ASUS' N82Jv: Jack-Of-All-Tradesby Jarred Walton on September 11, 2010 11:10 PM EST
A Closer Look at the ASUS N82Jv-X2
In terms of aesthetics and construction, the N82Jv improves on most consumer laptops. The lid is a textured aluminum surface that's bronze/brown in color, and it's a nice break from all the glossy plastic finishes we've seen in the past. The main body is still plastic, and it does show some flex, but it does look like it will hold up well over time. The palm rest is a matte plastic, and the sticker claims a "Scratchproof Surface". It won't resist a sharp metal tool, but scraping at it with my fingernails produced no visible markings, so in that sense it is scratchproof… or at least scratch resistant.
While I thought the N61Jv looked okay, the textured aluminum lid on the N82Jv easily wins out. Like any aluminum surface, it can show grease smudges, but it's nowhere near the fingerprint magnet of glossy plastics. One issue that we do have with the construction however is the use of a door/hatch on the right side to cover the USB, Ethernet, and eSATA/USB ports. This is a matter of taste, but I haven't had enough concerns about dust getting into my ports that I want a cover—especially not a cheap cover secured by rubbery plastic "hinges". This is one area where ASUS should have left well enough alone and gone with the standard ports on the side of the laptop.
The speakers consist of two Altec Lansing tweeters firing out the front of the laptop. Sound quality is decent for a 14" laptop, and at least the speakers don't distort at high volume levels, but they don't get very loud and they're lacking in bass response. Plug in a set of headphones and you'll be a lot happier with the audio experience.
As with many of the other ASUS laptops, the keyboard layout is very good for a 14" chassis. The CTRL key is in the bottom-left corner, and the column of Home/End/PgUp/PgDn keys on the right works very well. Key response and travel isn't the greatest and certainly won't compete with the ThinkPads (or HP EliteBooks) of the world, but the decent sized palm rest and beveled edge make it comfortable enough for regular use. There's a bit of flex in the keyboard if you push hard, but that's only if you're looking for it—it's certainly not like some of the MSI keyboards where the keyboard tray bows at the slightest pressure. The chiclet style keys also have good spacing, though if you don't like chiclet there's nothing to change your mind here. In short, this is a functional keyboard that works well, but it doesn't rise above the market; it's better than the Acer Aspire keyboards, sure, but so is just about everything else.
The touchpad has a lightly textured surface that matches the lid, and it provides a nice differentiation from the rest of the palm rest. ASUS uses an Elan Smart Pad for the hardware, with support for most of the latest multi-touch/gesture options. Two finger scrolling works as expected, and tapping with two fingers (middle-click) or three fingers (right-click) also works. What you don't get are the "swipe" and "zoom" gestures found on some other touchpads, but personally I don't miss them. Until/unless such gestures are better integrated into the OS and applications (a la OS X), scrolling gestures are as much as I need.
For those looking at expansion options, ASUS' one concession is the inclusion of USB 3.0. That's a forward thinking technology that could prove very beneficial in the long run, but right now the only USB 3.0 devices are storage options. If you're a multimedia enthusiast like Dustin, obviously the lack of Firewire and ExpressCard is going to put this out of the running for use as a video editing workstation. Unfortunately for Dustin, such users are a distinct minority and most will be perfectly content with the three USB ports and the eSATA combo. If you want a laptop with more expansion potential, you'll have to look elsewhere.
One of our few complaints with the N61Jv was the LCD, so we had hoped the N82Jv would change things up. Well, it doesn't, and you're going to be getting the same sort of LCD we've seen in so many other sub-$1000 laptops. It's a TN panel with poor vertical viewing angles and generally mediocre quality, similar to the standard MacBook LCD. We'd love to see ASUS bump the price up $100 and move to something more like the 13" MacBook Pro LCD, but when you target a $1000 price ceiling something has to give. With the N82Jv, that "something" happens to be LCD quality and battery capacity. ASUS does include their Super Hybrid Engine that locks the CPU multiplier to 9x/10x in the battery results, but suffice it to say it doesn't do enough to warrant use in our book; an extra 10-15 minutes of battery life for less than half the performance isn't the same thing as a high capacity 6-cell battery, unfortunately.
Above is a look at the temperature ranges we encountered during idle and load periods on the N82Jv. For stress testing we used 3DMark06 looping for upwards of an hour, as well as a 20 minute video cleanup using CUDA in vReveal. CPU and GPU core temperatures were as low as 45C (49C on CPU core 2). Load temperatures reached 70C on the GPU and 85C on the CPU. We measured surface temperatures 25-30C at idle, with load tempertures increasing a few degrees in most areas. The hottest spot is right underneath the CPU, where the bottom of the case was 41C. Noise levels are near 30dB at idle, and up to 39dB at load (from a distance of 12").
Having recently looked at the Toshiba A660D, the N82Jv is definitely a step up in overall build quality, but it's more of a step sideways in features and battery life. The A665D-S6059 comes priced $200 lower with an HD 5650 GPU, but there's little doubt the i5-450M will come out on top in the performance results. As for the A660D, currently priced at $950 this is an easy win for ASUS. The question is how it compares to other laptops, and here's where things become difficult. As mentioned, no one else has yet shipped a laptop with a midrange GPU (GT 330M or higher), Optimus Technology, and USB 3.0. The closest competitor is probably the Gateway ID49C08u, priced at $850 but with no current online availability. That comes with the standard (re: lousy) Acer/Gateway keyboard, a blinged-out glowing touchpad, a GT 330M GPU, and a 5400 RPM hard drive. All told it probably runs games ~20% slower than the N82Jv, so you're looking at $150 for USB 3.0, a faster GPU, and a much better keyboard.
We'll have a look at the ID49 next week, but in truth the real competition is going to be the 400M Optimus laptops when they start showing up. As it stands, the N82Jv is a good all-around laptop that can handle just about everything, priced at a cool grand. We have no serious complaints with the quality of features (outside of the LCD), and if you're not interested in waiting to see what sort of 400M systems we'll get in the next month or two—or if you're looking for something a little larger and faster than the Alienware M11x R2 for a lower price—the N82Jv should fit the bill. We do wish that there was less "differentiation" between some of the ASUS brands, though; combine the best of the U-series with the best of the N-series, and give us a chassis worthy of a business laptop and we'd be ecstatic.
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JarredWalton - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - linkI guess I *heard* about the Envy 14 (or the old Envy?) six months back. Here's hoping it will still arrive soon....
Roland00 - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - link4 months is a life time in the computer world though. Almost every series gets a refresh every quarter.
Now the old envy were 13 inch and 15 inch. They were released during Oct 09 to coincide with the windows 7 launch. While I praise HP vision they didn't really sell well in stores due to the fact they were expensive (starting at 2000+ at the time), had no optical drive (which I see as a benefit but some customers couldn't understand) and the 15 inch cold get very hot. The 13 inch was designed to be fast enough with a culv or lv processor and 4330 video card and up to 14 to 18 hours of battery life (depending on configuration, measured in mobilemark, a bad test I know.) How it obtain this battery life is it had a standard 4 cell battery but it also had a detachable 6 cell battery that was the entire width and length of the laptop so if you attached the battery it is just like the laptop got thicker. The envy 15 inch had the same philosophy with the battery but it instead packed a quad core, a 1080p screen, either a 4830 or 5830 (depending on refresh), and up to 16gbs of memory. On paper, the first envys were trying to be a windows macbook pro that were either trying to be faster (competing against 15 or 17inch) or had better battery life (competing against 13 inch and macbook air).
Now I been more impressed with the 14.5 inch and the 17 inch for while they may be bigger and heavier due to the optical drive, they are trying to be more "balanced" via having more moderate price options available at the start.
blackrook - Monday, September 13, 2010 - linkHow does it all work? Do they send products to you spontaneously, or is it agreed upon by both you guys and the companies?
I'm intrigued with what you guys would think of it...even though I already bought it. Almost like a reassurance that I've made a solid decision, heh.
JarredWalton - Monday, September 13, 2010 - linkEither they contact us or we contact them, trying to get products for review. Some companies are more than happy to send products out (i.e. ASUS) while others seem to sample few if any products.
mrmbmh - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - linkHi,very nice article! thx Jarred!
There are some popular notebooks you've not reviewed yet..... like U45jc Asus and HP dm4 (light-weight 14"s)
Can you review them or at least join them into LCD comparison benchmark?
Thanks.... : )
zoxo - Monday, September 13, 2010 - linkYou can be assured that the LCDs are utter crap on those too. The Envy from hp seems to be a step up, but it doesn't have matte option. What a shame!
Akv - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - linkThe proportion of gamers in the comments of reviews websites is almost 100%, but that is not the proportion of users, who might for example prefer a reduction of price in exchange for graphics just sufficient for productivity and video. Or the same price with an increase of storage, of silence instead of gaming, etc.
The divergence between users when it comes to laptop is even stronger, so much so that I would not be surprised if the proportion of users who want gaming on a laptop was insignificant, although still of course quasi 100% of reviews websites comments.
I regret that, on this website as many others, the heat and noise are not even evoked, whereas it seems to me the main element of the build quality for a laptop.
I was interested by the expertise on LCD quality. If I have to pay for a laptop I really want to display photos correctly, and to be able to read comfortably. I would be ready to accept less horsepower in exchange for better display. I would not even refuse an atom netbook with a perfect matte screen.
seanleeforever - Monday, September 13, 2010 - linkthat, my friend, is a good comment.
i too overly frustrated with all the gamer's comments with cares nothing except GPU and CPU. there is much more to a laptop than play games. (besides, you shouldn't play games on notebook anyway)
if the image is the key, consider the following as rule of thumb.
best :IPS/AFFS+ screen, they are the best (lenovo X201 Tablet, HP dream color)
second to the best: MVA screen in Fujitsu T5010
distant third is 8-bit TN panels w/ RGBLED backlight (Alienware and Dell Precision M6500)
distant forth is 6-bit TN panels w/ RGBLED (Dell M4500, sXPS16, Lenovo T/W510, W701/ds, Apple MBP (15-17"))
you would also need to consider the heat, noise, fan position, key layouts, which is something anand will never cover in detail because it doesn't sounds as cool as GT335M.
JarredWalton - Monday, September 13, 2010 - linkIt's not a case of it "sounding as cool"; there just isn't much to say that's noteworthy. If the laptop is particularly loud and/or hot, we'll make a note of it, but the N82Jv is basically "average" (or perhaps even below average) in these areas. That comes form the components, with the HD 5650 and GT 335M built to hit specific TDPs so they can fit in laptops. If you're not doing anything taxing, the N82Jv runs cool enough that there's no worry. At load, fan speeds ramp up and it gets warmer.
Vivek and Dustin don't have the necessary tools for testing power/temp/noise, so I haven't been focusing on those in order to keep the reviews consistent. But since you asked, the N82Jv runs at around 70-80F temperatures (give or take) idle, and bumps up 5-10F under load. The keyboard and palm rest tends to be a bit cooler than the bottom, though certain areas get hotter than others, naturally. The hottest spot I found under load was on the bottom under where the GPU sits, and it was 105F.
Noise levels are basically at the limit of my SPL meter at idle (30dB), but under load it can get noisier. I measured 39 dB(A) at a distance of about 12". So as a whole, this is good and certainly nothing I would consider problematic. I'm far more concerned with the plastic chassis and low quality LCD on the N82 than I am with the heat/noise.
The Crying Man - Monday, September 13, 2010 - linkYou guys could all use HWMonitor or GPU-Z at least to give us an idea of temps at idle or load.