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Review Asus N55SL-S1016V Notebook

Konrad Schneid (translated by Liala Stiegitz), 05/19/2012

Bass & Full HD. A new processor and graphics chip, EUR 200 cheaper, but otherwise unchanged. This best describes the newest model of Asus' N55S range. A matte screen with a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and an included subwoofer are to make multimedia fans' hearts beat faster.

We tested the Asus N55SF-S1124V 15.6" multimedia notebook in November last year. Now, Asus has an updated version in its range called N55SL-S1016V. The new SL shares a lot with its predecessor: the same case, a 1080p matte screen, and a subwoofer. However, the refresh sports Intel's dual core i5-2450M instead of a quad core i7-2630QM. The graphics card has also been changed. While the Asus N55SF-S1124V still featured an Nvidia GeForce GT 555M, the GeForce GT 635M is the card of choice for the SL.

The SL comes with a 500 GB hard drive and 8 GB of memory. Another major difference compared with the SF is the price. Whereas Asus price-tagged the Asus N55SF-S1124V at EUR 1100 ($1400), the SL is only EUR 900 ($1145). That is reason enough to take a closer look.

Case

The SL's case is the same as the SF's and weighs about 2.7 kg. The display lid is certainly an eye-catcher. The high-gloss lid is painted in black piano lacquer, which has its drawbacks: namely, it's a fingerprint magnet. The material is also very scratch-sensitive. If you want to maintain a like-new appearance, you will have to be careful.

The most obvious feature upon opening the SL is the large silver speaker bar. Also notable is the wobbly screen - the hinges could definitely have been a bit tighter.

The sunken wrist rest is rubber-coated and fairly comfortable, and the case is solid. We noticed a little flex only around the optical drive.

Connectivity

The SL sports two USB 3.0 ports, but omits FireWire, eSATA and ExpressCard. The subwoofer is a small highlight. The ports are distributed on the notebook's left and right sides. Only the 4in1 card reader (MMC/ SD/ MS/ MS Pro) is on the front.

Left: Kensington lock, power socket, VGA, LAN, HDMI, 2x USB 3.0
Left: Kensington lock, power socket, VGA, LAN, HDMI, 2x USB 3.0
Right: Line-in, line-out, 2x USB 2.0, DVD drive, subwoofer port
Right: Line-in, line-out, 2x USB 2.0, DVD drive, subwoofer port

Communication

The SL packs an Atheros AR8151 PCIe Gb ethernet controller (10/100/1000MBit) and an Atheros AR9285 (bgn) wifi module. Bluetooth is included, but UMTS is not.

Scope of Delivery

The scope of delivery is bigger than usual. In addition to the laptop, the battery and the power adapter, you will also find the aforementioned subwoofer. Asus also includes a matching subwoofer bag and cable ties.

Warranty

Asus offers a two year warranty on its N55SL-S1016V. It includes a pick-up & return service in Germany and Austria.

Input Devices

Keyboard and Touchpad
Keyboard and Touchpad

Keyboard

Asus still uses the wave keyboard. The keyboard's layout takes some getting used to and may need a lot of patience especially in the beginning. Instead of placing the escape key in the upper left corner, Asus integrates a key for switching between performance profiles here. This leads to frustrating keyboard errors where trying to bring up an in-game menu (usually with the Esc key) instead switches to a low performance profile and causes intense stuttering.

The dedicated number pad is a welcome inclusion, with good travel and obvious pressure points.

It is possible to work efficiently with the wave keyboard, but expect your first month to be a bit aggravating.

Touchpad

The adequately sized touchpad has a pleasant, rubber-coated surface and merges seamlessly into the SL's design. It is integrated so seamlessly that you can quickly slide off the touch-sensitive surface since there is no clear edge. Of course, multi-touch support is included.

Display

Asus uses an AR-coated Samsung screen for the SL. The screen model 156HT01-201 manages a remarkable maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels with an aspect ratio of 16:9. External monitors can be connected via the VGA and HDMI ports.

The LED backlight does a good job in the Full HD screen. We measured a brightness of up to 287 cd/m2 with a Gossen Mavo Monitor. The SF had a slightly higher 313 cd/m2. The SL's average brightness is 273.6 cd/m2 on either AC or battery power.

258
cd/m²
280
cd/m²
254
cd/m²
287
cd/m²
287
cd/m²
261
cd/m²
286
cd/m²
274
cd/m²
275
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 287 cd/m²
Average: 273.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 89 %
Center on Battery: 287 cd/m²
Black: 0.7 cd/m²
Contrast: 410:1

We also measured black levels with Gossen Mavo Monitor. According to our measurements, it is 0.84 cd/m2, which results in an acceptable contrast of 410:1. Moreover, we tested the Samsung screen's reproducible color spectrum which is particularly important for graphic designers and photo editors. The SL can reproduce most of the sRGB color gamut. It doesn't do as well in AdobeRGB, but this shouldn't be a problem for most users.

The screen's AR coating pays off outdoors. Alongside the high brightness, it enables outdoor use without problems. Graphics and text look clean even in broad daylight.

Outdoor use is possible without problems
Outdoor use is possible without problems
N55SL vs. sRGB
N55SL vs. sRGB
B55SL vs. AdobeRGB
B55SL vs. AdobeRGB

The SL's display is bright enough, at >200cd/m², for outdoors use. The matte display keeps reflections to manageable level even in daylight, and colors and contrast aren't bad either.

See pictures for details of the laptop's outdoor performance.

Viewing angles: Asus N55SL-S1016V
Viewing angles: Asus N55SL-S1016V

Our test device's Full HD screen stands out a bit from the mainstream in viewing angle stability. The good news is that you have to be substantially off the perfect viewing angle to experience distortion; the bad news is that it distorts quickly when you hit that point. We took pictures of the notebook from different perspectives with the same shutter speed and the same aperture to show the distortion effects.

Performance

Asus has downgraded the SL from the SF's i7 quad-core to an i5-2450M, with a commensurate price drop. It's still based on the Sandy Bridge architecture and has a base clock of 2500 MHz. Providing it is sufficiently cooled, it'll Turbo Boost as high as 3100 MHz for a short period. It sports a 35W TDP and supports Hyperthreading, which allows each core to execute two threads simultaneously.

The DirectX 10 capable Intel HD Graphics 3000 is integrated onto the CPU die and shares the CPU's 3 MB L3 cache. The SL packs a dedicated GeForce GT 635M for graphics-intensive operations. Technically, it is a rebadged Nvidia GeForce GT 555M, as used in the old SF. It supports DirectX 11 and Shader Model 5.0. It clocks at 675 MHz and comes with 2 GB DDR3 memory. With Nvidia's Optimus technology, the system will automatically engage the 635M when required and disengage it at other times to save power.

The system has 8 GB of DDR3-1333 RAM in a 2 x 4 GB configuration (both slots filled). The hard drive is a 500 GB Seagate Momentus, unfortunately running at a sluggish 5400 rpm.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info GPUZ
System info HDTune
DPC Latency
System information: Asus N55SL-S1016V

Processor

We checked the dual core processor's performance using the benchmarking software Cinebench R10 and Cinebench R11.5. The 2450M scored 4764 points in the Cinebench R10 (64bit) single core rendering test. Here, both cores ran stably at 2893 MHz thanks to Turbo Boost. Medion's Akoya P6633 multimedia notebook managed 4922 points in the same test using the same processor. Turbo Boost seems to work a bit better in that machine likely due to cooling differences, but the performance difference is only 3 percent. Asus' N55SF-S1124V achieved 4609 points in this test with a quad core processor.

With 2.8 to 2.7 points, the Medion notebook has a lead on our test device in the newer Cinebench R11 (64bit). The Asus laptop could only surpass Sony's Vaio VPC-SB4X9EB (2.6 points) based on the same processor. The four processor cores in  Asus' N55SF-S1124V pay off in this test. The SF has a clear lead on our test device with 4.77 points.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
4764 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
9868 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
5863 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
3837
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
8273
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
5804
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
32.82 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.71 Points
Help

System Performance

We analyzed system performance using the benchmark tools PCMark Vantage and the newer PCMark 7 from Futuremark. In PCMark Vantage the Asus notebook reached 5786 points, a bit behind our other machines. Acer's TravelMate 5760G-2454G50Mnsk, with the same CPU and Nvidia's GeForce GT 630M graphics card, managed 6201 points in this test. Medion's Akoya P6633 even managed 6836 points. The old N55SF-S1124V is on about the same level as Medion's multimedia notebook (6879 points).

Results are somewhat different with PCMark 7. This time, our test device has a lead on the Acer TravelMate 5760G-2454G50Mnsk with 1915 to 1652 points. Medion's multimedia laptop again beats our test device with 2023 points though. Also, Asus' N55SF-S1124V is clearly superior with 2319 points - but keep in mind that it's also 25% more expensive.

5.8
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.1
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.5
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
5.8
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.9
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage5786 points
PCMark 71915 points
Help

Storage

Compared with the N55SF-S1124V, Asus reduced the hard disk capacity from 750 GB to 500 GB in our test model. But that's not all: The SL only spins at 5400 rpm, while the SF had a 7200 rpm drive. Seagate's Momentus 5400.6 ST9500325AS is the drive of choice now.

As usual, we tested the SL's HDD using HDTune. The Seagate hard disk managed an average transfer rate of 56.5 MB/s - compare to the SF's 83.6 MB/s score. An SSD would be significantly faster, but also more expensive and with reduced capacity.

An example for this would be Schenker's XMG A501 with the Crucial RealSSD C300 SSD. Although it only has a capacity of 256 GB, its transfer speed is 210 MB/s. SSDs also have much lower latency. While HDTune recorded an access time of 19.2 ms in our test device, we measured only 0.20 ms in Schenker's XMG A501.

Seagate Momentus 5400.6 ST9500325AS
Transfer Rate Minimum: 4.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 81 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 56.5 MB/s
Access Time: 19.2 ms
Burst Rate: 81 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

Graphics Card

We examined the SL's Nvidia GeForce GT 635M with the well-known 3DMark family. It achieved a total of 10818 points in our system with 3DMark 06 vs. the SF's 11436 points and the Acer's Aspire Ethos 5951G-2631675Wnkk's 11525 points with Intel's Core i7-2630QM and Nvidia's GeForce GT 555M. The reason for this is that 3DMark 06 emphasizes CPU performance. Our SL surpassed Acer's TravelMate 5760G-2454G50Mnsk with the same CPU and Nvidia's GeForce GT 630M graphics card with only 8695 points.

The latest benchmarking software from the range (3DMark 11) requires DirectX 11, which the GT 635M supports. This benchmark rewarded Asus' N55SL-S1016V with a total of 1521 points. Compared with Asus' N55SF-S1124V at 1410 points, the refresh has a slight advantage. Acer's Aspire 5560G-8358G50Mnkk multimedia laptop managed 1646 points with AMD's Radeon HD 6740G2. We also performed a test based on some actual games.

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
10818 points
3DMark Vantage5990 points
3DMark 111521 points
Help

Gaming Performance

The N55SL-S1016V got the chance to show its stuff in three different games. We opted for Mafia 2, Dirt 3 and F1 2011, which are all fairly new.

The SL had no trouble with Mafia 2. It managed a remarkable 34.6 fps at 1920 x 1080 and max details - 7 fps higher than its predecessor.

We experienced a bit more of a struggle with Dirt 3. It ran fine up to 768p with a solid 60.15 fps at medium detail settings. The SL thus surpasses the old SF by around 10 fps. Acer's Aspire M3-581TG was only marginally better with its GeForce GT 640M (63 fps).

In our last test, the SL was faced with the race simulation F1 2011, where it achieved similar results to Dirt 3. The system easily coped with a 768p resolution at 51 fps, but ground to a halt at 1080p with an unplayable 18 fps.

Overall, most up-to-date games should be fine up to 768p. However, the graphics card is not strong enough to render most up-to-date games in the native Full HD resolution.

low med.high ultra
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (2010) 80533623fps
Mafia 2 (2010) 76.361.753.934.6fps
Dirt 3 (2011) 146.583.760.1518.28fps
Deus Ex Human Revolution (2011) 4623fps
F1 2011 (2011) 101685118fps
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 62443117fps

Emissions

System Noise

The SL proves to be a quiet companion in an office setting. The notebook is barely audible at 33.1 dB (A). The fans are equally unobtrusive during DVD playback (34.8 dB (A)).

We pushed the notebook to its performance limits for several hours in a stress test - unrealistic, but a good way to determine the worst-case scenario. The SF proved to be a bit loud at 42.9 dB (A), but the SF only emits a maximum of 37.7 dB (A). Here, improvements have clearly been made.

Noise Level

Idle 31.6 / 32 / 33.1 dB(A)
HDD 31.9 dB(A)
DVD 34.8 / dB(A)
Load 36.3 / 37.7 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)
Stress test using Furmark and Prime95
Stress test using Furmark and Prime95

Temperature

Will the low noise emissions hurt system temps? Not while idling, at least. We measured a maximum of 27.1° C (81° F) on the 15.6 incher's top. But what does it look like during load? The top reaches a maximum of 37° C (98.6° F). On the bottom we record a peak temp of 41.1° C (106° F). The SF was a bit warmer with up to 43.3°C. The bottom stays fairly cool with an average of 30.9°C, so using the Asus N55SL-S1016V on your lap should not be a problem.

We also looked at the system's performance in load situations during the stress test. We unfortunately noticed that the SL throttles when GPU and CPU are loaded simultaneously. The CPU clock fluctuates between 798 MHz and 2893 MHz (Turbo Boost). However, we achieved solid high frequencies during Cinebench R11 and 3DMark 06 tests. Therefore, you will not have to deal with throttling during most normal use.

Max. Load
 28.1 °C27 °C26 °C 
 34.6 °C37 °C27.1 °C 
 32.3 °C32.8 °C30.1 °C 
Maximum: 37 °C
Average: 30.6 °C
22.9 °C32.2 °C41.1 °C
32.2 °C32.7 °C39.6 °C
23.1 °C26.6 °C27.8 °C
Maximum: 41.1 °C
Average: 30.9 °C
Power Supply (max.)  55.7 °C | Room Temperature 18.7 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

A good multimedia notebook needs quality audio as much as it needs a quality screen. Asus meets this requirement with a large speaker bar: the Bang & Olufsen ICEpower. The highlight is the included external subwoofer that can be connected to a dedicated audio jack. The sound is impressive. Trebles are very clear and the bass is downright impressive for a laptop. The sub is only 250 grams, but it does cut down your mobility.

External speakers can be connected via the 3.5 mm jack as well as the HDMI port., not that it's horribly necessary with the ICEpower built in. Another feature is the Asus Music Now utility. It boots within seconds and is mainly a music player but Internet surfing is also possible via a clean and functional user interface.

Battery Life

Power Consumption

The power consumption is an important factor in determining battery life. We measured rates between 12.5 watts and 18.6 watts during low load - about 5 watts lower than the SF. The SL consumes up to 92.4 watts under load, compared to about 122 watts for the SF. The included adapter's capacity is just sufficient at 90 watts.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.5 / 0.7 Watt
Idle 12.5 / 18 / 18.6 Watt
Load 91.4 / 92.4 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940
Classic Test
Minimum battery runtime (Classic Test)

Battery Runtime

After the power consumption assessments we can guesstimate the battery life. We ran several tests to illustrate battery life in different scenarios. Asus uses a 6 cell battery with a capacity of 56 watts.

We started it off on BatteryEater's Reader's test. We enabled energy saving mode and disabled both wifi and Bluetooth. Furthermore, we set the screen brightness to minimum. The battery lasted for exactly 5 hours in this test.

We enabled wifi and set the brightness to 150 cd/m2 in a more realistic test that simulates Internet surfing and recorded a run time of 259 minutes.

Finally, we used BatteryEater's Classic test to show a worst-case scenario. Here, we enabled high performance mode as well as all communication modules, and set brightness to maximum. The SL lasted only 74 minutes under these punishing conditions. Despite its higher power consumption, the SF lasted for 90 minutes in this scenario.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 00min
WiFi Surfing
4h 19min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 14min

Verdict

Asus' N55SL-S1016V impressed us as a solid multimedia notebook despite a few minor drawbacks. Intel's Core i5-2450M dual core processor and the GeForce GT 635M supply plenty of performance, and the matte 1080p screen is a welcome addition normally only found on 17" desktop replacements. It can even be used outdoors due to the AR coating and good brightness and contrast. The Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers and the subwoofer complete our media requirements with very respectable sound.

Asus did skimp a bit much on the hard drive - dropping from 750 GB down to 500 is unfortunate, and cutting the speed to 5400 rpm is just adding insult to injury. The input devices - especially the wave keyboard - also need a bit of getting used to.

All in all, the SL is a solid machine that earns its EUR 900 ($1150) price tag. If you're looking for a multimedia machine under EUR 1000, this one should be on your short list.

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In Review:  Asus N55SL-S1016V

Specifications

Asus N55SL-S1016V

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM65
:: Memory
8192 MB, DDR3-1333 SO-DIMM, 16 GB over 2 banks max., 0 empty
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, Samsung 156HT01-201, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 ST9500325AS, 500 GB 5400 rpm
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC663
:: Connections
2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Card Reader: 4in1 (MMC/ SD/ MS/ MS Pro),
:: Networking
Atheros AR8151 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros AR9285 Wireless Network Adapter (b g n )
:: Optical drive
HL-DT-ST DVDRAM GT34N
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 37 x 379 x 261
:: Weight
2.7 kg
:: Battery
56 Wh Lithium-Ion
:: Price
899 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
:: Additional features
24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Asus' N55SL-S1016V has an AR-coated Full HD screen.
Asus' N55SL-S1016V has an AR-coated Full HD screen.
The multimedia notebook features two USB 3.0 ports right away.
The multimedia notebook features two USB 3.0 ports right away.
The 90 watt power adapter is not quite sufficient.
The 90 watt power adapter is not quite sufficient.
The subwoofer weighs approx. 250 grams.
The subwoofer weighs approx. 250 grams.
The battery capacity is 56 Wh.
The battery capacity is 56 Wh.
The keyboard layout needs getting used to in the beginning.
The keyboard layout needs getting used to in the beginning.
The touchpad merges (too) seamlessly into the design.
The touchpad merges (too) seamlessly into the design.
It is unfortunately susceptible for fingerprints and scratches.
It is unfortunately susceptible for fingerprints and scratches.
The high-gloss lid is painted in piano lacquer.
The high-gloss lid is painted in piano lacquer.
The weight of 2.7 kg is not unusual for a 15.6 incher.
The weight of 2.7 kg is not unusual for a 15.6 incher.
Outdoor use is possible without problems.
Outdoor use is possible without problems.
Impressive: The speaker's large bar and the subwoofer port.
Impressive: The speaker's large bar and the subwoofer port.

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Links

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Compare Prices

Pro

+Matte screen
+Full HD resolution
+Good sound
+2 USB 3.0 ports
+Music Now
 

Cons

-Unusual keyboard
-Slight throttling
-Sensitive display lid

Shortcut

What we like

The good Full HD screen and the good sound will excite multimedia fans.

What we'd like to see

The connectivity could be a bit more diverse.

What surprises us

Why the escape key isn't where it belongs.

The competition

Apple MacBook Pro 15, Samsung RF511-S05DE, HP Envy 14-2090eo, HP Envy 15-3040nr, Dell XPS 15z, Fujitsu Lifebook NH751, Gigabyte P2532N, Packard Bell EasyNote NX69-HR-127GE

Rating

Asus N55SL-S1016V
05/02/2012 v2
Konrad Schneid

Chassis
82%
Keyboard
74%
Pointing Device
84%
Connectivity
72%
Weight
78%
Battery
82%
Display
83%
Games Performance
89%
Application Performance
89%
Temperature
88%
Noise
89%
Add Points
89%
Average
83%
84%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Asus N55SL-S1016V Notebook
Author: Konrad Schneid, 2012-05-19 (Update: 2013-06- 6)