The audio produced by most laptop speakers is pretty dire, but Asus' latest entertainment laptop, the N53Jn, is looking to change all that. It comes with an audio system that's been designed in partnership with Hi-Fi brand Bang & Olufsen. Priced at around £950, can this laptop really redefine our laptop audio expectations?
Bang on the money
The high asking price is an indicator that this is a flagship laptop for Asus, and you can also tell this from the N53Jn's luxurious styling. The brushed aluminium right across the chassis, plus some signature design elements such as the scooped screen hinges, mean it's a very classy machine. It feels sturdy and well put together, too. Although it's quite heavy at 2.73kg, the laptop's size means it's not likely to be used on the move much anyway.
The N53Jn's keyboard uses traditional tapered-style keys rather than the isolated style that is becoming increasingly common. The keyboard is large and the layout is good -- Asus has even managed to fit a full numerical keypad on the right-hand side. However, there is some flex towards the middle of the keyboard and keys don't have the solid action of some of the better keyboards we've used on other 15.6-inch models. Nevertheless, the laptop's trackpad is excellent. Its smooth surface means your finger glides effortlessly across it and the dark chrome rocker button is very accurate at registering taps. The trackpad also has multi-touch support, so you can use it to zoom in and out of the display on Windows 7 Home Premium by pinching your fingers together or spreading them apart on the surface of the pad.
Display of disaffection
an entertainment-focused laptop, the N53Jn's screen is surprisingly average.
The 15.6-inch display only stretches to a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which
is hardly sufficient to show off movies played from the on-board Blu-ray drive.
It's not just the resolution that's disappointing, either. The backlighting is
a little uneven, with the top of the screen looking slightly darker than the
bottom. Although colours are very punchy, the accuracy isn't great as skin
tones in movies tend to have a slightly yellow tinge.
Bring the noise
Thankfully, the laptop lives up to the hype when it comes to its audio performance. The Bang & Olufsen speaker system is nestled between the two screen hinges, behind an elongated grill. Despite their small size, the speakers managed to produce a convincingly wide sound stage and can be cranked up to very loud without introducing any real distortion. They also pump out surprisingly bass-heavy sound -- something that's a real rarity on today's laptops.
The brain of the laptop is a dual-core Intel Core i5-520M processor that's clocked at 2.5GHz. This is backed up by a healthy 4GB helping of RAM. The i5 processor is no slouch, so its impressive score of 6,011 in the PCMark05 benchmark test wasn't exactly unexpected. In fact, while the laptop isn't the very fastest around, its score does demonstrate it's got enough grunt to easily handle demanding applications like HD video-editing.
The N53Jn's graphics configuration is quite interesting -- it uses a GeForce GT325 chip with Nvidia Optimus technology. This allows it to switch to the power-efficient on-board Intel graphics when it's running less-demanding video tasks or on battery power, then switch back to the powerful Nvida chip when it needs more performance for gaming. In 3DMark06 it scored an impressive 8,191, which means it'll run the latest games at a decent frame rate as long as you turn the detail settings down a touch. The switchable graphics also helped it turn in a good performance when it came to battery life. In our Battery Eater test, it managed to keep running for an hour and 9 minutes, which isn't bad for a laptop of this size and power.
The range of ports on offer is excellent. There are four USB ports. One of these doubles as an eSata port while another is USB-3-compatible, allowing it to work with newer, high-speed peripherals. Naturally, there are both VGA and HDMI video outputs as well as a full line-up of communications options, including Gigabit Ethernet, 801.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0.
Overall, the Asus N53Jn is a gorgeous-looking laptop and has some great features, including an impressive on-board audio system. However, its average screen and keyboard means it misses out on achieving top marks.
Edited by Emma Bayly