Asus W90 review

Price when reviewed

You wouldn’t know it to look at, but the Asus W90 is one of the most explosive laptops we’ve ever seen: beneath the understated brushed aluminium chassis lurks the first laptop in the world to deploy a pair of ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870 graphics chips in CrossFireX.

Accordingly, the W90 achieved the fastest gaming results we’ve ever seen from a notebook. Our low and medium-quality benchmarks (1,024 x768 and 1,280 x 1,024) were decimated at 77fps and 48fps respectively, and the Asus’ score of 37fps in the high-quality Crysis test is the best we’ve ever seen from any laptop.

The GPUs’ adept handling of complex graphics is further demonstrated at 1,600 x 1,200 with the settings turned right up; in our most demanding graphics benchmark – a test that cripples many desktop PCs – the W90 managed a playable 30fps.


The Asus doesn’t want for 2D power, either: the 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo Mobile T9600 raced to a score of 1.38 in our benchmarks, a score that few other laptops can match.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the finished version of the W90 will have a slightly slower 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo T9550 processor instead, but we can’t see this change having a huge effect on performance.

Also worth noting is the motherboard chipset. While most current-generation laptops come with Intel’s popular PM45 Express chipset, Asus has opted for something a little different. Instead of a mobile part, the W90’s motherboard boasts Intel’s X38 desktop chipset.

Asus has also broken ground with the memory, including 6GB of DDR2 RAM in three SO-DIMM slots, which is the most we’ve seen in any laptop.

Along with twin 320GB hard disks and draft-n wireless, as well as an HDMI output, eSATA and FireWire, most of the entertainment bases are covered. Only the lack of a TV tuner prevents it from completing a clean sweep.

All this power, understandably, doesn’t come cheap in terms of bulk and weight: the record-breaking hardware is encased in a huge 6kg chassis that dwarfs even the giant Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds.

It’s clearly not designed to be carried around in a shoulder bag – even lugging this machine from the desk to the boot of your car is going to take some effort.

It does at least look okay and build quality is good too. Commendably Asus has eschewed bright lights and tacky plastic, opting instead for discreet, brushed aluminium with flashing LEDs kept to a minimum. The keyboard and trackpad feel solid and dependable, and able to withstand extended periods of gaming.


Five Altec Lansing speakers are dotted around the case, with a subwoofer pumping out rich, full bass to compliment the accurate, snappy treble. And the screen offers comparable quality.

The native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 is enough to fully exploit high definition media, and while our review sample only came with a DVD writer we’re assured the finished product will boast an integrated Blu-ray drive.

Battery life isn’t much – a mere 77 minutes in the light use test – but as mentioned above, this Asus is no frequent flyer. The W90 is, however, one of the quickest and best-looking gaming notebooks around, and well worth a look for that alone.

It doesn’t come cheap, of course, but for desktop-rivalling performance nothing else comes close.


Warranty1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions443 x 328 x 57mm (WDH)
Travelling weight7.2kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo T9600
Motherboard chipsetIntel X38
RAM capacity6.00GB
Memory typeDDR2
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total3

Screen and video

Screen size18.4in
Resolution screen horizontal1,920
Resolution screen vertical1,080
Resolution1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset2 x ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870
Graphics card RAM1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity594GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Hard diskSeagate Momentus 5400.5
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Optical driveSamsung TS-L633A
Battery capacity8,800mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchyes
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots1
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)4
FireWire ports1
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readeryes
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Speaker locationFront, above keyboard, bottom
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Fingerprint readeryes
Smartcard readerno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use77
Battery life, heavy use66
Overall application benchmark score1.59
Office application benchmark score1.59
2D graphics application benchmark score1.64
Encoding application benchmark score1.49
Multitasking application benchmark score1.65
3D performance (crysis) low settings48fps
3D performance settingMedium

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows Vista Home Premium
OS familyWindows Vista

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