Asus F70SL notebook review

2.5 out of 5
£859

For

Fairly low cost powerful multimedia notebook

Against

Very uncomfortable keyboard to type with, awkward touchpad, unnecessarily bulky design

Asus' latest notebook comes pitched as an entertainment- or multimedia-centric computer, with a design to its casing similar to that of Aurora Borealis. The F70 we saw for review came with an Intel Dual Core 2.16GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and a single 320GB hard drive, although the SKU’s may vary and the system is capable of handling dual drives up to 1TB in capacity.

Whilst testing and reviewing the notebook we discovered some unsettling oddities to the F70, which either were deliberate in its conception or something that was gravely overlooked in the testing procedures, perhaps even in the focus groups.

The first foible we found was that the keyboard is awkwardly situated way up the base of the notebook. It’s been placed a good 5-inches away from the F70s beginning edge, where you actually have to reach rather uncomfortably over the majority of its base to use the keyboard.

A much smaller person than this reviewer could quite easily lose most of the forearm just to extend over the so-called palm rest area, all in order to start typing. After a good day’s usage, we found that the muscles in the hands were really tired and everything had becomes uncomfortable to use.

What’s definitely a contributing factor is the base being a good 2-inches deep, which thicker than your average laptop or PC based keyboard. This just adds to the overall awkwardness we found in once again operating the keyboard - an ergonomic failure by any measure.

The F70’s touch pad is a little bit larger than we’ve seen and used before, it’s also a tad unresponsive; this could very well be down to the surface materials used in the case’s manufacturing or just the default settings of the pad. Either way, this adds to the disastrous feel of its design. Adding further insult to injury, the touch pad’s mouse button is accompanied by an annoying sound every time it’s clicked, which grates on your very soul after just a few hours of use. It doesn’t even feel like it will let up even after some weeks of operation either.

We thought it was a tad cheeky of Asus to holler about the notebook having "Full 1080p HD" capability too. The maximum resolution is only 1600 x 900 where 1080p is actually 1920 x 1080. The only possible way the F70 could achieve the glory of fully blown 1080p would be from the built-in HDMI port, where the image is then exported to an external display capable of HD. But it is a 17.3-inch LCD panel, powered by the Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS, so will have a good crack at more demanding visuals.

As always the sound is of a very solid, decent quality which all comes from their Altec Lansing surround sound speakers, which really do excel within movie and game playback. It’s a standard setup seen in much more expensive notebooks from Asus, and is very much welcomed in this lower tier model.

Of course there is a DVD rewriter tucked into the side although Blu-ray is also available, as well as 4x USB2.0 ports, VGA, mic and headphone sockets and a multi-card reader. You get Ethernet and b/g/n flavour Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to round out the connectivity.

Compared with other Asus notebooks we’ve seen and used before, the F70 does fail in its overall design layout in our opinion. It’s almost as if we saw a prototype, a very early one at that and not the finished article. They’ve aimed this series of notebooks at a fairly budget market, as it sits just above their entry level models with a price and a set of specifications to match seen in the smaller 17.3-inch screen.

A display which is apparently the world’s first, that just happens to be a good viewable size for a medium level notebook.

Verdict

It’s a shame we can’t wholeheartedly recommend the F70 due to its keyboard layout and design, as it was rather uncomfortable to use. It wasn’t a minor niggle on our behalf or as a comparison to the usual laptops we use. We do test 100s of notebooks, netbooks and their ilk - this was the first we’ve ever taken an issue with on that very subject.

The F70 does curiously have a similar depth of their W90 £2,399 monster that we reviewed recently. The casing is certainly a factor in its bulky overall build, we are very much struggling to work out why a similar chassis was used as it does take away a certain quality in what could have been a good notebook.