Five Multimedia Notebooks, Tested

Asus M70S

Asus likes to position the M70S specifically as a multimedia notebook. That makes it very interesting since the review unit the company sent included a 1440x900 resolution monitor and a DVD burner, rather than a 1920x1200 WUXGA monitor with Blu-ray player, both of which are available as options for this particular notebook. At the time our unit was received, these notebooks were in very high demand, however. We only got to keep ours for a few weeks, then had to ship it back, presumably to make it available for other reviews.

Anybody who is serious about using this notebook for multimedia applications would be very well advised to purchase a properly equipped model like the one from DataVision for $2,300 rather than one equipped as ours was, like this $1,400 unit from That said, we can only review the units that the vendor chooses to send us. At 9 pounds, the M70S is typical for a 17" notebook, while the AC adapter and cord add another 1.96 pounds to the load.

From the front, the M70S shows a somewhat pedestrian layout, with full-size keyboard and a compressed numeric keypad at right, and media control buttons above the keyboard deck.

As equipped, our M70S was no slouch, though of course it suffered from its inability to play back Blu-ray media or to provide full 1080 resolution for HDTV playback. That said, it does include a decent set of Altec Lansing speakers and support for Dolby Home Theater playback, and its ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650 graphics circuitry delivered good video playback and modest gaming support (as you’d expect on a multimedia unit that’s not aimed at hardcore gamers). Once again, we suffered from glossy surfaces inside and out (which explains why so many of these notebooks include microfiber cleaning cloths).

Left side, from left to right: antenna input (TV/FM), 2 x USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394 Firewire, multifunction memory card reader (xD, MMC, MMC Plus, SD, MS, MS Magic Gate, MS Select, Memory Stick Duo, Pro, Duo Pro) and optical drive tray.

As delivered, the M70S we reviewed included an Intel Core 2 Duo 7700 with a 2.4 GHz clock speed (more expensive models feature a 2.5 GHz model instead) and 2 GB of DDR2-667 RAM (more expensive models usually include 4 GB, even though the OS and graphics circuitry drop usable RAM to around 3 GB). This unit included 1 TB of onboard storage, in the form of two 500 GB Hitachi 5400 rpm SATA 300 drives. It also included a Marvell Yukon GbE wired network interface and an Intel 4965 802.11a/g/n wireless interface as well.

Ports and connectors are the same for all M70S models, except, of course, that the optical drives will differ in what they can do. Check out the images for more details on what you’ll find on each side of the system.

Rear view, from left to right: DC power input, air vents, AV/S-Video in, HDMI port, eSATA port, VGA port, RJ-11 modem port, RJ-45 GbE port and Kensington lock port.

The display deck also includes a built-in 1.3 Mpixel Webcam and a microphone at the inside top above the screen. Two stereo speakers are mounted on the keyboard deck above the keyboard (one to the left of the special media keys (aka "Instant Keys"), the other to the right of the indicator LEDs and start button). To the left of the LEDs, you’ll find an ambient light sensor that this notebook uses to adjust brightness and backlighting levels automatically (when power saving regimes permit). There’s also a fingerprint scanner available for M70S (it also performs facial recognition using the built-in camera as another biometric check), which is positioned at the bottom center of the keyboard deck, just below the touchpad.

Except for the lack of Blu-ray and a high-res monitor, and a somewhat underpowered CPU by comparison to the other notebooks reviewed here, the M70S showed itself to be a decent, capable and workmanlike notebook. However, if sufficiently tricked out, it would be much better able to compete with the other notebooks in this review.

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