ASUS K50IN Series Notebook
Despite being the self confessed "no frills" model in the ASUS notebook range, the K50IN actually manages to keep up appearances with with a rather classy looking carbon fibre effect gloss casing. Now I can hear all the "gloss haters" huffing and puffing right about now, worrying about how you're going to keep it looking 'new' without carrying a can of Mr Sheen around in your laptop bag. But fear not. Whether it be intentionally or by pure fluke, the K50IN actually conceals finger prints pretty well.
The actual colour of the K50IN is quite hard to determine as it can change between anything from jet black, to brown, to grey depending on the lighting and angle viewed. More importantly though the casing is also surprisingly rigid. Even when pressing down hard on the back of the screen there is virtually no flexing of the plastic visible and it takes some extreme pressure to make any distortions appear on the TFT its self.
If you're expecting fancy optical or hi-def outputs from your next notebook purchase then it's time to stop reading now. The K50IN isn't going to connect to your 40" 1080p TV, it's not going to output audio over a TOSLink to your surround sound amp, and its not going to hook up to your DV camcorder. Essentially all you get is a DVD-RW drive, four USB2.0 ports, a Gigabit ethernet connection and a VGA D-Sub output spread out over the two sides of the notebook. Internally there's also an 'N' capable Wireless 802.11 connection but that's right about where the list ends.
Opening or adjusting the position of the lid on the K50IN requires a fair amount of force making it very difficult to perform using only one hand. This may sound like quite a persnickety remark, but for any commuter who regularly tries to juggle the use of their laptop with a cup of Starbucks in one hand, you'll know the importance of a notebook lid being manoeuvrable under only the weight of its base.
Additionally, the hinges produce a few small creaking sounds during the opening process that are far from problematic, but do give us one of our first clues that this is not a 'premium' model.
The carbon fibre style plastic is continued onto the inside of the K50IN and once again the plastics prove to be extremely rigid with no signs of flexing when lifting the entire notebook by only the very edge of the palmrest area. Most notebooks would normally let out some creaking noises at this point or reveal gaps between the joins in their chassis, but the K50IN remains totally solid.
The touchpad is integrated into the plastics of the palmrest which gives it a clean look and additionally makes it easier to clean too. ASUS have seen fit to perforate the trackable area to give more control when using it with sweaty fingers, but unfortunately it has the negative effect of feeling 'laggy' and imprecise. The left and right mouse buttons have a chrome effect finish that adds some contrast to the notebooks overall appearance, but unfortunately feel quite tacky and occasionally let out a springing noise during use.
The front of the notebook features a 3-in-one card reader capable of supporting the major SD, MMC and MS formats. This will certainly come in handy for those times where you need to grab some photo's off a friends camera but don't fancy installing all the crap that comes on the driver disks. Around the back of the notebook there is support for a notebook security cable often used in office environments to prevent opportunist theft from employee's desks.
Moving on to the keyboard, ASUS have gone for a full-sized 88 key affair that has quite a familiar layout for desktop keyboard users. The only tripping point is the location of the directional arrow keys that are merged in with the number pad and had us often hitting the 0, CTRL, SHIFT and Return keys when trying to navigate around word documents or spreadsheets.
In terms of tactile feedback, the keys are fairly soft and springy with minimal travel required in order to engage a key press. Noise from the keys is also minimal, so hopefully you'll receive no sideways glances from other commuters on the train when you're bashing away at the keys trying to rush out that report in time for your 9am meeting.
The power bezel above the keyboard is finished in a brushed black plastic designed to look like aluminium. Only the power button and Num/Caps/Scroll Lock lights are present here along with a few logo badges.
Now let's start putting the K50IN through the paces...