- Review Date: 9/27/2013
- Bottom line: Watching movies on a tablet is well and good, but to get real immersive entertainment, a 15.6-inch laptop with multiple speakers like the Asus N550JV-DB72T is the portable equivalent of a home theater system, plus it also qualifies as a power user system.
- Pros: Class-leading performance. Multimedia-oriented features. 1080p HD IPS screen. Subwoofer included. Multi-speaker sound. Fast wake from sleep. HDMI and mini-DisplayPort. Touch screen.
- Cons: Heavy. No 5GHz Wi-Fi support. No Blu-ray. Short battery life. Narrow numeric keys.
The Asus N550JV-DB72T ($1,047.00) is a power user's desktop replacement laptop. It has a fourth-generation Intel Core processor, enthusiast level Nvidia GeForce graphics, and enough hard drive space for the video editor or video collector. The system's screen and audio features make it a great choice for the music and movie buff. Watching movies on a tablet is well and good, but to get real immersive entertainment, a 15.6-inch laptop with multiple speakers like the Asus N550JV-DB72T is the portable equivalent of a home theater system. Though it lacks a Blu-ray drive, it is a great laptop to view current and future online releases on (if you stream it or have the file on the drive). It will serve the demanding power user well, whether they are enjoying or creating the next entertainment concept. The Asus N550J-DB72T is our latest Editors' Choice for midpriced desktop replacement laptops.
Design and Features
The N550JV-DB72T is a fairly large laptop, measuring 1 by 15 by 10 inches (HWD) approximately, and weighing at 5.68 pounds. This puts the system squarely in the desktop replacement category, where added bulk is forgiven by a generous dose of extra performance (more on that below). This extra roominess lets Asus install lots of components, including a quad-core Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive, discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 750 graphics, a 15.6-inch 1080p 10-point touch screen, multi-point trackpad, and a backlit keyboard.
The large chassis accommodates four speakers, double that of most laptops, which leads to better sound for enjoying videos and music. Like the Asus ZenBook UX51Vz-DH71 ($1,870), the N550JV-DB72T comes with an external subwoofer. The subwoofer isn't going to give you deep 20Hz sub-bass tones, but it will make viewing a movie on the system a more pleasurable experience than just using the built-in speakers alone. With the 15.6-inch 1080p HD screen and array of Bang & Olufsen speakers, the N550JV-DB72T would be the ultimate portable home theater laptop, if it had a Blu-ray drive. As is, however, it is best suited for viewing online videos, as we found out while watching The Avengers on EPIXHD.com. The speakers were loud enough to fill a medium sized room, so you could use it as entertainment on a road trip or on vacation.
The system has a numeric keypad built in, though the keys are a little narrower than the rest of the keys on the QWERTY keyboard. Like most laptops, you'll have to hold down the Fn key to activate the controls like screen brightness, keyboard brightness, and the volume control. One last minor nit with the keyboard is that the silver topped keys lack visual contrast with the silver keyboard deck. This may not bother you if you are a touch typist, though.
The N550JV-DB72T has a full set of ports, including three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, SD card reader, headset jack, and a Gigabit Ethernet port. A usable number of I/O ports is one area where the system trumps lighter, thinner laptops like the high-end ultrabook Editors' Choice Acer Aspire S7-392-6411 ($1449.99 list). The N550JV-DB72T also has more ports and a higher resolution screen than the previous Editors' Choice for desktop replacement notebooks, the Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T ($999.99).
The laptop comes with a couple pre-loaded apps, but on the whole they are benign. Four Xbox Live games, Skype, World Clock, Fresh Paint, and an ad for Microsoft Office share space with the standard default Windows 8 apps on the Start screen. There are a few other Asus-branded apps as well, including utilities that let you set entertainment settings quickly. The system comes with a standard one-year warranty.
The N550JV-DB72T and its fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 750 graphic give users formidable power on multimedia tasks, which are exactly the sorts of jobs that a desktop replacement laptop is good for. The 1TB hard drive has been partitioned off into 380GB (C:) and 540GB (D:) partitions, with the rest reserved for a recovery partition. The N550JV-DB72T scores a speedy 33 seconds on the Handbrake test and 3:43 on the Photoshop CS6 tests, faster than the solid-state-drive (SSD)-equipped Vizio 15.6-inch Thin + Light Touch (CT15T-B1) ($1,350). Aside from the day-to-day PCMark7 test and the battery rundown test, the N550JV-DB72T is the top scorer in this category and price range. The SSD helped the Vizio win the PCMark7 test.
The N550JV-DB72T has a relatively short four-hour battery life (4:02), compared to ultrabooks like the Vizio, but on the other hand, you're not buying a desktop replacement for its portability, you're buying one for its large screen, processing power, and 3D graphics power. The N550JV-DB72T has the chops to play 3D games at medium quality thanks to its Nvidia GeFore GT 750 graphics: much better than ultrabooks with Intel HD Graphics only. As far as the battery is concerned, four hours isn't too shabby for a thick laptop with this much power. It's certainly going to be better than the hour you're currently getting on that old laptop you're replacing. Besides, the N550JV-DB72T isn't like an ultraportable that will still be comfortable on your lap after an hour. Keep by a power outlet, and the N550JV-DB72T will serve you well.
The Asus N550JV-DB72T is one of the best desktop replacement laptops we've seen in PC Labs in a while. It's equally at home consuming or creating media, and it's a great choice for the demanding power user. Its 1080p HD screen, benchmark performance, and other features trump our previous Editors' Choice, the Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T, with only an $80 premium. Therefore the Asus N550JV-DB72T is our new Editors' Choice for midpriced desktop replacement laptops, and comes highly recommended for the demanding user that is willing to spend a few more dollars for extra power.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.