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Asus N55SF review: multimedia and gaming laptop in the same package

Asus N55SF review: multimedia and gaming laptop in the same package

By: Ionut Popa  In: Laptops, tablets and PCs  Updated: Jul 24, 2012

One thing ASUS does well is getting the best price/performance/quality ratio on their mainstream laptops, and the ASUS N55SF is no different, being the successor of the N53SN multimedia laptop. This one also comes with a versatile configuration ranging from Core i3 to Core i5 and i7 processors, dual core and quad core, 4GB to 16 GB RAM maximum, a 15.6 screen that can be either matte or glossy with 1366 x 768, 1600 x 800 and 1920 x 1080 pixels resolutions to choose from. You can also choose between 5400, 7200 RPM hard drives, SSD models and between DVD and Blu ray drives.

The ASUS N55SF is not just a multimedia laptop, but quite a capable gaming notebook, featuring the Nvidia GeForce GT 555M card with 2GB video memory. It’s no wonder this laptop scores so well in modern games. But before we jump into this review let’s see the specs of the ASUS N55SF unit we’re reviewing.

ASUS N55SF specs

  • 15.6 inch scree (1600 x 900 px), matte finish
  • IntelCore i7-2630QM quad-core CPU @ 2.0 GHz, w/ TurboBoost (up to 2.9 GHz) and HyperThreading
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 555M graphics,2GB DDR5 memory
  • 4 GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 2.5? 640 GB HDD @5400 rpm
  • Blu-ray combo optical drive
  • Ports: 2xUSB 2.0, 2xUSB 3.0 slots, HDMI, VGA, card reader, HD Webcam
  • Bang & Olufsen ICEPower speakers with external subwoofer
  • Connectivity: Wireless N, Bluetooth 3.0, Gigabit LAN
  • Battery:  6 Cell 56Wh 5200 mAh
  • Size: 379 x 261 x 35 ~37 mm (14.9 x 10.3 x 1.4~1.5 inch)
  • Weight: 2.7 kg (5.95 lbs)
  • Buy from here
Press pictures look good for ASUS N55SF

Press pictures look good for ASUS N55SF

Design and exterior

ASUS N55SL-ES71 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black)

I have to say the only thing I don’t like about ASUS N55SF and other ASUS multimedia laptops in general is the design, too dull for me. This particular model is not a design statement, nor a fashion statement, but it’s not ugly either, featuring a black plastic screen cover, glossy like hell, a black plastic bezel, also glossy, that surrounds the screen with a silver band on the bottom and a matte plastic palm rest with matching touchpad and a silver painted keyboard.

There' also a white ASUS N55 SF, but the cover is also glossy

There' also a white ASUS N55 SF, but the cover is also glossy

The ports are nice laid out and offer plenty of connectivity options. Take a look below at the pictures from all angles to get a grip on how the Asus N55SF looks like. There’s also a video overview which might prove even more useful:

ASUS N55 SF front: cooling vents, status LEDs and the card-reader

ASUS N55 SF front: cooling vents, status LEDs and the card-reader

Asus N55SF Left: Kensington Lock, another cooling vent, VGA, LAN, HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0

Asus N55SF Left: Kensington Lock, another cooling vent, VGA, LAN, HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0

Asus N55SF right: headphones, mic, 2 x USB 2.0, optical unit, subwoofer 2.5 mm jack

Asus N55SF right: headphones, mic, 2 x USB 2.0, optical unit, subwoofer 2.5 mm jack

Asus N55SF back: Battery and screen's hinges

Asus N55SF back: Battery and screen's hinges

Asus N55SF bottom: compartments for battery, memory and HDD

Asus N55SF bottom: compartments for battery, memory and HDD

The ASUS N55 SF design and exterior video:

Keyboard and touchpad

Those are two of the most important parts of a laptop for me and I’m happy to report ASUS did a good, but not great job with the N55SF: the classic layout keyboard has large keys with plenty of space between them and travel when typing, but feel a little wobbly. There’s a numpad which I hate as it off-centers the keyboard and a row of stiffer than the rest multimedia keys on the left side (why not the top ASUS?). Also the arrow keys are not spaced in any way from the rest of the keyboard, which could be a problem for gamers.

Silver painted keyboard with numpad and left multimedia row

Good Silver painted keyboard with numpad and left multimedia row

The touchpad is mostly precise, but has problems with multi touch gestures, like all non-Apple laptops. Design wise it’s made from the same plastic as the palm-rest, separated by a deep cut. There’s only one mouse button that’s imprecise when clicked near the centre (which is to be expected).

Excellent design and good performance for the touchpad

Excellent design and good performance for the touchpad

Display

Asus deserves praises for using a matte display on the N55 laptop, which provides an excellent viewing surface, not a mirror as with most glossy laptops that are unusable in direct sunlight. Viewing angles above average, but not great like on the IPS panel used in the Lenovo X220 ultra portable. Color accuracy and contrast are commendable too, which makes the N55SF a true multimedia laptop.

Asus N55SF has good viewing angles thanks to the matte display

Asus N55SF has good viewing angles thanks to the matte display

Performance

This is where the ASUS N55SF excels, at least the configuration we’ve tested, thanks to the quad-core Intel i7 CPU and the 2GB Nvidia GT555M vga card. Most games run over 30 FPS on medium to high details, with some less demanding titles jumping over the 60 FPS barrier. What more can you ask from a multimedia laptop like this? Maybe 8GB RAM and a faster hard drive, or a SSD + HDD combo.

If you’re unsatisfied with performance you can always upgrade RAM and the hard drive on your own, cheaper, with after market parts.  The actual upgrade process is very easy as the RAM and HDD compartments are easily accessible on the bottom of the ASUS N55SF.

Speakers

By far this is the most important thing to know about the new ASUS N55SF: it comes with a pair of Bang & Olufsen 32 mm speakers located above the keyboard and, wait for it…., an external subwoofer that connects via a dedicated 2.5 mm audio jack. That’s right, a portable subwoofer for low frequency sounds. Asus didn’t want to put the unit inside the laptop case because vibrations caused by low frequency sounds would have jeopardized reliability in time and could’ve caused serious problems.

Asus N55SF features an external subwoofer by Bang and Olufsen

Asus N55SF features an external subwoofer by Bang and Olufsen

The second video with audio, multimedia , prices and conclusions:

Noise and heat

A beast like the N55SF needs a good cooling system, which ASUS has provided, but the downside is noise, which manages to stay fairly low under load, but at IDLE it never gets to that comfortable level you would call quiet. The left bottom side is the only part that gets a little bit hot, near the cooling exhaust of the CPU and GPU. During games expect the X-C keys area do get pretty hot, near the graphics card, but not to the point where it becomes unusable.

Battery life

Despite the very powerful configuration, the meager 6-cell battery provides up to 3-3.5 hours battery life, all because of Nvidia Optimus technology which disables the discrete graphics card and activates the one integrated into the CPU during low load tasks. I would have preferred to see a bigger 9-cell battery to help increase usable hours to 5-6, but it would have made the laptop too big and heavy, not that you’ll want to move it around too much.

Price

Even if the sample we’ve received is not the final product (more like 99% of what you’ll be able to get in stores), we know retail debut will happen in the next couple of weeks with prices starting at the $800 mark and going up to $1500 for a high spec model. This one should be around  $1200, which is great considering the performance you’re getting.

Final words

It’s hard not to be impressed by the ASUS N55SF, especially on the multimedia front and gaming capabilities. Price is excellent for the performance you’re getting. The only thing I would have loved to see is a nicer design with slimmer lines, but you can’t get that much power into a MacBook Air like chassis. We found the ASUS N55 SF a great multimedia laptop for those who don’t want to make compromises for performance and quality of any kind.

You can't go wrong with the powerful ASUS N55SF

You can't go wrong with the powerful ASUS N55SF

Pros:

  • solid built
  • powerful specs that leads to solid everyday performance which can handle well modern games
  • matte screen with good resolution for 15.6 inch diagonal and good viewing angles & colour accuracy
  • comfortable keyboard and trackpad, but not perfect
  • excellent audio quality and power
  • adequate pricing considering spec sheet

Cons:

  • glossy lid cover that attracts fingerprints with an also black glossy plastic bezel on the interior that gets smudges
  • keys are a bit wobbly and look like a cheap aluminium imitation (which they are)
  • multimedia buttons integrated on the left side of the keyboard
  • sharp edges and tall front side leads to additional strain on your wrists while typing

[source: MikesQuarter.com]

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Ionut is Chief Editor. He has a degree in Computer Science BA and worked in IT since 2002. Ionut is now managing several tech sites, including GadgetRoad. Find me on Twitter

6 Comments
  1. don’t buy this laptop, the keyboard are a joke, impossible to type with hitting the backspace every second. It’s also too bulky for the price and there are much better laptops out there. the only plus side are excellent graphics and sound. overall it’s poor design though.

  2. Hi, this laptop is amazing. I can play Skyrim on Ultra graphics with no lag. The keys aren’t great, but not bad either. Tsk, tsk, small problem really. Everything else is perfect.

    I was surprised to see that the media keys were on the con table because they were on the side. Foul play! Obviously a preference issue. I find their placement very good actually.

    At any rate, this laptop trumps all, especially considering price. At the same time, it’s not ugly like the G-Series of Asus (they are really hideous).

    I’ve never really noticed noise from my laptop. I call bull****. Otherwise good review.

    Buy this laptop if you are intelligent! Buy an Apple product if you’re a moron!

  3. I bought n55sf s2401v i5 because I think it is sufficient and ideal 1600×900 resolution. However, I am very disappointed by vibrations from the HDD 7200 rpm and a strong arm Vibration that is transferred to the plastic on the hands and the table. At night, noise at work really.

    Advise me how to unnoise HDD 7k2, I do not want to buy a 5400 RPM, or SSD

    Please let me know at my email: karel.blecha@atlas.cz

    • Karel, try to search for a Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) utility for your hitachi drive. That’s the cheap (free) way to silence your drive). You’ll loose some speed, but gain silence, and no upgrade is necessary.

  4. amazing machine. I also miss a 9cell battery. But a very fast machine.

    • Yeap, autonomy is important for me too. I can’t but a laptop or a mobile device that lasts less than 5 hours on a charge with normal use.

      Manufacturers should understand this…

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