Asus N56VM review
Great build quality, good performance and refined design push Asus' gorgeous N56VM to the top of the Ivy Bridge heap
Review Date: 23 Aug 2012
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £666 (£799 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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.
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.
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.
Author: Sasha Muller
Win7 or Win8?
Which is it shipping with?
By fingerbob69 on 24 Aug 2012
It ships with Windows 7, but is eligible for the £14.99 Windows 8 upgrade.
By SashaMuller on 24 Aug 2012
Great build quality, good performance and refined design push //Acer's// gorgeous N56VM to the top of the Ivy Bridge heap"
Surely you mean Asus?
By AlphaGeeK on 24 Aug 2012
Brilliant Bar the Bloatware
I've had one of these for a couple of weeks. It is very good (as the review says). But my God, the bloat/crapware this thing ships with will blow your mind. Dozens of crappily designed little utilities and services which do pointless things (or things you can already do in Windows) slowly and with ugly interfaces. I spent a day cleaning it up, and am still struggling to overcome the Asus updater feature, which seems to want to put them all back again.
Plus, the Bing toolbar (that favourite of power users everywhere) is a compulsory install when you set-up windows, so uninstalling that is another 5 minutes of my life I'm never going to get back.
Even after clearing the decks, I still don't have what I'd call a really clean install... and of course if I ever have to use the recovery partition I'll have to do it all over again!
Otherwise, it's great - good ergonomics, great screen, solid build. Just wish I'd gone straight to a completely clean install from a separate Windows 7 disc as soon as I bought it...
By charliefreak on 24 Aug 2012
High Inflation Rate
From £799 as reviewed to £899 on the buy it now in just one day!?
By Geddy3001 on 25 Aug 2012
Once you get it as you want you could create an image of your 'C' drive plus the 100MB boot partition.
Then if problems you can just restore from the image back to when you created the image.
You could then possibly reclaim the space your recovery partition uses for more storage.
By curiousclive on 25 Aug 2012
Could you recheck the reviews stated Spindle speed of 7,200RPM, but a number of reviews have stated the speed as 5,400. This leads to a slower start up etc, so it would be useful to know what is the correct speed.
By Leospace on 28 Aug 2012
Crapware's put me off - why not in review?
Thanks to charliefreak's post about all the rubbish pre-installed, this is the sort of thing that should be flagged up in the review. I'd short listed this machine (at the review price of £799, best price currently £831 inc vat). All clued up & pro users want a clean install, not littered with demos, crapware and other pointless "helper" apps. Even if you do uninstall each component, you know nothing will be 100% clean unless you run a clean install from a Windows DVD, which most of these new machines now don't come with, what a ludicrous situation.
By isofa on 29 Aug 2012
Various versions and HDD speeds
Leospace there are various derivatives, the S3113V has the 7200 drive, but there are others, leading to various prices over different websites. The Insight one from original print review only seems to stock the 5400 version. Specs here: http://uk.asus.com/Notebooks/Multimedia_Entertainm
By isofa on 29 Aug 2012
More comments of the PC Pro Forums
Please note there are more comments about this model on the PC Pro forums in this thread:
It's worth reading these comments too if you are thinking about buying this laptop.
By cbyhyh on 1 Sep 2012
Graphics performance inconsistent in review-please clarify
It says in the review that at "Crysis cranked up to Full HD resolution and high detail settings...it achieved an average frame rate of 18fps". Whereas in the benchmarking results it shows it achieved 18fps at low detail settings and lowest resolution 1024x768.
Can you confirm which is correct. Thanks.
By domster2 on 16 Sep 2012
where is it??
it would be great if the reviewer could answer the questions posed here as well as this one?
The item reviewed is not listed on the suppliers website. Why is this ? What is PCPRO (and I have been a subscriber for some years) doing to facilitate that the supplier makes available the item reviewed (at it's review spec at the stated price that contributed to it's winning the "A list" Labs Winner award?
Thank you. (reviewing my magazine subscription)
By redhotrog on 26 Sep 2012
Discontinued and replaced?
This model seems to be have been superseded in shops by new model ASUS N56VJ-S4031H.
Any chance of a review?
By nemanskhan on 28 Oct 2012
Not sure about that model, but there's a better GFX model in the N56VZ, available from PC World for http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/asus-n56vz-s4242-15-
Although I'm sure you could get it cheaper elsewhere.
By Gogster on 18 Dec 2012
Want one, where can I buy?
Shame the VZ model has dissapeared from PcWorld website. Anywhere else we can get a hold of one?
By Jubinbr on 30 Jan 2013
Where to buy
By SashaMuller on 30 Jan 2013
I need a new labtop and I always consult PcPro when Im considering and his looks very nice. However I want a 17" model because I'm a software developer I want to replace my desktop with a labtop so I can use it upstairs (my office) but also do use it in the evening downstairs in front of the tv, I was tempted by asus partly because they have matte screens instead of glossy. Asus do an N76 model, however in the uk they only seem to offer N76VJ which uses slower processors and only a 1600 x 900 screen. They have a N76VZ machine which is just what I want http://www.amazon.com/N76VZ-DH71-CA-17-3-Inch-Ente
ref=dp_ob_title_ce but only available from US. Anyone know if they will ever release a UK equivalent or can you suggest an alternative
By ijabz on 17 Mar 2013
What on earth is it doing on first startup
Powered it on and it insists on loading Bing (absolutely no choice). After entering account name and password It goes into "...will complete after restart" mode. It just sat there for an hour with no sign that it was doing anything. I eventually got bored and powered off/on as I assumed it was telling ME to restart it. Oh, no... now it starts windows and says it is processing update 45,000 of 297,000 and appears to be cycling through every single file that could have been installed on the machine!? I am going to give up, wipe it and install Windows 7 from scratch.
By ChazKinnear on 6 Apr 2013
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