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The N56VM is an uplifted mainstream laptop. At AU$1499, it only carries a one year warranty — an indication that Asus hasn't placed it in its premium range.
It's got great speakers though, that are made subtly — but appreciably — better when you plug in the optional passive subwoofer. The Bang and Olufsen supplied set actually deliver, rather than being nothing more than branding and software attached to poor hardware.
- USB 3.0: 4
- Optical: Blu-ray/DVD±RW
- Video: VGA, HDMI
- Ethernet: gigabit
- Wireless: 2.4GHz 802.11n
- Audio: 2.1 Realtek HD audio
It's got a large, usable Elan touchpad, and a backlit soft-touch keyboard that, after some adjustment, you begin to prefer to the short-throw, clacky laptop keyboards of norm.
It even runs on a Core i7 3610QM, with 8GB RAM to back it up, a 750GB hard drive and a Blu-ray drive. The rebadged GeForce 540M makes an appearance as a GeForce 630M, and pairs with an Intel HD 4000 for battery saving.
The interior powdered-aluminium look is pleasant enough, and the brushed metal lid lends an air of sophistication; so it's a shame the screen isn't very good, spoiling the whole package.
It's matte, which is actually a great start. While 1366x768 is usual for the mainstream, here there's a distinct lack of sharpness in text, like the screen has been slightly stretched. No amount of ClearType tweaking would make it go away, and visible graininess and subtle vertical lines added to the problem. The viewing angles, despite the sticker on the monitor bezel, weren't amazing, with colour shifting rapidly on the horizontal. There's apparently a 1080p version floating around, however PCMarket is the only place we can find selling it.
Ports are generous, with four USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, VGA and HDMI out and an SD card reader. The flip-down gigabit Ethernet port is annoying and given the height of the machine, there's little reason for it to exist. There's no Bluetooth, but 2.4GHz 802.11n is supported.