ASUS N53S Core i7-2630QM Sandy Bridge 15-in Notebook Review
Design and User Interface
Brushed aluminum has become synonymous with luxury electronics, and the ASUS N53’s exterior is clad in it like a suit of armor. The lid and palmrest are both coated the velvet-smooth metal, resulting in an instantly impressive finish. The usage of aluminum on the N53 has a dark gunmetal tint – like the ASUS U33JC Bamboo laptop we reviewed some time ago, the N53 goes for elegance rather than flash, and arguably has even better execution.
The palmrest shares the aluminum finish of the lid, and the touchpad also has the same look, though by texture it seems that it may be made of plastic. The only detraction is the keyboard and its surrounding material all the way up to the attractive silver metal speaker housing. These portions of the laptop are made of a dull charcoal plastic that, although not downright ugly, lack the luxurious appearance of the materials surrounding them.
This cheapening is unfortunate, but not significant. If anything, the charcoal plastic that sticks out as the least appealing part of the laptop feels only slightly low-rent, while the rest of the materials feel a bit better than you might expect for a laptop with this hardware at this price.
While the N53 is visually attractive, the feel of the chassis is just average. There is some quite noticeable material flex around the optical drive if you grip the laptop from that side. Pressure does little to depress the laptop’s lid, and there is thankfully no hint of shimmy while typing, but there is room for some flex if one corner of the lid is accidently hit or pressured. Access to the RAM isn’t difficult, but opening the hard drive panel required some thought and more effort than most people will feel safe exerting on their laptop. To be clear, I’m not saying the N53 feels cheap or poorly screwed together – but it doesn’t seem sturdier or more practical than the chassis found on some significantly cheaper laptops, such as the Toshiba C655.
The keyboard on the ASUS N53 is a large, island-styled model complete with numpad. It’s entirely what you would expect from a 15.6” laptop, and offers few surprises – a generally negative comment. While the keyboard is extremely comfortable and has a reasonably good layout, the numpad keys are squeezed in and are about two-thirds the size of a normal key as a result. Although usable, the numpad certainly isn’t comfortable – and that’s a shame, because there is significant room on either side of the laptop.
My biggest beef with the keyboard, however, is the flex. When I press the K key, for example, the flex is significant enough to cause the entire keyboard to move from the G key all the way to the Enter key. That’s about six inches of flex, just from depressing one key. The effort required to cause this isn’t great, either. Someone who plays games will likely see this frequently while tapping away at WASD in a first-person shooter.
The touchpad inspires better comments. It is reasonably large, well defined from the surrounding material, and responsive. The multi-touch gestures work well. Better yet, the touchpad lives up to the laptop’s luxurious appearance in ways the keyboard does not. Although it seems to be made of plastic, the touchpad shares a brushed aluminum look. It also has a solid feel. Although I don’t often mention it, some laptops have a slightly hollow feel to the area beneath the touchpad and the palmrest. The ASUS N53 does not have this trait.
Yet there is one thing about the N53’s touchpad that bothers me – the buttons, or rather, button. Like several previous ASUS laptops, the N53’s touchpad has a single button that is placed on a rocker. The feel of this latest incarnation of the design seems to offer more tactical feedback than previous versions, I still don’t like the dead-zone in the center of the button, nor do I like the way feedback becomes progressively worse as you move further way from the edges. Also, for some reason, ASUS decided to make the rocker button out of chrome plastic. Fingerprints are the predictable result.
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