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ATI Radeon Mobility X1600 - First Look

It’s a large beast, with an impressive 17in screen with a decent resolution of 1,440 x 900. I personally feel that 1,920 x 1,200 works best on a screen this size, but inevitably that would add cost. ATI may have put the Mobility X1600 into the Performance Thin category but this is a notebook that due to its size falls firmly into the desktop replacement category. The brushed metal trackpad buttons look smart, and the silver power button with blue light looks good too.

Asus bills the notebook as a ‘Widescreen Entertainment Notebook’ and is its take on Toshiba’s Qosmio. The CPU is a Pentium M 760 running at 2GHz, and there's 1GB or RAM. A standout feature is an integrated hybrid analogue and digital TV Tuner. Unlike the Tosh, it doesn’t run Windows Media Center 2005 - instead Asus using its own Mobile Theatre 3 software.

The size of the notebook means that there’s plenty of space either side of the keyboard for you to rest your hands as you type. The pre-production unit featured a German keyboard, which made it a tad harder to negotiate, but it was still possible to appreciate the full size enter key and two Windows keys. There’s a Function key at the bottom left where many people will be expecting a Ctrl key, which is actually just to the right.

A neat feature is the camera integrated into the bezel, handy for video conferencing, that might really start take off now that Skype has entered the market. Security software is included that howls as soon as movement is detected, presumably to alert the thief to the laptop’s presence so he doesn’t neglect to steal it.

So design and feature wise the Asus looks like a contender, but does the X1600 live up to its billing? From our brief early tests the answer is yes.

In 3DMark03 at 1,024 x 768 the Asus romped home with a score of 7,206, a comfortable 1,701 points ahead of the GeForce 6600 Go in the Rock Pegasus and a healthy 848 points of its previous generation Mobility X700 used in the Acer Ferrari 4000. In 3DMark05 its lead over the Rock was even more pronounced scoring 3,803 compared to 1,303. The Acer Ferrari was not tested with 3DMark05.

So for mid-range performance graphics it looks like ATI could be the way to go, especially now that the X1000 series has finally caught up with nVidia by adding Shader Model 3 and HDR support. The card will also offer hardware HD H.264 support, which is nice though drivers enabling much touted feature have yet to be released.

So a good start for the Mobility X1600. Now, if only ATI could hurry up and also get its desktop part ready for prime time.

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