise to find that even its battery integration is unconventional. Rather than the pull-out models of most machines, the N50Vc's six-cell battery is found behind a flimsy cover with a pull-ribbon to get it out - rather like the new MacBooks.

Being rated at a high 4,800mAh/51 Watt-hours, the Asus' battery life is quite impressive. In the non-intensive Reader test, for instance, it managed nearly four hours, easily beating most competing multimedia notebooks we've had through the labs.

Last and least is the included bundle: similarly to MSI's recently-reviewed EX620, the N50Vc comes with a bundled cleaning cloth, mouse and messenger bag. Finished in silver and grey, the colour-scheme of the ambidextrous wired optical mouse doesn't go well with the notebook. It's also too narrow to be comfortable for any but the smallest hands and the feedback on its scroll-wheel isn't 'notched' enough, but it's still usable.

The messenger bag, meanwhile, features a black and grey cross-hatch pattern rather than the usual plain black. It has three main compartments and several smaller pockets, with minimal padding in the main notebook section and some on the carrying handles and shoulder strap. It's a perfectly serviceable addition and a nice value-add for customers who don't own one yet.

Finally, then, how does the Asus N50Vc hold up overall? Available for around £704, it's certainly good value for money, but is entering a very crowded market. The aforementioned MSI EX620 is probably its closest rival, being similarly priced and configured, even coming with a similar bundle and software. In our book the Asus wins quite easily though, thanks to its slightly more attractive styling and superior keyboard in addition to far better battery life, though the MSI does have a slight edge in performance and - should you ever upgrade to a 64-bit OS - an extra gigabyte of RAM.

Some users might also wish to go for the more expensive Acer Aspire 6935G, which offers an integrated TV tuner and better graphics card but lacks some of Asus' bundled extras.

Verdict

A fairly good effort on Asus' part is somewhat held back by an average screen and a few minor niggles, but is nonetheless worth its moderate asking price. If you're looking for an affordable multimedia notebook, keep the N50Vc in mind.

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