Laptops are less expensive than ever, and that fact is changing how we perceive computer value. Case in point: the Asus N82Jv-X1 is a nicely featured laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor and automatic-switching Nvidia GeForce GT 335M graphics for $999, but in today's market it doesn't feel like a value.
The $999 price represents the high end of today's mainstream retail market. While getting this level of graphics power at that price isn't bad, the boring design, lack of other features like Intel Wireless Display or Blu-ray, and poor battery life suggest you could do better.
Despite being marketed as a "media notebook" by Asus, there's not much that really makes this any more of a media notebook than other 14-inch machines. That's not to say the performance wasn't solid--it just isn't particularly noteworthy in a sea of increasingly similar Core i5 laptops, except for including a high-speed USB 3.0 port.
|Price as reviewed||$999|
|Processor||2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M450|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 335M + Intel GMA HD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.8 inches x 9.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.2 / 6.2 pounds|
From the outside, there isn't much to distinguish the Asus N82Jv-X1 apart from its outer shell. A copper-colored metallic Infusion finish design has a textured hexagonal grid pattern, and undeniably gives the laptop a nice look. The rest is black matte plastic. Tapered, slightly curved edges invoke the rest of the Asus laptops, particularly the Eee PC series, as if it were magnified into a full-size form.
The base is thicker than it looks, hiding some bulk under smartly angled fore-edges. At 5 pounds, it's not a lightweight. The inner areas of the laptop look clean and attractive, but it's more a feat of minimalism than features. The whole lower deck is sunken in from its edges, giving it a slightly concave look. Smooth, bronze-black plastic surrounds a raised Chiclet-style Asus keyboard. Above the keyboard, a pair of symmetrical identical buttons acts as a power button and a battery-mode selector. It's confusing at first glance: why not simply make the power button look more distinct? There's no reason for symmetry this subtle (hint: the power button's the right-side one).
The keyboard's a standard Asus affair, though dipping below average in key feel and keyboard flex. The slightly wobbly keys were more flimsy-feeling than those on other models. A row of page up/down keys lining the keyboard's right side crowds the shift and return keys, as does the small T of arrow keys. It made us lose sense of where the keys were. Functions such as volume and brightness are relegated to function keys, and they require pressing the function button at the same time to work. At this point, all laptops should have distinct or function-reverse keys for volume and other basic controls.
The medium-size and slightly recessed touch pad is saddled with a small rocker bar for buttons, but both the bar and the pad's patterned/textured surface worked quite well for us. If only this pad had true multitouch: instead of Synaptics, Elan software enables two-finger scrolling and multifinger tap, but it doesn't have pinch-to-zoom at all. Thus, it doesn't really feel like multitouch.
The 14-inch LED-backlit 16:9 glossy screen on the Asus N82Jv-X1 has a native pixel resolution of 1,366x768, which is standard for laptops this size. Web pages, videos, pictures and icons were readable, but the screen looked a little washed out at full brightness and suffered from weak side-viewing angles.
The Altec-Lansing stereo speakers, which are embedded in the bottom of the laptop facing forward on an angled edge, had limited volume and weren't nearly as musically impressive as Toshiba's Harman Kardon speakers on that brand's comparative midrange Satellites.
The built-in Webcam has resolution settings up to 1,600x1,200, but its framerates dip to unusable levels that high--it's best used at 640x480 or 800x600 resolutions. Asus' included webcam software, called Lifeframe, has an astonishing number of innovative and flat-out silly settings, ranging from complete picture setting control to weird floating hats. It's as much a novelty photo booth as a communications tool.
Asus includes some other custom software on the N82Jv-X1, most of it not truly necessary. ControlDeck offers a 3D-style method of browsing applications by category, but the process is no more or less clunky than simply browsing Windows 7.
|Asus N82Jv-X1||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI-out||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0 (1 with eSATA combo port), SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The most notable feature on the Asus N82Jv-X1 is its single USB 3.0 port. While Asus proudly advertises 10x faster speeds on the sticker slapped on the keyboard deck, there are only a handful of peripherals that can even take advantage of USB 3.0 at this point. It's nice to have a bit of future-proofing, but don't expect to get a lot out of it until sometime next year. The eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, also provided, will likely be a better stand-in in the meantime. There's no Bluetooth, nor is there an ExpressCard slot; in a nearly thousand-dollar laptop, we'd expect one or both.
The Asus N82Jv-X1 is a zippy machine, but no more or less than other Core i5 laptops in its class. The Core i5 M450 CPU is great at handling nearly everything thrown at it and multitasking like a pro; it's nearly the perfect midrange CPU at this point in the laptop world. High-def video streaming, complex office projects, file converting, and many other tasks will be pulled off without a sweat.
This Asus laptop also has above-average Nvidia graphics, equipped with automatically switching Nvidia Optimus technology to boot. Optimus turns off the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT335M GPU when it's not in use, switching over to integrated Intel graphics automatically to conserve a little battery life. It's an invisible process, though, which you aren't likely to notice unless you start fiddling with the Nvidia control panel and tweak the settings--which you don't need to do. The graphics are quite good--Unreal Tournament III played at a fiery 98.1 frames per second at native 1,366x768 pixel resolution and medium settings. This can be a great laptop for playing most games, although it's not as good as higher-end gaming rigs. Still, for $999 it's one of this laptop's most compelling pluses.