Asus N82Jv-X1 Review

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Pros: Cool lid texture and effect; Spacious keyboard and deck; Great gaming performance for the price

Cons: Short battery life; Narrow viewing angles

Verdict: The Nvidia Optimus version of this 14-inch system is an improvement over the original, but battery life is still lacking.

The ASUS N82Jv-X1 is a great system that's short on time. It has an eye-catching lid covering a powerful Core i5 processor and a discrete GPU, plus Nvidia's graphics-switching Optimus technology. Unfortunately, like its non-Optimus sibling, a short battery life hinders its endurance, but if you can find an outlet quick enough this system will make sure you don't regret it.

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Design

At 5.2 pounds and 13.8 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches, the N82Jv-X1 ($999) is a little heavier and thicker than competitors such as the lighter and slimmer Gateway ID49C08u. Though it's light enough to carry in your bag, the N82Jv-X1's bulk takes up more space than we'd like.

The lid is fitted with an interesting cubed pattern in dark brown that has a metallic effect when the light hits it just right. Similar to the Asus N82JQ-A1, the inside deck is accented with a soft-touch matte finish that helps keep the area fingerprint-free.

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 N82Jv-X1, but we would've liked to see shortcut launch keys or dedicated media controls. Having to use a function command to adjust the volume (Function key + F12 to increase or F11 to decrease) during gameplay is slightly annoying.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The ASUS N82Jv's chiclet-style keyboard provided adequate feedback, important when playing first-person shooters, and we have no complaints about the key arrangement. We noticed less flex with the N82Jv-X1 compared to the N82Jq-A1.

The 3.25 x 2-inch touchpad is fairly large and has a textured surface (the same as the cubed 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 Audio

The glossy 14-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel LED-backlit display produced reasonably bright images and sharp colors, but viewing angles left something to be desired. 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.

When watching videos, playback on the ASUS N82Jv-X1 was smooth and noise-free. Streaming "The Wanda Sykes Show" from FOX.com was smooth, but picture quality was noticeably pixelated. However, pixelation was absent when watching a 720p trailer of the movie "Takers" streamed in QuickTime.

Despite being positioned below the keyboard, the Altec Lansing speakers were loud and clear while listening to Jay-Z and Tupac via Pandora, and we didn't hear any distortion or tinniness typical of most notebook speakers. Their position on the front lip of the system helps keep the speakers from accidentally being blocked while typing. At maximum volume, the sound isn't overpowering, yet it's loud enough to fill a quiet medium-size room.

Ports and Webcam

The N82Jv-X1 certainly isn't lacking for ports. On the left side of the system is a VGA connection, headphone and mic inputs, an HDMI port, and a super-fast USB 3.0 port. Hidden behind a small plastic door on the right side is a standard USB 2.0 connector, an eSATA port, and an Ethernet connection. Between the speakers on the front of the system is a 5-in-1 memory card reader.

The 2-megapixel webcam produced clear images when video conferencing through Skype and audio quality was crystal clear. On the other hand, images were a bit noisy and motion detection lagged a little. The N82Jv-X1 is bundled with ASUS's LifeFrame software that allows you to capture video and snap pictures, then edit the content and apply special effects. Its facial recognition technology isn't perfect, but the pre-effects in LifeFrame are worth trying out.

Performance

Thanks to the Intel Core i5-450m processor, 4GB of RAM, 7,200-rpm and 500GB hard drive, and a powerful 1GB Nvidia GT335M graphics card, the N82Jv-X1 has more than enough power to take on virtually anything you throw its way. In our anecdotal tests, the system flawlessly displayed 720p HD videos. Multitasking using Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, and Windows Media Player was a breeze.

The N82Jv-X1 produced a very strong score of 6,069 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. The laptop was slightly behind the Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 (6,443), but it managed to best the Satellite M645 (5,329) and Gateway ID49 (5,490).

The N82Jv-X1's spacious, fast hard drive completed our LAPTOP Transfer Test (where we copy 4.97GB of multimedia files) in 2 minutes and 28 seconds. This rate of 34.4 MBps is competition-crushing--over 50 percent faster than category average--breezing past the ASUS K42J's 33.9-MBps transfer rate. The system booted into Windows 7 Home Premium in 1:04, and transcoded a 114MB AVI file to MPEG-4 using Oxelon Media Encoder in 51 seconds; both scores are just below the category averages.

Graphics and Gaming

The N82's Nvidia GT 335M graphics and 4GB of 1066/1333-MHz DDR3 RAM earned it a score of 7,590 points in 3DMark06. That's about 600 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. However, it does fall short of the Asus N82Jq-A1, which scored 7,886 points.

The latest titles played at decent frame rates and graphical settings without breaking a sweat. The N82Jv-X1 notched 83 fps in World of Warcraft at native 1366 x 768, about 10 fps higher than the N82Jq, Gateway ID49, and Alienware M11x. On a more taxing game, Far Cry 2, the N82Jv-X1 scored 31 fps at its native resolution. It falls right in line with systems like the IdeaPad Y460, which scored 35 fps using its ATI Radeon HD 5650 card, and the Alienware M11x (30 fps). The Gateway ID49 came in just below, with a score of 27 fps.

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

Despite its power-saving Nvidia Optimus technology, the ASUS N82Jv-X1 suffers from subpar battery life. The notebook lasted only 3 hours and 23 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That is more than an hour less than the category average of 4:44, the Lenovo Y460 in integrated mode (4:38), and the Gateway ID49 (4:37)--not to mention the Alienware M11x's 6-hour endurance. The real culprit here is probably the low-capacity 6-cell, 4400 mAh battery. Still, it's miles better than the N82Jq, which lasted only 2:02.

The N82Jv-X1's Atheros 802.11bgn radio turned in great Wi-Fi transfer rates of 39.8 and 25.8 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet from our router, respectively. This score beat both the ASUS K42J (36.4/23.5 Mbps) and the Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 (35.5/19.8 Mbps).

Green Testing

The N82Jv-X1 rapidly recharged to 80 percent capacity in 1 hour and 7 minutes, and took another 32 minutes to reach 100 percent. During that period, it drew an average of 44.2 watts. This gives it a LAPTOP Green Efficiency Rating of 22.4, which is just under the category average of 22.9 (lower is better). The N82Jq fared much worse, with a rating of 43.3.

Software and Warranty

ASUS bundles a number of useful utilities with the N82Jv-X1. The Splendid Utility allows you to change the screen's color profile and provides mode options such as Vivid, Theater, Gamma Correction, and more. The LifeFrame software provides a ton of webcam photo and video recording options, including color filters, special effects, and face tracking. ASUS Smart Logon allows you to use facial recognition for logins. Power4Gear Hybrid provides different power profiles for different tasks, such as High Performance, Entertainment, and Battery Saving modes. Speedboot allows you to set any of your programs to load after Windows boots rather than during the boot process.

Less useful is ASUS MultiFrame, a utility for managing an external monitor that doesn't seem to offer anything Windows 7 can't do on its own. Control Deck provides an attractive 3D interface for accessing all of ASUS's utilities, including volume and resolution control, but it's just as easy to use the Windows Start menu.

ASUS Access provides links to a number of ASUS-provided or endorsed services: ASUS WebStorage, which sells a variety of paid online storage plans; Boingo for Wi-Fi hotspots; and Trend Micro for antivirus. The preloaded GamePark console provides free trial downloads for a number of casual distractions, ranging from card games to space invader-style arcade shoot 'em ups.

While most vendors provide a simple one-year warranty on defective parts only, ASUS backs the N82Jv-X1 with a two-year warranty that includes one year (and one incident) of accidental damage protection. Other vendors typically charge a high premium for accidental damage protection and extra years. For example, Dell demands an additional $149 to get accidental damage protection and move from one to two years on the Inspiron 14R's warranty.

See how ASUS fared in our Tech Support Showdown.

Verdict

The ASUS N82Jv-X1 is a stylish and powerful notebook, limited only by its substandard battery life. At $999, it costs the same as the Lenovo IdeaPad Y460, which offers slightly less performance in exchange for greater battery life. However, if endurance is what you're after--and we can't imagine anyone not wanting that attribute in a 14-inch system--then the Gateway ID49C08u ($849) represents the best deal. But for gamers who won't stray too far from an outlet, the N82Jv is worth a look.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-450M
Operating System MS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 500GB
Hard Drive Speed 7,200rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 14
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce G335M/Intel GMA HD
Video Memory 1GB
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 3.25 x 2 inches
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
USB Ports 2
Card Slots 8-1 card reader
Warranty/Support 1-year Parts and Labor, 1 year Accidental Damage, 30-day Zero Bright Dot Guarantee, 2-way free shipping/ 24/7 Toll free
Size 13.8 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches
Weight 5.2 pounds
Company Website www.asus.com