If you want a laptop with a large screen, but your budget is tight, this 17-inch Asus K72F might fit the bill. Our review model was supplied by Laptops Direct, where it's available for £560 -- a pretty attractive price tag for a model with this screen size.
The large display means the K72F was never going to be the most portable laptop around. Weighing a hefty 2.6kg and measuring 380 by 255mm, it's not a machine you're going to easily chuck in a bag to take with you on business trips. The design isn't much to write home about, either. It has a pretty standard-issue glossy back lid, with a matte finish used inside on the keyboard surround. In truth, it looks a little boring, but not as cheap and plasticky as some of the finishes we've seen on other budget machines.
Unfortunately, the 17-inch screen doesn't stretch all the way to 1080p resolution. Instead, it stops short at 1,600x900 pixels. Nevertheless, images and videos do look sharp and bright with strong colours and deep blacks. These are helped along, partly, by the screen's glossy finish. That said, neither its vertical nor horizontal viewing angles are great. You have to be quite careful how you position the screen if you want colours and brightness to look uniform across the whole surface, otherwise the edges of the display tend to look darker than the centre.
Flex like that
As with the smaller Asus U35Jc, the K72F's keyboard has an isolated design, where each individual key looks as if it's been stamped out of the chassis. The keys are large and flat, so there's a big surface area for your fingers to land on. Because there's a fair bit of space between each key, there's little chance of accidentally hitting an adjacent key when you're tapping away at speed.
The keyboard does flex
more than usual, however, especially towards the centre, and this does make the typing
action feel a little spongy. The large trackpad is excellent, though, as
the slightly textured surface provides a good amount of tactile feedback. The
single rocker trackpad button also works a treat, responding with a satisfying
click when you press it.
Solid chassis, slim on ports
The extra chassis space available on desktop replacement machines means they're usually well equipped when it comes to ports. Unfortunately, that's not really the case here. While you do get four USB ports, as well as both HDMI and VGA outputs for connecting the laptop to an external display, there's no FireWire or eSata ports. The laptop also has neither a PC Card nor ExpressCard slot, which is a little disappointing. On the up side, you do get an SD memory card reader as well as an Ethernet port and 801.11n Wi-Fi. Bluetooth, on the other hand, is notable by its absence.
On the storage front, things are a little better. Asus has equipped the K72F with a pretty generous 500GB hard drive, which will provide plenty of space for storing media files like videos, pictures and music tracks. Sadly, there's no Blu-ray drive, but there is a DVD writer for burning your own DVDs and CDs.
Fast and fit
Given the laptop's low-ish price tag, it actually has a surprisingly powerful Core i3-350M processor that's clocked at 2.26GHz. This is twinned with 4GB of RAM, which is fully addressable by the operating system -- the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. In the PCMark05 benchmark test, it scored a respectable 5,365, so it should have no problems dealing with day-to-day multitasking duties.
Unfortunately, 3D performance isn't so hot. Instead of using discrete 3D graphics, Asus has stuck with integrated Intel GMA HD graphics. Integrated graphics never perform well in our 3DMark06 test, and the K72J was no different in this regard, clocking up a lowly score of just 1,910. Needless to say, this is not a machine that's going to appeal to gamers.
The K72F's size means it's not likely to be used away from the mains all that often, so battery life is perhaps not of crucial importance. Nevertheless, it didn't perform too badly in this area -- it managed to keep running for an hour and 21 minutes in our Battery Eater test. This test places a heavy, constant load on the processor, so you're likely to get even longer battery life from the laptop in real-world conditions.
The Asus K72F is far from the perfect machine. Its range of ports is limited by desktop-replacement standards, its 3D performance is poor and the viewing angle of its screen is somewhat limited. It is, however, comfortable to use, you do get a lot of screen for your money and the processor is reasonably speedy. If you're not into gaming and don't plan to connect a whole heap of external gear to your laptop, it could be a good bet.
Edited by Emma Bayly.