Notebooks aren’t exactly known for having reasonable sound quality, but ASUS has turned that around with the N55SF-S2086V.
A standout feature of the ASUS N55SF-S2086V is its use of Bang & Olufsen ICEpower audio technology, which includes a small external plastic subwoofer in addition to the integrated stereo speakers. We’re happy to report it all works well; the speakers are better than most notebooks, and the subwoofer adds richness and depth to sound, putting the N55SF in a league of its own.
Physically the N55SF has a retro aesthetic, and although it’s mostly plastic there are metal accents which add a feeling of rigidity to the screen edge, the area beneath the screen and the huge speaker grill. The screen in particular feels strong, and its delicate striped pattern enhances its already unique appearance. The traditional style keyboard has moderate travel and is a little spongy; it’s still spaciously laid out and comfortable to use. There are also plenty of dedicated media buttons off to the edges.
The specs are a curious mix of average and high-end. It’s powered by a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5-2410M, and while that’s not a slow processor, we’d have expected a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i7. The 4GB of RAM is typical, but where it gets interesting is the powerful NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M which for a notebook in this price range is about as good as it gets. There’s also a large 750GB (5,400 RPM) hard disk drive.
Overall the N55SF pulls in a good PCMark Vantage score of 5,969, so it’s clear that it’s no slouch. The battery lasts for a bit over four hours with light use in the Power4Gear Battery Saving mode, which is to be expected given the processor. The Instant On feature works as promised, booting up the N55SF from standby in about two seconds. One other novel feature is the ability to start the N55SF in ASUS Music Now! mode, which gives quick access to media files and the internet. It works well enough, but we prefer Windows 7 Home Premium any day.
The 15.6in (1,600 x 900 resolution) screen has rich colour depth and a reasonably good viewing angle, although those wanting to watch Blu-ray movies at native resolution will turn to the HDMI port on the left of the keyboard. In addition there’s also a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports and a VGA port. Joining the Blu-ray player on the right is a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, a microphone jack and a special 2.5mm port for the subwoofer. One neat feature is an SD card reader on the front, allowing for easier access.
True audiophiles will use desktop speaker setups, but for a notebook the N55SF is pretty much the best in its class for sound. Combined with the stylish design, strong build quality and mostly top notch specs it’s clear that the N55SF is a class act.Available from ASUS, retailing for $1,299.APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)