Published on May 28th, 2012 | by Mike1
Asus N56VZ review – a top multimedia laptop you can get for under $1000
After testing the mainstream Asus laptop and their gaming series, it’s now the time to see what they managed to achieve with their new multimedia line. As a result, here’s the review for the Asus N56, their new 2012 15.6 inch multimedia laptop.
There are a bunch of changes over last year’s model, the N55, as the new N56 is completely revamped both on the exterior and on the inside. By reading the review below you’ll find out that most of the changes are beneficial, like the title also spoils it for you.
So all in all, the Asus N56 is a excellent laptop, despite having its lacks and a potential deal-breaker. But more about these in the review.
First though, let’s have a quick look at the specs.
|Asus N56VZ multimedia laptop
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, matte|
|Processor||Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor|
|Video||Intel 4000 HD and Nvidia GT 630M 2GB graphics|
|Memory||6 GB DDR3|
|Hard-disk||750 GB 7200 rpm HDD|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Fast Ethernet, Bluetooth 3.0|
|Ports||4 x USB 3.0, VGA, HDMI, LAN, card-reader, webcam, Blu-ray unit|
|Baterry||6 Cell 5200 mAh 54 Wh|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Size||380 x 255 x 33 mm|
My test unit only came with an Nvidia GT 630M graphics chip, but in stores you’ll be able to buy the N56 with the faster Nvidia GT 650M graphics, able to offer twice the performances of this test unit when it comes to dealing with the latest games. Still, the Asus N56 will be offered in a bunch of different configurations, as you’ll find out below in our review.
Asus N56VZ Video Review
The video will tell you most of the things you need to know about the N56 and also show you how it can deal with HD content and games. But you’d better read the written review as well, there are plenty of details included in here that are not a part of the clip.
Design and exterior
Back at CES, from the moment I laid my eyes on the new N series for 2012, I was sure people were going to compare it to the MacBook Pro. Cause, whether the guys at Asus like it or not, the N56 does look a lot like Apple’s laptop, especially with the lid cover raised.
That’s doesn’t mean that the N56 is bad looking, not at all. I for one really dig the new aluminum finishing, as opposed to the glossy plastic used for the N55 last year. So, you have a textured aluminum foil on the hood and what looks like an aluminum unibody inside, although the bottom of the laptop is still covered in plastic.
The entire body does feel solid though and the attention Asus put on details, visible when you’re taking a look at those laser drilled holes on the top left and right parts of the interior, is really something.
So bravo Asus, this is for sure one of your most beautiful full-size laptops ever.
As for the practical aspect, all the needed ports are lined around the edges of this laptop, while the status LEDs are on the front, just beneath the trackpad.
On the bottom you can even easily access the battery and the guts of this laptop, if you’re looking to upgrade the storage unit or the memory.
Keyboard and trackpad
Well, this is probably the best keyboard I’ve seen on an Asus laptop so far. Yes, it does look a lot like the one on the MBP as well, but what’s more important is that it actually feels almost as good. The keys are properly spaced and they feel just right, with their soft plastic finishing on top. They are also firm enough and provide enough travel, although I did find them a bit tall when I first started to use the N56.
The keyboard is also backlit and there are three different brightness levels to choose from. And yes, there’s a bit of bleeding beneath the keys, but I’ve seen a lot worse, that’s for sure.
The trackpad is also something you’ll like on the N56. It’s massive, smooth and accurate, even with multitouch gestures. The entire surface is clickable, but trying to press it on its upper part will make the case flex a bit too much. Thus, you’d better click the designated areas in the right and left lower corners. Of course, dedicated click buttons would have been better, but overall the trackpad on the Asus N56 is one of the best I’ve played with recently.
There will be a bunch of different screens options to choose from for the Asus N56, but my test unit got the top pick: the Full HD 1920 x 1080 px display, with a non-glare finish (and a matte bezel as well). We’re talking about a TN panel, but it’s not just the average TN panel, it’s an improved one, with better contrast, viewing angles and color reproduction abilities (increased color gamut).
Some of you guys asked me if this is the same screen as the one on the Asus G55 and I think it is, although I can’t confirm it. But be aware that this is just a regular 60 Hz display and not the 3D 120 Hz one you can find on the Asus gaming laptop.
All in all, I dig the screen. And I also like the fact that the hinges are pretty solid and allow you to lean the display on the back quite a bit, if needed.
Hardware and performances
I did not get to play with the top Asus N56 config, but that’s not really an issue. In stores, you’ll find the N56 with the Nvidia GT 650M graphics chip built on the new Kepler architecture. My test unit came with the GT 630M chip, which puts up about half the performances of the 650M.
Even so, the laptop was snappy and managed to perform well in all my daily tasks. In fact, for daily use, the dedicated graphics will be switched OFF by Nvidia’s Optimus technology pretty much all of the time, even when dealing with Full HD multimedia content, that can be played at ease by this laptop.
You’ll need the graphics if you’re looking to run games, but even with the 630M I was able to run smoothly titles like Dirt 3 or Call of Duty: Black Ops on native resolution, with Medium details. The faster graphics will allow you to run even the latest titles, although the N56 is not really a gaming laptop and some times you might have to trim down the details in order to keep things rolling as they should.
I also ran some synthetic benchmarks on the Asus N56 and the results are available below.
What sets the asus N series apart from most of the other laptop lines available out there are its speakers. Not only we have two integrated speakers with quite big chambers for a laptop on the N56, hidden beneath those drilled holes above the keyboard, but we also have a better sound processor and an external subwoofer included, that can be connected to the laptop via a 2.5 mm jack on the side.
So, without the woofer connected, the entire sound is output through the two speakers and the volume and quality are alright. However, with the woofer connected, the low frequency sound is directed towards it, while the speakers only take care of the medium and high frequency sound. As a result, the sound quality provided by the Asus N56 is above anything I’ve heard on a laptop before, comparable only to the N55 tested last year.
Asus also bundles the audio system, which btw is developed together with Bang & Olufsen, with this piece of software called Maxxaudio 3, that allows you to tweak the sound in order to better meet your acoustic requirements.
So, the speakers are really good on the N56. Just don’t expect wonders, , do not forget that we’re still talking about a laptop’s sound system here.
Noise and heat
The Asus N56 does not get excessively noisy even when pushed, although it’s not completely quiet either.
However, it tends to get hot when running games for a couple of hours. The components can get to about 80-85 degrees Celsius, which is quite high. More importantly though, the top part of the laptop tends to get hot, on the left side of the trackpad, beneath the Z X C keys, exactly the place where you’re going to hold your left hand. And that for me was annoying.
Luckily, that part merely gets warm during daily use, so if you’re not going to run that many games on the N56, you’re going to be fine with this issue. Otherwise though, if you’re planning to push the N56 hard and play games, the overheating surface can be a deal breaker if you’re as sensitive about this aspect as I am. Cause fine, laptops as powerful as this one are supposed to get hot, but not on the top, not where the user can feel it. I’m sorry, but that’s just unacceptable in my book.
There’s a 6 cell battery inside this laptop and that’s enough to push the N56 to about 3 hours of daily use, which can get better or worse, based on what you’re doing on your laptop.
Thus, the N56 is not a road-warrior, it’s not the laptop you can easily grab along when traveling, but if need, it can still provide decent battery life.
Prices and availability
That’s the tricky part right now, as the Asus N56 is not yet available in stores in most countries. The only available configurations listed so far offer the Intel Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor and go for between 1000 and 1200 bucks, based on features.
However, in a month or two we should also see some configs built around Intel Ivy Bridge dual-core Core i5 processors and those should start at about $800. See this link for more up-to-date configurations.
All in all though, the Asus N56 is not a cheap laptop, but as a powerful multimedia machine, and given all the bundled features, I’d say the $1000 price tag is fair for the top configs.
In the end, there are so many things Asus managed to get right with their N56 that you’re going to forget about the tiny details that are a bit OFF. In fact, if the body wouldn’t get hot when pushing the laptop, I’d have nothing to list as a serious down-side for this machine. But be aware that if you’re looking to play a lot of games and run intensive pieces of software most of the time, the heating issue can be a deal breaker.
Otherwise, the Asus N56 is probably the best you can get right now. It’s up there competing with the likes of the Dell XPS 15z, MSI GE60 or the HP Pavilion DV6T, owning them in most cases. And it can even be a match for the all mighty Macbook Pro as a multimedia laptop, despite being a lot cheaper.
All in all, Asus did a great job with the Asus N56 and I’m expecting this machine to become quite popular, as it’s got what it needs to satisfy most potential buyers out there. As long as you’re not getting it for gaming, in which case you’d better look somewhere else (hint: the Asus G55).