Customer Review

111 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Haswell touch laptop with dedicated graphics, September 4, 2013
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This review is from: ASUS N550JV-DB72T 15.6" Full-HD Touchscreen Laptop (OLD VERSION) (Personal Computers)
I recently decided to replace my four year old desktop system with a laptop.

Given that this was going to be my main computer, I needed a machine that had a good amount of grunt for video conversion and other processor intensive tasks. This machine has the new Haswell i7-4700HQ processor, which has impressive performance with relatively good power consumption.

I am an occasional but enthusiastic gamer, so I needed reasonably good graphics - enough to run Civ V, Simcity, Skyrim and whatever is released next at mid settings. Obviously GPU is always a trade off between price, performance and power consumption, but I think the GT750M strikes a reasonable balance between the three. You will have to make your own call, though. If you want more performance, look at the Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p 15.6-Inch Laptop (Metal - Dusk Black) which has 2 GT750M's in SLI mode. If you don't do much 3D gaming, an ultrabook or convertible with Intel HD4400 or 4600 integrated graphics (there are quite a few around to choose from) might suit you better.

The screen is beautiful. As screens get better on smartphones and tablets, I find the 768p screens on cheaper laptops hard to look at. Spoiled I guess. The screen is glossy but not as reflective as some I have seen and the viewing angles are excellent.

Not everyone loves touchscreens but it was a must for me. Again, using a lot of touchscreens on other devices I find touch a really natural way of interacting with the user interface, even where it hasn't been specifically designed for touch. Windows 8 is only half the product on a non-touch screen and it seems inevitable that more apps and operating systems will incorporate touch in the future. If you don't want the touchscreen, the ASUS N550JV-DB71-CA Multimedia Notebook (15.6-inch, i7-4700HQ, 8GB-DDR3, 1TB HDD, GT 750M-2G, BD-ROM, Windows 8) is the same laptop without the touchscreen. The trackpad is good too, although I am not a fan of the hidden buttons that everyone has copied from Apple. Initially I found that tapping on the trackpad to click was unresponsive but you can adjust the sensitivity of this. The keyboard is very good in terms of key size and travel, although I would have appreciated a bit of separation between the main keyboard and the number pad so I could easily feel where the enter key was. Frankly I wouldn't have been too fussed if they had left out the number pad altogether.

In terms of size and appearance, this laptop has a very high quality build. I don't care much what my laptop looks like but I do want one that doesn't creak or move while you use it and this certainly fits that bill. The 15.6" form factor is pretty hefty - I would've preferred a 14" version - but as it was a desktop replacement I was not too worried about the size or weight. If you plan to carry it around a lot, I would recommend you go for something smaller.

While I've said I don't care what my laptop looks like, one thing I do like about this laptop is that it is gaming-capable without looking like a gaming laptop. I find those flashy, neon-lit, tattoo-sporting gaming laptops ridiculous but unfortunately this is almost the most capable gaming laptop I have found without the bling. Even the Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p 15.6-Inch Laptop (Metal - Dusk Black) (which looks like the natural next step up from this in the gaming performance terms) has a garish red keyboard which I would feel silly using to do my tax return.

Another important factor in choosing this laptop was warranty. I live in Hong Kong and laptops are generally much cheaper on Amazon than in the stores here, so I wanted a good international warranty. The rules about international warranties vary wildly between manfacturers, but Asus's international warranty is excellent. By contrast Acer (who have a similar model to this laptop) do not offer a true international warranty, so in my circumstances I had to rule them out of consideration entirely.

In terms of shortcomings, this laptop is much better with a decent SSD to replace the supplied HDD. I went for the Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Single Unit Version Internal Solid State Drive MZ-7TE250BW. Luckily it is pretty easy to replace the HDD armed with a Torx#5 screwdriver. One of the advantages of a slightly bigger laptop like this over an ultrabook is that everything is user accessible and replaceable - the RAM, the HDD, the wifi card, the battery, even the optical drive.

A bigger shortcoming is that, unlike several of its competitors, this laptop does not have provision for an mSATA SSD. This means you cannot install a 64GB or 128GB SSD as an OS drive and keep the HDD for data. You have to use one drive, and that means being faced with a choice between a smallish but fast SSD and a big but slow HDD. In my case, I have a NAS for storing data, so it was less of an issue for me. Also USB 3.0 (all the USB ports on this laptop are USB 3.0) makes external drives very fast.

I really didn't identify any other issues with this machine. All in all I am one happy owner.

In my dreams I would quite like this CPU/GPU combination in a convertible form factor - a touchscreen is more useful again if you can fold it flat and use it like a tablet. But at the moment, none of the convertibles have a dedicated GPU or even Intel HD5100 graphics (which approaches the GT750M for performance). Maybe next year for that.

PS: I noticed that some of the specs for this machine on Amazon and a lot of other online retailers were wrong. Amazon seems to have corrected them now, but to make clear:
* No model of this laptop has an mSATA drive or any place to put one.
* This model has a 1080p IPS touchscreen. The DB71 model has a 1080p IPS non-touchscreen.
* This model has a DVD-RW drive. Some Asian and European models have a Bluray/DVD combo drive or a Bluray-RW drive.
* This has 8GB of RAM, two 4GB modules. Some Asian models come with 16GB RAM.
* This model has a 1 year international warranty and 1 year accidental damage protection (in the US & Canada only). In other countries, Asus offers a 2 year international warranty but no accidental damage protection.
* The keyboard is backlit with 3 levels of light.

One final thing: if you are shipping this (or any) laptop to or through Hong Kong, you will need to get hold of the Material Safety Data Sheet for the laptop battery. For this laptop, the battery part no is C41-N550 and the MSDS is available by telephoning Asus Hong Kong. Do not try Asus USA, they will not know what you are talking about!
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 34 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 27, 2013 12:42:15 PM PDT
D to the G says:
Great review.

Is the memory expandable? I couldn't find anything on this.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 8, 2013 3:16:21 PM PDT
Can you tell me how you installed the SSD, and if you used the software that came with the SSD to clone your system from the HDD to the SSD, or whether you just reinstalled Window's 8 from scratch? If the latter, how did you do that given that the ASUS does not come with Windows 8 disc?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2013 6:22:46 AM PDT
Yes. There are two RAM slots. This models comes with a 4GB module in each. You can replace one or both with an 8GB module to get up to 16GB RAM. But unless you are multitasking a lot, there is apparently very little performance benefit to more than 8GB of RAM.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2013 6:38:51 AM PDT
As for how to physically install the SSD, that was about 20 minutes of unscrewing the bottom of the laptop and then the drive cage and simply replacing the drive and putting the whole thing back together. Easy with a Torx#5 screwdriver which you should be able to buy at any electronics supply store.

In my case, I installed the SSD on the PC when it was brand new, so I just re-installed Windows 8 from scratch. I had a Windows 8 install disc lying around from another PC so I used that. If you don't, you can burn a Windows 8 recovery disc from within Windows 8 and I think you can then use that to reinstall Windows (but check before you try it).

As for cloning a system from an older drive to a new one, there are several applications you can use to do this. Most drives (including the Samsung) come bundled with cloning software but I haven't used it so I can't say whether it is easy to use. I would do my research before using the included software or any cloning application because I know it can be a tricky business.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2013 3:12:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 9, 2013 3:20:12 PM PDT
It wasn't quite that easy. Yes the physical aspect of removing the HDD and adding the SSD was easy, but I didn't have any copies of Windows 8, so ended up trying ASUS's Back Tracker to create a Recovery disk of the original ASUS system. After I swapped drives, I had to fiddle with BIOS setup to get the ASUS to recognize the recovery disk (I got the info from ASUS tech support before I started). But when restoring from the recovery disc, the Restore Program froze about 90% of the way through the process (at least as exhibited by Back Tracker's Status Bar). I tried the restore twice and it hung up both times. Finally, I just rebooted without the recovery drive attached to the ASUS, and wouldn't you know it, I had what seemed to be a clean boot into a fresh Windows 8. Every thing seems all right, but I'm leery. I'm swapping the drives back and trying Windows Backup instead to see if I get a different result. Though truth be told, I am considering calling it a day.

How many partitions do you have now on your SSD? I was stunned to see 5 on mine. Granted, three of them are relatively small (the EFI system partition, a 900 MBI recovery point partition and a larger 20GB recovery partition). The other two are the OS(C:) partition and the Data(D:) partition. Is this the new normal? My Desktop only has two partitions.

As for cloning software, Symantec/Norton finally managed to tick me off to the point of trying another vendor - after 15 plus years of satisfied use of Norton Ghost. Long story I won't bore you with. I hate going through the start from scratch Windows reload in times of trouble and want a rock solid, easy to use Norton Ghost replacement - Norton has saved by bacon more than once, but I'm ticked off at their awful support.

Thanks for the help.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2013 3:24:05 PM PDT
I won't use my PC much, but when I'm on vacation, I want a functional clone of my desktop - and that includes Photoshop. I actually spend more time on that application on vacations than I do otherwise, but can probably live without the extra RAM. As long as I've got the cover off the ASUS, I'm tempted to just do it before I load the system up with software.

Thanks for your help.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2013 8:31:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 10, 2013 8:43:41 PM PDT
Yeah, partitions are pretty common these days. The Windows recovery partition is hard to avoid and you'll be grateful if you do need to use it.

The OS and data partitions are Samsung's doing - for some reason they set up their SSDs this way. When I installed Windows from scratch, I replaced these with a single partition for simplicity. While OS/data partitions are common these days, some software still wants to put everything on your C drive. Although having separate partitions for OS and data does have an advantage that reinstalling the OS from scratch becomes slightly less painful if your data is on a sepaate partition.

In my experience, it is generally easier to reinstall Windows from scratch rather than trying to clone. I understand the attraction but cloning is rarely the shortcut it appears to be. When you reinstall from scratch, you can sort out your partitions, install a clean OS, install the latest versions of drivers and apps etc. That said, the cardinal rule of tech is that if it's not broken, don't fiddle with it, you'll just end up breaking it. So if your PC is now working without any problems, resist the urge to mess with it!

Photoshop may well benefit from the extra RAM, and RAM is cheap, so by all means go ahead and upgrade to 16GB. I'm sure if you Google "Photoshop" and "16GB" there will be plenty of advice on whether it is worth it.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 11, 2013 10:10:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 11, 2013 10:14:57 AM PDT
Yes, for an initial setup I agree with you, but after 6 months or a year of adding software then maintaining all the software updates - not the least of which is Windows, I like the image file recovery - assuming all the while, that the system was running well and something like a disk failure necessitated the recovery.

As a former IT guy, I've done both numerous times and like neither option terribly much.

I know Premier really benefits from extra memory, but I doubt I'll be using the laptop for that. I've swapped disc drives out several times now and except for having lost one of those Torx screws (how can that happen when you never leave the workbench between disassembly and reassembly?!), I'd do it again. Heck, it gave me some good experience climbing the Windows 8 learning ladder. (still not a big fan).

I think I'll spare myself the expense until I see whether PS bogs down. The SSD made a huge difference, and I'm glad I went that route. Know anyone who can use a 1TB HDD?

Okay, so you like to restore to square one and rebuild your system from the ground floor up. What tool do you use to back up your data and system personalized settings?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2013 2:03:36 AM PDT
Just make sure the Torx screw is not lost inside the laptop - you don't want small pieces of metal bouncing around in there!

Whack the old HDD in a USB 3.0 external enclosure and save it for a rainy day.

My network setup actually makes it very easy to upgrade PCs without any special software. I have a Windows Home Server, which I use to store the bulk of my data (media files, photos, documents) and share it around the house. So that stuff all stays put on the server and my PC has relatively little data on it. I copy what data there is out of my user folders from the old computer to the new over the network. As for settings, I was upgrading from a Windows 8 system and Windows 8 associates your user account with your Microsoft account so it transfers a lot of settings over automatically. Chrome does the same with your Google account. Email used to be a pain to migrate but now I use IMAP so everything stays on the cloud and I just have to point my email software to it. The main tasks are getting Windows Update up to date and installing all my games through Steam and Origin but even that is pretty easy, just queue up the downloads and let them run overnight.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2013 9:14:23 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 13, 2013 9:20:22 AM PDT
Thanks again for the feedback Tristram,

I've had a night mare of issues with this ASUS. Their Backtracker program (backup and recovery) never completes a backup. At some point 90% of the way through it hangs up with the status at "create recovery partition". It will rebuild my system - presumably from the restore partition, but that I can't satisfy myself that the Backup feature actually works (I've let it run all night to see if it would eventually finish making a backup on flash drive - it doesn't budge), makes me a not very happy camper. I tried the Windows 7 Recovery menu to create a repair disk and disk image, but the ASUS wouldn't reboot from the repair disk. I've put the HDD back in the machine and the problems persist on that as well.

I actually had the SSD set up with a couple of crucial programs and was just getting used to a functioning laptop when I noticed that a two fingered tap did not yield a pop up menu. Neither does a one finger touch-and-hold act like a right click. I checked the ASUS Smart Gesture settings and they're okay, so are settings in the Control Panel settings for Pen and Touch. However, the Pen and Touch doesn't work there either (in the edit Settings window).

Asus suggests this is likely a hardware problem with my laptop and they want me to send it back to them. Sigh...

If you can tolerate a couple more questions:

1) Does the two finger touch on your touch pad work like a "right click" (launching pop up menus)?

2) Does one finger touch and hold do anything at all?

3) If I spring for my own copy of Windows 8 and load Windows from scratch setting up a single C: drive and no recovery partitions, will I have problems installing ASUS drivers? Do I even need ASUS drivers? (The only one I think I may need is the touch pad set, but I won't really know until I experiment).

I'd rather experiment away on the HDD now before I load up my programs, but I'm losing faith that this ASUS will deliver the goods.
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