Head-turning interior design; Full 1080p display with vivid color ; Snappy performance and graphics; Comfortable keyboard with bright backlighting; Robust audio;
Sluggish boot time; Below-average battery life; Touchpad can be finicky
The ASUS N56VZ-DS71 delivers a beautiful 1080p matte display, graphics punch, and impressive audio--complete with mini subwoofer--in a striking design.
ASUS is bringing out the big multimedia guns with the ASUS N56VZ-DS71. Outfitted with a powerful quad-core Ivy Bridge processor, an arresting 1080p matte display, audio by Bang & Olufsen and Nvidia graphics, the N56V ($1,149 as tested) is ready to take on all contenders in the multimedia arena. The notebook even ships with an external subwoofer for an added dose of boom.
The bottom of the N56VZ is covered in plastic, as is the thick bezel around the screen.
The 15 x 10 x 1.1-1.3-inch ASUS N56VZ weighs in at an even 6 pounds. The 15.15 x 10 x 1.4-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 is slightly heavier at 6.2 pounds. The 4.6-pound, 14.9 x 10 x 0.9-inch Sony VAIO S Series 15 is both lighter and thinner--at least without the optional sheet battery.
The N56VZ display registered a brilliant 313 lux using our light meter. That's 69 lux higher than the mainstream category average, and much brighter than the Y580 (285 lux) as well as the VAIO S Series 15 (231 lux).
Audio and Subwoofer
The bundled Waves Maxx Audio 3 looks somewhat intimidating. The control panel resembles something a sound engineer might use in a studio complete with radial knobs of varying sizes. We were forced to use rather exacting movements on the touchpad to turn the dials. Fortunately, there are quick shortcut buttons for boosting things like volume, which worked very well.
The N56VZ ships with a small subwoofer called the ASUS SonicMaster that plugs into the side of the notebook via a 3.5mm jack. The black plastic 3.25 x 2.45-inch woofer resembles the bottom half of a cone, and rests on a 0.5-inch high base. The sides of the device are blank with the exception of a gold SonicMaster logo. The top of the woofer has grooved concentric circles, which gives it the look and feel of an old-school vinyl record.
We appreciate that the woofer doesn't require any additional software to run; we simply plugged it into the notebook. When we began using the woofer, there was only a slight improvement on Wale's "Lotus Flower Bomb." However, other songs, such as Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer," benefitted from the additional oomph, particularly when it came to bass guitar. We're glad that the Sonic Master is included with the N56VZ, but we'd much prefer a built-in subwoofer.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The 4.5 x 2.8-inch Elan touchpad is massive, and relatively easy to use. Highlighting text within documents and websites was fairly accurate, allowing us to highlight large paragraphs or single words
Pressing anywhere on the touchpad activates left click, with the exception of the bottom right portion of the pad reserved for right click. At times, the touchpad mistook a left click for a right click, even after the driver update.
Powered by a 2.3-GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU with 8GB of RAM, the ASUS N56VZ-DS71 delivered very good, but not quite spectacular, performance. Anecdotally, the notebook proved responsive. We were able to stream an episode of "Reno 911" with eight open tabs in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer while running a full system scan.
On PCMark07, the N56VZ scored 2.693, which easily beats the 2,419 mainstream average. However, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580, which has the same processor and RAM, registered a whopping 3,713. The Sony VAIO S Series 15 and its 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-3210M CPU notched 2,279.
The N56VZ's 750GB 5,400-rpm hard drive booted Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) in a sluggish 74 seconds - 20 seconds behind the 0:54 average. The VAIO S Series 15 and its 640GB 7,200-rpm hard drive loaded in 0:53 while the Y580 and its 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive and 32GB SSD cache clocked in at a speedy 0:42.
During the File Transfer Test, the N56VZ duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 2 minutes and 53 seconds, a transfer rate of 29.4 MBps, failing to meet the 35.8MBps category average. That was enough to speed past the Y580's 21.1 MBps rate, but not the VAIO S Series 15 (35.1 MBps).
The N56VZ paired 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses in 4 minutes and 28 minutes. That's 1:41 faster than the 6:11 average as well as the Y580 (4:50) and the Series 15 (5:10).
During 3DMark11, the N56VZ notched an impressive 2,408, easily surpassing the 1,143 mainstream category average. The Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 and its switchable graphics (Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU/Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with 2GB of VRAM) scored a lower 2,288. The Sony VAIO S Series 15 and its Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU/Nvidia GeForce 640M LE GPU with 1GB of VRAM only mustered 1,342.
On the "World of Warcraft" test, the N56VZ notched a 124 fps frame rate on autodetect at 1920 x 1080 pixels. That's almost twice the 65 fps average and more than enough than the S Series' 97 fps. However, it wasn't enough to top the IdeaPad Y580's 141 fps. When we cranked the settings up to maximum, the N56VZ's frame rate dropped to 66 fps, still much higher than the 34 fps average. The Series 15 and the Y580 scored 42 and 81 fps, respectively.
When then ran our "Batman: Arkham City" benchmark with the screen at 1080p and the settings on low. The N56VZ scored 31 fps, slightly above the 30 fps playability frame rate, but lower than the 38 fps average. The Y580 notched 35 fps at the same resolution while the Series 15 delivered 47 fps. On maximum, the frame rate dropped to an unplayable 15 fps, slightly below the 17 mainstream average. The Series 15 also scored 15 fps while the Y580 performed slightly better, at 19 fps.
Software and Warranty
Third-party apps include Microsoft Office Starter, Internet Explorer, Windows Live, Adobe Reader X and McAfee Security Scan Plus.
ASUS backs the N56VZ with a one-year warranty and 24/7 tech support. See how the company fared in our Best & Worst Brands Report.
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Our $1149 review unit of the N56V-DS71 features a 2.3-GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU with 8GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU and a Nvidia GeForce GT 650M GPU. This configuration also includes a 1080p matte display and Blu-ray drive.
The ASUS N56VZ-ES71 starts at a more affordable $999. That model includes the same processor but just 4GB of RAM, a lower-res 1366 x 768 display and a DVD burner instead of a Blu-ray drive.
VerdictLenovo IdeaPad Y580, which costs about $50 less. But if you crave a multimedia notebook that looks as good as it performs, the N56V is the better choice.
|CPU||2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||750GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000/Nvidia GeForce GT 650M|
|Touchpad Size||4.5 x 2.8 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Kensington Lock|
|Ports (excluding USB)||headphone + S/PDIF|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Card Slots||3-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||2-year Parts and Labor, 1 year Accidental Damage, 30-day Zero Bright Dot Guarantee, 2-way free shipping, 24/7 Tech Support|
|Size||15 x 10 x 1.1~1.3 inches|