Novatech might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of high-end gaming laptops, but perhaps it should be. After all, how does a quad core Q9550 processor, dual 8800M GTX SLI graphics and three 200GB 7,200rpm hard drives in RAID 5 sound? Unfortunately, we don't all have the cash required to get this kind of gaming glory, so today we're looking at the company's more modest X50MV Pro Gaming Notebook.
This little machine still sports some fairly drool-worthy specs, among which are a Core 2 Duo P9500 running at 2.53GHz, 320GB 7,200RPM hard drive, a high resolution 1,680 x 1,050 screen and an integrated TV Tuner. Unfortunately, the only thing that doesn't impress as much is the most important element of any gaming notebook: the graphics card. In this case, you get an NVidia GeForce 9600M GT, which - no matter what the marketing tries to tell you - does not a great gaming card make. Especially considering that even in the desktop sector you need a 9800-series card for good gaming performance. But prejudgements aside, let's give the X50MV a fighting chance and see how it does.
Novatech's gaming notebook actually has a fairly rare feature; a 2.5in colour SideShow display integrated in its lid. SideShow was hyped as a potentially big part of Vista: laptops would have a small external screen, which would display things like reminders, date/time/alarms, MP3 track details or cached information while using a minimum of power. The idea was that this would allow for hundreds of hours of battery life while still providing some basic functionality, even including very simple games along the lines of solitaire and PacMan.
However, SideShow hasn't really caught on so far; this is one of the few notebooks we've come across that integrates it and frankly we don't expect to see any more. Unfortunately, whether you like the idea or can see its potential, Sideshow seems to have died a quick and largely forgotten death, due largely to a lack of commitment and development of it. Thankfully, the good news is that Novatech doesn't seem to be charging you a premium for SideShow, so at worst it's a nice/needless extra.
On the downside, the glossy black panel into which the SideShow display and its controls are set doesn't contrast very nicely with the rest of the machine's finish. You see, the majority of the X50MV sports what one of the TR team promptly dubbed "the bowling-ball finish". This is a very accurate description of the impression generated by the blue-grey shiny plastic with sparkly and glittery effects.
On its own the bowling-ball finish looks okay, if you like that sort of thing. It's where it contrasts with piano-black inserts and the matte black keyboard that the look becomes a bit jarring, while the ugly grey Novatech sticker on the lid doesn't help things either.