Today we have our very first Ivy Bridge based notebook in our labs from Asus – the K55VM. Most of the top tier manufacturers have already begun phasing out Sandy Bridge-based notebooks for Ivy Bridge CPUs and with that, we’ve seen AMD’s HD 7000M series and Nvidia’s GT 600M series make their way to the new notebooks as well. Ivy Bridge is a more efficient Sandy Bridge as it’s built on a smaller fabrication process and we can expect much better battery life and a cooler system with a slight performance increase.
Design and Build
The K55VM is their highest-end offering in the K55 series and is dripping with the latest tech. The design is nothing fancy but it’s far from dull or boring. The lid uses a textured surface freeing it from finger prints so maintaining it is a lot easier. The 15.6-inch screen is held securely in place and there isn’t too much flex in the bezel. The screen also has a glossy finish which makes colours pop but also causes reflections indoors. Thanks to the extra width of the screen, the internal components are spread out better making the notebook fairly slim for a 15-incher. At 2.5kg, it’s a bit heavy but nothing out of the ordinary.
A good looking front
Asus bundles a good set of connectors with the K55VM. On the left we have two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, Gigabit LAN, VGA, card reader and large vents for exhaust. The right side houses the DVD burner, a third USB (2.0) port and the microphone and headphone jacks. Taking a peek inside, we have a full-sized chiclet keyboard along with a numpad. We wished Asus would have added support for a backlit keyboard as an optional extra. There’s plenty of space on the palm rest, enough to accommodate even the largest of hands. We also have a very generous multi-gesture trackpad and the two mouse buttons don’t require too much effort to use. The status lights are placed near the edge on the left hand side of the notebook. Overall, Asus has once again delivered on a well built and sturdy notebook which is perfect for the abuse of everyday use.
Good set of connectors
Starting with the core components, the K55VM is powered by Intel’s 3rd Generation Core i7-3610QM which run at a native 2.3GHz with the ability to Turbo up to 3.3GHz. This is a quad-core CPU with Hyperthreading which means it can handle up to eight tasks simultaneously with ease. Accompanying the CPU is 8GB of RAM running at 1600MHz, a 1TB hard drive running at 5400rpm and for graphics, we have Nvidia’s GT 630M onboard with dedicated 2GB of memory. Now before you get too excited, this card has nothing to do with Kepler although its name belongs to that series. There are a total of three versions of the GT 630M, each based on a different older generation card. The one used by Asus is a renamed GT 540M based on the GF108 core, featuring 96 shaders. The GPU does support Optimus so battery life should be better than average. Asus also packs in Wi-Fi ‘n’ and Bluetooth 4.0. The speakers are by Altec Lansing so they do sound a little better for music and movies.
Asus also bundles along plenty of their own software utilities like Live Update, Virtual Camera, USB Charger Plus, Life Frame, Splendid Utility for adjusting the colour and many customized Power4Gear battery modes. We wished they had included a shortcut button to quickly switch between the modes like they do on netbooks. Overall, the K55VM comes across as a very well equipped notebook in this price range. Next, let’s take a look at what the notebook can deliver in our benchmarks.
The Asus K55VM is a solid performer when it comes to CPU intensive tasks. Compared to a quad-core Sandy Bridge CPU like the one in the Dell XPS 17, the K55VM shows strong performance in SiSoft’s Dhrystone and Whetstone tests as well as memory bandwidth. Real world tests such as rendering graphics and video encoding have improved. The GT 630M is actually slower than the GT 555M in the Dell XPS since it’s actually a GT 540M. This clearly shows in the Cinebench 11.5 tests but in the real world, the more powerful Ivy Bridge CPU delivers better performance in CPU intensive games. This is why we got a much higher frame rate in FarCry 2, with everything set to ‘Very High’.
A good performer
The Asus K55VM runs cool and quiet for the most part. Even when gaming, the fans aren’t noisy and the notebook seldom gets very hot. The keyboard is very comfortable to use even for long typing sessions and the keys also have a good tactile feedback. The sound quality is also pretty good. Don’t expect great bass or anything but it’s not bad for casual listening or the occasional game or two.
The keys are very comfortable to use
Before we ran Battery Eater Pro, we made sure it ran on the integrated graphics along with the brightness set to max. Here we got a very good 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is above average for a 15.6-inch notebook with a quad-core and discrete graphics. In the real world, you should be able to squeeze out around 4hrs to 4.5hrs of use which is good.
The Asus K55VM is priced at Rs.56,999 which is pretty good considering the configuration and the overall package. The Toshiba Satellite L850 is also another good option as it has a very similar specification but it also comes with Windows pre-installed. The K55VM is a well built and pretty powerful multimedia notebook that offers good value. A couple of things we wish Asus could have done differently were perhaps offering an option for a high resolution screen and backlit keys. Bundling an OS along would have also been a big bonus but I guess you can’t have everything.