While Asus has yet to achieve the recognition of some of its more high-profile rivals, its comprehensive laptop range is among the best on the market. The K50AB is a perfect example, providing performance, features, usability and great value for money.

The stunning 15.6-inch screen is the most immediately notable feature. Its widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio is ideal for multi-tasking and watching movies. Image quality is fantastic, with impressive brightness, vibrant and defined colour and contrast, and deep black levels.

The 2.7kg chassis features a mottled black/brown design that you'll either love or hate. Build quality is excellent, although the use of glossy plastics quickly attracts scratches and smudges. Mobility is slightly below average, with the battery lasting for just 165 minutes between charges.

Excellent usability

Usability is excellent, despite this being one of the smaller machines around. The full-sized keyboard has a smooth and accurate action, but the keys respond quite loudly when typing at speed. The textured finish to the touchpad proves satisfyingly tactile in use.

Unlike the Acer 5536G and Samsung R520, there is no HDMI-out port for connecting to an external high-definition (HD) screen. Stereo speakers from audio specialist Altec Lansing are integrated, although we noticed little improvement in audio performance over its rivals.

Asus has used a dedicated ATI Radeon HD 4570 512MB. The chip allows for the smooth processing of HD video and provides ample power for mid-level gaming, as well as photo and video editing. As a result, the lack of an HDMI port is particularly disappointing.

Home and office performance is also capable. While the AMD AMD Athlon 64 X2 fails to match its Intel-powered rivals, it is backed by 4096MB of memory and provides more than enough power for most daily use, only slowing during complex multi-tasking.

Storage options are equally strong. The 250GB hard drive provides ample space for storing photos, videos and music, while the DVD rewriter and 3-in-1 card reader let you create your own CD and DVDs and share data via flash storage cards.

Rounding out the specification is top-of-the-range wireless and fixed network connectivity, courtesy of 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet. Software is limited, however, so you'll need to supply your own office and internet security applications.

If you're after an affordable widescreen laptop for gaming and for viewing movies and photos, the K50AB is a good choice. However, its lack of an HD output and poor software package mean there are better all-round options.

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