ASUS N53JF: Four Times Lucky?

We’ve had a decent run of midrange laptop reviews of late; our favorite for overall features remains the Dell XPS 15 L501x, but there’s a catch: you really want the upgraded 1080p LCD, which it just so happens is now missing from Dell’s online configurator. We saw the RGB LED backlit panel on the old Studio XPS 16 come and go over time, so hopefully the LCD upgrade will make a return to the XPS 15, but without that panel the view of the 15.6” laptop market changes. The Dell XPS 15 remains the best sounding laptop that we’ve tested, but the standard 768p display is nothing to write home about. When you’ve got options like the Clevo B5130M, Compal NBLB2, and now the ASUS N53JF all offering 1080p displays, there are plenty of alternatives.

Build quality is standard ASUS, which means it’s good but not necessarily great. Like Dell XPS (Waves Maxx) and HP (Beats Audio), ASUS is now sporting speakers from a well-known brand, in this case Bang & Olufsen. I’ve heard some really good home theater setups with B&O speakers, so my expectations were high. Could this notebook finally be ASUS’ breakout midrange offering that would address most of my previous complaints? I won’t spoil the review just yet, so let’s start by looking at the components and specifications. The list will be strikingly familiar if you read the XPS or B5310M reviews.

ASUS N53JF-XE1 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-460M
(2x2.53GHz, 32nm, 3MB L3, Turbo to 2.80GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM57
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 8GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 425M 1GB GDDR3
96 SPs, 560/1120/1600MHz Core/Shader/RAM clocks
Display 15.6" WLED Glossy 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(AU Optronics B156HW1)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200RPM HDD
(Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS)
Optical Drive Blu-ray Combo (Philips/Lite-On DS-4E1S)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8131)
802.11n (Atheros AR9285, 150Mb)
Audio Realtek ALC269
2.0 Bang & Olufsen ICEpower Speakers
ASUS SonicMaster Technology
Microphone and two headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 4.4Ah, 48Wh
Front Side None
Left Side 1 x USB 3.0
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 Combo
Flash Reader
HDMI 1.4
TV Input (Optional)
Exhaust vent
Right Side Headphone and Microphone Jacks
2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive
WiFi On/Off Switch
Back Side AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.6” x 10.6” x 1.2-1.6”(WxDxH)
Weight 6.4 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras 2MP Webcam
102-Key Keyboard with 10-Key
Flash Reader (SD, MS/Pro, MMC, xD)
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing Online Starting at $1030
Note: N53JF-A1 starts at $930 (with a 768p LCD)

If you compare the above table with the Dell XPS 15 and Clevo B5130M, there’s a ton of overlap. The LCD is reported as the same model Dell shipped us in the XPS 15, though the performance characteristics are actually quite different. ASUS uses the GT 425M as opposed to the 420M in the XPS, which means 12% higher core/shader clocks but the same memory bandwidth; the i5-460M is also clocked 5% higher than the i5-450M. The N53JF is actually slightly heavier, wider, thicker, and deeper than the XPS 15, which in turn is slightly larger than the Clevo B5130M. Pricing is competitive with the other options, and without the 1080p LCD we can almost eliminate Dell from the running. ASUS also takes a multimedia slant by including a Blu-ray combo drive, which pairs up nicely with the display. A single USB 3.0 port and an eSATA combo port round out the connectivity options, again maintaining the status quo with the other laptops.

Everything else we’ve covered before, so let’s look at the design aspects and our subjective evaluation of the N53JF.

Subjective Overview of the N53JF
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  • anactoraaron - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    That they would pack in USB 3.0, bluray and then put in that below average 1080p display. Not that it matters with Sandy Bridge on the horizon. Best advise is still to wait.
  • ET - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    It's nice to see 1080p becoming more prevalent at this size laptop, but why can't we see some higher res displays at 20"+? I had a 19" 1600x1200 CRT eight years ago, and resolution hasn't gone up since then, and even dropped from 1920x1200 to 1080p in recent times. Laptops these days have some high DPI displays and I'd love to see some on the desktop.
  • Ushio01 - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    1920x1080 monitors are replacing 1680x1050 TN panels in the mid range monitor segment just as 1680x1050 replaced 1280x1024 monitors with the advantage of either 120hz TN or IPS screens. 1920x1200 monitors still exist and are just as expensive as always along with the 2560x1440 and 2560x1600 in the high and very high end segments.
  • jabber - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    1080p will be a curse for us all in a couple of years time.

    Never will a standard have been surpassed and found wanting so quickly.

    They should have made it 1440p at least.

    Now us computers users have to suffer from the display world being lazy and sticking to a screen depth not much more that what we were used to 10 years ago.

    Thats progress.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    I think the main bottleneck for the resolution picked for the HD standard was the capacity of dtv broadcast/blueray/hddvd disks without any compression artifacts. Bumping the frame sizes up 77% would have needed a significantly higher compression level and would've resulted in the videophiles who're currently reviling netflix/hulu/etc's streaming offerings for low quality to have slammed the new standards; potentially rendering them stillborn at birth, and almost certainly slowing adoption down significantly.

    The other hangup would be the size of the TV screen needed to get full use of the resolution in the living room. 1080p is generally not worthwhile on less than a 40" screen because the angular size of the pixels at 720p are too small to resolve at couch distance. The smaller pixels of a 1080p screen won't be visible as individual pixels until about 56". At the time the standards were being written 56" was an enormously large TV. It's still larger than most TVs sold today.

    Until that changes (and bluerays, or the bandwidth needed to stream them at full quality, become commodity items) I don't expect anything to change on the consumer video market. When that happens I expect the new standard will be one of the 4k resolutions; probably either 3996×2160 (1.85:1) or 4096×1714 (2.39:1). We'd also need a higher density video cable standard. DP 1.2 will carry the 2d version of either signal, but would need doubled again to support 3d. Hopefully lightpeak will be mainstream by then and able to carry the data.
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    2.39:1 ? That is insane.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    It's the wide-wide screen mode at theaters today. IT would render all but the largest desktop computer displays too short to be useful for anything except consuming content. The video industry would see this as a feature.
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    I don't think letterbox has any future in the movie industry itself. Avatar 3D was rendered at 1.78 : 1. Let the 2.39:1 die, the sooner the better!
  • Hrel - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    here here
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - link

    Hear, hear?

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