Vying for superiority in the crowded desktop-replacement arena is the new Asus M70 -- the first laptop in the world to come with an optional 1TB of data storage. Yes, that's one terabyte, as in 1,000GB -- the equivalent of nearly 220 DVDs. It also uses some other very interesting components -- a 'Penryn'-edition Core 2 Duo CPU, 4GB of RAM, and one of the new ATI HD3650 graphics cards.
The Asus M70 will be available from Micro Anvika for £1,599 from the end of April. It sounds like semi-portable computing heaven, but how does it fare against the competition?
The M70 is a desktop replacement through and through. In other words, it's big, heavy and if you used it in public people would laugh at you. That's not to say it's unattractive -- far from it -- the glossy finish on the lid works well with the shiny grey on the wrist rest, while the aluminium border surrounding the keyboard gives it a very contemporary feel. Asus' decision to use white LEDs on the status lights and power button is a good one -- it really matches the rest of the laptop. It's not as gorgeous as, say, the HP Pavilion HDX9000, but it'll do.
Being a Media Center laptop, it's no surprise to find shortcut buttons for commonly used tasks. These switches, located above the keyboard, give you one-touch access to media playback software and let you cycle through five preset video modes that change the look of the display. These are optimised for gaming, movies, pictures, ordinary desktop use and a special soft mode that lets you use the laptop in a darkened room without blinding yourself.
The size of the M70 affords it the luxury of a full-size keyboard with a separate numerical keypad -- handy for spreadsheet users. It has a mouse trackpad too, obviously, but this one is special: it doubles as a means of manipulating media playback. It's festooned with icons denoting common playback tasks such as pause, rewind and volume, and there are two programmable 'buttons' that let you launch an application of your choice with a single tap. Switching between ordinary mouse mode and quick-launch mode can be done by pressing the 'mode' button at the top right of the trackpad, funnily enough.
More media-friendly features can be spotted around the remainder of the laptop. The left side is home to an HD DVD-ROM drive. We have no idea why -- perhaps Asus had a load left over from when the format was still alive and wants to get rid of them on the cheap. (NB: see update below.)
Round the back there are D-Sub and HDMI video ports, which let you connect the laptop to a compatible television or projector. You also get an AV dongle that gives composite video output. Sound is covered by a set of five speakers -- two just above the keyboard, two at the front edge and a subwoofer underneath.
We're extremely excited by the prospect of 1TB of storage in a laptop, so we'll talk about that aspect first. Nobody's managed to create a single laptop drive that holds 1TB of data, but the M70 gets around this problem by incorporating twin 500GB drives from Hitachi. These run at 5,400rpm, have a 5.5ms average latency and 12ms average read time, so they're not as quick as some 3.5-inch desktop drives, but they're still mightily impressive in a laptop. As you might expect, the drives can be configured in either RAID 1 or RAID 0 configurations, but you'll have to configure it yourself as it ships RAID-free.
The M70 makes a statement in areas outside of storage, too. It uses the new Intel T9300 Core 2 Duo CPU, clocked at 2.5GHz. This is part of the new Intel 'Penryn' series of processors, which are intended to replace the previous range of Core 2 Duos codenamed 'Santa Rosa'.