The ASUS K53SV-B1 is a handsome machine well suited for mainstream users. It offers plenty of power for day-to-day use, and when put to the test with video and games, its Intel Core i7 and Nvidia GT 540M graphics processor ensure that this system can handle itself. But at $969, is the K53SV a stud or a dud?
Understated yet handsome, the lid on the K53SV features a subtly textured horizontal pinstripe pattern that makes the silver ASUS logo pop and helps minimize--but not eliminate--fingerprint smudges. The mocha color continues onto the ASUS' sturdy, scratch-resistant brushed-aluminum deck, where it blends nicely with the unit's black full-size keyboard. Such a liberal use of dark colors would be overwhelming if not for the silver treatment on the system's power and touchpad buttons.
At 15.1 x 10.1 x 1.4 inches and 6 pounds, the K53SV certainly is light enough to move from room to room but not for travel. This machine is a bit more portable than Dell's XPS 15 L502X (Sandy Bridge), which measures in at 15 x 10.4 x 1.5 inches and 6.6 pounds with its nine-cell battery. However, the HP Pavilion dv6t weighs just 5.8 pounds, and it has a brushed-aluminum lid and sleeker lines.
ASUS boasts that the K53SV comes with an IceCool palm rest, but the entire laptop kept its cool in our testing. The touchpad reached just 85 degrees after we played a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes. Temperatures between the G and H keys and on the underside of the laptop also registered a chilly 86 degrees. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees comfortable and those below 90 degrees imperceptible. However, we did notice some really hot air belching out of the side of the notebook during use.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The K53SV's keyboard is well spaced, and the keys are lightly textured for extra grippability. This layout exhibited slight flex, but the tactile feedback was fairly good. Using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor, we scored 63 words per minute with a 3-percent error rate. That's comparable to the 63 wpm and a 2-percent error rate we registered using our office keyboard.
You'll also find a number pad on the right side of the layout. Secondary functions are clearly marked with a light blue that stands out well against the dark keys.
Made by Elan, the 3.3 x 1.9-inch recessed touchpad on the K53SV is responsive and supports lots of gestures. Pinch-to-zoom and three-finger flicks through photos were silky smooth. Plus, you can launch the My Computer windows with a three-finger swipe up and switch Windows with a flick down.
Display and Audio
The K53SV sports a 15.6-inch widescreen LED display with a resolution of 1366 x 768. Images were crisp and vibrant when we viewed a full-screen QuickTime trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2. We could easily make out Potter's eyelashes during a close-up shot.
The notebook's Altec Lansing speakers are located above the keyboard. When we played Blink 182's "What's My Age Again" and Neon Tree's "Animal," the audio was loud enough to fill a small room, but it lacked the richness and depth of the Dell XPS 15. Enabling ASUS' Sonic Focus audio software didn't produce any noticeable difference in sound quality.
Ports and Webcam
The right side of the K53SV features two USB 2.0 ports, audio in and out jacks, and a Kensington lock slot. The left side offers a third USB 2.0 port, HDMI output, a VGA Mini D-Sub port, and an Ethernet jack. On the front of the unit, located below the deck, is a 5-in-1 smart card reader. Sadly, the K53SV lacks a USB 3.0 port.
This notebook's 0.3-megapixel webcam captured grainy video when we used ASUS' stock LifeFrame 3 software in our cubicle. However, the image quality improved somewhat when we moved to a brightly lit conference room. The software package includes a multitude of features, including image filters, frames, and accessories that can be overlaid on a subject's face--including a panda head and a cabana hat.
The K53SV features a second-generation quad-core Intel Core i7-2630QM processor rated at 2 GHz, which can be scaled up to 2.9 GHz using Intel's turbo boost technology. You also get 6GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics processor. The notebook scored 6,503 on PCMark Vantage, which gauges overall Windows performance. That's higher than the mainstream notebook category average score (5,551) and the dual-core ASUS K53E (5,729). However, the HP Pavilion dv6t scored a bit higher (6,673), and the Dell XPS 15 reached 8,548. The Dell has the same CPU and GPU as the ASUS but a faster 7,200-rpm drive.
The K53SV's 640GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive booted Windows 7 in one minute flat, seven seconds slower than the XPS 15, but a full 10 seconds quicker than the K53E and 5.7 seconds quicker than the category average. Using our internal file transfer test, the K53SV needed 2 minutes and 55 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed media from one folder to another--a rate of 29 MBps. That's faster than the category average of 26.8 MBps.
Encoding a 114 MP4 to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder took the K53SV 45 seconds. That's faster than both the K53E, which came in at 46 seconds, and the category average (1:11).
If there's one place the K53SV truly shines, it's in the graphics department. With its Nvidia GeForce GT540M GPU, the notebook scored 9,319 in 3DMark 06, crushing the mainstream notebook category average of 3,948. The K53SV also put a hurting on the Pavilion dv6t (AMD Radeon HD 6490M), which scored 5,826, and even the quad-core Dell XPS 15, which has the same Nvidia GPU as this ASUS. The K53SV also outperformed the category average in 3DMark11 with a score of 1,014 (versus 804) and just managed to hold back the Dell (1,006).
The K53SV performed equally well on our real-world gaming tests. In World of Warcraft with the recommended "Good" settings, the K53SV managed 104 frames per second at a resolution of 1366 x 768. That trounced the category average of 68 fps as well as the Dell XPS 15, which ran the game at 88 fps. With the settings turned all the way up, the K53SV still ran the game at 53 fps, almost as speedy as the Pavilion dv6t with the settings turned down (54 fps).
The K53SV also played Far Cry 2 with no problem, running it at 51 fps with the settings on autodetect at a resolution of 1024 x 768, higher than the category average of 38 fps. When we bumped up the resolution to native and maxed the settings, the K53SV still registered a playable 44 fps.
Battery Life and Wireless
On the LAPTOP Battery Test, the K53SV's six-cell battery ran for 4 hours and 2 minutes. That's not bad for a 15-inch notebook, but this runtime is shorter than the category average of 4:29. By comparison, the XPS 15 managed 4:26 seconds and the Pavilion dv6t lasted an even longer 5:02.
The K53SV's Atheros AR9002WB-1NG 802.11n Wi-Fi radio performed weakly on our wireless test, managing a data rate of only 25.1 Mbps at a range of 15 feet. That's well below the category average of 36.7 Mbps. Increasing the range to 50 feet brought about similar results, with the K53SV delivering speeds of 16.7 Mbps. The category average for that distance is 21.8 Mbps.
Our $949 configuration of the K53SV-B1 includes a 2-GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-2630QM, 6GB of RAM, a 640GB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M. For just $799, you can get the ASUS K53SV-A1 configuration, which has a 2.3-GHz Core i5-2410M CPU, 6GB of RAM, and the same hard drive and video card.
With the K53SV, ASUS offers a two-year parts and labor warranty and one of accidental damage coverage. The company also includes a 30-day Zero Bright Dot Guarantee, two-way free shipping, and 24/7 technical support. See how ASUS fared in our Tech Support Showdown and Best & Worst Brands report.
At $949, the K53SV-B1 is a nice-looking laptop that offers more than enough power for multimedia enthusiasts and even gamers. And even with its quad-core processor and Nvidia graphics, this machine runs pretty cool. However, the system lacks USB 3.0 connectivity, and its hard drive is a little slow. Overall, we prefer the HP Pavlion dv6t because of its sleeker design and better sound, and the Dell XPS 15 also beats this notebook in the audio department. However, for this price, the K53SV-B1 delivers a lot of entertainment bang for the buck.