It may hail from the same place as the Eee PCs, but the 17in M70V has very different genes. In fact, you could hide one of Asus’ netbooks inside its chassis and still have room for your sandwiches and a packet of crisps.
But this bear of a laptop does have one thing in common with its diddy cousins – a surprisingly low price tag. The £800 launch price is a bargain for a desktop replacement. And it’s not just the size of the screen that makes the M70V appealing: the graphics card and processor are both best in class, and it’s second to none for entertainment thanks to a digital TV tuner, HDMI out and touch sensitive media controls.
In the flesh, the M70V is big, heavy and designed to last, with metal trims and thick plastic coatings all round. The only thing that lacks design polish is the dull keyboard.
The Altec Lansing speakers are good but only if you add the suffix ‘for a notebook’. They’re actually quite terrible for music and movies, but since all laptop speakers are offensive to the ears we’ll grudgingly admit they’re better than most.
Even with a fair amount of entertainment oomph, though, it’s worth spending a bit more for a slightly higher specced model than the one we received. The optional Blu-ray drive won’t cost you much more, for example, and you’ll definitely want to upgrade the screen.
The high def 1920x1200 panel is lovely, with bright colours and good contrast ratios: the 1440x900 monitor in the model we reviewed is way too low a resolution for this size screen, and suffers from poor viewing angles and patchy backlighting too.
Just as important, the basic model only has a gigabyte of RAM and a 250GB hard disk (though it can support up to 1terabyte). You’re supposed to be entertained by watching movies on its big screen, not by the laughable tech spec sheet.
The other similarity between this and an Eee, though, is the alternative operating system it sports. Although it comes with Vista on board, this will also boot in around five seconds to a Linux desktop Asus is calling ‘ExpressGate’.
It’s not a brand new idea – Dell and others have been touting laptops with instant-on media file access for a long time, but ExpressGate doesn’t just allow you to play music and movies from your hard disk. It also has a messenger client, Skype and Firefox for full web access. You can’t install new software into ExpressGate, but you can play webgames and use online office suites. It’s not a brilliant way to work for long periods of time, but it is one more turn in the direction of a Microsoft-free world and will also be included on the Eee Box.
The M70V isn’t perfect – there were a few hardware bugs with restarting our review sample that need ironing out, but it is different. And in terms of sheer mass alone, you won’t get more laptop for your money elsewhere.