Asus N56VM review
15.6 in 1,920x1,080 display, 2.7kg, 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM, 6.00GB RAM, 750GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Most laptops include speakers almost as an afterthought – they tend to be small, tinny and rarely sound very good. The same can’t be said of the N56VM – Asus bundles an external subwoofer to pair with the integrated Bang & Olufsen speakers, hopefully saving you the extra expense of a pair of dedicated speakers. With a quad-core processor and discrete graphics, it’s no performance slouch either.
A stylish combination of black brushed metal lid and matt silver body gives a luxurious first impression. The laptop's also not too thick at only 33mm, which is impressive considering the powerful specification that includes an integrated Blu-ray drive and a 1080p display. As you would expect from a 15in laptop, connectivity is excellent with four USB ports, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio in and outputs, a multi-format card reader and both HDMI and VGA video outputs. All four USB ports support the faster USB3 standard.
The attractive looks continue once you lift the lid, with patterned speaker grilles expanding out towards the Chiclet-style keyboard tray. The keyboard itself uses full-size QWERTY keys, but the numeric keypad has to make do with half-width keys to make room. We didn’t find this too troublesome in general use, although larger hands may need to take a little more care when entering data. With the exception of the spacebar, all the keys have plenty of bounce to make typing as comfortable as possible.
We normally prefer physical touchpad buttons, but the all-in-one touchpad used here is excellent. It has no discernible dead zone between the left and right buttons, meaning you don’t have to worry about your clicks not registering, and it’s more than responsive enough to span the entire desktop with a single swipe.
Working on the 15.6in, 1,920x1,080 display was a mixed experience – horizontal viewing angles are excellent, even if vertical ones aren’t quite so impressive, and the matt finish helps diffuse light reflections, but it also mutes colours quite significantly. Limited brightness could still make it difficult to use in direct sunlight. Even so, everything looks very sharp at the Full HD resolution.
Here you can see one of the rather stylish radiating speaker grilles, reminiscent of the concentric circle patterns used on numerous other Asus products
We could watch Blu-ray films at their native 1080p thanks to the screen and integrated optical drive, but we still weren’t blown away by the N56VM’s sound quality. The upward-firing speakers sound best when you’re sat directly over the laptop – as soon as you move back much of the treble disappears. Even so, the external subwoofer adds noticeable bass to music tracks, making it a welcome step up from most laptop speakers. If you frequently use your laptop at a desk, there’s no reason not to keep it plugged in constantly.