Review: Asus N55SF

Review: Asus N55SF
Highlights
  • The Asus N55SF boasts of a 15.6-inch HD display and Bang and Olufsen Speakers with a dedicated external subwoofer.
Introduction

Laptops have been steadily edging out desktops and are doing a pretty good job of it. Gaming and entertainment specific laptops range from 14 to 18-inches in size and pack in some of the most powerful hardware money can buy. But these laptops compromise on certain aspects such as keyboard, display, audio output and portability.

Today, we have the Asus N55SF that boasts of a 15.6-inch HD display, some serious power under the hood and Bang and Olufsen Speakers with a dedicated external subwoofer. Is this the next generation home entertainment laptop? Read on to find out.


First Impression

The device is really heavy and the power brick is larger than usual which makes the portability of this device a real problem. The lid is glossy black, which is really gorgeous to look at, but is also a fingerprint and dust magnet. The hinge that holds the display feels sturdy, smooth and well built.

Open the lid and you will be greeted by a 15.6-inch display, which appears larger than it is. That's probably because of the thick frame surrounding the screen. The keyboard is compactly laid out. This enables the device to have a complete numeric pad to the right and dedicated media controls on the left but the tradeoff is that some of the keys are too close together which causes hindrance during typing. The power button is integrated with the keyboard and rests at the top right corner of the numeric pad. Above the keyboard rests the Bang and Olufsen speakers under a thick grey strip. This layout adds uniformity and gives the device a classy look. The overall build quality of the device is very good.

Multimedia

Since the device boasts some serious power under the hood, a Blu-ray drive, Bang and Olufsen speakers with a dedicated subwoofer and a display with 1600x900 resolution, expectations are pretty high.

For the most part the device doesn't disappoint. HD movies run very smoothly on the device. We saw a bit of Iron Man 2 in full HD, Tangled and Megamind in 720p MP4 and they ran without a hiccup. Since the device boasts of a Blu-Ray drive we even watched a bit of Inception on Blu-Ray.

For the most part, the visual performance of the device is pretty good. The display is crisp but the colour representation could have been a bit more vibrant. The only disappointing fact is that the resolution of the display is maxed out at 1600x900 which isn't full HD. If Asus provides a Blu-Ray drive on the device why not a full HD display to go with it? Yet, the performance of the display is good and you can use the HDMI out to connect it to your TV/Home Theater.

The audio produced by the Bang and Olufsen speakers with the dedicated subwoofer is a mixed bag. The audio clipped at high volumes and the placement of the external subwoofer feels like an issue especially if you are an audiophile. The wire is just too short and we found it performed best when placed on the device close to the trackpad. The stereo imaging is sterile and the overall performance of the speakers can be categorized as average at best. Sure, they are way better than what you would find in a "regular" laptop, but for a machine that boasts of the Bang and Olufsen name, they are a bit disappointing.

In terms of music playback, the sound is really good if the placement of the subwoofer is correct. The base response is definitely an improvement from what we are used to hearing out of laptops but the external subwoofer feels more of a hindrance in the ergonomic perspective.

There are laptops such as the Dell XPS L501X which boast of a dedicated 2.1 JBL speaker system, and we received some great audio from that device. The biggest advantage of the L501X over the Asus N55SF is the subwoofer integrated in the base of the device. When compared, the Dell XPS L501X has the edge in terms of ergonomics and portability but in terms of audio output, both the machines are nearly at par.

A nice touch to the multimedia aspect of the device is the inclusion of dedicated play/pause, volume and mute buttons on the left of the keyboard. Ergonomically, they feel well placed and you can get use to them in no time.

Gaming

Since the device has a second-generation Intel core i7 2GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and a NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M Graphics card you can expect some serious gaming from it. We played a bit of Crysis 2 on the device. Settings and resolution were set to max and for most part the game worked with a bit of jitter on a regular basis. The frame rate dropped dramatically at the high octave action sequences but we got some smooth performance when we reduced the graphical settings.

The visuals were maxed at 1600x900 but the audio was definitely bumped up thanks to the dedicated subwoofer. The in-game voice was crisp and all the explosions and gunshots had the extra thump enhancing the immersive experience.


Performance
 

As a regular notebook, this isn't an ideal choice. For starters it looks and feels larger and heavier than a 15-inch MacBook Pro, and the power brick is larger and heavier than what we'd like. Plus, you have to carry the external subwoofer wherever you go. However, the screen is large and browsing the Internet, working on Office, and the regular shenanigans of multitasking is handled like a breeze on the device.

The experience of typing on the keyboard is a bit disappointing. The keys are great to type on but they are a little too close together and it's easy to hit the wrong key at times. The addition of a number pad on the right is great but it feels squeezed in and isn't the most convenient to use.

The trackpad is quite large, as large as the trackpad on a MacBook Pro, has a black matte finish and a single strip button below it that houses both the left and the right click. The plastic trackpad though smooth, feels a little sticky and rough. It isn't the best in the business and if you use the device as a desktop replacement you'd do better to use an external USB mouse.

In terms of connectivity, the device houses the charging port, VGA out, Ethernet port HDMI out and two USB 3.0 ports to the left. The right houses the headphones and mic port, two USB 2.0 ports a Blu-ray drive and a port for the dedicated subwoofer. The SD card reader is the only thing that rests in the front panel of the device.

The battery of the device is easily removable which is great since the device houses a 6-cell lithium ion battery that will last you a little over an hour if you push the device to its limits.

Verdict

The device works well as a desktop replacement rather than a portable laptop but it isn't perfect. It has some good power under the hood, large display, a Blu-ray drive and some really good audio performance. What it lacks is a full HD display, a better trackpad and the layout of the keyboard could have been better.

If you are in the market for a machine which will satisfy your entertainment and gaming needs and add a bit of thump where audio is concerned, you could take a look at the offerings from Dell, MSi and HP as well.


Pros
Good performance under the hood
Great audio
Large display
Blu-ray drive
USB 3.0

Cons
Display isn't 1080p
Cramped keyboard
Huge power brick
Not conveniently portable
We wish the sub woofer were integrated


Price: Rs. 73,999

Specifications:
15.6-inch display with a resolution of 1600x900
2nd Generation Intel Core i7 2GHz Processor
4GB DDR3 RAM
NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M Graphics card
750GB HDD
Blu-Ray drive
HD Webcam
802.11 N, Blutooth 3.0, 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet
6 cell Li-Ion battery 5200mah


RATINGS:
Performance: 4
Price: 3.5
Ease of setup: 5
Ergonomics: 3
Wow Factor: 4.5
Overall: 3.5

Benchmark scores:
3D Mark 06: 12543

Battery Mark:
Forecast: NA
Test: one hour

PC Mark Vantage:
PC Mark Score: 7340
Memories score: 4929
TV and Movies score: 4291
Gaming Score: 7125
Music Score: 6679
Communications score: 6593
Productivity score: 4694
HDD score: 3473
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