The Asus A95V line-up is intended as a desktop replacement, portable rather than mobile. Laptop format, but made for performance rather than portability. Thus inside the A95V an Intel Core i7-3610QM sits ready for action, backed by 8GB RAM and a 1TB hard disk for storage. The there’s the NVidia GeForce GT 630M painting the pixels on the 18.4-inch 1920 x 1080 display. And all offered for 900 euros (about $1700).
However BluRay and extra-RAM upgrades are offered. The chassis of the A95V is striking for its massive bulk – it’s almost 5cm thick and a crushing 4.1kg in weight, and in appearance Asus has gone for the plain look – a mass of gray and black plastic. It’s sturdily built, with very little flex anywhere, although the hinges are far too loose for our liking.
Connectivity is good, with a pair of USB-3 ports and a pair of USB-2 ports although no eSATA combi. VGA and HDMI sockets are provided for linking an external display, if the 18.4 inches of full HD screen real estate isn’t enough. Then there are the usual candidates of audio jacks, SDcard reader, Kensington lock, 3-in-1 card reader.. The 0.3MP webcam is a bit pinched for a $1700 laptop. Also the WiFi card is budget-end Qualcomm model, so is limited to the 2.4Ghz band and 150Mbps transfer. Thus a good broadband connection is preferable to the WiFi-n functionality offered on the A95V. Low-voltage Bluetooth 4 is included.
That VGA webcam renders slightly substandard images, with plenty of noise inlow illumination. It’s paired with a similarly poor microphone, whose tinny recording is barely acceptable for Skyping. A nice feature is the ‘Face Log-on’ option, which checks a user’s identity using a previously saved webcam photo, though a fraudulent user can gain access using a photo of the owner. Wily users could perhaps keep a bushy false moustache in a safe place for ease of log-in. Actually Asus have installed a few tools and programs for added customer satisfaction; Cyberlink’s MediaSuite and Power2Go disk-burning software are included. RAM modules can be slotted into two spare slots to give the A95V a maximum of 24GB.
The chiclet keys feel a mite shallow, but feedback is positive and the slightly textured surface, along with the ample 15mm x 15mm surface area, means quick, accurate typing is possible. The touchpad has been reworked from the old K93 to incorporate the buttons into its 105mm x 73mm surface, but the Elan ‘Smart-Pad’ gave a little too much rattle for users to give it a resounding tick.
The 18.4-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel display gives only 166 nits of brightness, which together with the glossy screen means anyone brave enough to lug the Asus A95V outside might be in for a tough time of it in idrect sunlight, especially with that ultra-teeter lid. And the middling black value of 0.89 candelas results in an overall barely adequate 206:1 contrast ratio. Yet subjectively colors look quite vibrant, helped by almost total coverage of the sRGB spectrum. On battery power display brightness falls a further 20%. HDMI and VGA-syncing give good, stable output on external monitors. So much for the display.
The internals are much more impressive. The i7-3610QM clocked at 2.3GHz and GT 630M dedicated graphics card and 8GB RAM are a formidable combination though we found Turbo Boost almost throttled out of existence on battery power. Good job most users will be using the A95V plugged into the grid. The 1TB Barracuda 7200rpm delivers data transfer at 100MB/s, although slower than SSD rigs. Luckily users can pop an SSD in the vacant 2.5-inch bay to speed launch times for their most essential programs. Benchmark scores outperform the last-gen K93 by 30%m and best other similarly-specced notebooks.
Heavyish multitasking and multi-tabbed browsing are a luxury this sort of hardware provides; but the mid-range GPU means the full panoply of current demanding games all run fluidly at high rather than ultra settings, and at 1366 x 768 res. Still, for 900 euros that’s very respectable, even if frame rates can’t match those of notebooks brandishing GT 650M cards; that 650M gives 75% better performance in raw comparisons.
Altec Lansing Audio is a bit light on bass, and distorts at max volume – linking up with a stereo system or external speakers (via audio jack or HDMI) makes a big difference. Moderate WiFI-surfing sees the battery tap out just short of three hours, but most DVD movies will see out the credits. That GPU is a bit of a weak link from a gamer’s perspective, but hardly anyone else will find fault with the performance of the Asus A95V. For 900 euros, it’s a great deal, but if movies are your thing, you’d really appreciate a brighter display.
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