- Excellent performance
- Good speakers
- Impressive 1080p screen
- Too much keyboard flex
- No separation in touchpad keys
- Unimpressive battery life
The ASUS N35JF-XE1 is a powerful 15-inch notebook that delivers good value with a sub-par keyboard and weak battery life.
The market for 15-inch laptops might be pretty packed, but the ASUS N53JF-XE1 with its powerful Intel Core i5 processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 425M graphics packs more punch than the competition. Did we mention it also has a 1080p screen? Read our review to find out more.
The specifications of our review unit of the ASUS N53JF (N53JF-XE1) are as follows:
- 15.6-inch 720p (1920×1080) glossy panel with LED backlighting
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Intel Core i5-460M dual-core processor (2.53GHz/2.8GHz Turbo Mode)
- Intel HM55 chipset
- Switchable graphics via Nvidia Optimus technology:
- Nvidia GeForce GT 425M w/ 1GB DDR3 video memory
- Integrated Intel HD graphics
- 4GB DDR3-1066 dual-channel RAM (2x 2GB)
- 500GB 7200RPM Seagate hard drive (ST9500420AS)
- Atheros AR9285 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
- Blu-ray reader/DVD burner combo drive
- 1-year global limited warranty w/ 1 year accidental damage coverage
- 6-cell Li-ion battery (48Wh)
- Weight: 6.5 lbs.
- Dimensions: 15.6” (L) x 10.6” (D) x 1.65” (H)
- MSRP: $1,049
Overall, the ASUS N53JF-XE1 is a pretty well-equipped notebook that competes well against systems like the Dell XPS 15, HP ENVY 14 and Lenovo IdeaPad Y560D. It isn’t too often that you’ll find a 15-inch laptop with a 1080p display, powerful processor and graphics, and even a USB 3.0 port for a street price of just over $1,000.
Build and Design
The N53JF has a fairly typical notebook clamshell design with a mixture of black, charcoal and silver plastics and aluminum. The only notable design feature that really catches our eyes is the massive speaker grill located below the screen after you open the lid. Not only is this a great location for speakers compared to many of the newest laptops with speakers located on the bottom of the notebook, but it’s clear that ASUS designers want people to pay attention to these speakers (more on that later in this review).
The build quality of the N53JF is nothing short of excellent. From the simple yet stylish aluminum screen lid to the surprisingly ridgid chassis, this is one of the most solid notebooks in the 15-inch multimedia laptop category. Many cheaper notebooks in this class suffer from questionable structural support (you can literally “bend” those low-cost notebook by twisting them between your hands) but ASUS clearly engineered the the N53JF to handle daily use and abuse. The lid resists flexing as well thanks to its aluminum backing; no ripples appear on the screen when pushed in from behind either. Fit and finish is also quite good; there are minimal gaps between parts and no unfinished edges. The Blu-ray drive in our review sample looked ever so slightly misaligned with the chassis, but I doubt most owners would ever notice a cosmetic minor detail like that.
Speaking of subtle cosmetic details, I want to draw your attention to a simple security feature that ASUS was smart enough to include on the N53JF: a security lens cover. It seems like every year since new laptops started shipping with a built-in webcams we read news reports here in the US about someone illegally using a notebook webcam to spy on people without their knowledge. ASUS was paying attention to those news stories as well and developed a simple plastic cover that you can slide over the webcam lens to prevent people from watching you. This is such a easy thing to do that we’re amazed every notebook manufacturer isn’t doing this. Yes, you can open up Windows Device Manager and disable your webcam, but the overwhelming majority of consumers aren’t tech savvy enough to do that. The ASUS security lens cover makes it much easier to protect your privacy.
Weighing in at roughly six and a half pounds (not including the power adapter) the N53JF is hardly the lightest notebook in its class. The 15-inch Dell Inspiron 15R tips the scales at well under six pounds and the Lenovo IdeaPad Y560D weoighs just 5.95 pounds by comparison. It is also thicker than usual at 1.65 inches (roughly a quarter of an inch thicker than the competition).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The N53JF has an traditional-style keyboard with some non-traditional elements. For starters, the keys are essentially flat similar to the island/Chiclet-style keyboards which are becoming far more popular these days. ASUS was kind enough to include a dedicated number pad to the right of the keyboard for those data-entry junkies out there, but since the number pad needs to fit in the smaller footprint of a 15-inch notebook the number pad is a little too close to the main keyboard keys and also gets in the way of the arrow keys. The keyboard keys themselves also have “mushy” feedback when pressed and the entire keyboard flexs or bends under heavy typing pressure.
I’m a little sad to see that ASUS didn’t include a backlit keyboard on this notebook. Most multimedia systems in this price range now have keyboards with LED backlighting to make it easier to see the keys in dim environments. Since we’re starting to see a few $700 notebooks with backlit keyboards it seems a bit odd that the N53JF doesn’t have one.
The Elan touchpad has a matte surface similar to the texture the aluminum lid but with a darker color to match the palmrests. The surface makes it easy to slide your fingertips across the touchpad even with moist or dry fingers. Responsiveness seemed normal with minimal lag during cursor movement. The buttons provide excellent feedback however make a distinct click when pressed but there is no separation between the left and right touchpad buttons on the rocker bar. This means that it’s fairly easy to press the wrong side of the touchpad bar if you aren’t paying attention and make a right click when you want to make a left click.