- Excellent multimedia machine
- Superb keyboard makes for easy typing
- Underwhelming performance, particularly in games
- Battery life is quite limited
Asus delivers a fine desktop replacement, provided that your needs are fairly undemanding. It does offer superb multimedia capabilities, however, and the price is right.
Sometimes you need a basic second PC. The Asus K72DR-A1 may just fit the bill: This budget desktop replacement laptop ships with a Blu-ray drive and decent audio performance, making it suitable for showing your kids a movie of their own while you curl up in front of your HDTV.
The K72DR-A1 ships with a mobile AMD triple-core Phenom N830 CPU running at 2.1GHz. Although that processor won’t win any performance awards, it is capable enough for living-room duty or light office chores. The discrete AMD Radeon HD 5470 GPU makes up somewhat for the limited CPU performance, particularly when you’re watching video or playing certain games. In our tests, Far Cry 2 ran at almost 35 frames per second in DirectX 9 mode (“optimal” settings) at the full 1600-by-1900-pixel resolution. However, the pure DirectX 10 title Just Cause 2 tanked, barely hitting 10 fps. Users will need to dial down the graphics settings to obtain reasonable frame rates in games.
Like most current-generation laptops in this class, the K72DR-A1 ships with 4GB of system RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition. PowerDVD 10, bundled with the system, allows users to take advantage of the Blu-ray drive easily. I loaded up several Blu-ray movies, including Serenity, Kick-Ass, and Life (the BBC version). When I was sitting in the sweet spot, high-definition movies looked great, and the color fidelity was satisfactory. At typical laptop viewing distances, however, I could actually see pixels on the 1600-by-900 display, which detracted slightly from the movie-watching experience. True 1080p would have been more welcome on a 17-incher.
While the display’s overall color fidelity looked quite good, any deviation from straight-on viewing angles revealed some loss of brightness and color shifting. It’s also worth noting that image smearing in fast action sequences, such as some of the fight scenes in Kick-Ass, was evident, but not too distracting.
Audio is surprisingly robust, provided that you dig into the controls a bit. If loudness compensation and SRS sound are disabled, music and movies sound thin and tinny. Enabling either setting, or both, makes a tremendous difference in audio quality: Music becomes more full-bodied and spacious, albeit at the expense of some accuracy and a sort of bathroom-reverb feel.
The K72DR-A1 weighs 6 pounds, 15 ounces sans the power brick and just shy of 8 pounds with the power adapter. Given the limited battery life–just over 2 hours, according to PCWorld battery testing–you’ll want to keep the power brick close at hand. Still, there are far heavier 17-inch laptops on the market; while portability is not the K72DR-A1’s strong suit, the machine is relatively easy to lug around.
The keyboard is excellent, complete with a full-size numeric keypad. Most of the keys are full size or nearly full size, and the tactile feedback is quite good. You’ll find no dedicated buttons or keys for media playback or other functions, but audio volume and display brightness are built in as Fn keys.
Networking capability includes Atheros 802.11n Wi-Fi and gigabit ethernet. No Bluetooth or 3G/4G broadband is built in. Two USB 2.0 ports grace the left side, along with the tray for the Blu-ray ROM drive. The left side is a little crowded, offering two more USB 2.0 ports, the ethernet jack, a VGA connector, an HDMI port, and audio jacks (one in, one out). Although the K72DR-A1 lacks eSATA capability, a three-in-one memory card reader is built into the front of the unit.
Overall, the Asus K72DR-A1 makes for an excellent second home PC. Priced at just under $900 (as of October 21, 2010), and complete with a Blu-ray drive, discrete graphics, and a colorful 17.3-inch display, it’s a good value, though hobbled a bit by the mediocre CPU performance.