Earlier in the year Nvidia announced a rather cool new technology. It's called Nvidia Optimus and it finally makes graphics switching, where a laptop can choose between an integrated graphics chipset (for improved battery life) and a dedicated chip (for better performance), a mainstream feature. How? By doing it automatically, on-the-fly, and with no input required from the user. We've been waiting patiently for Optimus laptops to go on sale ever since, and the Asus K52JC is the first to land in our labs.
If you're interested in the nitty gritty of Optimus, it's worth taking a look at our Nvidia Optimus Guide. We're going to focus on the K52JC, though, and truth be told it's not the most obvious candidate for the technology. With a 15.6-inch display and a weight of 2.5kg, it's not exactly portable, making the potential power saving something of a diminishing return. It's akin to making a hybrid Bugatti Veyron.
Nonetheless, if Optimus boosts battery life a little and keeps the system running coolly and quietly, then it's doing some good. Also doing some good is the 2.26GHz Intel Core i5 processor that powers the K52JC, a processor that's proven to be an ample performer in the past. It's backed up by a plentiful 4GB of RAM, and a 1GB Nvidia GeForce 310M dedicated graphics card offers the performance option. For storage you get a 500GB hard drive, while Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 take care of the wireless connectivity.
As a design the K52JC is actually rather nice. Its glossy dark brown lid and textured brown innards form a good alliance with the gloss black bezel, and Asus doesn't try to over elaborate like some manufacturers. It's never going to win any awards for design, and at 34.5mm thick it's a little on the chunky side, but neither will it embarrass you with tackiness.
For the most part it's a well-built machine, too. We found no ill-fitting or over-flexing panels, and the hinge action on the screen is smooth yet secure. Putting pressure on the screen didn't transmit too much to the LCD panel either, which is always an encouraging sign. Moreover, Asus offers a two-year warranty on all its laptops, which adds a little value to the machine and some peace of mind.
One slightly disappointing aspect of the K52JC is its connectivity. It has all the basics, including HDMI, VGA and three USB ports, but it doesn't extend much beyond these. Consequently there's no eSATA, no standby USB charging, and no ExpressCard slot. This severely limits your options for connecting fast external storage devices, as you can't use eSATA and there's no option to add an ExpressCard module as expansion.