The Asus N53SV signals the first wave of powerful all-purpose laptops based on Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors and Nvidia's Optimus-enabled 500M Fermi GPU that don't cost a bomb.

The Asus N53SV is a 15-inch home entertainment laptop claiming to deliver superior audio performance, courtesy Bang&Olufsen ICEpower sound. Let’s see how good the Asus N53SV’s onboard speakers are and also get a feel of Intel’s next-gen processors.

Looks & Design

Asus laptops are a bit like Acer's Aspire notebook range, not much design change across laptops at various price points. Asus' only striking laptops in terms of style and design would have to be the Bamboo series offerings, the U43Jc and U6V. The Asus N53SV has a slate gray look that isn’t eye-catching but it has an interesting wave design of its base chassis along the lateral edge near the screen hinge.

It looks nice, and so is the feel of the metal screen lid. The N53SV laptop's speaker grille is placed prominently above the keyboard, which is another nice addition.

Asus N53SV

The 15-inch Asus N53SV laptop is a big and bulky machine bordering on a desktop replacement laptop and its build quality is average, nothing great. It weighs 2.8-kg with a standard six-cell battery, similar to the Dell XPS 15 but heavier than some other notebooks.

Usability

The Asus N53SV comes with a 15.6-inch LED-backlit glossy display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. However, it comes with only 1366x768 pixel resolution, same as the MSI GT663R and Lenovo IdeaPad Y560, but lesser than the Dell XPS 15.

The screen is of average quality, nothing overwhelmingly great. Although the screen’s brightness, contrast and colour levels are good, we think Asus could’ve done a better job, as viewing angles aren’t great. Having said that, reading text and watching movies indoors is sufficiently good. The included 2MP webcam is average at best for video chat.

Asus N53SV

Keyboard and touchpad are pretty good on the Asus N53SV. We like the closely packed keys on the keyboard deck which are nice for typing, and the dedicated number pad on the right doesn’t hurt either, great addition for gamers and frequent number crunchers.

Asus N53SV

The touchpad sits submerged in the middle of a wide palmrest. The touchpad itself is nice and wide and easy to use, it’s gesture-enabled as well. The single strip mouse button below the Asus N53SV laptop’s touchpad could be a minor pain, but works just fine once you get used to it.

Now to the really exciting bits about the Asus N53SV laptop. Yes, it's one of the first Intel Sandy Bridge laptops to arrive in India, sporting a Core i7-2630QM 2-GHz quad-core processor, featuring Intel Turbo Boost 2.0, don’t worry, a less expensive Asus N53SV SKU sporting a Core i5-2410M 2.1-GHz chip is also available.

Our review sample further featured 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 640GB hard drive (only 5400rpm though, disappointingly) and an Nvidia GeForce GT540M GPU with 1GB RAM and DirectX 11 support and Intel HD 3000 graphics. Yes, the Asus N53SV is a high-powered machine, you can say that.

In terms of connectivity options, the Asus N53SV doesn’t miss anything important. Three USB ports in all, two of which are USB 3.0-enabled. The laptop also has HDMI and VGA ports, audio jacks, card reader, Gigabit Ethernet and DVD Writer.

For wireless connectivity, you have Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n whereas Bluetooth (2.1 or 3.0) is an optional extra. The laptop also comes with Nvidia Optimus automatic graphics switching feature between the Intel HD and Nvidia graphics.

Asus Express Gate

The Asus N53SV came with 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate (Home Premium for retail samples) but Asus also offers Express Gate, an Instant-ON Linux operating system for quickly looking up photos, browsing the web and so on. The laptop cold boots into Express Gate between 7-10 seconds,- a good option to have if you don’t want to waste valuable time booting into Windows, for instance.

Asus bundles some nice software to take care of the peripherals on the N53SV laptop: Cyberlink's PowerDVD for playing DVD movies, Power2Go for disc-burning chores, PowerDirector for making movies, and MediaEspresso for converting videos and music between various device formats.

Performance

So how good is the new Intel Sandy Bridge processor? Well, to put it mildly, it’s exciting! The Asus N53SV laptop's Intel Core i7-2630QM got a WorldBench 6 score of 125, that’s more than the older quad-core Core i7 present on the MSI GT663R gaming laptop!

So yeah, a monster of a laptop processor on the Asus N53SV, better than any of our recent mainstream laptops. Multitasking with day-to-day apps is a breeze, while you can even think about video editing and gaming on the Asus N53SV.

Gaming with the latest DirectX 11 games won’t be a problem with the N53SV’s Nvidia GeForce GT540M Fermi GPU, at native resolution. Even synthetic GPU benchmarks attest to the fact that the Nvidia GeForce GT540M graphics are very good for its class. Watching 1080p and 720p HD videos on the Asus N53SV was smooth and enjoyable, no problems whatsoever.

One big feature Asus touts about the N53SV entertainment laptop is its Bang & Olufsen audio. Speaker sound is good, loud, punchy and clear at higher volume, but we’ve heard better from the likes of MSI GT663R and Lenovo IdeaPad Y560, to be honest. The audio on Asus N53SV laptop isn’t as big a deal as Asus’ marketing machinery might think.

Battery performance of the Asus N53SV's six-cell battery was average, it lasted 1 hour 10 mins in our synthetic tests on high performance mode. Expect close to 3 hours of browsing the web over Wi-Fi, possibly more if you go crazy with the power save mode.

OUR VERDICT

Overall, the Asus N53SV is a very good candidate for a powerful 15-inch laptop with the latest hardware and features at an acceptable price. And even though Asus makes a big deal about the N53SV’s onboard sound, we think the laptop is a revelation as far as Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPU and Nvidia's GPU is concerned. So yes, definitely consider it if you can't wait for mainstream laptops featuring AMD Fusion chips.