ASUS M50Sv: More Megahertz, Less Nanometers

ASUS M50Sv notebook turned out pretty interesting for two reasons. First, it was built with the new 45nm Intel CPU on Penryn core, and second, it featured a new Nvidia graphics chip inside. Read more in our review!

by Alexander Britvin
08/17/2008 | 10:38 AM

Introduction or a Few Words on Santa Rosa Refresh

Our latest notebook reviews have dealt with the fourth generation of the Centrino platform which is known under the codename of Santa Rosa. From the previous platform called Napa Refresh it had inherited the processor (with a different socket) and the overall Centrino concept (that the platform incorporates a mobile CPU, a chipset and a Wi-Fi adapter).

 

Even though there is no real market competition (AMD makes but feeble attempts to promote its mobile CPUs), Intel announced a new series of mobile processors at the beginning of this year. Based on the Penryn core, these CPUs added the Refresh suffix to the name of Santa Rosa.

Like their desktop counterparts, Penryn-core mobile processors are Intel’s first processors manufactured on 0.45nm tech process. The fundamental difference from the previous Core 2 Duo generation is the use of a metallic gate rather than a gate made from polycrystalline silicon. Coupled with a high-k dielectric (hafnium silicide), this helped increase the overall transistor density and reduce drain currents and power consumption.

Thanks to the new tech process Intel’s engineers increased the default clock rates for the entire CPU series while staying within the typical power dissipation of 35 watts. Or in other words, they lowered the power consumption of CPUs with the same clock rate. Now the clock rate starts from 2.1GHz in the junior model marked as Core 2 Duo T8100. Again, the introduction of the new 45nm tech process made it possible to pack more transistors into a single CPU die. The engineers caught at the opportunity and increased the size of the L2 cache. Older 65nm Merom-core processors have 2 or 4 megabytes of shared L2 cache, but 45nm Penryn-core processors come with 3 or 6 megabytes of L2 cache memory.

The FSB frequency will remain the same as long as the Penryn belongs to the Santa Rosa Refresh platform, namely 800MHz, but will be increased in the next incarnation of the Centrino 2 platform codenamed Montevina where the FSB frequency is expected to be as high as 1066MHz.

There are also less obvious improvements in the processor’s power-saving technologies and Intel Dynamic Acceleration (the point of this technology is in overclocking one of the processor’s cores when the other is idle).

Besides having more cache memory, the new CPU series have acquired a new feature called enhanced cache line split load. It is meant to accelerate the fetching of cache data that are located in different cache lines rather than in one line. In fact, this feature allows to fetch such data as fast as if the data were in the same cache line.

The entire Penryn series brings about a new set of SIMD instructions (SSE4), 47 in total. Although numerous, these instructions do not make up a connected set. Instead, SSE4 includes diverse additions to the existing SIMD instruction sets. Intel’s Advanced Digital Media Boost technology accelerates the processing of video, speech and images, photography transformation and encryption, and the execution of financial, engineering and scientific applications. Penryn processors’ support for Intel HD Boost and SSE4 ensures higher performance in multimedia applications.

Logically enough, the CPU series nomenclature has changed somewhat, too. The first numeral can be either 8 or 9 for 3MB and 6MB of L2 cache memory, respectively. The basic Penryn is the 2.1GHz T8100 model that begins the series. The X9000 model with a typical heat dissipation of 44W and a clock rate of 2.8GHz is the most advanced model in the new mobile series. Merom-core CPUs are far slower than that.

As you may have already guessed, we are talking about the Penryn core in this introduction because we have got a notebook with this processor. It is the M50Sv model from ASUS.

Besides the new CPU, the notebook features a lot of other innovations ASUS developers managed to squeeze into the 15-inch form-factor. By the way, the letter M in the notebook’s name stands for Multimedia. That’s why the notebook uses a discrete graphics core GeForce 9500M GS with 512 megabytes of dedicated graphics memory. It also comes with as much as 4 gigabytes of system memory which is the maximum the Santa Rosa Refresh platform supports. The notebook can automatically adjust the level of brightness of its LCD panel by means of a lighting sensor in order to reduce your eye strain at work. A full-size keyboard, unusual for a 15-inch notebook, is built into the case. The touchpad serves two purposes at once as a pointing device and as a control panel for multimedia applications. The notebook carries Altec Lansing speakers, a set of microphones, and a digital sound processor that ensures a crystal-sharp sound from those microphones.

The M50Sv comes with a generous selection of interfaces. Besides traditional ports, it features e-SATA for high-speed external drives and HDMI for viewing high-definition video on appropriate display devices. The notebook may optionally be equipped with a 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter, a 1GB Intel Turbo Memory module, an optical DVD-drive with LightScribe technology (writing text or drawing pictures on the unused surface of a disc) or a Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive (the latter standard is now defunct, though). The notebook’s exterior design is called ASUS Infusion Technology which means a new coating material that is more resistant to the elements. Some configurations may even include a TV-tuner. As a result, we have a full-featured multimedia computer weighing a reasonable 2.8 kilos.

Besides checking out the exterior design and internal configuration of the ASUS M50Sv, we are going to benchmark it in comparison with ASUS’s G1S notebook, a model from the gaming series we have tested earlier. We will see the difference between Penryn and Merom-core processors as well as between GeForce 9500M GS and GeForce 8600M GT graphics cores.

Package and Accessories

The product box has a new design that differs from what we’ve come to expect from ASUS. The box has also become thinner. You get it together with an exclusive bag for carrying the notebook. The box is covered with advertising and promotional captions and pictures.

The M50Sv comes with a standard heap of accessories from ASUS. It is the reasonable minimum of things you need to use the notebook. Besides the bag and the notebook proper, the box contains a 4800mAh 6-cell battery, power adapter, modem cable (RJ-11), TV cable (a mysterious accessory since our sample of the notebook doesn’t have an S-Video port even though the latter is mentioned in the specs), documentation (warranty, manuals, etc), Logitech’s wired USB mouse, napkin to clean the LCD panel, cable strap, and a set of discs. You get the following discs:

 

 

Design and Ergonomics

ASUS’s designers have done a good job on this notebook, so it sports rich functionality as well as an impressive exterior. Every detail is a real treat to the eye. Following the recent trends, the notebook’s lid carries a chaotic pattern which helps conceal dust and greasy stains from the fingers on the glossy surface. The M50Sv still requires some care from the user to stay clean and beautiful, though.

The case is rounded off, which makes it more elegant. The back of the lid is separated from the hinges with a shiny narrow metallic insert. The integrated web-camera has a shiny chrome surface, too. All of this looks impressive and expensive.

Notwithstanding the rather large form-factor, the notebook doesn’t have a lid lock. The lid is held shut by the stiff hinges that stick out of the notebook’s body. Thus, you can unfold the notebook by somewhat less than 180 degrees. It is easy to open the notebook by using the slightly protruding web-camera block which serves as a kind of a handle.

On the left of the notebook’s front panel there is an IrDA port and a slider switch for the wireless interfaces.

The notebook’s interior matches its exterior design harmoniously. The black full-size keyboard fits into the case perfectly. The rest of the interior is glossy, just like the lid, but the color is patterned gray instead of black. The touchpad is shifted to the left, thus being centered below the main keyboard.

There are rubber pads on the screen bezel for softer contact with the notebook’s body when the lid is closed.

As we said above, there is a turnable 1.3-megapixel web-camera above the LCD panel. Its status is reported by a tiny indicator located to the left of the camera’s eye and barely visible when off. The rubber rings on the camera, like the rubber pads around the LCD panel, are meant for softer contact with the notebook’s body. A microphone hole can be seen to the right of the web-camera block.

The ASUS M50Sv is equipped with a widescreen 15.4-inch LCD matrix that has an aspect ratio of 16:10 (WXGA+). Its native resolution is 1440x900 pixels. The matrix’s viewing angles seem to be wide enough for a notebook’s display. That’s good since the M50Sv is positioned as a multimedia solution. The LCD matrix has a “glassy” coating that makes the image brighter and more saturated but also acts as a mirror, reflecting every bright object behind your back.

This glassiness is the result of the use of a special polymer coating that is referred to as ASUS Color Shine technology. Besides it, the notebook features ASUS Splendid Video Enhancement. This feature allows you to adjust the onscreen image by means of preset modes which are selectable with the Fn+C key combination; the currently selected mode is indicated in the onscreen menu.

The M50Sv offers 16 grades of screen brightness just like every other notebook from ASUS, but it is virtually impossible to see anything in the screen at the lowest grades: the image gets too dark. The brightness level is adjusted by pressing Fn together with F5 and F6.

Unusually for ASUS’s products and for 15-inch form-factor at large, the M50Sv is equipped with a full-size 99-key black keyboard.

The keys move rather softly and do not rattle. The Arrow buttons are placed below the keyboard’s baseline, which makes them unlikely to be pressed accidentally. The bottom left corner of the keyboard is occupied by a Control button – that’s convenient for people who are used to Control-involving shortcuts. The numpad is separate from the main keyboard. Two Windows keys are available: the Context Menu key is placed over one key to the right of the spacebar; the Windows Logo key is to the left of the spacebar. The functional keys are smaller than others. Pause, Print Screen, Insert and Delete continue the row of the functional keys at the right. The letters are painted white, the functional keys are blue (press them together with Fn to access their additional functions).

Of course, a dedicated numpad is quite a rare thing for a 15-inch notebook, but we have some gripes about it. The numpad is adjacent to the keyboard’s mainland and differs from the standard layout. The 0 button is half its normal size while the Period (.) button is now at the top – you are going to press it instead of Enter at first. Well, it is just a matter of getting used to the new layout.

The notebook lacks separate Page Up, Page Down, Home and End buttons which are combined with the numpad.

Centered above the keyboard there are quick-launch buttons, indicators, a lighting sensor hole, and a Power button. The slim and long quick-launch buttons are placed into small depressions which looks cute. These buttons include (from left to right):

To the right of the quick buttons there are:

The Power button and the indicators are based on white LEDs.

Altec Lansing speakers are placed on both sides of this group of buttons and indicators. The sound quality is good. The manufacturer quite deservedly calls it Dolby Home Theater.

The M50Sv is not the first of ASUS’s notebooks with a truly superb touchpad. The touch-sensitive panel is large and reacts eagerly to your fingers. It is centered below the keyboard and does not strain your hands. The sensitive area is sunken into the notebook’s case to prevent your finger from slipping off it. The touchpad lacks scrolling zones.

A few icons and a volume control are marked on the touchpad indicating that this device can perform two duties. Besides being a pointing device, the touchpad can be quickly switched into media player control mode – just press the Mode icon in its top right corner. When in this mode, the icons are highlighted, reporting that the touchpad is ready for multimedia work. These virtual buttons allow you to perform such standard operations as stepping the volume level up or down, reducing the screen brightness, playing or pausing a media file. Two buttons are programmable. The only problem is that you can often accidentally touch the Mode button. You can avoid this by disabling the multimedia feature in the software.

There are two buttons below the touchpad. They are stiff and click when pressed. In between these buttons there is a fingerprint scanner that works together with the Trusted Platform Module. There is no joystick for scrolling text because there is actually no place left for it.

There is a metallic piece with three indicators on the notebook’s front panel, below the touchpad’s buttons. They are visible even if the lid is closed. These indicators are:

The protruding details on both sides of the notebook are painted the glossy color of the base. The notebook’s left panel carries the following components (from left to right):

Here are the components you can find on the right side of the notebook:

Optionally, the left panel may offer an audio-video input (AV/S-Video) for connecting to video and audio sources via RCA (Composite) and S-Video connectors. If the notebook is equipped with a TV-tuner, there is an antenna input in the left panel.

These are the components you can find on the notebook’s back panel (from left to right):

We could not find the TV-Out (S-Video) port mentioned in the notebook’s specs nowhere on its body.

The M50Sv comes with a 6-cell 4800mAh battery (11.1V, 53Wh). That’s not a very big battery for such an advanced hardware configuration as this notebook has.

The bottom panel offers covers of WLAN, memory, CPU, GPU and HDD compartments, a battery module with two locks (manual and spring-loaded), a shutdown button and reset hole, and stickers with model info and the OS serial number. The large cover of the common compartment may also hide a SIM-card slot to support 3G networks (the appropriate module is missing in our sample of the notebook).

 

There are two slots in the memory compartments. Each slot is occupied by a 2GB module. Thus, the notebook comes with the maximum amount of system memory it can support, i.e. 4 gigabytes.

The cooling system takes the outside air in through the vent holes in the center of the bottom panel. So you can put the notebook down on your laps without fearing that it will overheat. To check out the possibility of overheat, we put the notebook down on a piece of fabric and recorded the CPU temperature with the CPUID Hardware Monitor after the CPU had been running PCMark Vantage tests for half an hour. Here are the results:

The numbers are lower than what we had observed with notebooks equipped with Merom-core processors. We don’t claim that the new CPU core is so cool, though. Perhaps the M50Sv just has a better CPU cooling system. Anyway, we are quite sure that the notebook won’t overheat whatever surface you may put it down onto.

Configuration

The M50Sv is based on a Core 2 Duo T8300 processor (2.4GHz clock rate, 45nm Penryn core, shared 3MB L2 cache). The FSB frequency is 800MHz due to the mainboard’s, not the CPU’s, limitations. Penryn series processors will be able to work with a 1066MHz FSB on the upcoming Montevina platform and will enjoy much higher system bus bandwidth then.


Intel Core 2 Duo T8300: cache memory

Like the Merom core, the Core 2 Duo T8300 supports Intel’s 64-bit extensions to the x86 architecture called EM64T. It means you can install a 64-bit operating system on this notebook.

 
Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 in two power modes

Besides Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technology that gives the notebook’s software and BIOS the control over the CPU frequency multiplier (to reduce it under low loads), this CPU supports Dynamic Power Coordination (the power consumption of the cores can be independently adjusted depending on the current load; one core may even slip into Deep Sleep mode with the lowest power consumption possible), FSB Frequency Switching (the FSB clock rate is automatically lowered at low loads), and Intel Dynamic Acceleration (this technology increases the frequency of the operating core in single-threaded environments; this is a kind of dynamic overclocking).

The notebook features the Intel Crestline GM965 chipset which offers a PCI Express x16 interface for an external graphics card. The South Bridge (ICH8-M) supports Serial ATA-300 and USB 2.0 interfaces, Intel High Definition Audio, and six PCI Express x1 lanes to connect external devices.

The Santa Rosa Refresh platform is made complete by the Intel Pro/Wireless 4965AGN adapter that supports 802.11a/b/g as well as the newest 802.11n. The latter standard is yet under development but already supported by a number of equipment such as Wi-Fi cards, access points, routers, etc. It provides a data-transfer rate up to 300Mbps. So if you are building a new Wi-Fi network and want to have maximum performance, you may want to consider 802.11n-compatible equipment.

The M50Sv notebook comes with a new discrete GPU officially positioned into the performance class. It is called GeForce 9500M GS.

This GPU is based on the G96 chip (although some programs report it to be a G84). This 65nm chip features lower power consumption in comparison with Nvidia’s earlier 80nm chips. The GeForce 9500M GS is clocked at 475MHz and contains 32 streamed processors clocked at 950MHz. This GPU is accompanied with 512 megabytes of dedicated GDDR3 (as in our notebook) or GDDR2 memory clocked at 700MHz and accessed across a 128-bit bus. It incorporates 16 texture-mapping units and 8 raster operators and supports DirectX 10.0 Shader Model 4.0 and OpenGL 2.1. It also has a PCI Express 2.0 interface with support for HybridPower technology. The manufacturer’s website doesn’t offer much info about this graphics adapter but the GeForce 9500M GS is placed somewhat below the GeForce 8600M GT by independent reviewers. We’ll check this out soon. Below is a screenshot of the RivaTuner tool:

The notebook comes with a Hitachi HTS542525K9SA00 hard disk drive (2.5” form-factor, 5400rpm spindle rotation speed, 250GB capacity, SATA interface) and with an LG GSA-T20N DVD-burner that has the following speed formula:

Writing:

Reading:

The M50Sv may be optionally equipped with a LightScribe-supporting drive or with a Blu-ray or HD DVD drive (the latter standard is now defunct, though).

The notebook comes with two 2GB modules of DDR2-667 SDRAM which is the fastest memory type supported by the Santa Rosa Refresh platform. This is the maximum amount of system memory the notebook can support, so you can’t upgrade the memory subsystem further. On the other hand, 4 gigabytes of memory is quite enough for today’s applications.


Dual-channel memory mode

Although the latest version of the CPU-Z program reports all 4 gigabytes of memory even under the preinstalled 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium, applications can only make use of 3 gigabytes. Why? Because 32-bit systems can address no more than 4 gigabytes of memory, including special addresses for accessing graphics memory and other devices (Memory Mapped I/O). As a result, the OS can only use the memory section up to the MIMO addresses, which is below 4 gigabytes. You can solve this problem by installing a 64-bit version of Windows Vista which can address much more memory and can see all of these 4 gigabytes.

The notebook manufacturer preinstalled a 32-bit Windows for some reason, perhaps to ensure more stability as it allows using stable and time-tested 32-bit drivers. On the other hand, the notebook’s components should all have acquired 64-bit drivers by now and this is in fact the single problem you may have with a 64-bit OS. 64-bit Windows can run any 32-bit applications, including games, smoothly.

We measured the temperature of the hottest spots on the notebook’s surfaces with an infrared thermometer after it had worked for half an hour in PCMark Vantage (the ambient temperature remained constant at 22°C during this test) and got the following numbers:

So, the cooling system of this notebook seems to be thought-through and efficient.

The following table lists the specifications of the M50Sv in comparison with its opponent ASUS G1S.

Testing Methodology

The notebook’s hard disk was formatted in NTFS before the tests. Then we installed Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate x86 and drivers from the included disc.

The following settings were used for the tests:

Two power modes were used. First, we selected the High Performance power mode for maximum performance and the shortest battery life. Then we switched to the Power Saver mode for the maximum battery run-down time.

Our tests:

  1. Performance benchmarks: synthetic (SiSoftware Sandra 2007, PCMark 2005 1.2.0, PCMark Vantage, SYSMark 2007), real-life applications (DivX 6.7, iTunes 7.3, Photoshop CS2, Microsoft Excel 2007, WinRAR 3.7, Microsoft Movie Maker 6.0, CINEBENCH 10), and games (3DMark 2003 3.6.0, 3DMark 2005 1.3.0, 3DMark 2006 1.1.0, Half-Life 2, Quake 4)
  2. Battery life tests (MobileMark 2007)

There are three test modes in Mobile Mark 2007:

Performance in Synthetic Benchmarks

As usual, we will first run our synthetic benchmarks.

The SiSoftware 2007 suite features an updated enhanced-functionality interface, runs on three platforms (Windows x86, Windows x64, WinCE ARM), contains 13 tests and 34 informational modules, and supports a large range of hardware devices thanks to the developer’s collaboration with Intel, AMD, ATI, SiS and VIA. The program is supported in six languages and has a free Lite version for personal use and educational purposes. SiSoftware Sandra measures the overall performance of the system as well as that of each of its subsystems.

PCMark benchmarks computer’s performance in office and office-related applications and also produces performance scores for the main subsystems (CPU, memory, graphical, and disk subsystem). PCMark 2005 carries on the tradition of complex benchmarks of the series and uses fragments of real-life applications as tests. This makes it somewhat more relevant for end-users as opposed to fully synthetic benchmarks. After running a series of 11 tests on the different components of the system, the program calculates an overall performance score in units called PCMarks. PCMark 2005 can check a computer out at processing HD video and encoding audio, and offers enhanced tests of the CPU and hard disk under multithreaded load. The overall score is calculated by the formula: PCMark Score = 87 x (the geometric mean of the basic tests), where the geometric mean is calculated as (Result 1 x Result 2 x…) divided by the number of results.

PCMark Vantage is the first synthetic benchmarking suite developed for Vista. It contains more tests than the previous versions of the benchmark.

The CPU tests suggest that the Penryn core is faster than the Merom when powered by the mains. When the notebooks switch to their batteries, their CPU clock rates drop to 1.2GHz and SiSoftware Sandra 2007 can see but a small difference between them. The CPU frequency is cut in half due to Intel’s power-saving technologies (frequency throttling together with Enhanced SpeedStep and others). We can’t see any trace of FSB Frequency Switching technology, though. The memory tests indicate that it’s better to have two 2GB sticks than two 1GB ones. Oddly enough, the identical HDDs deliver different results in the disk subsystem tests. Our prediction about the contest between the GeForce 9500M GS and GeForce 8600M GT seems to come true even though we haven’t yet got to serious gaming tests.

The new version of SYSMark is intended to reveal a system’s performance under different types of load. It simulates a user who is solving practical tasks in a few popular applications. The benchmark issues a few ratings that are indicative of the system performance under different loads.

The E-Learning test emulates the creation of an educational website with diverse media content. This script makes use of the following applications: Adobe Illustrator CS2, Adobe Photoshop CS2, Macromedia Flash 8 and Microsoft PowerPoint 2003. The Video Creation scenario is about creating video clips using special effects. The clips are combined out of several sources, including static images. The result is prepared in two formats: HD and for online viewing. The following software is utilized here: Adobe After Effects 7, Adobe Illustrator CS2, Adobe Photoshop CS2, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9, and Sony Vegas 7. The next test, Productivity, emulates typical office activities such as sending e-mail, processing data, managing a project, working with documents. Applications employed: Microsoft Excel 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Project 2003, and WinZip 10.0. And finally, the 3D script from SYSMark 2007 is about creating an architectural presentation including a photorealistic image of the building and a clip with a flyby of it. Two applications are used: AutoDesk 3ds Max 8 and SketchUp 5.

The CPU-dependent SYSmark 2007 doesn’t tell us anything new about the relative performance of the two CPUs. The new 45nm core is obviously faster in each test. Its advantage is not overwhelming, yet noticeable. The only exception is the Productivity test which depends on the performance of the hard disk and graphics subsystem. This test is won by the G1S. When the notebooks are working on their batteries, their performance drops twofold due to the power-saving measures.

Performance in Real Applications

We also benchmarked the notebooks in a few real-life applications.

The Penryn core is better at encoding video with the DivX 6.7 codec.

The same goes for encoding of MP3 files. The Merom core is somewhat slower.

The test script for Photoshop CS2 performs a typical processing of five 5-megapixel photos. The notebooks are roughly similar in this test.

Strangely enough, the more advanced CPU is slower in the Excel-based script. The Penryn is not so much better than the older core after all.

The Core 2 Duo T7700 and T8300 processors take about the same time to archive a folder with files.

In the next test a script is used that prepares a video clip for uploading to YouTube. The clip was made out of four video fragments captured from a digital camera. The Penryn core is a tiny bit faster.

The Penryn core wins the final rendering test, probably due to its large cache.

Performance in Gaming Tests

Next we tested the notebook in three versions of 3DMark: 3DMark 2003 3.6.0, 3DMark 2005 1.2.0 and 3DMark 2006 1.1.0.

3DMark uses its own rendering engine to create a set of 3D scenes that load the graphics subsystem in various ways. Compared with the previous version, 3DMark 2005 uses Shader Model 2.0x/3.0 instead of Shader Model 1.x, provides full compatibility with Shader Model 2.0, includes more complex tests (over a million polygons per each frame), and employs normal maps. 3DMark 2006 brings support for HDR, Uniform Shadow Maps, and multi-core CPUs. It is overall oriented at Shader Model 3.0, but two out of its four graphics tests work within the Shader Model 2.0 framework.

The tests suggest that there is but a small difference between the GeForce 9500M GS and GeForce 8600M GT. These two GPUs are roughly similar according to 3DMark.

There is no leader again. Both graphics adapters prove to be very similar in terms of performance. Can you play games on the M50Sv? Judging by its results in comparison with the gaming notebook G1S, you surely can. But of course it won’t be as fast as an advanced modern desktop system.

Battery Life

Battery life is just as important a parameter of a notebook as its performance. The notebook’s battery life was measured with MobileMark 2007. We disabled standby and hibernate mode for the test.

The first scenario, Productivity, emulates the user’s working in typical office applications. The load is not constant as the user is frequently distracting from his work. The second scenario measures the notebook’s battery life when the user is reading text from the screen in Adobe Reader. The third scenario is about DVD playback in InterVideo WinDVD.

The ASUS G1S loses this test. The notebooks have the same size of the LCD panel and the same battery capacity (4800mAh). However, the battery of the G1S is better than the M50Sv’s due to the higher operating voltage (14.8V as opposed to 11.1V). Thus, the real capacity of the batteries is 71Wh and 53Wh, respectively, but notwithstanding this advantage, the G1S is on the losing side in this test.

On the other hand, the M50Sv doesn’t last too long on its battery, either. You won’t be able to watch a full-size movie on this notebook without connecting to a wall outlet.

Notebook LCD Screen Characteristics

We checked out some parameters of the notebook’s LCD panel with a ColorVision Spyder3Elite calibrator and a photo-sensor designed to measure the response time of the LCD matrix. You can refer to this article to learn more about our methods of testing LCD monitors.

The brightness and contrast ratio parameters are just what you can expect from a notebook’s screen. The maximum brightness is sufficient for working under daylight but it may be too low for a sunny day. For comparison, desktop LCD monitors have a max brightness of 250-300 nits. The screen brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation.

The contrast ratio is rather low, too. For comparison, modern desktop monitors have a contrast ratio of 500:1 and higher in this test. This won’t be a problem at work, but watching a movie in a dim room won’t be as enjoyable with this notebook as with a standalone monitor not only because of the screen size but also because of the lack of deep black.

The gamma curves suggest that the notebook’s color reproduction is far from perfect. The curves deflect from each other as well as from the theoretical curve (it is black in the diagram). The notebook displays colors, especially blue halftones, lighter than they should be.

The color temperature setup is nothing but awful. White has a normal color temperature (it is going to look white under ordinary conditions), but the grays are obviously bluish. The color temperature grows twofold on dark gray! The M50Sv produces a very cold-looking picture. It is even unpleasant to look at, let alone using the notebook for editing or viewing photos. Unfortunately, this problem can hardly be corrected manually. If you adjust the gray balance in the graphics card settings, white will get too warm and reddish. Such problems can only be corrected with a hardware calibrator.

You can see this in the diagrams showing the position of the white and gray points on a fragment of the standard CIE diagram: the cross denoting white is indeed white whereas the crosses denoting grays are lower on the left, in the blue zone. Fortunately, there is no deflection towards greens or pink.

But even if you have calibrated the notebook’s screen and got rid of pale faces and blue shadows, you cannot get the same color reproduction as on a desktop LCD monitor. Why? Because of the color gamut. Desktop monitors have an sRGB or larger color gamut (it is marked with a black triangle in the diagram above) whereas notebooks have a color gamut of about 60% of sRGB. In other words, if a color looks red on a desktop monitor, it will look orange on this notebook. This notebook gives you a greenish blue and a yellowish green as well. This is a fundamental problem. You cannot solve it by tweaking the notebook’s settings.

Finally, we measured the response time of the notebook’s LCD matrix. Alas, the M50Sv is not brilliant from this aspect, either. It has a response time average of 19.1 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 34.8 milliseconds. This roughly corresponds to desktop LCD monitors produced a few years ago.

This section of our review may sound a bit pessimistic, but the LCD matrix of the M50Sv is in fact quite standard as notebooks go. Perhaps its color temperature setup is worse than usual, but we have not yet met a notebook whose LCD panel was set up really accurately. We just wanted to show you that notebooks can’t compete with desktop PCs in terms of color reproduction. There are problems that you can solve with a calibrator, but there are fundamental drawbacks that cannot be corrected at all. We don’t mean the notebook’s display is no good at all, but you should keep this fact in mind if you are buying a notebook as a replacement to your desktop PC.

Conclusion

The developers of the M50Sv notebook should be given credit for creating a product with an optimal price/quality/performance ratio. The price of this notebook is reasonable, while its quality and performance are superb, so we now have a new appealing product in the sparsely populated sector of multimedia 15-inch notebooks. In fact, it is easier to tell what the M50Sv cannot do. The configuration we tested could not work as a TV-set as its lacked a TV-tuner and could not work in 3G networks. Otherwise, the M50Sv is a good multimedia computer that easily handles games, movies and office applications.

As for the new Penryn-core processor, it can do better on the upcoming Centrino-2 platform codenamed Montevina. On the current platform it brings about but a small performance gain.

Our tests also show that the GeForce 9500M GS graphics adapter is about as fast as the GeForce 8600M GT, so we can expect the new 9 series solutions with high indexes to have a large advantage over the previous generation of Nvidia’s mobile graphics cards.

Highs:

Lows: