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Asus Laptop Review - The NX90JQ-B2

One of the largest and shiniest laptops on the market, this powerful machine is really one of a kind.

The large and shiny beast known as the Asus NX90JQ is probably the least portable notebook on the planet. It is great if you want a powerful machine and a large display without all the clutter of a real desktop. But only the truly brave will venture out of the house carrying this giant machine in a bag (if they're lucky enough to find a bag large enough in the first place).

The highly reflective exterior is polished aluminium (not brushed like the Mac laptops) and looks more like stainless steel. Something about the raised speakers on both sides of the screen reminds one of old arcade gaming machines. While this one-of-a-kind product strongly appeals to people with a unique taste, I suggest you test drive it in real life before making the purchase online.

Screen & Sound

The sound quality is really good, but it didn't meet my expectations of being blown away, given the B&O brand name. The screen, although super-large and very high resolution, is not at par with the Mac laptops I own. (But then again, neither is the price - the Macs are much more expensive for their size). When compared side-to-side to a newer 15" Macbook Pro, you can see the Asus screen has a slightly more washed-out image with somewhat lighter blacks.

Touchpad

This laptop has two touchpads located at either side of the keyboard. Initially, I kept reaching for the touchpad in the wrong place - just below the keyboard. But it didn't take long for me to adjust to the right-side touchpad. Now the layout works for me and doesn't seem awkward.

The left-click button on the right trackpad doesn't always work. It is too wide and many times I push down the left side of the button - it feels like a click but the computer doesn't respond. I have to push down on the center of the button to make it work.

I never use the left touchpad.

Keyboard

The piece I own has a minor problem - the left-arrow key is not printed horizontally - it slopes up to the left. The bigger disappointment is the lack of a back-light. I need to turn on a lamp in the room if I'm working late and I can't find the keys quickly in low ambient light.

The keystrokes don't go very deep and feel sticky, some more so than others. The keyboard layout takes time getting used to, even for a touch typist like me. The bumps on the F and J keys could be more prominent. All rows of keys - from the top-row multimedia keys to the bottom space-bar - have the same look and are laid out uniformly with no spacial separation. This may look good, but combined with the trackpads on either side, it makes many keys hard to find. Keys such as Esc and the arrow keys are specially hard to find because you cannot locate them by feel and you have to visually scan the keyboard.

The placement of some keys is atypical. For instance, they sneaked in an 'Fn' key between the left Windows key and left Ctrl key. (I've since seen this on other Windows laptops - perhaps it is not that atypical). I often hit the Fn key when I intend to hit Ctrl and it is annoying. Also, the PgUp, PgDn, Home and End keys all line up vertically which is uncommon. Thankfully the arrow keys were kept in the standard inverted-T layout.

Portability

The laptop is big but easy to move around the house. With the lid closed, the extended speakers leave space on the sides where you can insert your fingers and lift up the machine. The charging cord should always be transported with this power hungry monster because the battery doesn't last long (about 1.5 hours).

Compatibility

The laptop comes with Windows pre-loaded but I tried out other operating systems.

Linux:
The volume and screen brightness keys work well. The trackpad is recognized and I can turn off the tap-to-click feature. Wifi and display work fine. The webcam video is vertically flipped.
FreeBSD/PC-BSD (v8.2 and 9.0Beta):
Most of the keyboard works but the volume and screen brightness keys are not recognized. The trackpad is recognized as a mouse - it works but I was unable to turn off the tap-to-click feature. The nvidia driver works but I did not try 3D or advanced features of the nvidia card. Wifi works (uses the iwn driver). I couldn't get the webcam to work.

Noise and Distractions

The laptop is audible when the fans are on full - I wouldn't classify this as quiet but it's not disturbingly loud either. The powerful i7 processor within it probably generates a lot of heat.

There are two white led lights above the keyboard - one for the hard disk and one for the WiFi. I could do without both of those because I find bright leds annoying. The battery charge indicator light is strategically positioned just beneath the front edge of the keyboard. While nicely hidden from view when using the machine, it is hard to miss it's red flashes reflecting off the desk when you are low on battery.

Other Noteworthy Features

This laptop can replace a dedicated Blu-Ray player given its Blu-Ray/DVD drive and the HDMI port. I specially like having blazing fast USB 3.0 ports for future use. I am also happy to have the multi-card reader and e-sata port.

Full specs can be found here: http://www.asus.com/Notebooks/Multimedia_Entertainment/NX90Jq/#specifications

Asus provides a fantastic two year warranty where the first year covers accidents as well.

Overall - 3 Stars

Given the usability issues I have with the keyboard, the left click button and the display quality, I'm holding back two stars. Otherwise this is a great machine with good looks, a powerful engine and a surprisingly reasonable price tag.