Asus' M50Vm comes from the same genus as its M51Va, featuring a similar half tone, faded wave design on its lid, silver interior and full-sized numpad, bundled with a 1,440x900, 15.4-inch screen.
However, there are differences that go beyond different patterns on the interior — the most notable is its featured multimedia touchpad, that at a press of a button, changes the touchpad into a series of quick access buttons for media functions. It's a good idea, although the switch to turn on the multimedia button is on the trackpad itself above the scroll area, and during our testing was turned on accidentally many, many times. Unlike the M51Va it also doesn't require a button to be pushed to open the lid, only force is required. The M50Vm also packs Altec Lansing speakers (with the always hilarious Dolby certification), which as far as laptop speakers go aren't terrible — but they are laptop speakers, and so you'll want to hook up headphones to get decent results.
At the top left of the keyboard are four quick access buttons, which allow quick switching of power profiles, disabling the touchpad, cycles through "Splendid" modes (Asus' monitor presets), and access to Asus' "ExpressGate", a quick load operating system based on the embedded Linux "Splashtop" system, giving fast access to music, Web, photos, online games, chat and Skype.
A fingerprint reader is situated in between the two mouse buttons, and an ambient light sensor sits just below the screen, dynamically altering screen brightness depending on the light level of your surroundings.
A webcam at the top of the screen, which supports Asus' SmartLogon, allows you to log in to Windows using only your face. The implementation is a little different from Lenovo's — for a start, the preview sits at the top right of the log-on screen and doesn't overlap the user list, and it also allows different levels of "security", altering how stringent it is on the facial check before it will log you in.
It is also next to useless. Apart from taking longer to log you in than the traditional method, it can easily be fooled by a low resolution, black and white print of the same person's face who's logged in.
On the hardware front the M50Vm is well equipped, with a Core 2 Duo 9400, 4GB RAM, and a GeForce 9600M GS with 1GB of dedicated memory. While it's not the fastest graphics card around, it should certainly be able to handle the likes of Spore. More concerning is that once again Asus has shipped a laptop with 4GB RAM and a 32-bit operating system, ensuring that around 1GB of that is effectively useless as the operating system simply can't register it.
On the right-hand side is three USB ports, dual heaphone jacks (one of which doubles as an SPDIF jack), a microphone and the DVD+-RW drive. The left gets an eSATA and HDMI port, MMC/SD/MS card reader, FireWire and USB ports and VGA out. The rear is spartan by comparison, holding an RJ45 and Ethernet jack. The exhaust vent has been unfortunately placed on the left-hand side, and since our review unit put out quite a bit of heat during testing, our left hand got a small roasting sitting next to it.
On the extras front a well manufactured carry bag is included, as is an external mouse, and the usual manuals.
Thanks to the video card, the M50Vm gave a strong showing in 3DMark06, bringing back a score of 4,411. Things were quite good in PCMark05 as well, netting a score of 5,839. This puts the M50Vm in a good position for entertainment, gaming and office work.
Turning off all the power-saving features and setting screen brightness and volume to maximum, we played back a DVD to test battery life under the most strenuous of conditions. The Asus did as expected, managing to playback one hour, 44 minutes and 39 seconds of the movie before shutting down.
The M50Vm is a great mid-weight laptop, with a few years of longevity in it as well. And at AU$1,999, it's definitely worth a look.