Are you a gamer who's serious about portability? How serious? Allow us to present the ASUS N82JQ-A1. With a quad-core 1.6-GHz Intel Core i7-720QM processor and 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT335M graphics card under the hood, this 14-inch rig blows the hinges off most notebooks in its class. However, there are a few caveats. For one, the system became quite hot during video game testing. More important, you get only 2 hours of battery life, which means you'll be bringing that AC adapter pretty much everywhere. Are these trade-offs worth the $1,119 asking price?
At 5 pounds, the ASUS N82JQ falls right in the middle of 14-inch notebooks in terms of bulk. It weighs the same as the Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 and is lighter than the Toshiba Satellite E205 (5.2 pounds), but it's heavier than the Dell Inspiron 14 (4.8 pounds). Just don't expect a svelte system; this notebook measures a somewhat beefy 1.4 inches thick.
The N82JQ incorporates scratch-resistant materials into its dark brown deck, which should keep the notebook's chassis in top shape over the long haul. The soft-touch matte finish certainly fends off fingerprints better than the shiny ASUS K42J. The brown hue and tiny cube pattern give the machine an art-deco look, and the lid has a metallic effect that looks really cool when the light hits it just right.
The right physical power button (which has a white status indicator light) and corresponding left instant-on button fit in with the design of the N82JQ, but we would've liked to seen shortcut launch keys or dedicated media controls. Adjusting the volume (Function key + F12 to increase or F11 to decrease) during gameplay is slightly annoying.
Keyboard and Touchpad
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The N82JQ's chiclet-style keyboard provided adequate feedback (important when playing first-person shooters), and we have no complaints about the key arrangement. Still, we noticed a fair amount of flex. The 3.3 x 2-inch touchpad is fairly large and has a textured surface (the same cube pattern on the lid) that prevented our finger from slipping when gaming or navigating through Windows 7. Its single mouse button was a bit stiffer than we'd like, though.
Display and SoundClick to enlarge
For the most part, the N82JQ's 14-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel WXGA display will satisfy both multimedia and gaming buffs. Colors were vibrant while viewing images; the hand drawn-inspired characters practically jumped off the sharp screen during our extended Team Fortress 2gaming sessions. The screen's high gloss can be a distraction in certain conditions, but the trade-off for deeper colors is worth it. The glare wasn't disruptive even in our well-lit lab, though sunlight was a much larger problem.
Video content on the 16:9 aspect ratio display looked superb. We streamed HD episodes of Heroes online through Netflix, and played the 720p and 1080p Coral Reef Adventure video from Microsoft's WMV HD Content Showcase without any hiccups.
Sound quality for the N82JQ fared worse. The Altec Lansing speakers had little to no bass while we listened to the bottom-heavy beats on "The Blue Print 3" by Jay-Z, and at higher volume the guitar strings on "Play On" by Carrie Underwood were too tinny and overpowered the song vocals. The Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm" sounded quiet.
HeatClick to enlarge
One area of concern we have with the N82JQ is the system's high temperatures. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, its touchpad read 96 degrees Fahrenheit, the middle of the keyboard deck was 90 degrees, and the middle of the underside was 93 degrees--all within what we consider normal. Gaming, however, was a totally different ball game: after 20 minutes we saw temperatures between 115 and 130 degrees on the bottom of the notebook. If you're going to be mowing down bad guys, leave this machine on your desk.
Ports and Webcam
The N82JQ certainly isn't lacking for ports. On the left side are a VGA connection, headphone and mic inputs, an HDMI port, and a super-fast USB 3.0 port. To the right are a standard USB 2.0 connector, an eSATA port, and an Ethernet connection. These are hidden by a small plastic door that makes the side look sleeker, but we question how long it'll stay attached. Between the speakers on the front is a 5-in-1 memory card reader.
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The 2-megapixel webcam produced somewhat blurry images when video conferencing through Skype, but quality was a step up from the ASUS K42J. The N82JQ is bundled with ASUS's LifeFrame software that allows you to capture video and snap pictures, then edit the content and apply special effects.
With a quad-core 1.6-GHz Intel Core i7-720QM processor, 7,200-rpm, 500GB hard drive, and a powerful 1GB Nvidia GT335M graphics card, the N82JQ had more than enough power to take on virtually anything we threw its way. In our anecdotal tests, the system flawlessly displayed HD videos, and there was no apparent slowdown when multitasking as we burned CDs while downloading music and playing 3D Flash games.
The N82JQ produced a very strong score of 6,229 on PCMark Vantage, a benchmarking tool that rates overall system performance. That's more than 30 percent higher than the 4,373 average for mainstream notebooks. This laptop did fall slightly behind the Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 (6,443), but it managed to best the HP Pavilion dm4's score of 5,983.
The N82JQ's spacious hard drive completed our LAPTOP Transfer Test (where we copy 4.97GB of multimedia files) in 3 minutes and 27 seconds. While this rate of 24.6 MBps is good (it's 32 percent faster than the category average), it lags far behind the 7,200-rpm drive in the ASUS K42J (33.9 MBps), and seems more in line with the slower 5,400-rpm drive of the IdeaPad Y460 (24.8 MBps). The system booted into Windows 7 Ultimate in 1:03, and transcoded a 114MB AVI file to MPEG-4 using Oxelon Media Encoder in 61 seconds; both scores are a hair below the category averages.
With the Iomega USB 3.0 eGo Portable Hard drive connected to the N82J's USB 3.0 port, we wrote the same 4.97GB folder to the drive in 2 minutes 37 seconds (32.4 MBps) and copied it off the N82JQ at the same exact speed. Writing a 1.66GB MPEG-4 to the N82J took just 23 seconds (73.9 MBps), and reading it off the drive took 35 seconds (48.6 MBps).
Graphics and Gaming
Even though it's not a monster gaming rig, playing the latest titles at high frame rates and graphical settings is no sweat with the N82JQ, thanks to its Nvidia GT335 graphics and 4GB of 1066/1333 MHz DDR3 system RAM. We played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Borderlands, Mass Effect 2, and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction; all have very complex 3D graphical engines, but our system handled them easily. With the resolution at 1366 x 768 and settings on max (high detail, 2X anti-aliasing), we averaged a very playable 54 frames per second in Call of Duty.
The GPU scored 7,886 points in 3DMark06. That's 910 points higher than the Alienware M11x, which has the same graphics chip. It even topples larger gaming systems such as the 15.6-inch Acer Aspire 5740G, which scored a respectable 7,166 with its ATI Radeon 5650 GPU.
The N82JQ's benchmark score of 71 fps in World of Warcraft at native 1366 x 768 resolution (and effects on ultra) proves that the system is more than adequate for today's games. It was only slightly slower than the Alienware M11x, which scored 74 fps.
On a more taxing game like Far Cry 2, the N82JQ notched a blistering 83 fps at a resolution of 1024 x 768, way more than twice the category average of 31 fps. When we upped the resolution to 1366 x 768, the system still performed well, scoring 32 fps. It falls right in line with similar systems like the IdeaPad Y460, which scored 74 and 35 fps, respectively, using its ATI Radeon HD 5650 card.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
With a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor at its heart and discrete Nvidia graphics, the N82JQ suffered greatly in the battery life department, even with power saving utilities activated. It lasted a dismal 2 hours and 2 minutes in our LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing via Wi-Fi). This is less than half the category average of 4:52, and 53 minutes behind the IdeaPad Y460 (using its discrete GPU), and even behind larger notebooks like the Acer Aspire 5740G (2:48). For us, this lack of endurance is a deal-breaker, and reason to wait for an Optimus version of this notebook. With that technology the laptop will be able to switch between discrete and integrated graphics on the fly and save more battery life.
The Atheros AR9285 802.11b/g/n wireless network adapter had good throughput rates of 32.8 Mbps and 23.8 Mbps at distances of 15 and 50 feet away from our router, respectively. These speeds came in handy when streaming HD content from both Hulu Plus and Netflix. There were no interruptions as we downloaded movies from the iTunes App Store.
Green TestingClick to enlarge
The N82JQ recharged to 80 percent capacity rapidly in 1 hour, and took another 46 minutes to reach 100 percent. During that period, it drew an average of 49.8 watts. This gives it a LAPTOP Green Efficiency Rating of 43.3, which is 24 percent worse than the category average of 33 (lower is better).
Our N82JQ test system was the base model, and costs $1,199. A maxed-out system that includes 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 256GB SSD drive, 2.13-GHz Core i7-940XM Extreme processor, TV tuner, and 6X Blu-ray burner comes to $3,674. As mentioned, a version of this notebook with Nvidia's Optimus technology will also be available; that system will have an Intel Core i5-430M processor (but otherwise all the same specs) and retail for $1,049.
Software and Warranty
Aside from a bunch of Acer utilities that assist in everything from system updates to data security, the N82JQ is virtually bloatware-free. There is a 15-day trial of Trend Micro Internet Security Suite, but that's about it.
ASUS is one of the only companies to back its machines with a two-year warranty, and the N82JQ also includes one year of accidental damage protection. Many vendors usually charge a big premium for extra service, so this is welcome. For example, with Dell you'd have to shell out $149 to get accidental damage protection, and then you're forced to move from one to two years on the standard manufacturer's warranty for the Inspiron 14R. See how ASUS fared on our latest Tech Support Showdown.
VerdictClick to enlarge
If notebooks were cars, the $1,199 ASUS N82JQ would be a Mustang--great performance, but very poor mileage. Even though the ASUS N82JQ has plenty of muscle, its short battery life and high heat levels leave a lot to be desired. It's a bit expensive, too: the Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 ($999) offers similar performance and endurance, not to mention better media controls. We suggest waiting for the Nvidia Optimus model of this notebook, whose lower price and longer endurance will make it a far more compelling system.