Introduction and Design
Can this multimedia laptop do it all?
Sound. It seems to be one of the new battlefields on which notebook computers are fighting, which is odd, because audio quality has until recently been so rarely a central focus of notebook manufacturers. Today, the artillery is clearly placed. HP arrived first with Beats Audio, but others have responded, such as MSI with its Dynaudio branded laptops and now ASUS with this Bang & Olufsen tagged N55, which comes with an external subwoofer by default.
Yep, that’s right. It’s not a large subwoofer (that’s the point – it’s small enough to potentially be transported in same bag as the laptop), but clearly ASUS is taking sound seriously with this laptop. Yet there’s so much more to a laptop that its sound, and that’s particularly true with a system such as this. Everywhere you look, the N55’s specification scream performance. A Core i7 quad-core mobile processor is the heart of the machine, and snuggles up with an Nvidia GT 555M graphics processor. What else is there to be had? Have a look.
Of course, all of this fancy hardware raises the price. At the time of this writing, you can’t find the ASUS N55 at most major North American retailers online or off, but you can find it at speciality stores like Xotic PC, which offers the N55 for just a hair over $1200. That’s a high price for a 15.6” Windows laptop. Let’s find out if it is justified.
Most laptops make every attempt to appear slim, even when they’re not, but the N55 is not most laptops. This is more like the Cadillac of laptops; big, bold, comfortable, with chrome trim around the edges. This laptop undoubtedly has the thickest lid of any laptop we’ve ever reviewed except for a few gaming models, and the thick metal used to trim it adds weight to the size of the design. Most geeks today seem to follow the smaller-is-better mantra with little deviation, but a chassis this hefty is refreshing to handle.
There is a snag, however – the keyboard. We’ll talk about its quality in the next section, but from the perspective of appearance, it could use some work. It’s all plastic that has been painted the same kind of silver you often find on dollar-store radios or cell phone chargers, and it significantly cheapens the feel of an otherwise luxurious product.
Plastic dominates the bottom half of this laptop, but unlike the keyboard, it’s dark and sturdy stuff that feels appropriate considering the laptop’s price. In an odd but pleasant design choice, the sides and front of the laptop feature a sculpted indentation that makes picking the laptop up from a flat service easier. It’s a small touch, but appreciated.
There’s plenty of ports to be found around the N55’s love handles. Along the front left flank there’s two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, VGA and an Ethernet jack, while the right side contains the subwoofer jack, individual headphone and microphone jacks, and two additional USB 2.0 ports.
I suppose I could harp on about the lack of eSATA, but USB 3.0 is at this point rapidly replacing both that standard and FireWire. I have a hard time imagining that the average home user will need more than is found here.