back to article Asus N56VM 15.6in notebook review

A good journalist always tries to avoid clichés, but sometimes when I’m writing laptop reviews I do find myself reaching for a few stock phrases, such as: the speakers are crap. Imagine my relief, then, to discover that the speakers on the Asus N56VM don't fall into the crap category, but are actually rather good, no doubt …

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A matte finish screen!

I'd buy it if it wasn't for the price. I'm fed up with gloss finish screens, which seems to be all there is nowadays.

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getting closer

I'm nearly tempted, though I still think that at least x1200 is needed on something big enough to have a numeric keypad.

What happened to the battery, lads? seems a very odd result.

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Anonymous Coward

This is actually a very good development computer, certainly in the 16G RAM version. 1920 by 1080 screen, supports second monitor, numeric keypad, put databases on an external USB3 hard drive and the performance with SQL Server 2012 is rather good. I bought it to do .NET, J2EE and SQL Server development, and it replaces a substantial tower that wan't really luggable. You will need to throw away Home Premium and put on a more suitable OS, but it still comes in cheaper than an HP portable workstation, and is cooler and faster.

As for battery life, during meetings it runs for over 4 hours just collecting email, checking facts etc., which is adequate. Longer when it's connected to the projector. It also has one of those handy USB sockets that still charges your phone when the computer is off.

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Windows

@ribosome: what about the keyboard?

"This is actually a very good development computer, certainly in the 16G RAM version."

Keyboards on ASUS kit seem variable. Is this one of the 'bends round your fingers' variety?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ribosome: what about the keyboard?

No. It is quite rigid.

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Change HDD

Is it easy to change the HDD, is it easily accessible?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Change HDD

The HDD is accessible (and I plan at some point to swap it for a hybrid).

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Getting better!

Keep it up Reg, this is a laptop that some of us might find useful.

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Price

I got this the other week for £699 from Comet (which it still is, according to their website).

I wanted an screen with a half-decent resolution, as doing dev on the usual rubbish 768 vertical is not a pleasurable experience. With it's full HD resolution, this laptop is a rarity in the PC market.

Apart from that, it seems pretty nippy to me, but it's early days yet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Price

But even a full HD screen pales in comparison to Apple's 2880x1800 jobbie.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Price

Which would be good if it was around 32 inch, but it isn't. I don't know about you, but I don't normally use those telescopic magnifiers dentists and surgeons use just to view tiny text on a small, high res monitor.

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Meh

Re: Price

I have to say those Retina screens while they sound great in theory, in practice they really aren't worth it on sub 27" screens.

A waste really. Just stick to a 1400x900.

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Happy

Re: Price

Me too, snapped one up when I saw the £699 price at Comet. At that price there isn't really any other (proper quad) core i7 laptop around. First job is to rid yourself of the ASUS crapware or as others have said if the 5400rpm disk is a bother , then budget for a decent SSD with the bonus of getting a nice fresh install of whatever OS takes your fancy. On that matter I did find out that Ubuntu 12.04 really doesn't seem to regulate the battery properly and it tends to run down in less than an hour, which is seriously disappointing! It's also far trickier to dual boot due to UEFI.

Otherwise a good machine and yes those B&O speakers really do sound good. A great laptop for Devs who don't want to spend an arm and a leg just to do their work.

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No mention of the 'Bang & Olufsen' speakers!

All that talk of the speakers and their capability but not a single mention that they happen to carry a little Bang & Olufsen label?

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Happy

Dear Santa..

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Had one and returned it

Mine had to go back as the screen was DOA, and no replacement was available so was refunded. The rest of the machine was OK as I plugged in to an external monitor. It's a decent spec for the money, though you have to be very careful you get the exact spec as there are other N56VM models with different screen resolutions, etc.

There are a few issues with the machine I found in the short time I had it. The harddisk is painfully slow, especially as I'm used to a SSD, so budget to replace that (it's easy enough to do). The keyboard is OK, but could do with being backlit and it's too easy to touch the huge trackpad with the heel of your hand, sending the cursor flying off from where you thought you were typing. While there are 4 USB3 ports, there's no PCI-E port for future expansion, so you can forget adding a cheap thunderbolt card or whatever to keep it current, and there's no option of a docking station, except the slightly dodgy USB ones. You can use either two external monitors (VGA + HDMI), or one external monitor + the built in screen, but I don't believe you can use all three at once, which is irritating and not so good for development. Battery life is poor under load, and the power brick is huge. Also, curiously it says to never turn on the brick at the mains without first plugging in to the laptop, which makes you think it's a very cheap design.

So a good basic spec let down by details.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Had one and returned it

The touchpad is a multitouch and can easily be turned off with fn-f9.

There is a version with backlit keyboard but really I couldn't see the point.

The PSU is large, but then it's rated for running the thing at full power.

Yes the HDD is very slow but that doesn't bug me as I tend to replace them frequently anyway. OEM hard drives are rarely very good and end up in a little caddy as backup devices.

I suspect the advice about not plugging in the PSU while it is powered up is because you could get quite a surge from it. But I've already done it numerous times without problems, owing to NRTFM.

The thing is, this is a cheap machine with considerable processing power. I know that Powerbooks are very pretty and well made and all the rest of it, but I would have to work twice as long to pay for one, and it will still be obsolete before it wears out. And I would have to run Windows on it, as SQL Server doesn't go with Mac OS.

So, I may not be the typical user but I thought it might be of interest to other developers who work in several places.

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MrT
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Jolly good...

...was beginning to think all the full HD panels had got hived off to fondleslabs and fashion icons. My Dell Insipid 9400 is about maxxed now, at 4GB and swapping the HDD out, but it's got a 1920x1200 screen and half-gig Nvidia 7900GS and it's just great to use. The actual difference between 17" at 16:10 and this 16:9 screen is pretty small in real terms due to the format shift.

Nice to hear comments from actual owners too. Have had top quality support from Dell (including swapping the graphics at 4.5yrs old - system is now nearly 6 and still gets 5.3 on Win7 index) ). What's the waranty like with Asus?

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Re: Jolly good...

Have you popped a new CPU in yet?

You can pick up some nice C2D mobile chips on Ebay now for good prices.

Worth a go.

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MrT
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Re: Jolly good...

Not yet - it's got a T7200 at the moment (2x2GHz), not sure what the max is, though T7600 rings a bell (IIRC that's 2x2.4GHz, but might be wrong there). I know it'l be an easy job once the case is apart cos the old one just pops out of the socket.

Mind you, the graphics card has only the single heat pipe - I tried to get them to provide the twin-pipe 7950 instead, but the just gave me one with twice the VRAM. If you've done it, what's the temp like under the []'# keys?

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Re: Jolly good...

I haven't done it for that particular laptop but have upped several others from single core/low spec duals.

A bit of arctic silver and a good clean of the fan and it works fine.

I just find what chipset the laptop has and then check the CPU list for it on the Intel website. Usually works okay.

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