ASUS labels the N series notebooks as multimedia-centric, but we have to disagree on that one. Since the last upgrade, the N551 has become so powerful to a point where you can’t really tell the difference between the N551VW and its ROG counterparts, like the GL552VW or G551. So we can easily classify it as premium multimedia offering or a mid-range gaming laptop.
We’ve got Intel Core i7-6700HQ on board, paired with 8GB of DDR4 RAM and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M GPU. All of this can handle some more serious gaming and cost a little under €1 000, just like the GL552VW. Even so, the N551VW lacks some features that the GL552 offers, but excels in others like design and build quality. We expect it to offer relatively the same user experience as the old N551 but will differ from the new N552. Our mission is to find out more about this model and then adequately compare it to the new N552. This way we will know for sure if the extra bucks for the N552 are worth it, assuming the price of the N552 will be higher than its predecessor, of course.
These are the currently available ASUS N551 configurations: http://amzn.to/1PWVo8b
As a multimedia-centric notebook, the most interesting accessory here is the external subwoofer by Sonic Master. It enhances the multimedia experience even further. You will also find the usual user manuals, AC charger and cable, and the notebook itself.
Design and construction
We are familiar with the build quality and presented design language, so we will try to be brief about this. The bottom line, however, is that we are more than satisfied with the choice of materials and overall looks. It’s sturdy, elegant, sleek, but it’s a bit on the heavy side. Also, it’s kind of bulky as well.
The lid features ASUS’ LED backlit logo at the center of the concentric, brushed aluminum finish we are used to seeing at with the N series. It adds to the rigidity and a bigger force has to be applied in order to bend. It still seems a bit thick – as thick as some touch-enabled screens are. The hinges feel stable, but feel a bit overly tightened because both hands are needed to open the notebook. We still prefer the stability in this situation, though. The bottom piece of the notebook isn’t part of the whole design language and stands out with its black color and rugged, hard texture. You can see the extra grill that can aid with the airflow from an external cooling pad. There’s also a service cover granting access to the usual upgrade options – 2.5-inch HDD/SSD slot, RAM chips, and WLAN module.
As for the sides of the machine, they are 32.2 mm thick and that’s a bit too much. The weight also seems a bit off – 2.7 kg, which is a digit mostly suitable for 17-inch budget notebooks. Anyway, the left side accommodates the main heat dispersing grill, DC charging port, mini DisplayPort, LAN, HDMI and two USB 3.0 ports, while the right side remains mostly free with only the optical drive, 3.5 mm audio jack and USB 2.0 port sticking out. The profile of the notebook consists of the two main plastic parts meeting halfway, which is more in line with the design signature. The bottom piece (the black plastic one we’ve already mentioned) connects with the interior metallic plastic creating interesting wave forms.
But the interior is the shiniest part of the notebook whatsoever. ASUS used aluminum-like finish with metallic gray color and cool dot patterns around the top side of the keyboard. It feels really sturdy, it’s good to touch, but the palm rest area isn’t elevated. The keys are on the same level as the rest of the interior, they provide long tactile feedback, cool LED backlight, and the standard multimedia control buttons. Nonetheless, we would have been happier if the play/pause buttons and volume keys were placed closer to the function key. Users with smaller hands will find virtually impossible to reach those with one hand. This leaves us only with the touchpad, which is again great. It provides that strange “clicky” sound but registers all presses, swipes, and gestures accurately. It’s one of the best we’ve used so far, so there’s little room left for improvement when it comes to input devices.
To wrap things up, we can say that the build quality, design, and overall feel are excellent. We can only say that the size of the machine are the only drawbacks here and we hope that ASUS has fixed that in the N552. Its profile and weight can easily be associated with a 17 incher, while we are presented with a 15-inch model.
Display and sound
The ASUS N551VW uses the same panel as its gaming sibling – the GL552VW, so it inherits all the pros and cons from its brother. The panel used here is LG-made, LP156WF6-SPB5 model number, Full HD (1920×1080) resolution and 15.6-inch diagonal. This leads to a pixel density of 141 ppi and 0.18 x 0.18 pixel pitch. It can be considered “Retina” if viewed from a distance equal or greater than 61 cm.
The display has excellent viewing angles as you can see from the image below.
We measured the maximum brightness of the display – 311 cd/m2 with a maximum deviation of only 8%. Also, the color temperature (6600K) aligns almost perfectly to the optimal of 6500K and we observed no unacceptable deviations on the surface of the display.
To put things into perspective, we would like to give you a little introduction into the sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamuts. The CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram represents the spectrum of colors visible to the human eye, thus giving you a better perception of color gamut coverage and color accuracy. Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB), used by millions of people in HDTV and on the Web. As for Adobe RGB, it is used to work with professional cameras and monitors when preparing print. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone, and so reproducing them accurately is key in a quality display.
The yellow triangle represents the ability of ASUS GL552VW to cover the sRGB color gamut – 91% in this case.
The graph below is the same but with recorded results – the one on the left is pre-calibration while the one on the right is after. The colored circles represent the reference colors, the white circles being the result. You can see the main and additional colors with 100% and 50% saturation inside the sRGB gamut.
Below you can see the gamma curve that aligns with the 2.2 standard.
We tuned the display at 140 cd/m2 brightness and 6500K color temperature.
X-Rite i1Display Pro was used for the calibration.
We tested the display using 24 commonly used sample colors like skin tones, grass, blue sky, orange etc. After profiling the display had an average DeltaE 2000 deviation of only 0.72, while the contrast was 1100:1 before calibration and 1060:1 after. Pretty good results.
Another representation of the colors we’ve tested.
Pulse-width modulation (PWM, Screen flickering)
As we already mentioned above, the panel inherits the same pros and cons the GL552VW’s display has. While the N552VW provides spotless picture quality due to its high contrast ratio, brightness, color gamut coverage, and accurate tone response curve, the PWM is present from 0 to 99%. The good news is that the frequency of the emitted light is really high – 20.6 kHz and thus reducing the negative impact of one’s eyesight.
We already stated our assessment of the screen quality – good contrast ratio, excellent viewing angles, wide sRGB color gamut coverage and high enough brightness. But the presence of the PWM (screen flickering) should be taken into account when buying this machine. The latter isn’t used only at 100% screen brightness. However, it’s better in most aspects than the last generation N551 with Samsung 156HL01-102 PLS panel.
If we assume a distance of 58cm (~23in) between the human eye and the notebook monitor, then normal (20/20) vision would require a pixel density of at least 150ppi in order to interpret an image as perfectly detailed.
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
|ASUS N551 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141||-0.15%|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
|Lenovo ideapad Y700 (15″) 15.6-inch, Samsung LTN156HL09-401, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
|Toshiba Satellite P50-C 15.6-inch, LG, 1920 x 1080 pixels||141.21|
Higher panel brightness is of key importance for visual comfort when working outside or in a brightly lit room.
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||311|
|ASUS N551 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||318||+2.25%|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||311|
|Lenovo ideapad Y700 (15″) 15.6-inch, Samsung LTN156HL09-401, 1920 x 1080 pixels||218||-29.9%|
|Toshiba Satellite P50-C 15.6-inch, LG, 1920 x 1080 pixels||319||+2.57%|
Delta E is a CIE measurement unit of color difference. Higher values indicate that the display produces less accurate colors. (lower results are desirable).
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||0.72|
|ASUS N551 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||1.32||+83.33%|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||0.70||-2.78%|
|Lenovo ideapad Y700 (15″) 15.6-inch, Samsung LTN156HL09-401, 1920 x 1080 pixels||1.05||+45.83%|
|Toshiba Satellite P50-C 15.6-inch, LG, 1920 x 1080 pixels||0.66||-8.33%|
The sRGB color gamut, introduced as a standard for the Web, shows the percentage of colors used on the Web that can be displayed on the screen of the device being tested (higher values are better).
|ASUS N551VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||91|
|ASUS N551 15.6-inch, Samsung, 1920 x 1080 pixels||97||+6.59%|
|ASUS ROG GL552VW 15.6-inch, LG LP156WF6-SPB5, 1920 x 1080 pixels||91|
|Lenovo ideapad Y700 (15″) 15.6-inch, Samsung LTN156HL09-401, 1920 x 1080 pixels||52||-42.86%|
|Toshiba Satellite P50-C 15.6-inch, LG, 1920 x 1080 pixels||91|
As we expected, the sound quality is excellent, especially when you add the external subwoofer into the mix. You can take a look at the graph below showing clear sounds, deep bass and frequency amplitudes of +/-6 dB.
The current specs sheet refers to this particular model – configurations may differ depending on your region.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-6700HQ (4-core, 2.60 -3.50 GHz, 6MB cache)|
|RAM||8GB (1x 8192MB) – DDR4, 2133MHz|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (2GB GDDR5)|
|HDD/SSD||1TB HDD (7200 rpm)|
|Display||15.6-inch (39.62 cm.) – 1920×1080 (Full HD), IPS matte|
|Optical drive||DVD burner|
|Connectivity||LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps, Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Battery||6-cell 56Wh (5200 mAh) Li-Polymer Battery|
|Thickness||31 mm (1.22″)|
|Weight||2.7 kg (5.95 lbs)|
ASUS N551 configurations
We used freshly installed Windows 10 (64-bit) for our tests and you can also download all the needed drivers from here: http://www.asus.com/Notebooks/N551VW/HelpDesk_Download/
We can’t expect good battery readings due to the demanding hardware and pixel-packed IPS panel. However, the relatively big 56Wh battery proved us wrong. We got surprisingly good results in Wi-Fi browsing test, but didn’t quite meet our expectations when it comes to video playback time. They were conducted under the same conditions as always – Wi-Fi turned on, battery saver on, and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for to automatically browse through over 70 websites.
Not bad result considering the hardware – 346 minutes (5 hours and 46 minutes).
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Unsatisfying result here and surprisingly lower than the Wi-Fi browsing test – 272 minutes (4 hours and 32 minutes).
For accurate simulation, we used the Metro Last Light benchmark running on a loop with graphic settings set to minimum.
As expected, the gaming test took a toll on the battery with only 67 minutes (1 hour and 7 minutes) of play time.
Intel Core i7-6700HQ represents the Skylake H family and it’s considered a high-performance chip with high voltage – 45W TDP. This is a step down from its direct predecessor – Core i7-4700HQ, but matches its short-lived predecessor Core i7-5700HQ. The Core i7-6700HQ has four cores ticking at 2.6GHz and can go up to 3.5 GHz for one active core and 3.1 GHz for four active cores. The silicon supports the so-called Hyper-Threading technology that emulates one virtual core for each physical, thus establishing a total of 8 threads.
Furthermore, the chip is manufactured using a 14nm FinFET process and integrates Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU with 24 EU (Executable Units) clocked at 350 – 1050 MHz. The memory controller supports up to 64GB of DDR3 or DDR4 RAM at 1600 or 2133 MHz respectively. The CPU is suitable for heavy applications and gaming.
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-6700hq/
Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-6700HQ managed 12.456 million moves per second. By comparison, one of the most powerful PCs, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
The GeForce GTX 960M (2GB GDDR5) is located in the high-end graphics card niche, but is used mostly in budget gaming laptops. It is part of the Maxwell family of GPUs. It features 640 CUDA cores or simply – shading units, along with 32 ROPs and 53 texture units. It has 2GB of dedicated VRAM (GDDR5 in this case). The bandwidth of the memory is 80.2 GB/s and the bus is 128-bit wide.
The GTX 960M uses the same GM107 GPU core that we saw in last year’s 860M, but this one is mainly aimed at bumping the notebook’s battery life and adding some extra performance, but that’s not stressed as much. However, the GM107 is clocked a bit higher than last year’s model – 1097MHz of base clock and boost up to 1176MHz. It also supports a resolution of 2048×1536 through the VGA port and 3840×2160 with DisplayPort and HDMI.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook with this GPU that we’ve tested: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/nvidia-gtx-960m/
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
All gaming tests were performed using NVIDIA’s latest drivers at the time of this review – 359.00 WHQL.
|Tomb Raider (1080p, Low)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Medium)||Tomb Raider (1080p, Max)|
|142 fps||65 fps||33 fps|
|F1 2015 (1080p, Low)||F1 2015 (1080p, Medium)||F1 2015 (1080p, Max)|
|57 fps||44 fps||31 fps|
|Thief (1080p, Low)||Thief (1080p, Medium)||Thief (1080p, Max)|
|52 fps||46 fps||31 fps|
|GTA 5 (1080p, Low)||GTA 5 (1080p, Medium)||GTA 5 (1080p, Max)|
|99 fps||32 fps||14 fps|
|Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Low)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Medium)||Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Max)|
|76 fps||45 fps||31 fps|
While this test doesn’t represent real-life usage, it’s a good way to assess the capabilities of the cooling system nad the overall stability of the machine. The test includes 100% CPU and 100% GPU load at the same time, but first things first.
We start off with 100% CPU load for at least an hour, but since we already tested the cooling system, which doesn’t differ from the old G551 at all, we know that the results will be good. You can see on the image below that the maximum operating temperature was as high as 80 °C and far away from the Tj. max – 100 °C. As for the frequency, the CPU was ticking at 3.1 GHz which is exactly the performance we expect from four active cores.
After an hour had passed, we turned on the GPU torture test as well and, as a result, we saw only around 12 °C increase in silicon’s temperature and the GPU was running at 80 °C. We saw some decreases in the operating frequency of the CPU from time to time, but nothing to worry about. The lowest point was around 2.5-2.6 GHz and this is the base frequency of the chip.
We’ve also gathered data about the interior and as we expected, the cooling system did really well. There’s only a slight increase in temperatures near the spacebar and touchpad area, but you will not feel any discomfort at all.
The refreshed ASUS N551NVW looks like a logical solution between the old N551 and the N552. It offers sleek design and good build quality with our only complaint being the big weight (2.7 kg) and thick profile (32.2 mm). We are also pretty pleased with the keyboard and touchpad performance. Both seem to be responsive accurate and comfortable.
Good words come out for the picture quality of the IPS panel and the powerful hardware featuring 6th generation Intel Core i7 CPU, GTX 960M GPU, and, 8GB DDR4 RAM. We do have to mention, though, the use of PWM (pulse-width modulation) from 0 to 99% screen brightness. The good news is that the frequency of the emitted light is 20.6 kHz, which reduces the negative effect on the eyesight. When we add the good loudspeakers and external subwoofer into the mix, the notebook becomes perfect for multimedia content on the go.
The bottom line is that the ASUS N551VW has a great value and the only things missing are the USB Type-C connector and M.2 SSD slot, but since those two will come with the N552, which will most probably cost a few hundred more, it’s normal that the notebook keeps the old mSATA SSD slot. It also serves as a great alternative to the GL552VW if you are willing to trade better build quality for USB 3.1 and M.2 SSD slot.
These are the currently available ASUS N551 configurations: http://amzn.to/1PWVo8b
- Sturdy construction and sleek design
- Good input devices
- Quality IPS panel
- High-quality sound + external subwoofer
- mSATA expandable storage option
- Great value (good performance/price ratio)
- Bulky (32.2 mm) and heavy (2.7 kg)
- PWM from 0 to 99% screen brightness
- mSATA instead of M.2 SSD support