Getting outside help to improve laptop audio isn't a new idea; Toshiba has enlisted Harman/Kardon's help on several occasions and Altec Lansing has added its weight to many a laptop over the years. Asus, however, is the first to our knowledge to enlist the help of Bang & Olufsen, and the Asus N53JN is the first fruit of their combined labour.
As reported recently, the N53JN is the smaller of two Bang & Olufsen ICEpower laptops - the other being the 17.3-inch N73JN. There's more to the machine than just its purported audio prowess, however, as the 15.6-inch machine also features a USB 3.0 port, Blu-ray and Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching technology. You could say it's a flagship laptop for Asus, a point reflected in the near £1,000 asking price.
Asus has lavished some attention to the design, too. Clad in brushed metal inside and out, the N53JN has a classy, imposing appearance that's enhanced by some dramatic curves around the hinges. And, wedged between the two hinges, is the enlarged speaker system of which Asus promises so much. Considering its relative size it's a surprisingly unobtrusive addition to the machine, a fact helped by the attractive metal grille.
Inside the N53JN doesn't want for processing power. A 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor handles the day-to-day, supported by a 3MB Cache, 4GB of DDR3 RAM. Meanwhile graphics switches between a 1GB Nvidia GeForce 335M for the intensive work and Intel's power-efficient integrated graphics. For storage there's a 5,400rpm, 500GB hard drive. Throw in the Blu-ray player, the aforementioned audio enhancements, and a generous two-year warranty, and the N53JN represents decent value and lacks for little.
Much the same can be said for the connectivity. On the wireless side of things you get 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 - not 3.0 as seen in a few laptops and mobile phones of late. Also included is Gigabit Ethernet, and of course there's the ultra-fast USB 3.0 port - more on which you can read in our USB 3.0 guide. It's joined by three USB 2.0 ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA, giving you plenty of choice for your external devices.
Video connectivity is standard, with both VGA and HDMI on show, and there are just the two audio jacks - one for headphones, one for an external microphone. Unusually the memory card reader is placed on the left edge, which you may find an inconvenient change, and similarly the hardware wireless radio switch is tucked right away at the far end of the right edge. For the paranoid among you, Asus has added a plastic cover for the integrated webcam so people can't spy on you. Okay…