The Asus N61 series of laptops is the first to feature Nvidia’s Optimus technology, a technology that takes hybrid graphics, in laptops, to another level altogether. While there are a number of variants, the one we reviewed is the N61Jv which, like others in this series, is essentially a true entertainment laptop.
Be it for gaming, watching movies, or even for listening to music, this laptop proves to be an ideal choice for multimedia fans. The two strongest assets that this laptop brings to the table are, its rich feature set and stunning performance. It not only offers pristine sound quality and true-to-life visual experience, but it’s as powerful as a desktop PC. Let’s see what really makes it special.
At first glance, the N61Jv comes across as a professional or business-like laptop. The black theme together with a rubberized wrist rest almost makes it feel like the Lenovo Thinkpad (yes, it’s that rugged). What breaks the monotony are the coffee-brown glossy lid and the nickel-plated satin panel running horizontally above the keyboard. The blue lights at either side of the panel enhance the look, rather than hurt the eye.
The overall build quality and ergonomics are impressive. The chiclet keyboard has well-spaced but slightly smaller keys and the multi-touch touch pad and the mouse buttons are comfortable too.
On one hand, Nvidia’s Optimus technology improves battery life by automatically switching graphics, which is a great feature to have in portable laptops. But on the other hand, using this technology in a rather heavy laptop, like this one, could be defeating the purpose. A laptop weighing 2.8 kg isn’t very comfortable to carry around on a daily basis right? Wrong, considering the form factor and the features offered, complaining about the weight would be unfair.
Considering the presence of powerful hardware, such as an Intel Core i3 350M processor, an Intel HM55 chipset, 4 GB DDR3 RAM and, to top it all, a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT325M GPU, the Asus N61Jv is, undoubtedly, a powerful entertainment laptop. The 16-inch HD LED display (1366 x 768) and the audiophile-quality sound complement the package. In addition to the hardware, it is the technologies, Asus SonicMaster, Nvidia Optimus and, the latest USB 3.0 standard, that make this laptop special.
Other features are rather common.
For storage, there’s a 500 GB hard drive, so there’s ample space to store multimedia content. The native resolution of the screen is 1366 x 768, which is common to most laptops these days, but it suffices for the intended purpose. Options for external display include an HDMI and a VGA port. There are 3 USB ports and a USB/eSATA combo port, a memory card reader, a 2 megapixel webcam, an expansion-card slot, a dual-layer DVD writer, a numeric keypad and a Kensington lock slot. On the metallic panel, you’ll notice physical buttons for volume control, power options and for Windows Media Center. A physical switch is also available for wireless connectivity.
The connectivity options are common to even some mid-range laptops, such as gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth. Finally, the machine ships pre-loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) and bundles with it an optical mouse.
For the performance tests, we not only used our standard benchmarks such as PCMark Vantage, 3DMark Vantage, SiSoft Sandra and such, but we also played HD movies and high-quality music to check whether the laptop lives up to our expectations. We compared its overall PCMark score to that of two other laptops, the MSI CX620 and the Asus K52F. The former is powered by an Intel Core i3 330 processor, clocked at 2.13 GHz and features a discrete ATI Radeon HD 5470. The Asus K52F doesn’t have a discrete GPU, but has the same processor as the N61Jv, an Intel Core i3 350M, clocked at a slightly higher speed, 2.27GHz.
Now, amongst these three laptops, the Asus N61Jv scored the highest in all benchmarks. This is mainly because it features the combination of good processing power and better discrete graphics. If you compare the overall PCMark scores of the MSI CX620 and of this laptop (since both feature discrete graphics), the former scored 4621 and this one leads with a score of 5220. In the Crysis benchmark, in the Performance mode at 1024 x 768, the CX620 churned 45.27 fps and the N61Jv gave 62.37 fps. As far as the battery life is concerned, the laptop offers 2 hours 38 minutes of runtime, which is quite good for a well-sized multimedia laptop.
Nvidia Optimus technology
Switching of graphics from onboard to discrete and vice versa is a common feature on laptops with dual-graphics. They usually have a physical or a software-driven switch to toggle between graphics chips. So, one can use onboard graphics for less intensive tasks like office applications and switch to discrete graphics for playing games and such.
With Nvidia’s new technology, OPTIMUS, users do not need to intervene for manually toggling between graphics. The Asus N61Jv does it automatically and seamlessly without rebooting the machine and with minimal screen-flicker. What’s even more interesting is that when using light applications, the discrete GPU remains dormant. The onboard GPU takes care of the rendering and displays the images on screen. But when you start playing a game, the Nvidia drivers call upon the discrete GPU to do the rendering and the onboard GPU is delegated to simply display the rendered images on screen. As Nvidia claims, this technology results in efficient use of the battery life, while giving optimum performance even in graphics-intensive applications.
Developed by Asus, SonicMaster is a technology that improves the sound quality by separating, and hence defining the channels of sound. We noticed that the clarity in vocals and the low bass too, and, even at higher volumes, the sound did not blare.
Since the USB 3.0 standard is faster than its predecessor, the USB 2.0, transferring files will be quicker between hard drives and external storage devices. It’s a smart choice to use a faster medium, especially considering that users would want to transfer high-definition content. A single HD flick can occupy from 6 GB to about 15 GB of space, so a quicker file transfer is always an added perk.
The bottom line
If you really need these features, then, at Rs. 50,490 (excluding taxes), this laptop is an excellent pick. However, if you want a laptop for general office work, light entertainment and not for GPU-intensive tasks, then there are other laptops that cost much less and don’t have these many features.
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 384 x 27 x 265 mm
- Weight: 2.80 Kg
- Processor: Intel Core i3 350M, 2.7 GHz
- Memory: 4 GB DDR3
- Hard disk: 500 GB
- Screen size: 16-inch
- Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth