ASUS N53S Core i7-2630QM Sandy Bridge 15-in Notebook Review
Display, Audio, Heat and Connectivity
Whenever I sit down in front of a laptop with a pricetag around $1000 or above, I cross my fingers and hope that I’ll be treated to a decent LCD display. Often, however, I’m disappointed – and the N53 is no exception. In fact, the display is one of the laptop’s weakest points.
The problem isn’t image quality, because overall it is average. Black levels are far from the worst or the best I’ve ever seen, and contrast is quite decent. Given the price of this laptop, I’d like to see more, but the image quality is acceptable.
My biggest complaint about the display on the N53 is instead the super-gloss coat slapped on it. While you might imagine that one gloss display is the same as any other, there is in fact a lot of variation between them. The sheen on the N53 is among the most reflective I’ve seen. Worse, there is a cheap plastic quality to the display. It’s as if ASUS, having finished the display, found some laminate at Officemax and used it as a finishing touch.
Right below the unappealing display you’ll find an expanse of silver dotted with tiny holes. At first, you might think this to be a built-in cheese greater, but it is in fact ASUS’s premium sound system known as Bang & Olusfen ICEpower.
As a laptop reviewer, I’ve learned long ago that laptop manufactures are often happy to slap a label on a completely average audio solution. I was a bit caught off-guard when I found that the audio pouring from the ASUS N53 is quite good. Music has a clear, crisp and balanced sound, and distortion only becomes evident at high volume on bass-heavy tracks.
This does require some perspective; the audio is on par with what you’d expect from a $50 pair of desktop speakers. But that’s much better than what laptops normally provide, and it means the N53 can actually fill a room with music that isn’t distorted beyond identification. This is one of the only laptops with audio quality that would be sufficient for my needs if I wasn’t allowed to buy a desktop PC.
Heat and Connectivity
Although not a gaming or workstation laptop, the hardware in the N53 is nothing to laugh at, as you’ll see in the performance section of this review. While a 15.6” chassis is large, the quad-core processor and Nvidia GPU in the N53 are a challenge to keep cool at high levels of load.
Even so, the N53 was a cool customer. My every effort to generate significant warmth from the laptop failed - even extended stress testing of the CPU and GPU resulted in only moderate warmth along the laptop’s bottom and the palmrest. Internally, the N53 idled as low as 38 degrees Celsius and never shot above 54 degrees Celsius at load.
These low temperatures are no feat of magic, however. The N53 manages to keep cool through the use of a big, beefy fan vent on the left side of the chassis which exhausts hot air with enthusiasm. As you might expect, this results in noticeable fan noise. But while the N53 is not a quite laptop, I don’t think it’s fair to call it loud, either. The fan is audible in a quiet room, but the noise has a smooth and even temperament.
The N53’s big fan vent is accompanied by an array of ports including HDMI, USB 2.0 and 3.0, an SD card reader and Ethernet jack. On the right side of the laptop, just before the optical drive, you’ll find additional USB ports and independent headphone and microphone connections. The power plug is in the rear of the laptop, a simple but important design decision that ASUS should be applauded for, as it’s rare on consumer laptops.