This hulking, polished aluminium beast is Asus’s take on the desktop replacement. But does it have more allure than an iMac?
Laptops don’t come much more eye-catching than the Asus NX90J, the Taiwanese company’s take on the desktop replacement. Once you’ve heaved its 4kg mass out of the box, the first thing you’ll note is your own face, staring back at you from the mirrored surface of the aluminium lid. Subtle? Yes, in the same way as a Bugatti Veyron.
Things don't get less ridiculous when you open it up. The screen is a gigantic 18.4in and where the trackpad would usually be is another mirrored slab – handy for checking your own nostrils, we found.
That's not where the trackpad is, of course. Instead, Asus has plumped for an unusual twin trackpad arrangement, with one each side of the Scrabble-key keyboard.
The arrangement, which could come into its own if anyone ever writes any software to take advantage of it, is a bit off-putting, at least at first.
For one thing, those used to a laptop with a normally placed trackpad will find themselves reaching for nothing a lot of the time. We also found that accidentally touching one of the trackpads while using the other leads to the mouse pointer leaping around the place like an electrocuted tick.
That's not to say it isn't attractive. The super-glossy 18.4in screen is flanked by a pair of Bang & Olufsen speakers, and while you'll never want to use the NX90J on your lap, it's a gorgeous piece of furniture.
Indeed, given its enormous size and lack of portability, it's better to think of the NX90J as an all-in-one PC that happens to fold up neatly when you're not using it rather than a proper laptop.
The huge screen is high resolution, as well – it's Full HD at 1920x1080 and the slot-loading optical drive on the left-hand edge is, naturally, a Blu-ray drive.
When it goes on sale later this year (October is Asus' current best bet), the NX90J is going to cost the better part of two grand, so it's gratifying that you get some thunderingly fast components to go with its striking looks.
Our sample had a 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM and no less than 4GB of RAM. A pair of 640GB hard disks provide all the storage you could conceivably want in one place, and the NX90J will win a place in the heart of gamers with its Nvidia GeForce GT 335M, which ripped through a multiplayer bout of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 at the monitor's native resolution with the graphics cranked to their highest settings. It's likely the finished version will offer very similar performance.
Flies in the ointment
The NX90 doesn't get an unqualified recommendation, though. The screen looks spectacular thanks to its high-gloss finish, but reflections from behind you aren't so much distracting as capable of completely overshadowing what's happening on screen.
We also found that the much-vaunted speakers, although capable of providing good mid- and high-end sound as well as a reasonable bit of bass, were prone to distorting at high volume.
Hopefully that's something Asus will sort out before the NX90J launches. With any luck, the same will go for Wi-Fi reception, which we found to be distinctly unreliable in a room where other devices connected with no hassle.
As a design piece the NX90J succeeds totally: it's good looking, extremely fast and, as long as you don't turn the speakers up too much, nice to listen to.
As something you might actually buy, you should remember that other nice design pieces, such as the gorgeous 27in iMac (which, let's face it, is only slightly less portable than a 20in wide, 4kg laptop) can be had for significantly less. Still, for posing in every room in your house, there's no arguing with this gorgeous mini-supercomputer's looks or performance.
Asus NX90J review
A stunning, powerful desktop replacement, if not quite the last word in laptop audio it claims to be