ASUS K50IN Series Notebook
It's been quite a while since we last reviewed a notebook here on Overclock3D and as a results we'll be basing todays testing more around the usage of the K50IN rather than making any direct comparison to other notebooks from the distant past. Before we get down to business though, let's remind ourselves of the K50IN notebook specs that we've got on test:
• Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T6500 @ 2.1GHz (2MB Cache)
• 4GB DDR2 800 MHz SDRAM
• 320GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Disk
• NVIDIA® GeForce® G102M, with 512MB VRAM
• Windows Vista® (32-Bit)
As we can see in the abbreviated specs list above, the K50IN comes pre-loaded with Windows Vista 32-Bit. Depending on how much money you spend determines whether you get the "Home Basic" or "Home Premium" versions, but unfortunately there's no options available for upgrading to a 64-Bit OS. ASUS are quick to point out that if you're planning on picking a model with 4GB of RAM then 1GB will go completely unused as the 32-Bit operating system is unable to address more than 3-3.5GB.
Our test model arrived with Home Premium Service Pack 1 (SP1) installed and considering that SP2 has been out for over 6 months now, Windows Update had a field day with our internet connection. In fact, the first few days of using the laptop were so unbearably slow and annoying with Windows installing updates in the background and then taking 15 minutes to apply them at shutdown/startup that the K50IN almost took a trip out of the window (no pun intended).
But it wasn't just Windows Vista testing our patience....
ASUS have seen fit to install a total of 49 applications, 11 of which carry the ASUS name. Granted that most of the apps are unobtrusive and just have shortcuts on the desktop, but its the few that run in the background and pop up at unsuspecting intervals that really irritate. Take the ASUS Live Update for example. At least 2-3 times a day while happily typing away, this application would take focus asking if it could update the system BIOS? Erm no thanks!
ASUS should really consider a 'crud-free' option with their notebook ranges much like Dell and Sony are already providing. Or at the very least just provide these applications on a CD so that users can make up their own minds exactly which ones they need without having to go through the messy process of uninstalling them.
Probably the most exaggerated specification of any notebook is its battery life. Manufacturers seem to believe that we're all interested in hearing just how long our fully charged notebook will run for with the screen brightness at its lowest setting, all wireless devices turned off and suspend mode set to engage every 5 minutes. Thankfully ASUS haven't gone down this route with the K50IN and instead have just listed the battery specifications. This avoids any potential complaints from customers who have been led to believe that they can use their new laptop in a flight from London to Sydney on a single battery charge, but doesn't really give us any idea of how long the 4400mAh 11.1v Li-Ion battery will last.
So to find out for sure we're going to run a couple of tests. One in a 'real world' daily usage scenario where the K50IN will be used in a 90 minute round-trip to and from Central London every day until it runs out of juice, the other using a battery draining application aptly called Battery Eater Pro. Here's the results...
During the 'real world' testing the notebook was used only for editing Word documents and browsing the internet using a Huawei E230 3G dongle. All power-saving settings were left in the capable hands of Windows Vista and ASUS' own management software. This is in contrast to the Battery Eater Pro testing where the notebook was placed in "High Performance" mode and the CPU, Hard Disk and Graphics all heavily utilised.
As we can see from the graph above, the K50IN managed 2hrs 15 minutes of real world usage (2x inbound + 1x outbound trips to/from London) or just over 1hr 20mins of simulated heavy usage. This is a fairly reasonable result for a notebook of this specification and just about puts its self ahead of any other notebook we've tested in the past. Had it have not been for the use of a 3G dongle during our real world testing, there's quite a possibility that the notebook could have lasted nearer to 3 hours.
We've all read the news: Laptops can roast your chestnuts and boil your banana (if left on top of your lunch box!). Not only that, but some laptops get so damn hot that using them on anything other than a fan assisted notebook stand can cause system crashes and even hardware failure. For this reason we're going to perform a simple test. Run the CPU and GPU in the K50IN at 100% load for 2 hours using both OCCT and rthdribl stability testing tools simultaneously. Once the testing is complete, take temperature readings from several key points at the base of the notebook to identify any potential cooling (or health and safety) issues.
Then plot the results...
The hottest part of the notebook was unsurprisingly right next to the exhaust area for the cooling system where the temperature reached 44°C. This certainly isn't a bad result considering that the CPU and GPU were reported to be running at just shy of 80°C, but it's still not going to be very comfortable to use on your lap for prolonged periods of time. Interestingly though, the rest of the notebook including the immediate area around our 44°C marker was at least 10°C cooler showing that the cooling system on the K50IN is highly effective and that ASUS' "Cool Comfort" palm-rest probably does live up to its claims.
One last point before we move on is that the notebook was also surprisingly quiet during the testing. When writing reviews I'm easily distracted by the whirring of a fan, or clicking of a hard disk - but the H50IN didn't become an annoyance not once.
With most notebook manufacturers having made the switch to LED backlit displays over the past couple of years, it's good to see that ASUS have followed suit even on a "no-frills" model such as the K50IN. LED backlit displays are much more desirable than their ageing CCFL counterparts as they offer greater energy efficiency, brighter colours and slimmer dimensions. As mentioned in the specifications, the K50IN makes use of a 15.6" version with a 1366x768 resolution that makes it an ideal candidate for watching widescreen movies in 16:9 letterbox format.
The screen itself has a dark black glossy finish that ASUS call "Colour-Shine". This helps with colour reproduction and achieving 'black' in a darkened room, but does unfortunately comes at the cost of being highly reflective and fingerprint happy. Sitting atop the display is a 1.3mpixel webcam that gets the job done, but nothing more.
Sideways viewing angles of the screen are actually pretty good, with the person next to you on the train having absolutely no problems reading your confidential emails! However vertical viewing angles are quite the opposite with only a little tilting of the screen back or forward required to invert the colours.
The overall picture quality of the screen is very impressive with vivid colours, clear crisp lines and no visible colour banding. If it wasn't for the mediocre sound output by the speakers, the K50IN could actually make quite a respectable multimedia-centric notebook.
Now that we've got most of the observations out of the way, let's move on to a small collection of benchmarks to find out just how the K50IN performs...