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ASUS N56VM Notebook Review: The Do-It-All Ivy Bridge Laptop

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Performance - Competitors, Processor, General, Hard Drive

Performance - Competition

For comparison we’re going to be using a selection of other mainstream laptops we’ve recently tested. In a way it’s a dramatically biased set of competitors because these are all based on older Sandy Bridge processors and they’re all dual cores – and thus, they are certainly going to lose in many benchmarks. But so far we’ve only tested two Ivy Bridge laptops, so this is the data we have access to right now. 

Our selection of competitors is include the Dell XPS 15z, the HP dm4t Beats Edition and the Lenovo ThinkPad T420. Here are the specification tables. We’re also going to add the Alienware M14x, which is the last quad-core Sandy Bridge based laptop we reviewed.

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Performance – Processor

We will start with the typical SiSoft Sandra processor benchmarks.

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As mentioned in our previous Ivy Bridge for mobile review, the performance of the new Core i7-3720QM is way ahead of anything we’ve tested, and this gap appears most prominently in these highly optimized benchmarks. Without a doubt, if you use processor intensive applications that are well optimized, this new quad-core is an incredibly good choice.

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7-Zip basically reaffirms the SiSoft results, with a slightly smaller margin of victory. In Peacekeeper, we see that the Core i7-3720QM performs amazingly well for a quad-core product, almost defeating the dual-core Core i7 in the Dell XPS 15z. It will be interesting to see, once the Ivy Bridge Core i5 processors hit, if they are even faster – or if this result is evidence of better performance in poorly multi-threaded applications.

Performance – General

Our general benchmarks provide a good example of real-world performance in common applications. Our first test is Windows Live Movie Maker, software that is often used for basic video editing. Our benchmark takes a look at how quickly the software can encode and save to 1080p.

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This is a shockingly linear graph that seems to represent overall processor performance well. As the laptops add clock speed – and cores – the results gradually become better and better, cumulating in the 201 second result of the ASUS N56VM. As you can see, the gap between the slowest and quickest processor is quite significant – the kind of difference that the average user would notice in the real world.

Now let’s consider BatchBlitz. This is a freeware batch photo editing program that’s not well optimized for multiple cores, throwing a bit of a wrench at these laptops.

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The lack of solid multi-thread support causes the BatchBlitz results of the Sandy Bridge processors to waver back and forth – and then the ASUS N56VM with its Ivy Bridge processor swoops in to dominate the pack. Clearly, the Turbo Boost feature is allowing the Core i7-3720QM to strut its stuff even when only a few threads are engaged.

Now let’s consider the boot and resume times.

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There’s nothing unusual here. Only the HP dm4t, which has a solid state drive for quick boot times, is able to buck the trend of 40-second boots. The N56VM is slightly quicker when resuming from hibernate, but it’s hardly a noteworthy achievement.

 

May 22, 2012 | 07:48 PM - Posted by Veer Maharaj (not verified)

I would buy this damn asus for the 1080p screen alone :D

May 23, 2012 | 06:22 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No thunderbolt and are the graphics drivers on the Intel HD side genaric Intel HD graphics drivers? What about Opencl, will I be able to use opencl to utilize the the intel GPU for general purpose compute, while using the GT630M for graphics? Any opencl Benchmarks for the computer would be helpful. Ask ASUS these questions if you can not answers any of the questions yourself. Ask the gaming engine people if they plan to take advantage of opencl to increase the performence of games in laptop computers that have an Intel GPU pared with a descrete GPU, by utilizing both GPUs at the same time?

May 23, 2012 | 11:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Great review :]

May 26, 2012 | 08:39 AM - Posted by LiHa (not verified)

if it can just pull the price down below $999, it will be a really good piece to buy. by the way Great review.

May 29, 2012 | 01:04 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is there an estimate for release date (North American) ?

May 31, 2012 | 10:49 PM - Posted by Starkie24

What is the battery life like for normal day to day use? gaming? watching movies?

June 1, 2012 | 10:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It has no WebCam?

Otherwise looks like a good candidate to replace my current older ASUS X5DIN

June 3, 2012 | 08:02 AM - Posted by shardul (not verified)

when will i get these n series laptops in India at cheaper rate and DOS based also

June 22, 2012 | 08:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

got mine. the screen is NOT 1080p
It's max resolution is 1366x768
it does have a webcam and is pretty good but I swapped my SSD into it soon after I bought it (literally 2 hours or so later)
keyboard is quiet and comfortable.
The touchpad is similar size to that of a MBP and about double the size of my ASUS f3gs which takes some getting used to.
Comes with the general ASUS BLOATWARE but its a great laptop after a quick clean install of win7.

July 28, 2012 | 06:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

it's not the same fullhd model.

August 20, 2012 | 07:58 AM - Posted by Jack (not verified)

I like your review. I just have a quick question. I just got this laptopn and ai have a 120 GB SSD. I was planning to install the SSD as a boot drive and keep the HDD for data. Can I do what I am describing? Is there an additional bay on the laptop for the SSD keeping the HDD?

June 28, 2012 | 11:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Just bought one of these (here branded as R501VM) in Australia for A$1,200. Full HD Version. I have swapped the crappy HDD with a SSD, upped the RAM, installed Windows 8 release preview and threw the disk full of ASUS's usual crapware in the bin.

In my view the machine is excellent value. I love the form factor and keyboard. I hate the touchpad but this is not a big issue for me: I use a mouse and disable it. The two year warranty is a bonus and having owned ASUS laptops (including the predecessor N53SV) for the last few years I am looking forward to their great after-sales service should I need it.

July 5, 2012 | 07:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sam's has a US version of the N56VZ with the 3610 i7 processor for $899 - no blu ray and lower res screen but a 7200 rpm 750GB hard drive. Anybody know where else to purchase (preferably in US or Canada) with a high res screen and blu ray?

July 15, 2012 | 06:14 PM - Posted by Q3gun (not verified)

Good review, i went to buy one for me =)
Just want to overclock the only bottleneck: Graphics. Dayym dat 630m (really 540m) has some gpu clock Lock :/ cant get over 810mhz . could even undervolt it to allow higher locks while lovering temerature w lower volt. but dont know how get over dat lock..

July 20, 2012 | 08:27 PM - Posted by Matt (not verified)

Purchased this model recently (here branded as R501VM also (New Zealand))
http://www.elive.co.nz/asus-r501vm-s4142x-i7-laptop-SY04931.php
Packaging was excellent
All items in box - check
Remove laptop from sleeve and open and notice keyboard is a foriegn version (European? - unsure)
Packaging clearly stated for New Zealand but US/English keyboard was not installed....Asus quality control??
Went ahead and powered on, no issues, standard setup went well. Screen is 1920-1080 FHD - awesome and bright!
The software preinstalled was excessive (as others note)
Worse than my 3 year old HP (current laptop about to die) running at about 113 processes..... amazing.
Retailer is issuing refund as their supplier only has the foriegn keyboard version.
This is the exact version of a laptop am after (prefer 8gb ram and better HDD - would get a SSD - fresh OS install) - for general web surfing/ light gaming so will try another retailer (online as no brick and mortar store sells these in NZ).
Felt like an excellent laptop for the 15 minutes of use, the additon of backlit keys is a boon as well as Bluray drive... very hard to find in one unit (in NZ anyway).

July 30, 2012 | 09:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Really good review, very in depth and covered all the important points and thanks to this review I have now purchased this laptop =D Thanks!

August 27, 2012 | 08:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I found the N56vm on Amazon for $899. I ordered it to replace my VAIO F series 16inch model from about 4 years ago. Hope at $899 it's a good value. My VAIO was no slouch and still runs great. But it's running Vista (you heard me right Vista) and a Centrino processor. Hope I gain something in the switch to the N56.

June 7, 2013 | 11:36 PM - Posted by tyler (not verified)

I bought it last week for 999 euros from Germany. Everything is beyond my expactations - very nice. However, there is one issue, it makes noise while working. It is not the fan noise. It is like as if I have just inserted a CD and it tries to read the CD. Or it is like the noise you hear while waiting after you just power the laptop on. Do you also have this problem? Or is it a problem?

July 19, 2013 | 09:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have no noise after startup. I do have times where my startup will take 3 minutes. Usually it is around a minute or so. Putting in a Samsung 840 pro next week. Hopefully that will fix it. Otherwise, extremely cool laptop. Easily a desktop replacement.

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