Look at the Asus N53SN's spec sheet and its price tag, and your first thought will probably be 'what's the catch?' Tying together a second-generation Intel Core i7 processor, a meaty graphics card, 8GB of RAM, a Blu-ray player and a 1,920x1,080-pixel display for under £900, our version of this 15.6-inch laptop certainly made us mighty suspicious. But did it break our hearts, or is this indeed a great-value multimedia machine?
In terms of design, there's not much to write home about. The lid looks rather slick, with a silvery brushed-aluminium effect surrounding a chrome 'Asus' logo. But, on the inside, the machine looks more ordinary, with grey plastic the order of the day. A large, rounded speaker grille beneath the display looks quite unique, and the chassis curves toward the screen hinge, but these features, while interesting, will hardly set your heart aflame.
The trackpad is comfortable and really sensitive, so you probably won't find your thumb cramping up during intense Web browsing sessions. Alas, the keyboard is less impressive. We're getting more and more used to seeing-style isolated keyboards on new laptops, but the N53SN's keyboard design harks back to machines of yesteryear.
The layout of the keyboard is sensible, but the keys don't feel too solid. We noticed some flex when we applied pressure to the centre of the keyboard, and there's not much travel to the keys either. If you're typing at speed, you might find yourself making a few mistakes.
This laptop is a bulky monster too. Weighing 2.7kg and measuring 391 by 41 by 266mm, it's most certainly a desktop-replacement machine. It's crammed full of ports and hardware, and the huge power brick is about as portable as an Easter Island statue.
The machine is substantially more impressive once you reach the Windows desktop and realise the display is rather gorgeous. There's a version with a 1,366x768-pixel resolution, but our review sample boasted a whopping 1,920x1,080 pixels, which makes for an extremely crisp display.
More impressive is that this 15.6-inch panel is very bright and colourful, so games, photos and videos should look their best. Admittedly, the screen is very glossy, so there are some annoying reflections bouncing around but, for the most part, the display is bright enough to cancel those out. Using the N53SN in direct sunlight won't be much fun, but we didn't find the reflections too irritating.