Asus N56VM review

23 Aug 2012

Great build quality, good performance and refined design push Asus' gorgeous N56VM to the top of the Ivy Bridge heap

Price when reviewed: 
799(£799 inc VAT)
5

With an Asus logo glowing in the centre of a dark brushed-metal lid, and a chassis that feels more solid than any of its plastic peers, this 15.6in laptop feels as if it’s worth every penny of its asking price.

At 2.75kg, it isn’t the lightest 15.6in laptop we've seen, but the payoff comes in the form of bombproof build. The dark metal lid feels robust, and as the keyboard surround is hewn from metal, too, the chassis is second only to the Apple MacBook Pro for sturdiness. It’s even reasonably pretty: concentric circles of dots emanating from the keyboard’s corners add a little pizzazz, and co-ordinate nicely with the plain, elegant design.

Peer above the excellent keyboard, and you’ll notice that Asus has proudly emblazoned the N56VM with Bang & Olufsen ICEpower branding. At default settings, the speakers sound plummy and muffled, but delve into the audio control panel and the Waves MaxxAudio enhancements allow for an amazing improvement, adding treble and bass seemingly from nowhere.

Asus N56VM

As a further novelty, Asus includes a small subwoofer in the box that’s around the size of a fizzy drinks can. Plug this in, and the extra bass provides a warmer, rounder sound. From an audio perspective, the N56VM is surprisingly well endowed.

The display is a visual treat, too. It’s a 15.6in Full HD panel with impressively wide viewing angles, and the matte finish fends off distracting reflections. Image quality isn’t quite on a par with the finest machines, but it’s only a whisker behind. It’s far brighter than its rivals at a measured 357cd/m2, and the 566:1 contrast ratio complements the solid colour reproduction to make for bold, attractive images.

With the quad-core processor driving the N56VM to a result of 0.95 in our benchmarks, there’s no shortage of power on tap - the Dell XPS 15z scored 0.73. Graphical performance isn’t quite up with the best, though; with Crysis cranked up to Full HD resolution and high detail settings, its GeForce GT 630M GPU achieved an average frame rate of 18fps, a little slower than the best gaming notebooks.

Asus N56VM

The keyboard is spacious and, with the Scrabble-tile keys resting on the stiff, metal surround, there isn’t a hint of flex or wallow. Asus has also done a good job with the touchpad. Two-fingered right-clicks, pinching and zooming motions all feel natural, and the pad itself depresses with a taut, reassuring click.

There’s little to criticise elsewhere. The Blu-ray reader is welcome at this price, the four USB 3 ports are a boon, and the rare sight of an optical audio output will please those wanting to get bit-perfect sound to an external DAC or amplifier. Considering the power and screen, even battery life is decent, at 5hrs 24mins in light use.

It’s rare that a laptop manages to strike a perfect balance, but Asus’ N56VM comes close. With pitch-perfect sound, a great display and a healthy turn of speed, our new A List champion is an astonishing all-rounder.

Details

Price ex VAT £666
Price inc VAT £799
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 380 x 255 x 28mm (WDH)
Weight 2.750kg
Travelling weight 3.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-3610QM
Motherboard chipset Intel HM76
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GT 630M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 750GB
Hard disk usable capacity 698GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA 6Gbit/s
Optical disc technology Blu-ray reader
Battery capacity 5,200mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 24min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 18fps
3D performance setting High
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.95

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Burn own recovery discs