Top all-purpose laptops
These midsize laptops are affordable and offer more options for hardware and features than smaller laptops, yet are more portable than desktop replacement models
Asus N53SV Review, by Jon L. Jacobi January 28, 2011
Only single-band, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
Weak touchpad and buttons
Bottom Line: If speed is your passion, you'll like this all-purpose unit from Asus, but its input ergonomics are weak.
Asus's good-looking N53-series laptops have proved to be some of the faster all-purpose notebooks on the market. Such is the latest N53SV model, as well, only more so thanks to its new state-of-the-art second-generation Intel Core CPU. Our test configuration, which sells for $1219, sports the high-end 2.0GHz Core i7-2630M processor that pushed the unit to an excellent WorldBench score of 126. However, you can save some money at the expense of performance by ordering it with an i5-2410M or i3-2310M.
All configurations ship with an Nvidia GT-540M GPU, which makes for good gaming. A game like Unreal Tournament 3 tops 100 frames per second in all the resolutions supported by the 15.6-inch, 1366 by 769 display. With more strenuous games, of course, you can expect lower frame rates. The other, less-glamorous main components include 4GB of DDR3-1066 memory, a 750GB, 7200-rpm hard drive (slower, 5400-rpm drives with less capacity are available in some models), and an 8X DVD burner.
At 15.6 inches by 10.6 inches by 1.6 inches thick and 6.4 pounds, the slate-gray N53SV is on the large side for an all-purpose laptop, bordering on the desktop replacement category. However, besides accommodating the large screen, it also allows for a spacious keyboard deck. The keyboard and touchpad are indeed roomy, and have a nice if somewhat soft feel.
Sadly, the keyboard annoys you with odd layout choices: The placement of the cursor keys shortens the length of the right shift key, and several oft-used editing keys such as Delete are stuck in nonstandard locations. There's also no separation of the main alphabetical keys from the said cursor keys or the numeric keypad. This causes visual and tactile confusion at times. One button was defective on our unit and occasionally required a good whack before it would respond.
One other minor issue is that the built-in Atheros AR9285 Wi-Fi adapter is single-band, 2.4GHz-only. You won't be able to connect to the 5GHz networks that are rapidly gaining popularity. On the other hand, the unit has Bluetooth and gigabit ethernet, and one of the three USB ports is the new, sublimely fast USB 3.0. Other ports include a headphone jack, a microphone input, and an SD/MMC/MS/xD card reader.
Asus touts the Bang & Olufsen audio on the N53SV, and as far as it goes, it sounds good--loud, spacious (with software aid), clear, and punchy. But "as far as it goes" is only down to the lower midrange. No matter what audio company's logo is on a notebook, the notebook needs a largish speaker and some air to provide bass response. As you'd expect with the processing horsepower that the N53SV has on board, video played supersmoothly.
Asus bundles some nice software to take care of the peripherals: Cyberlink's PowerDVD for playing DVD movies, Power2Go for disc-burning chores, PowerDirector for making movies, and MediaEspresso for converting videos and music between various device formats. You may also boot the N53SV to the Asus Express Gate Cloud--a Linux-based interface that provides quick access to photos, a calendar, the Internet, and so on. However, the N53SV boots to Windows 7 so quickly, you might find yourself not bothering.
The NV53SV has some excellent features. The price-to-performance ratio is nice, and it's never been whacked with an ugly stick. If the minor keyboard issues don't bother you, it's worth a look.