Until Sandy Bridge becomes mainstream, Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7 processors have the high-end laptop field all to themselves. The Asus N73Jn’s dual-core Core i5 M520 features Hyper-Threading for up to four virtual cores and, though its standard clock speed is 2.4GHz, will Turbo clock all the way up to 2.93GHz. It will handle your daily workload with the greatest of ease, and only high-definition video encoding might bring it to its knees.
In the above results the N73Jn ranks below the Core i5-sporting Dell XPS 17, but that is due in part to the Nvidia GeForce 335M graphics processor (as opposed to XPS 17’s GeForce 435M). In the available configuration of the N73JN you’re most likely to get a GeForce GT 415M, which should give you comparable, or somewhat lower, performance than the card in our test machine.
While not powerful enough to be classed as a ‘gaming’ card, the 335M holds up fairly well for undemanding titles, and even recent DirectX 10 games will run smoothly if you keep the resolution down. For example, the N73Jn managed a perfectly smooth 38.1 frames per second (fps) average in Stalker: Call of Pripyat, albeit at Medium Detail and 1,366 x 768 (rather than the screen’s native 1,900 x 600).
Even knocking detail up to maximum and resolution up to native, Stalker in DirectX 10 was still playable with a 27.7fps average. In other words, casual gamers should have few complaints with this machine.
When it comes to life away from a socket, the Asus holds up well enough for a desktop replacement laptop, but nothing more. Its slightly underwhelming 4,400mAh/48Wh battery lasted a decent three hours and 27 minutes in Mobilemark’s undemanding Productivity test, while with the screen brightness set at maximum it managed one hour and 45 minutes playing a DVD. This means you’ll be able to watch even the longest films without a problem as long as brightness isn’t maxed-out.
In use the N73Jn generally stayed cool and fairly quiet, though there was a subtle but audible hum when under load.
So how does Asus’s stylish offering hold up overall? There’s no denying its attractive design, good build quality and premium materials, as well as connectivity that’s up there with the best. Its Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers are also impressive – as long as you keep them well below their maximum volume levels to avoid distortion. However, the keyboard’s loose-feeling keys and an inferior screen put a damper on things.
It’s a good thing for Asus, then, that a version of the N73Jn with the aforementioned GT 4215M graphics, a single 640GB hard drive and a Core i5 480M is available for a penny shy of £800, which is far better value than the original £1,000 asking price of our test model.
Just to give a comparison, the closest configuration of the Dell XPS 17 will set you back £980. This does include a HD webcam, superior screen, faster hard drive, better GT 435M graphics and longer battery life, but £180 is a lot of money so the Asus does have value in its favour.
A premium laptop for a less-than-premium price, the Asus N73Jn features an attractive design and excellent connectivity, backed by decent specifications. However, its otherwise good speakers are let down by noticeable distortion, its keyboard suffers from some rattle and flex, and its screen is sub-par. If you can live with these faults, it’s a relatively affordable offering that’s worth considering.