Loud quad-array speakers; Very good graphics performance; Beautiful 1080p touch screen; Plenty of ports
Some touchpad issues; A bit heavier than competing notebooks
An excellent entertainment laptop, the ASUS N550JV features a booming quad-speaker system, a beautiful touch screen and good gaming power.
Looking for a capable multimedia and gaming machine, but don't want to shell out for a top-of-the-line notebook? The $1,066 ASUS N550JV features a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia graphics, a quad-speaker system and a beautiful 15-inch IPS touch screen, all inside an attractive aluminum design. Is the N550JV the all-purpose notebook for you? Read on.
The silver aluminum deck features two speakers at the top with ripple-effect dots surrounding an Instant button on the left and the power button on the right. The Instant button can be customized to launch any app of your choice and by default launches the ASUS Console.
Thanks to its generous width, the N550JV accommodates a dedicated number pad along on its island-style, LED-backlit keyboard. A 4.5 x 2.9-inch touchpad is centered with respect to the QWERTY keyboard, and just below this is a row of indicator lights. The silver keys lend a futuristic vibe to the laptop.
Measuring 15.08 x 10.04 x 1.09 inches, the 5.6-lb. N550JV is just slightly bigger and heavier than other Core i7 mainstream notebooks. Both the $1,199 Samsung ATIV Book 6 (14.75 x 9.8 x 0.9 inches) and the $989 Toshiba Satellite S55t (14.9 x 9.6 x 1.2 inches) weigh 5.4 lbs.
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We watched videos comfortably at various positions, thanks to the ample viewing angles, but images became darker once we moved beyond 45 degrees left or right. Also, despite having a nonglare coating, the glossy screen exhibited glare that sometimes obscured our view.
We couldn't keep our fingers off the responsive 10-point touch screen of the N550JV, preferring it over the touchpad. The sturdy hinge on the machine gave us the peace of mind; the screen barely budged with each poke. Plus, you can flip the display back nearly 180 degrees.
Although it's not the brightest display, the N550JV outshone its competitors in brightness. At 275 lux, this notebook bests the mainstream notebook category average of 200 lux and put the ATIV Book 6 (246 lux) and Satellite S55t (115 lux) to shame.
Despite Bang & Olufsen ICEpower enhancements, music that filtered out of the N550JV was disappointingly tinny. We expected more rounded notes and vocals, but were blasted with flat, somewhat canned sounds. When we played "Young and Beautiful" by Lana Del Rey, we could distinctly hear each instrument, but Del Rey's voice sounded hollow and had a metallic echo. We encountered similar problems with other songs, such as "Safe and Sound" by Capital Cities and "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" by John Mayer.
Attach the ASUS N series subwoofer that comes in the box and you get a thumping bass boost that slightly improves the music, but the flickering rhythmic vibration that it adds can get annoying.
The N550JV also comes with onboard sound management software Waves MaxxAudio, which adds a significant volume boost in Movies mode.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The 4.2 x 2.9-inch touchpad is spacious and proved responsive when performing Windows 8 gestures. ASUS includes intuitive Smart Gesture software for toggling various commands. However, the touchpad on our first review unit was misaligned, causing the lower left corner to jam from time to time. ASUS sent us a second unit that did not have the same issue.
ASUS designed the N550JV with dual fans, twin heatpipes and vents to redirect heat and keep the machine cool.
After 15 minutes of streaming a full-screen Hulu video, the space between the G and H keys measured 85 degrees Fahrenheit while the touchpad registered just 77 degrees, cooler than the category averages of 87 and 83 degrees, respectively. The bottom of the notebook also measured a lap-friendly 81 degrees, well under our comfort threshold of 95 degrees.
The right side houses a Kensington lock port, a DVD Multi recorder drive, an additional USB 3.0 port and an SD Card slot.
On PCMark 7, which measures overall performance, the N550JV scored 3,546, above the mainstream notebook average of 2,967. This mark is lower than the Samsung ATIV Book 6 (4,357), which uses a 2.4-GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-3635QM chip and 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and the Toshiba Satellite S55t (4,842), which has the same processor as the ASUS, but 12GB of RAM.
The N550JV did much better on Geekbench, scoring 9,503 against the category average of 6,808 and besting the Satellite S55t's 8,238 and the ATIV Book 6's 8,511.
On LAPTOP's File Transfer Test, the N550JV copied 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 3 minutes and 4 seconds, translating to a rate of 27.7 MBps. That's almost half the category average of 41 MBps, and slower than the Satellite S55t's 30 MBps, but slightly faster than the ATIV Book 6's 25 MBps.
The N550JV did well on our OpenOffice Test, matching 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 58 seconds. That's almost two minutes faster than the average (5:47) and half a minute faster than the ATIV Book 6 and S55t, which both took 4:23.
Graphics and Gaming
When we played "World of Warcraft" with all three notebooks set to 1366 x 768 and effects at max, the N550JV averaged 73 fps, just below the category average of 75 fps. This showing also beats both the S55t (54 fps) and the ATIV Book 6 (40 fps).
Even at its native 1920 x 1080 resolution, the N550JV's performance remained solid at 52 fps. The ATIV Book 6 managed just 33 fps at these same settings. The S55t's native resolution is 1366 x 768.
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In the more taxing "Bioshock Infinite" test on low settings at a 1366 x 768 resolution, the N550JV's notched 68 fps. This score trumps both the ATIV Book 6's 54 fps and the S55t's 45 fps. At max settings on the same resolution, the N550JV's 24 fps fell below the 29 fps category average; it's not quite playable.
Still, for a laptop that will hardly be carried around much, the N550JV's battery life of almost 5 hours is good enough.
ASUS also bundles the video editing and conversion tools CyberLink PowerDirector and MediaEspresso. Additionally, the N550JV comes with 32GB of ASUS WebStorage free for three years, and two different apps (WebStorage and MyBitCast) to sync to that service.
Configurations and Warranty
Our review unit, the $1,066 ASUS N550JV-DB72T, has a 2.4-GHZ Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor with 8GB of RAM, 1TB 5,400rpm SATA hard drive, Nvidia GeForce GT 750M GPU and a DVD drive.
The N550JV-DB71, which costs $979, has all the same specs as our review unit, but lacks a touch screen.
The N550JV comes with a one-year international/accidental damage warranty, 30-Day Zero Bright Dot protection, two-way free shipping and 24-7 tech support.
In this price range, the Samsung ATIV Book 6 offers slightly longer battery life in a lighter 15-inch design, but the ASUS N550JV delivers better graphics performance and a brighter 1080p display. If you have even more dough to spend, the $1,299 Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p is a better gaming rig, but overall, the ASUS N550JV is a very strong choice for the money.
|CPU||2.4-GHz Intel Core i7 4700HQ|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|RAM Upgradable to||8GB|
|Hard Drive Size||1 TB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 / NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M|
|Wi-Fi Model||Qualcomm Atheros AR9485WB-EG|
|Touchpad Size||4.5 x 2.9 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Mini Display Port|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Kensington Lock|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Combo Headphone/Mic Jack|
|Ports (excluding USB)||RJ-45|
|Card Slots||2-1 card reader|
|Size||15.08 x 10.03 x 1.09 inches|