Asus N55SF review: Asus N55SF

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The Good Powerful performance; decent screen; handy external subwoofer; Blu-ray player.

The Bad uncomfortable keyboard; attracts a lot of fingerprints; quite chunky.

The Bottom Line The Asus N55SF offers decent performance for general tasks and gaming, while remaining smart enough to take into work. The keyboard might not be particularly pleasant, but that's a small complaint against its numerous plus points.

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8.3 Overall

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Not one to be pigeon-holed, the Asus N55SF brings the smart, professional looks of an office laptop, adds the Blu-ray drive of an entertainment machine and tops it off with the powerful graphics processor of a gaming rig.

Even better, the processor's grunt makes it a good performer in all three areas. With a relatively affordable price tag, it could be a great option if you want one laptop to suit all aspects of your life.

The model I tested came with an Intel Core i7 processor, 6GB of RAM and is available now for £750.

Design and build quality

Unlike other gaming laptops like the MSI GT680 or the Alienware M14x, the N55SF doesn't make a big song and dance about having a dedicated graphics card shoved inside. Instead of angry colours and glowing vents, you're met with a mature, even professional look.

The lid is covered in a glossy piano-black plastic with a metallic band surrounding it, giving it an appearance similar to HP's Envy 14 Spectre ultrabook. It doesn't have the same premium feel as the Spectre though as it's not topped with glass. The plastic doesn't give a lot of flex so it still feels pretty sturdy.

Asus N55SF lid
The lid is sleek and stylish -- that is, until you slather the grease from your filthy digits onto it.

The whole machine looks attractive. I couldn't decide though if it's more smart or stylish. I eventually concluded that it's both, and it would be equally at home in your fancy, minimalist living room as sat on your desk at work. If you plan on taking it into a meeting with your boss though, that shiny top is a total fingerprint magnet and greasy prints aren't going to get you that raise, no matter how much overtime you've been putting in.

It's a 15-inch machine with a width of 379mm, making it slightly more portable than laptop giants like the Toshiba Qosmio X770 or Asus' own gargantuan NX90JQ. At 37mm thick, it's not exactly what you'd call slim -- especially when compared to Asus' Zenbook UX31 -- but it should fit into a decent-sized bag without too much pushing and shoving.

It weighs a not inconsiderable 2.7kg, which might limit your travelling to only a few small staggered steps. I'd personally much rather leave it at home as a media machine on my desk, rather than cart it around town.

Asus N55SF ports
Nothing surprising on the left-hand side, but crane your neck around to the other side and there's a jack to plug in...

On the side you'll find a Blu-ray drive -- a pleasing addition, and one that helps this laptop become a potentially decent media specialist. There's two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 slots, HDMI-out, VGA-out and microphone and headphone jacks.

A smaller jack is placed on the right for you to plug in the included external subwoofer. It's not a big speaker (about the size of a small mug), but it adds some extra low-end to your tunes. It does the job rather well, with bass notes being much more noticeable. Your dedicated speaker set is not about to be made redundant, but if the built-in speakers don't quite do your gaming headshots justice, it'll be a handy addition.

Asus N55SF subwoofer
...this bass-boosting mini monolith. The SonicMaster subwoofer comes packed in the box.

Keyboard and trackpad

Under the lid you'll find more black plastic surrounding the keyboard, but this has been given a rubberised feel that eschews fingerprints much better than the lid. Above the keyboard is a silver speaker grille that runs across the whole width. It's quite an unusual design but it's rather cool.

The keyboard is silver too, contrasting nicely with the surrounding black. Sadly, the keys have been placed very close together, which can sometimes make it awkward to differentiate between them when typing at speed. It seems that Asus has squashed the keyboard in in order to make room for the numeric keypad on the right-hand side.

On the left side of the keyboard you'll find a few dedicated buttons for controlling the volume. On the one hand, it's handy having keys specifically for that function, rather than holding 'Fn' and jabbing at one of the F buttons. On the other hand, I found it very awkward having them right next to the keyboard -- I often pressed the mute button instead of the 'Ctrl' button. You might get used to it, given enough time, but it remained uncomfortable throughout my testing period.

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