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Asus N550JV - user review and owners lounge

Discussion in 'ASUS Reviews and Owners' Lounges' started by c_man, Jul 14, 2013.

  1. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    It was just last year when I did the G55 review and it's time for a new one. I hope there is not a topic for this yet, if there is one, I could not find it.

    This N550 could be the weapon of choice for many people looking for a stylish aluminium body entertainment laptop.

    I have the 550 JV model and here are some specs:

    - Intel Core i7-4700HQ Haswell 2.4GHz - 3.2Ghz (all cores driven) with Intel HD Graphics 4600;
    - nVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 4GB DDR3
    - RAM 2x 8GB 1600 MHz DDR3 Hynix
    - HDD Hitachi 750GB 7200rpm;
    - ODD Hitachi LG DVDRW;
    - Display 15.6 FHD IPS LED matte LG LP156WF4-SPB1;
    - Audio based on Realtek - 4 speakers + external subwoofer;
    - WLAN Qualcomm Atheros AR9485 150 Mbps;
    - LAN RealTek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet 1000 Mbps;
    - Bluetooth 4.0;
    - 3x USB 3.0;
    - Headphones/Line out;
    - HDMI;
    - Card reader Realtek
    - HD web camera;
    - Full keyboard + white light;
    - 4 cell baterry.

    I've used Windows 7 Ultimare 64bit. This is not supported by Asus and as a result there are a few things not working. The "fn+f2" does not turn off the Wireless. The IRST_Intel_Win8_64_VER12601033 driver will not work and will block the entire system as it will not boot. There is no Asus Console for W7. Also, there is no driver for USB 3.0 that I could find on Asus site and none of the W7 were usable with Haswell. If you want a LAN driver, you need to use LAN_Install_Win7_7072_05222013 (for Realtek from Realtek's site). If you want P4G use Power4Gear_Hybrid_WIN7_64_Z122. For InstantOn use InstantOn_Win7_64_VER233. Both from Asus.

    Case

    From what I know it's aluminium, even the bottom cover (N56 had plastic bottom).

    Top and bottom are all black while inside you find a silver palmrest and a silver keyboard (yes, the old black/silver contrast is gone).

    The case is very well made and feels strong with no flexing that I could find during normal usage.

    On the lid there is an Asus white backlit logo, looking very nice. By the way, you can almost open it with one hand. It's not easy enough, but still it can be done.

    Direct user access to parts is gone. The main reason is the new design Asus used here. The entire bottom is one piece of aluminium. But once removed (I'm not sure if this will void warranty), you can access the HDD, battery, RAM (only two modules), WIFI module and the fans (for cleaning).

    Asus used a dual-fan design, much like in G55, but with fans apart and heatpipes between them. Still an easier way to access the HDD at least would have been nice (a bay maybe, like Dell used to have). The bottom has some vent holes and the fans push the air at the back. System works fairly well, almost noiseless under normal load.

    It has a top fingerprint friendly, but the bottom is not the same. No fingerprints on the palmrest, in fact I am amazed how clean it stays.

    The weight of my unit is 2,7kg.

    Keyboard

    It has a very good keyboard (at least for me), with a nice feel (I never miss a letter I push) to it. This being only a 15" laptop, the layout is not ideal, but one can get used to it rather easy.

    The light on the other hand is a bit strange. Under dim I see it more like a white-purple rather than pure white. This and the fact that the keyboard is silver makes keys hard to see. I can use the light only in complete darkness and with brightness all the way up, as it annoys me in any other conditions. The good part is that while being all silver, it will reflect much of the screen's light and keys are easy to read.

    Touchpad

    The N550 has a big Apple style pad, but with hidden buttons (nothing new here really and this seams to go mainstream for everyone). Asus also offers a software for gestures that works well enough. In fact is the first time I like a pad of this type (like Apples'). The feel of the pad is good and works smooth.

    Speakers

    One of the strong selling points of this laptop should be the sound. But is it?

    I know it says Audio by Bang & Olufsen ICEpower and this might just be the problem. Dell N7720 SE has a 2.1 set-up Skullcandy speakers and they offer a very reach deep experience. The 4 speakers in N550 + 1 external subwoofer are good, but not as good as Dell's. Don't get me wrong, they are miles away in front of G55 or G75 and many other laptops. I like them enough to use them and that is rare for me. The new set-up has speakers down firing, in front, under the palmrest (yes, they moved the speakers and I'm not sure it was smart).

    The big surprise was the headphones' performance. One of the best I've heard to date.

    I had no problems with the drivers, no hiss, all worked well. I loved the fact that the control over Mute worked independently for speakers and headphones.

    Display

    While the image itself is extremly nice, the color space is far from sRGB and that is a disappointment. I'm sure almost all people take some photos now and could use the higher color gamut. Color precision seems off to me. This is not exactly a problem for a normal user, but for me it is.

    As a side note, Metro Last Light in 1366x768 looked extremly well, so playing in low resolution is not as unpleasant as it is with other panels.

    The screen is bright enough for usage under direct light. Viewing angles are extremly good and this being an IPS, it has a huge advantage over normal TN panels with color shift.

    Memory

    It has 2 x 8 Gb Hynix modules, 1600Mhz. Only 2 modules and if you need more RAM, this is not the best choice. But 8 to 16 GB should do for most people.

    Drive

    The HDD is nothing special, a Hitachi with 750GB at 7200rpm, but a proper one SSD unit with high enough capacity is still too expensive, like 25% of the laptop's price. Is it worth it? At some point it might.

    Processor

    The Intel i7-4700HQ (6M cache, boost up to 3.40 GHz with 1 core active) has some puch. It is a nominal 2.4 GHz, but it can boost under load up to 3.2 GHz (all cores active). Or at least this is in theory. The boost is limited by the cooling system under some conditions ... that in real life might never arise. I'll tell you more in a sec.

    I test all my laptops with Prime95 and Furmark to see how stable they are and how good is the cooling. The N550 had mixed results.

    Graphics

    Intel HD Graphics 4600 and nothing much to say here. It works well with the nVidia card, I had no problems with it.

    Nvidia GT 750M, the main star of the show or not. I know that people want huge amounts of graphic power, but keep in mind this is more of an entertainment/office unit with some gaming capabilities.

    The DDR3 keeps this card's performance right between GT 650M and GTX 660M. Is not great, but not bad either. It is an entertainment unit and a better card would make the G series look bad (a little at least) - the N56 had 650M with DDR3 as well.

    GPU clock is 967 MHz with boost up to +1100 MHz (higher than rated boost limit and this seems a bit strage).

    Now lets get back to those tests.

    Under Prime95 the system can keep CPU clocks around 3 - 3.1 GHz (so very close to 3.2 GHz rated boost with all cores active). Temperature goes just above 80°C at 30°C room temperature.

    Under Furmark the system can keep the GPU shy of 967 MHz (stated value). No boost at all. Temperature stays around 80°C (same room temp).

    Combined, Prime95 + Furmark, the system tries to keep temps around 80° and will throttle everything to do this. But not exactly like I've seen before. In past tests the CPU was the one going all the way down (mostly 1.2 GHz). On this particular system the CPU never went under 2.6 GHz, but the GPU worked at around 400 MHz. Not good. But...

    I've tried some real life testing under gaming conditions with Metro Last Light as my main title for the job. I've also used HWiNFO64, nVidia Inspector, GPU-Z for monitoring. I have tried all the settings. With the very high and even high ones the fps are too low to play (can't say how low, but I could see that there is no way of having a smooth experience). Still all these high settings put a nice big load on the system. And I've started to look at the numbers to see how low will they get. Strangely enough, they did not. The GPU boost was strong, going constant +1100 Mhz and the CPU was around 3 GHz with all temperatures around 80°C, but with no throttling. Going back to Furmak and Prime made the system downclock. The cooling was extremly fast after load was "lifted" and that is a good thing.

    Also keep in mind that Asus has a bad habit of quality variation (and not only Asus to be fair), so some machines might perform better, while some worse.

    Temperature and noise

    In G55 I could see CPU temperatures of 90° and even above. With N550 this was not possible. ~80 seems to be the limit as the system start throttling to keep it.

    The upper middle part of the case gets extremly hot during high loads and this makes it hard to use as a "lap"-top.

    The good thing is that the palmrest and the entire lower part are barely warm. This makes the HDD rather cool (never above 40°C even when the top was "burning") and the battery should be the same (since it is right next to it, under the palmrest).

    But how does this system works under normal load, since more likely this is how it will be used most of the time? Well, extremly well :) The normal working temps are 40-50°C for the CPU (mostly around 40). This means a barely warm case, even if you put it on the bed with the air flow not at it's best.

    Noise is not a problem under normal usage (there is none). Under heavy loads there is some noise, but not much more compared with similar laptops. Definetly it's a good laptop for working in quiet places as far as the fan noise goes (keyboard makes a little bit of noise I'm afraid).

    Battery life

    Even if I have the 4 cell one, still it was a nice surprise. With all settings to minimum and WiFi on, I got 5h just browsing the web.

    Under normal usage (still Power saver active) with HDD activity (DL), about half screen brightness, WiFi and so on, battery life was still good (4h). The 6 cell one should perform even better.

    Final take?

    To be honest I have no real cons. It looks great, it feels great, it performs great (it has it's shorts, but not that many).

    Competition?

    Lenovo Y510p comes to mind. Less expensive, has more power, more features. Then why I am not wrinting about one? Not sure. For me Asus will do and most likely at some point I can really pass this to my wife since it looks so sleek. But this Lenovo will be the reason why the N550 will not sell extremly well.

    LE: I was looking at how hot the Lenovo Y510p gets. Almost +55°C on ASD keys is insane. While Asus has under 35°C with same full load. Lenovo has greater GPU power, but still... The entire middle-upper left part on Lenovo even in idle state is ~35°C.

    *Maybe later I'll update this with some images. I had a lot of work to do and no time for a proper screen capture and photo making.

    Update 1.0

    Top (some of these images are FHD 1080p if you want to use them for anything). Under direct sun light the top looks more like a dark grey and not black. It also has some sort of metal pattern to it, not always visible.

    [​IMG]

    The logo will light up once the laptop starts.

    [​IMG]

    Bottom fingers and one vent (it has two). These fingerprints are hard to clean, but a moist cloth shoud do the trick.

    [​IMG]

    Bottom screw type and rear vent. There are quite a few screws to remove since the bottom is this one big piece of aluminium. Before doing so, please ask Asus if this voids warranty in your country.

    LE: You need a torx T5 to open it. Do not use anything else that might damage the screw.

    [​IMG]

    Front status LEDs (I'm glad they are not very bright, on G75 these would melt your eyes) and down firing speakers under.

    [​IMG]

    The middle top part with the logo. This is where the laptop gets real hot under full load, top and bottom.

    [​IMG]

    Keyboard detail without the light.

    [​IMG]

    And with the light on. I had to make the room dark as it's easier to capture and I did not had anytime to fiddle with the camera.

    [​IMG]

    Windows specs.

    [​IMG]

    750M GPU specs.

    [​IMG]

    Update 2.0

    I've asked Asus warranty service if I can open the laptop and change the HDD myself. I can. But if I would ever need the warranty, I have to put the old HDD back and send it like that.
     
  2. HotBlood

    HotBlood Notebook Consultant

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    Thanks a lot! Where did you buy from? Curious which headphones you're talking about.

    SSD is definitely worth it when you get a chance to upgrade. Youtube has some N56 ssd upgrade videos and you only need a screwdriver. Hopefully this one won't be any different.

    New laptop after a year; you're a baller! :)
     
  3. dcha160

    dcha160 Notebook Enthusiast

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    Good review. Thanks. I am also wondering where you can get the laptop with this configuration.
     
  4. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    Mine seems to be an official import from Turkey, Europe with 2y Asus warranty in Europe. The quality is pretty much flawless, not a single gap, not a single problem. It's sad to appreciate something like this (all laptops should be the same), but it's rare.

    I was on battery again, WiFi on, screen 50% ( can see just fine even with a lot of light around), keyboard light off (like I've said, you rarely need it), Balanced power, got close to 4h20' just browsing the net. CPU temp was around 34-38°C.

    To remove the bottom now you need to take out 10 little screws at least. I'll try to make some photos. But this will expose a lot of things and maybe the fans are the most important. On G55 for example there was no way of cleaning them without putting the damn thing to pieces.
     
  5. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    You should look at it like this.

    The laptop will lose value no matter what. So if you keep it for a few years (I have some going on 5 right now) you will sell it real cheap (if it still works or anyone wants it). During this 5 year period you will be using old tech (my laptops work well, but they offer outdated performance). After 1 year you will lose some money, but not that much and you will get a new laptop with new tech in it. So every year or so you have a trade off that is not that bad. Chances are someone will still want your old laptop very fast (I sold mine in a heartbeat) since it not too old for some people that might not have much money and want to chance 2-3 year old tech with something better.

    In the long run everyone wins. Like I've said, I still have some old ones in use, I do not have tons of money for everything.

    And you get a new different laptop everytime and that is good as well. I did lost some performance (very very little and only under extrem usage) over last one, mainly due to different design, but they are different laptops (gaming vs. entertainment). This is lighter, thinner, change is good.
     
  6. backslashfr

    backslashfr Notebook Enthusiast

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    Hi guys !
    Thank for this great review and for the lounge, good to see it in real hand :)
    A bit more pics would be nice, i hope you plan to had some more soon !
    Anyway, if fou plan to add an SSD, couple pics would be nice too (even if, as you said, it will be kind of the same with N56).
     
  7. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    Yes, I'll need some wide-angle lens, I had none with me.

    I'll consider the SSD. The price is my main problem.

    Right now the CPU is at 80°C and the HDD at 35°C and things are going like this for some time. This is just to give you an idea about the difference in temps and how the palmrest feels (the HDD is under it, along with the battery).

    This is my battery ASUS N550J Battery | Replacement ASUS N550J Battery Online Store, 4cell Li-Polymer.
     
  8. Nafafi

    Nafafi Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the review! I'm currently debating between this (build quality+touchscreen) and the Lenovo Y410p (price + power with SLI), but now I'm leaning a little more towards the N550 if I can find it for the right price and specs. Any thoughts?

    A lot of sites are listing the N550jv with a 1TB hardrive and 24gb SSD cache but I've heard from at least one buyer that this was false. Has anyone found and bought a modal with the 24gb SSD?
     
  9. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    Same here, but from what I could find there is no model with mSATA SSD cache drive. I have no idea why they advertise it with one.

    N550 is in a different class. It's more like Apple's laptops (it's such a shame it does not have a SSD right out of the box, I'm sure a decent one could have been provided with little cost). Like I've said before it's a great entertainment machine, sleek, beautiful IPS display (even if the colors are too warm by default on the non-touch one), it's one of those things you want to take with you and use all day. Hardly any noise and extremly cool during normal load, great battery life (I never hoped for 5h of browsing to be honest).

    Lenovo has much more punch to it. If games are your main thing, it's no brainer, Lenovo will win (no need for SLI to do that, the DDR5 version is much faster). Well, as long as it works anyway. As a side note, 410p has a glossy display from what I know and not a great one. If this matters to you, take a look at 510p with the FHD panel. It's worth the extra.

    In the end it's all about your needs. I'm not a hardcore gamer so Asus was perfect for me. Except the screen colors (I need to get them sorted out soon) and maybe that back panel I would need to remove at some point, there is not much I would want from this kind of laptop. I have my eyes on a big SSD, but I'm still not sure about buying one, price wise. It should give faster response and better battery, but feels kinda expensive.
     
  10. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    I've asked Asus warranty service if I can open the laptop and change the HDD myself. I can. But if I would ever need the warranty, I have to put the old HDD back and send it like that.

    *I will put those in the OP, since I consider it to be good info.
     
  11. stevenmh

    stevenmh Notebook Enthusiast

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    "While the image itself is extremly nice, the color space is far from sRGB and that is a disappointment. I'm sure almost all people take some photos now and could use the higher color gamut. Color precision seems off to me. This is not exactly a problem for a normal user, but for me it is."

    What is this based on? Was there an attempt to calibrate the screen, and if so, how much of sRGB did it cover? I have this on order from XoticPC with the upgraded 95% NTSC screen. The order page implies that the non-upgraded screen is also TN through the lack of any mention of IPS. Since seeing reviews stating this model has IPS, I've called and asked them to hold the build as I'm not sure I want to spend $165 to replace an IPS screen with a TN screen. Photo editing with Lightroom will be my main use. I have a Spyder4Pro. I've used the 95% NTSC screen, and while it's the nicest TN screen I've ever used, there is still some color/contrast shift in vertical viewing angle.
     
  12. da66en

    da66en Notebook Enthusiast

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    Is this display 1366x768 or 1920x1080? Matte or shiny?

    There seems to be some confusion about this.
     
  13. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    I know Zenbook UX51VZ (it's the same panel, it even has similar bleeding) and was not that good. Take a look here.

    Color shift is not a big problem with IPS and things are good with this one as well.
     
  14. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    So it's 1920x1080 matte. Keep in mind Asus or reseller can offer different panels.
     
  15. stevenmh

    stevenmh Notebook Enthusiast

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    XoticPC is supposed to check with Asus and get back to me. I'll post what I find out.
     
  16. stevenmh

    stevenmh Notebook Enthusiast

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    According to Amazon, the ux51vz is a 72% NTSC panel, which would be good enough for what I'm doing. The wider viewing angle would be more important to me than going up to 95% NTSC. Was that graph before or after calibration?
     
  17. da66en

    da66en Notebook Enthusiast

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    Why is this notebook not on Asus's US website?
     
  18. backslashfr

    backslashfr Notebook Enthusiast

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  19. KeithF1138

    KeithF1138 Notebook Enthusiast

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    Delivery will happen today as well as a SSD drive to replace the HDD drive. Been awhile and never on an Asus, but to get the SSD installed what do I need to do? Can I simply put it in and then install Windows 8 from a USB key? Or do I need to do things to the SSD to make it bootable?
     
  20. c_man

    c_man Notebook Evangelist

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    Could be a different panel not sold here. I would need a model to check. My laptop has the same panel as UX51VZ we had (and you can see how well it covers sRGB in the link above). 72% NTSC equals more or less full sRGB.

    Calibration does not change gamut.
     

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