By resenting the N series of mobile computers, ASUS made a very pleasant surprise on the mobile computers market. Inside the excellent aluminium chassis, ASUS installed hardware of decent strength which, with help of excellent screen and phenomenal audio system, became one of the frequent choices for users who buy quality multimedia devices.
Biggest number of models are equipped with discrete graphic solutions, and aside from the average graphics, you can also choose some of the mobile devices that work great with video games and you can play newest games even in highest resolutions. This is made possible by the rest of the hardware which is, in most cases, pretty powerful and allows comfortable performance in most number of tasks that you can think of. Related to that, ASUS sent us for testing N550JV, the representative of the mobile computers series.
The familiar chassis with the 15-inch screen contains very powerful hardware, which was somewhat expected. The design is recognizable, and unlike, for example, N56 and last generation models, N550 has silver keyboard keys, instead of black that resembled the Mac’s. This time, the only plastic element of the chassis is the display’s frame. Everything else (screen lid, keyboard frame and lower part of the computer) is made of metal, which is something you don’t see every day. The lid has a sanded texture and in the middle has a transparent ASUS logo that glows when computer is working.
The real “fifteen”
The screen’s frame is somewhat wider than we would have liked (20 mm on the upper part, 15 mm on each side and 25 mm on the lower part), so the dimensions of this model are a bit bigger than average “fifteens”, and its weight of 2,4 kg isn’t the list bit negligible.
The screen with a diagonal of 15,6” has Full HD resolution and anti-glare coating that lessens the reflection. Considering the diagonal, the image is very clear and sharp and viewing angles are pretty good on both axes, with minimal distortions in the middle. The screen’s frame is dyed black and has a camera in the middle.
Below the screen is the keyboard which we liked tremendously. The keys protrude from the frame made out of one part, so there is no bending during typing. Due to the ample space at the disposal, the size of keys is perfect, with enough space between them which, with moderate depth of the keys, make the typing a very pleasant experience. As you probably know, it’s our policy to use the computer being tested for writing reviews, so the positive experience is, literally, firsthand. There was enough space for the numeric keyboard also, which caused the left and right cursor to appear where they don’t belong, and since they don’t have any markings (such as those found on F and H keys), which enable the fingers to feel whether you are on the right key, their usefulness is limited. The keyboard also has backlighting with two volume levels, and we advise you to turn it off during day, because with good illumination, the white light emanating from the keys has a counter effect. This way, you save up battery life and with low illumination you can turn the backlighting on with a shortcut (Fn + set key). Aside from standard shortcuts, ASUS made an effort to add additional keyboards for calculator, camera, and what we’ve especially liked is the Splendid technology, which enables to change the image warmth with predefined options, or even manually.
Touchpad is of standard size, intended for Windows 8 OS gesticulation and left and right buttons are integrated into its surface, which has become common with the new OS. Above the keyboard are Instant key and the Power button. While the Power button is used for turning the computer on and off, Instant key can be defined to do a number of predefined options (volume control, application start, browser, Splendid presets, Video Magic application and Shut Down timer). On the left side, there are HDMI and Display Port video outs, two USB 3.0 connectors, LAN, audio, power connector and additional out for external bass, provided in the package. Audio system, SonicMaster, developed in collaboration with Bang&Olufsen is made out of four centrally-positioned speakers, which are backed by a mini subwoofer, creates very interesting sound. Dimensions of this external speaker and integrated drivers don’t provide a very serious audio experience, but it does raise the level of audio that’s common for mobile devices. We believe it would have been better if at least two speakers were positioned next to Power and Instant keys (as was the case with the previous generation of N models), because the physical distance would have been better than virtual emulation of surround sound. We were left a bit disappointed by the lack of real stereo sound, primarily because of the illogical position of the speaker inside the chassis, but the external woofer definitely enhanced the range of low spectrum tones.
The right side has DVD-RW, third USB 3.0 and SD/MMC card reader, made possible by moving the opening lid of the cooling system along the edge of screen’s lid, which was already present with ASUS Zenbook models. We were very pleased with the efficiency of this system, because it proved to be more than capable of dealing with pretty powerful hardware. Even under heavy load during gaming, the cooling system wasn’t very loud and the heat didn’t carry over on the keyboard, touchpad and the surrounding area, which is really important during gaming, typing or long periods of use. This makes a lot of sense when you realize that whole lower part of the computer acts as one big cooler which efficiently distributes heat and dissipates it by its entire surface eliminating the possibility of heat pocket formation in certain parts of the chassis.
4 GB of video memory!
Inside of the chassis there’s a quad-core Haswell processor of the Core i7 series, with its eight threads and with frequency that works in 2,4 to 3,4 GHz range, with a maximum consumption of 47 W. System has 8 GB of memory at its disposal with only one memory module, and considering the fact that it has two slots, this means that the amount can be doubled, which will increase performance drastically in applications that demand high amounts of working memory. The computer has a hard disk of 750 GB capacity, and it appears that there are versions with mSATA SSDs of lesser capacity, so we assume that they also can be installed, which will also significantly improve performance in this area. Graphics subsystem consists of NVIDIA Optimus platform which merges integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 with discrete NVIDIA GT750M video card with 4 GB of DD3 memory.
|CPU||Intel Core i7 4700HQ 2.4/3.4 GHz 4C/8T 47W|
|Memory||1x 8 GB DDR3 1600 MHz single channel (two slots)|
|HDD||Seagate 750 GB 5400 rpm (ST750LM022 HN-M750MBB)|
|Graphics||NVIDIA Optimus: Intel HD Graphics 4600 & NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 4 GB GDDR3|
|Display||15.6", LED 1920x1080 pix Non-Glare|
|Interfaces||HDMI, LAN, 3x USB 3.0, mini Display Port, audio in/out|
|Additional||Card reader, Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers + external subwoofer, 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 720p camera|
|Dimensions and weight||383 x 255 x 27.7 mm; 2.4 kg|
|Battery||4 cells 60 Wh (4198 mAh)|
Even though 4 GB of slow memory is more of a marketing trick, because 128-bit bus of this card from GPU towards memory physically can’t allocate 4 GB effectively, it would have been much better if it had half the amount of DDR5 memory, which is optimal for this card. Let’s elaborate a bit more. With 128-bit series bus, DDR3 memory that works with frequency of 900 MHz (effectively 1800 MHz) establishes maximum bandwidth of 28,8 GB/s, and if it used DDR5 memory that works with frequency of 1250 MHz (effectively 5 GHz), that bandwidth would have been 80 GB/s, or 2,7 times faster. Since it’s the same chip, this means that it has larger memory bandwidth at its disposal, and the ability to process more data by using all of memory, further increasing the performances. On Full HD resolution with GK107 in GT750M everything larger than 2 GB of RAM is too much, and in order to explain that better, we've compared the performances of ASUS N550JV with Lenove IdeaPad Y510p which has basically the same hardware, but also the version of GT740M with 2 GB of DDR5 memory. By direct comparison, we've established that differences in performances range from 7% to 90%, which is a huge difference, depending on the game that's being tested.
|ASUS N550JV (NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 4 GB DDR3)||Lenovo Ideapad Y510P (NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2 GB DDR5)||Difference %|
|3DMark Fire Strike / Cloud Gate / Ice storm Graphics score||1557 / 10905 / 68658||1817 / 14149 / 68070||+16.7 / +29.7 / -0.8|
|3DMark 11 Performance Graphics score||2509||2693||+7.3|
|1920x1080 0xAA 0xAF|
|Batman Arkham City very high [fps]||31||40||+ 29.03|
|Bioshock Infinity high [fps]||31.92||38.62||+20.99|
|Hitman Absolution high [fps]||22.04||25.82||+17.15|
|Just Cause 2 high [fps]||44.07||52.3||+18.67|
|Metro 2133 [fps]||15.1||29.35||+94.37|
|Tomb Raider high [fps]||36.9||41.8||+13.28|
Of course, now when DDR3 chips are far cheaper than DDR5 chips, we have to expect that we'll encounter examples such as this more and more, so pay attention to the chip and amount of memory before purchase, because differences in performances can be huge.
Aside from lesser cost, there's the possibility that ASUS purposfuly decided to use DDR3 memory, in order to distance this model from its G series and gaming laptops with lower performances, which does make a lot of sense. Don't take us wrong, N550JV is a multimedia machine that, despite the somewhat slower GDDR3 memory has excellent Kepler GPU at its disposal, which can manage all newer games in Full HD without any problems.
|Fire Strike Score/Graphics/Physics||1488 / 1557 / 8849|
|Cloud Gate Score/Graphics/Physics||9318 / 10905 / 6174|
|Ice Storm Score/Graphics/Physics||60629 / 68675 / 42999|
|3DMark 11 Performance Score/Graphic/Physics/Combined||P2690 / 2509 / 6595|
|7-Zip 9.20 x64 kompresija/dekompresija [KB/s]||15143 / 208408|
|Cinebench R15 x64 OpenGL [fps]/CPU/CPU (Single Core) [pts]||68.18 / 636 / 130|
|HD Tune Pro 5.0 average read [MB/s]||81.4|
|Powermark Balanced / Productivity / Entertainment||2h 37' / 5h 10' / 1h 32'|
Thanks to the integrated four-cell battery of great capacity, but also thanks to the Optimus technology, with minimal use, this computer can ensure over five hours of working autonomy, while under load that amount of time is reduced to two and a half, or rather, one and a half hour of use under heavy load. Bear in mind that without power cord you can't use dicrete graphics and that task is delegated to the integrated oslution inside of Intel Core i7 GPU.
When all's said and done, N550JV proved to be a quite interesting device. You get one of the best designed laptops that we've ever seen so far. There's also the top-quality screen, metal chassis, wide range of connections, external subwoofer, but also a strong hardware base that powers all of that. If they used a more powerful graphics (or rather, its memory), we wouldn't have had any real objections. On the other hand, even without this graphics, the strong hardware base and the other components (chassis, screen, etc.) come at a high price, so the average N550JV configuration, like the one we've tested, will cost about 1000 €.