Asus ditches low-budget image with NX90
Classy entertainment laptop and designer netbooks help Asus shed its low-rent Eee PC reputation
Asus is attempting to shrug off its cheap and cheerful image with a selection of stylish new laptops announced at CES in Las Vegas.
The Taiwanese manufacturer is best known for its genre-defining Eee PC netbooks, but the company is attempting to match premium rivals such as Sony with its NX90 laptop.
Asus is positioning the NX90 as an entertainment PC that acts as "the centrepiece of your living room". The 18.4in laptop has Bang & Olufsen speakers fitted on either side of the screen, which Asus marketing manager John Swatton told us are placed as wide apart as possible for maximum resonance.
Swatton claims the speakers are "four or five times" the size of average laptop speakers, and are placed close to the hinge to minimise vibrations. Unfortunately, the busy CES showfloor made it difficult to gauge sound quality, but it was easy to tell that the speakers delivered a far more powerful sound than your average portable.
The NX90 is encased in attractive polished anodised aluminium, although as our showfloor picture (below) reveals, the casing is prone to ugly fingerprints.
Unusually, the laptop has a trackpad on either side of the keyboard, which could take more than a little getting used to.
The specs reinforce the NX90's premium grade: it can be fitted with processors ranging from the 2.26Ghz Core i5 right up to the 1.73Ghz Core i7-820QM (which can be "Turbo Boosted" to 3.06Ghz), and up to 12GB of DDR3 RAM. Graphics are handled by the Nvidia GeForce GT335M and there's a slot-in Blu-ray drive. Windows 7 Ultimate is the pre-installed operating system.
Asus expects the NX90 to arrive in the UK by May, with an estimated price of under £2,000.
Asus is also moving away from the basic, white Eee PC blueprint with new designer netbooks. The Eee PC Seashell Karim Rashid Collection comes in either "hot pink" or "coffee brown" designs.
The slender netbooks have a swappable lithium polymer battery, and a range of matching mice and external hard disk drives.
Swatton said the Rashid collection will arrive in the UK in February, with an expected price of between £400 and £500.
The Asus stand also has working models of the much anticipated Eee Keyboard device. Asus was forced to delay the launch of the all-in-one keyboard PC while it awaits ratification for the ultrawideband wireless technology used inside the PC.
The company has used the delay to upgrade the processor to Intel's latest ultra-low voltage model and boost the colour touchscreen to multitouch.
Asus says it hopes to have samples in the UK in the next couple of weeks, with models going on sale within a couple of months.