Laptop manufacturers are going all-out in the audio department for their premium offerings, and several have partnered-up with a reputable audio brand or artist. HP has its Dr. Dre-approved Beats Speakers, as most recently found on the luxurious Envy 17 3D, for example. Even Toshiba's netbooks, like the NB520 and NB550, have Harman/Kardon speakers, while MSI is the most recent laptop name to take the partnership route, with its GT680's speakers enhanced by Dynaudio's know-how. However, few names shout premium quite like Bang & Olufsen, which Asus partnered with to ensure its high-end N73JN supplies one of the best portable audio experiences around.
It's not the first time we've assessed this particular pairing though, as only last year we checked out the N73Jn's little cousin, the 15.3in Asus N53Jn. We were impressed then, but how does this bigger brother hold up?
Featuring an almost identical design to the N53Jn, this 17.3in model is very attractive. There's a gun-metal grey brushed aluminium lid that feels solid, doesn't attract fingerprints and has finely-tapering edges that make it appear thinner than it actually is. Opening it up, you're greeted by a glossy screen and piano-black bezel, while its bottom half is divided into a brushed black metal palm rest, charcoal keyboard and surround, and silver metallic speaker grill.
While we wouldn't put it on the same pedestal as the stylish HP Envy 17, it has a premium look, and the downward-curved back with raised speaker adds a unique touch. Build quality is very solid, with the exception of some give at the back of the speaker and just a hint of flex on the keyboard.
Specifications aren't groundbreaking, but more than powerful enough for a high-end multimedia laptop like this. A Core i5 M520 might be previous-generation compared to Intel's brand-new Sandy Bridge (as found in the MSI GT680) but for most tasks, its two cores running at up to 2.93GHz will more than suffice.
The N73Jn is backed by 4GB of RAM, which is plenty for the installed 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. Our review sample came with twin 320GB hard drives to give a 640GB capacity, but models you'll be able to buy will more likely have a single 5,400rpm hard drive ranging from 500 to 640GB.
An Nvidia GeForce GT325 with Optimus graphics switching makes for a more-than-competent multimedia card and allows for some light gaming (on retail models this will be a GT 415M, but it should give very similar performance). A slimline Blu-ray drive completes the N73Jn's entertainment talents.
Also worth a mention is the two-megapixel webcam. Though it's not HD, which is becoming standard at the high end, Asus has one little innovation up its sleeve, which we first saw on the Seashell 1015PEM: a physical shutter, operated by a discrete switch just above it. While it's hardly groundbreaking stuff, it's a great way for the less technically savvy to ensure they're never being recorded unawares.