Laptop speakers have always been pretty pants, but that could change if Asus' latest technology lives up to the hype. The company's created a new N-series range of laptops, including this 17.3-inch Asus N73Jn, that do away with the bog-standard audio gubbins you find in most laptops, in favour of speakers and amplifiers from the sound geniuses at Bang & Olufsen. You can buy one, complete with a dual-core Intel Core i5-520M processor, 4GB of RAM and twin 320GB hard drives, for £1,000.
If looks could thrill
The N73Jn is a beast of a laptop, ostensibly designed to replace whatever desktop PC you're using at home. Its chassis measures a hefty 420 by 287 by 40mm and weighs 3.4kg with its six-cell battery, so only the brave or foolhardy would try to take it on the road.
Unlike many of its peers, Asus has shied away from using glossy plastics and has instead furnished the N73Jn with a gunmetal blue lid, graphite grey keyboard and grey brushed-metal palm rest. It's not especially flashy, but it's a good-looking device that should appeal to many users.
Keys to success
Larger laptops tend to have excellent keyboards, but the N73Jn's is something of a let-down. It is large enough and incorporates a dedicated numerical keypad that makes it easier to enter numbers into spreadsheets, but we can't help thinking it could be a heck of a lot better than it is. We'd have preferred an isolated, island-key design, as
we've seen on some of Asus' other premium laptops and netbooks. We'd also like if it didn't flex as much during typing, as this is sometimes an indication of questionable build quality.
The N73Jn is one of three N-series laptops that use the new SonicMaster audio solution -- a combination of hardware and software co-developed by Asus' own golden-eared audio experts and Bang & Olufsen Icepower. It comprises a discrete digital signal processor, a 3W amplifier, 32mm transducers (speakers) and -- perhaps most importantly -- an 80cc speaker chamber, which Asus says is 400% larger than those you'd find on standard laptops.
Technically, it's all very clever, and during tests, these speakers performed better than the norm. They are loud, clear and effective, provided you're in a small room and don't stray too far from the machine.
The N73Jn is far from perfect though. No amount of fancy branding and technical expertise can get around the fact that these are still laptop speakers. Ultimately, if you want to fill a room with sound, you're much better off using a set of decent external speakers.
The power of visualisation
The N73Jn's speakers may be slightly underwhelming, but the rest of the laptop is top-notch. Under the proverbial hood, Asus has supplied a dual-core Intel Core i5-520M CPU, 4GB of RAM and twin 320GB hard drives, which is a very good core spec.