Inside, the Intel Core 2 Duo T5800 processor running at a modest 2.0GHz is certainly nothing to get excited about, but presents good value and is certainly up to the kind of tasks people will use this class of notebook for.
This is backed by 3GB of RAM, which is as much as the installed 32-bit version of Windows Vista Premium can handle. However, this is looking just a tad stingy with 4GB fast becoming the standard and with RAM prices so low it’s a pity Asus couldn’t have included the extra gigabyte. Hard drive capacity on the other hand is the same as most of the competition, with 320GB on offer spinning at 5,400rpm. Wireless connectivity, meanwhile, is pretty comprehensive, with Draft-N Wi-Fi and the latest Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR.
Discrete graphics come courtesy of nVidia’s 9300M GS. Though by no means a gaming card, it’s a significant improvement over the likes of Intel’s integrated GMA chips and will let you play older titles. Just to give an indication, the N50Vc managed a respectable 30.7fps in our TrackManiaNations Forever benchmark at medium detail settings and the screen’s native 1,280 x 800 resolution.
Speaking of the screen, as you might have figured out already Asus has gone for the traditional 16:10 aspect ratio rather than the more ‘film-friendly’ 16:9 favoured by most recent multimedia notebooks. But that’s certainly no bad thing in our minds: give us the extra vertical pixels anytime, which benefit both PC-gaming and productivity.
Unfortunately, the screen’s performance can only be described as average. To put this into perspective, it’s a classification that applies to most notebook screens, with only a few exceptions like the stunning RGB affair found on the Dell Studio XPS 16.
Getting back to the N50Vc, though, the screen suffers from poor greyscale performance, meaning even more dark detailing than usual is lost in relevant entertainment material. Not a problem for watching bright stuff like Finding Nemo, but less ideal for the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth on Blu-ray.
Viewing angles are also rather poor with noticeable contrast shift when viewing from the side, none of which is helped by the high level of reflectivity caused by the screen’s glossy coating in a lit environment. On the positives side, there’s no banding or any sign of backlight bleed.
Audio performance somewhat makes up for it, in that it’s slightly above average for a notebook. That’s not to say it’s close to the same level of that offered by the excellent Harman/kardon speakers on Toshiba’s Satellite A350, but if you keep volume levels away from their maximum where they distort, the Asus’ speakers manage a fairly crisp rendition despite their lack of bass.