Asus N55SF review
Quad-core power, fast Nvidia graphics and Bang & Olufsen speakers, and all for a very good price
Review Date: 6 Dec 2011
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £613 (£736 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
The industry may be looking to Intel’s Ultrabook concept as the way forward, but Asus’s newest offering shows it’s still possible to inject some novelty into larger laptops. The N55SF takes a 15.6in display and some seriously beefy components, and adds Bang & Olufsen speakers and an external subwoofer.
Visually, the N55SF is a classy affair. It breezes into view with a glossy black lid encompassed by a thick strip of chrome, and the chassis tapers to a delicate curve around its edges. The two-tone black and silver interior looks great, too.
There’s no mistaking the all-plastic construction, though. Next to HP’s Envy laptops or Apple’s MacBooks, all hewn from slabs of metal, the N55SF feels a bit ordinary. It’s only once you spend some time prodding and poking at it that the quality of the build shines through. The thick lid gives the display plenty of protection, and there’s only the slightest whimper from the base when you twist it viciously from side to side. The flipside to such solidity is weight: at 2.79kg it isn’t ideal for the daily commute.
But this isn’t a laptop with travel on its mind; it’s an entertainment laptop through and through. The Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers deliver far more clarity than most laptops, and the Asus SonicMaster software makes it quick and easy to tweak playback for music, movies and games. The real novelty is the separate subwoofer, a little accessory that plugs into the Asus’ side. The results are impressive. There’s still no semblance of real, ground-shaking sub-bass, but the extra speaker makes its presence heard, adding more depth and fullness to the sound.
That sonic performance is matched by a fine display. The 1,600 x 900 resolution is a welcome surprise – we’re used to 1,366 x 768 displays on today’s 15.6in laptops – and the matte finish does its bit to keep reflections and glare at bay. A measured contrast ratio of 550:1 and maximum brightness of 281cd/m2 see the Asus deliver bright whites and inky blacks, and while the low gamma of 1.9 leaves images looking a tad pale, it’s nothing we couldn’t learn to live with.
The chrome / plastic
makes it look cheap and tacky, like a bargain basement laptop from a couple of years ago.
If it had a 1920x1080 display, 3G and a less brash case, I might be tempted...
By big_D on 6 Dec 2011
1600x900 is a bit odd as a resolution especially in something designed for video playback. Why not just go for it and fit a proper 1080p display?
By tirons1 on 6 Dec 2011
Res is fine for 15.6"
1080 on a 15 inch screen would be a waste plain and simple, and it would push that awesome price up.
1600x900 is still the correct aspect ratio for a media player, any laptop that can beat the horrible 1366x768 will get my approval.
I was genuinely shocked to see the calibre of this machine given its price. If only the low TDPs of Ivy Bridge weren't around the corner I'd seriously consider this as a replacement option.
By mikes87 on 6 Dec 2011
I'm with mikes87
This is a heck of a lot of machine with a VERY decent resolution for the money.
By nichomach0 on 6 Dec 2011
I'm with the '1920x' crowd
I've been using IBMs for years with 1920x1200 resolutions in a 15" display, and it's not excessive, not when you use demanding applications (e.g. visual studio).
IBM however fall down in the trackpad area, they're normally tiny and fiddly to use.
With the amount of laptops released every year, it's frustrating that no-one combines all the good points. High res screen, nice keyboard, nice trackpad. Honestly, is it too much to ask...?
By ChrisH on 6 Dec 2011
Only 1050 lines for me
Sadly I have only used, 1400x1050 and 1680x1050, but would never go for anything less. Video comes in 720p and 1080p, so I'd rather spend the extra tenner. A visit to Dell's US site will show you how little extra a good display is.
By tirons1 on 6 Dec 2011
Just wondering how long this particular machine has been around, how many reviews has it gone through?
The trackpad area is already showing signs of wear.
By Duggie on 6 Dec 2011
Duggie hit the nail on the head
Build quality and quality of materials used is in my experience a reason to avoid Asus notebooks.
While the internals seem tempting they tend to cut corners with the chassis materials. So you can get a decent specification notebook for reasonable money but don't expect it to last much longer than the warranty period.
Issues I personally experienced on my own notebook include a failed Turbo Memory module, a webcam which lost its firmware, plastics and trackpad losing finish and showing base material colour. I also recall Asus shipping notebooks with recovery and driver discs containing staff personal files and malware.
So you can take a chance with Asus at your own risk but I would spend the extra and get a Dell (who are much improved these days) or Lenovo instead.
By mr_chips on 6 Dec 2011
Specs look good, but I agree with others on the design. The large silver area under the screen could have been used for a superior screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, rather than the gimped 16:9 screens which all manufacturers (bar Apple) have forced upon users.
By broccauley on 20 Dec 2011
... the best solution being 1680x1050
By broccauley on 20 Dec 2011
I am sold
Will be getting one of these for the new year
By jezjab on 28 Dec 2011
Good of a notebook , there is the battery
By pcpone on 22 May 2012
Not even close to being a high end laptop!!!! A 2-3k laptop maybe. This is cheap rubish.
By NJKA001 on 11 Jun 2012
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