Not all laptops are designed to be carted around town. Some are supposed to sit in your room looking pretty, playing movies and music. The 18.4-inch NX90Jq from Asus is just such a machine. Our model packed a quad-core, 1.73GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 6GB of RAM for the frankly ludicrous price of £2,000 or so.
So you like lightweight little netbooks and ultra-portable laptops like Apple's MacBook Air do you? Move along, chum -- this isn't the computer you're looking for. Make no mistake about it, the NX90Jq is huge.
It arrived in the CNET UK skyscraper in such a massive, heavy black box that we thought somebody had mistakenly dropped off a gravestone. We couldn't see any names carved on it, so we immediately set about polishing our finely chiselled bodies by doing some bench presses with it.
With a screen size of 18.4 inches, the NX90Jq is incredibly wide. Add onto that the extra two inches either side of the screen for the speakers and you're left with a laptop measuring a whopping 530mm wide. At 36mm high, it's not exactly slim either, so good luck finding a carry case big enough to help you lug its 4.4kg body across town.
We had a few laptop carry cases lying around that have put up with transporting the meanest of gaming machines, but none of them could sufficiently contain the mighty size of the NX90Jq.
The NX90Jq was designed by David Lewis, who also designs products for premium audio firm Bang & Olufsen. The evident focus on looks hints that the NX90Jq is much more suited to remaining static on a table in your modern, minimalist living room than being hauled around in a scruffy bag like some awful common laptop for the masses. The NX90Jq is certainly of the opinion that it's a higher class of computer, thank you very much.
The outer casing of the NX90Jq is made of a highly reflective, polished metal. When you first lay your eyes on its closed form, you'll be met by a reflection of your own face. That's either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the quality of your face, but this feature will no doubt come in handy for those who just can't decide between splashing out on a computer or a mirror.
The shell feels well built and doesn't offer much in the way of flex. It is, however, susceptible to bumps and knocks, as proven by the fairly conspicuous dent we found in the lid upon the machine's arrival. We don't know what the previous user of our laptop did to it. The laptop may have suffered a minor drop, or been used to defend against a buffalo attack. Either way, be aware that the lid can be dented.
As anyone who has ever tried to hug their own reflection in a shiny mirror will tell you, mirrors don't deal well with fingerprints. We found the NX90Jq quickly turned from a shimmering slice of artistic design on our desk into a grubby lump of offensive metal in our oily hands. If you have hyperactive kids who like nothing more than to smear your favourite tech products in jam, you really shouldn't consider buying this laptop. At the very least, buy some sort of steel cage for the kids first. Pop a ball in there with them -- they'll be fine.
Once you open up the massive lid, you may have to take a moment to compose yourself -- this is probably like no laptop you've ever seen before. It's unusual in several ways. Firstly, thanks to the extra width provided by the speakers, the lid is considerably wider than the base of the laptop, which, frankly, looks odd when you close it up.
Secondly, Asus has evidently decided that trackpads are too boring sat in their traditional place below the keyboard. Asus has, therefore, slapped one on either side of the keyboard, complete with two sets of buttons for clicking around with.
It's certainly an unusual move and not one that we're particularly keen on. Having the trackpads next to the keyboard felt intensely unnatural to us. Even after several hours of use, our hands hadn't become used to it and kept trying to trace out gestures on a trackpad that wasn't there.
To fill the gaping void left by a regular trackpad, Asus has served up a big slice of that shiny metal for you to rest your wrists on. Like the metal found on the lid, it wants nothing more than to accommodate as much of your finger grease as possible. It's an irritating design decision. We understand the desire to keep the laptop's appearance as minimalist as possible, but we'd like this guy so much more if Asus had whacked in a massive glass trackpad down there and scrapped the two awkward ones on either side of the keyboard.
The NX90Jq's mission is to be a beautiful media player sat in the corner of your room. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we're not convinced that the NX90Jq is much of a looker. Gigantic? Yes. Shiny? Yes. Beautiful? Well, that's a matter of opinion. The general consensus on the CNET UK team is that this laptop looks far too weird to be called beautiful.
The only place we saw the NX90Jq fit in with its surroundings was in the awful press photo above, showing it proudly sat in a dismal, grey, concrete living room. If you happen to live in a bunker, the NX90Jq will probably look great.
If the NX90Jq is going to be your seductive, living-room media machine, then you'll want it to excel at two things -- audio and video. We hoped, therefore, that the speakers would pack a punch and the screen would have the sort of clarity that makes large men called Bruce weep with joy.
We fired up the speakers and were fairly pleased by the results. The high-end frequencies were very clear and detailed, which we'd expect, given Bang & Olufsen's input. If you mainly listen to classical and acoustic music, you'll find the speakers do the job adequately.
The bass levels aren't particularly impressive, though, and nor is the overall volume -- something we were surprised at, considering the machine's size. If you're into pounding dance tracks or blasting out metal songs at ear-splitting levels, then you probably won't find these speakers do the job for you. Considering the laptop's astronomical price and the speakers' audio heritage, we were hoping for more 'oomph'.
With TV shows and films that don't rely on intense soundtracks, the speakers will cope well, but, if you want to feel connected with every explosion in the latest Michael Bay movie, you're going to have to hook the laptop up to a decent set of speakers.
The screen has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, so it's quite capable of handling high-definition content. There's a slot-loading Blu-ray player on the side for your hi-def discs. With such a sky-high price tag, we'd have asked some serious questions if there weren't a Blu-ray player. Questions like: "Where on Earth is our Blu-ray player?"
The screen certainly isn't the brightest one we've ever encountered so, if you want to settle down for a good movie, you'll want to take the laptop to a dark room to feel totally involved. It's very clear, though, and displays colours excellently, with a pleasing natural warmth.
Inside that massive, shiny shell is a decent line-up of specs. A quad-core, 1.73GHz Intel Core i7-740QM processor provides the muscle, teamed up with 6GB of RAM.
But what can these components really accomplish? To find out, we deployed our series of benchmark tests. In PCMark05, the NX90Jq returned a score of 7,218 and, in the Geekbench test, it scored 5,420. Those benchmark scores aren't bad by any means. The laptop will easily handle hi-def video, strenuous multitasking and some light video editing too.
We asked -- politely, of course -- if the NX90Jq would encode some HD video for us. It agreed, and took only 14 minutes and 9 seconds to encode our 11 minute 1080p video into 24-frames-per-second H.264. That's a pretty nippy time, with the NX90Jq just beating the time achieved by Apple's most recent Mac mini. To be fair, though, the mini does cost significantly less than the NX90Jq.
In 3DMark06, which measures a computer's ability to munch through gaming polygons, the NX90Jq achieved a score of 6,974, helped along by an Nvidia GeForce GT 335M GPU with 1GB of VRAM. With that sort of score, we'd expect the laptop to be able to handle older games fairly well, but, if you try and run more hardcore titles with the settings ramped up, you may well find yourself screaming in fury at its shiny shell.
The NX90Jq isn't designed to be carried around all day, so we weren't expecting it to give much in the way of battery performance. Unsurprisingly, then, it only lasted for 1 hour and 5 minutes. If you're going to take this across town, make sure you take the power adaptor with you.
Should I buy the Asus NX90Jq?
Generally, we found the NX90Jq's performance pretty swift and responsive. The results achieved in the benchmark tests suggest that it's quite capable of handling fairly power-hungry tasks, although it won't be much of a gaming machine.
But, even given the NX90Jq's swift performance, we can't say we're impressed with this machine. If a laptop is going to demand £2,000, then it had better deliver utterly blistering performance, and the NX90Jq simply doesn't.
If you're after a powerful machine, make sure to also check out the MSI GT680 gaming laptop, which delivered some of the best benchmark performances we've ever seen, and costs about £500 less than the NX90Jq. It doesn't have the same designer looks as the Asus machine, but you'll get much more power for your money.
The bright, clear screen on the NX90Jq, as well as the decent speakers and Blu-ray drive, certainly make it a great media machine, but is that enough to warrant such a steep price? We think 'most definitely no'. A more wallet-friendly option would be to spend some of that money on a good TV and buy a decent laptop with an HDMI port, such as the Acer Aspire Ethos 5951G.
If style is an issue, there are plenty of good-looking laptops around that can still be found for well under the NX90Jq's asking price, and will easily handle most of the tasks you chuck at them. The MacBook Pro is just one example.
If you've recently come into a serious amount of money and want nothing more than to spend a large chunk of it on a massive, shiny laptop, then the Asus NX90Jq will be right up your alley. On the other hand, if you don't have limitless riches, then you should really consider whether it's worth spending £2,000 on this machine. For us, the answer will forever be a resounding 'no'. We think your money will definitely be better spent elsewhere.
Edited by Charles Kloet