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Asus N551JW (GTX 960M) Notebook Review

Nino Ricchizzi, Tanja Hinum (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 07/02/2015

High-quality entertainment. The latest edition of Asus' paragon multimedia laptop promises more power in all sectors. The whole thing has only one catch: The buyer has to dig deeper into their pocket.

For the original German review, see here.

It is not the first time that Asus has presented us with a laptop from its N551 series. We have already put the multimedia system through its paces two times this year, and the all-rounder highly fascinated us. The manufacturer trumps up with a high-performance NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M and a powerful Intel Core i7 CPU in our current review sample. A Full HD IPS screen, 8 GB of working memory, a 128 GB SSD storage and 1 TB of HDD storage have also found their way into the Asus N551. We use a previously tested model configured with an Intel Core i5 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M of this series for comparison. The stronger hardware increases the price by 400 Euros (~$445) to 1400 Euros (~$1556).

Since only the "inner values" of our present review sample have been modified, we refer to our existing review of the Asus N551JK for casing-related information and details about the input devices.

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Asus N551JW-CN094H (N551 Series)
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M - 4096 MB, Core: 1100 MHz, Memory: 1250 MHz, GDDR5, nvlddmkm 9.18.13.4505 (ForceWare 345.05), NVIDIA Optimus
Memory
8192 MB 
, single-channel, 1/2 memory banks filled
Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel, Samsung 156HL01-102, IPS, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel HM86 (Lynx Point)
Storage
Kingston SMSM151S3128GD, 128 GB 
, + 1 TB HDD (5400 RPM)
Soundcard
Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
3 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: combo audio, Card Reader: SD, Sensors: brightness sensor, subwoofer jack
Networking
Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000/2500/5000MBit/s), Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260 (a/b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4), Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0
Optical drive
MATSHITA BD-CMB UJ172 S
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 28 x 383 x 255 ( = 1.1 x 15.08 x 10.04 in)
Battery
56 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8.1 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 720p
Additional features
Speakers: two speakers with external subwoofer, Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, subwoofer, 24 Months Warranty
Weight
2.64 kg ( = 93.12 oz / 5.82 pounds), Power Supply: 565 g ( = 19.93 oz / 1.25 pounds)
Price
1400 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Display

As in the previous model, Asus' N551JW features a Full HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. The manufacturer has installed a matte screen from Samsung, and does not offer any screen alternatives. The screen makes a decent impression in brightness. Compared with our previously tested model, the brightness has increased by 25 cd/m² to 338 cd/m², and the contrast of 922:1 alongside the resulting black level of 0.35 cd/m² have also improved slightly. The illumination of 92% is very good, and consequently we did not determine any unpleasant screen bleeding. The maximum brightness is dimmed to 278 cd/m² in mobile use (battery mode).

333
cd/m²
343
cd/m²
328
cd/m²
355
cd/m²
341
cd/m²
326
cd/m²
354
cd/m²
329
cd/m²
329
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Samsung 156HL01-102
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 355 cd/m² Average: 337.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 92 %
Center on Battery: 278 cd/m²
Contrast: 922:1 (Black: 0.37 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 6.22 | 0.6-29.43 Ø6
ΔE Greyscale 5.24 | 0.64-98 Ø6.2
100% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 68% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.47
Asus N551JW-CN094H
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
Asus N551JK-CN166H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4200H, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
Screen
-9%
-17%
Brightness middle
341
323
-5%
220
-35%
Brightness
338
312
-8%
220
-35%
Brightness Distribution
92
83
-10%
79
-14%
Black Level *
0.37
0.38
-3%
0.36
3%
Contrast
922
850
-8%
611
-34%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
6.22
7.4
-19%
5.46
12%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
5.24
6.24
-19%
4.74
10%
Gamma
2.47 89%
2.98 74%
2.54 87%
CCT
7184 90%
8098 80%
7130 91%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
68
69
1%
38
-44%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
100

* ... smaller is better

Thanks to the matte screen, unfavorable light sources are not annoying indoors. Outdoor use is also possible, and only direct sunlight should be avoided. Furthermore, an IPS screen is installed that has quite a few advantages in terms of viewing angle stability. Colors and the brightness are not distorted when it is tilted or viewed from the sides. The laptop's generous opening angle also allows using the laptop on the lap without any problems.

The advantage of a matte screen is...
The advantage of a matte screen is...
...noticed in outdoor use
...noticed in outdoor use

We determine the DeltaE shift (sRGB) of colors and grayscale levels using our CalMAN analysis. Asus' ex-factory profile exhibits a color shift of 6.22 and grayscale shift of 5:24. These results are middling although an improvement over Asus' N551JK is evident. A visible bluish tint was no longer noticed.

However, the complete coverage of the sRGB space and the high coverage of 68% of the AdobeRGB color space thrill us extremely. The majority of the competition from the multimedia category cannot keep up with this. These rates are particularly important for use by professional graphic designers.

CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
sRGB color space coverage
sRGB color space coverage
AdobeRGB color space coverage
AdobeRGB color space coverage
Viewing angle stability
Viewing angle stability

Performance

Maintenance cover and removable battery
Maintenance cover and removable battery
LatencyMon
LatencyMon

Asus calls the N551JW a premium class entertainment system. Performance-ready components are installed to power this entertainment system. The combination of a high-performance quad-core processor and dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M also enable utilization that goes far beyond the multimedia sector. Up-to-date games should normally achieve smooth frame rates even in high graphic settings. Only the 8 GB working memory has to be criticized because it operates in single-channel mode. However, buyers who are willing to pay more can install a second 8 GB working memory module in the empty slot to enable dual-channel operation. Asus asks around 1400 Euros (~$1556) for the total package. If not much graphic power is needed, then NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 950M should suffice. This configuration costs approximately 200 Euros (~$222) less (N551JX).

Processor

Intel's Core i7-4720HQ clocks inside our review sample. The CPU comes from Intel's Haswell architecture, and has a base rate of 2.6 GHz. Clock rates of up to 3600 MHz can be reached via the Turbo mode. According to the spec sheet, the TDP is 47 Wh. Not only is the advantage over the tested precursor interesting here. Comparing the results with other laptops that are based on an identical processor is also worthwhile. Our review sample achieved 675 points in the multi-core test of Cinebench R15, twice as many points as the N551JK with its Intel Core i5-4200H. Equally, configured devices, such as MSI's GE60, accomplish the same score. Unfortunately, the Turbo speed was reduced in the course of the test. It started with 3.4 GHz and dropped to 3.1 - 3.3 GHz toward the end. The clock frequency always settled between 3000 and 3300 MHz after running Cinebench R15 in multiple loops. Consequently, the score dropped to approximately 630 points after about ten runs.

Concessions in performance also have to be accepted in battery mode. We determined a performance loss of over 40% in Cinebench R11.5.

Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Asus N551JW-CN094H
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
141 Points ∼65%
Asus N551JK-CN166H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4200H, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
130 Points ∼60% -8%
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
134 Points ∼61% -5%
Schenker XMG A505
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Micron M600 MTFDDAV256MBF M.2
142 Points ∼65% +1%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Asus N551JW-CN094H
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
675 Points ∼15%
Asus N551JK-CN166H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4200H, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
323 Points ∼7% -52%
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
677 Points ∼15% 0%
Schenker XMG A505
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Micron M600 MTFDDAV256MBF M.2
538 Points ∼12% -20%
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6674
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
20082
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
5145
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
56.02 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
6.69 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.58 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
87.26 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
675 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
141 Points
Help

System Performance

The spec sheet also indicates the high system performance of Asus' multimedia laptop. Seen purely subjectively, our review sample was always highly responsive and did not show any weaknesses, even when running multiple applications simultaneously. PCMark 7 provides concrete figures. The score is close to the 5000-point mark, which is far in ahead of both Asus' N551JK and our tested MSI GE60.

PCMark 7 - Score (sort by value)
Asus N551JW-CN094H
4939 Points ∼54%
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
3437 Points ∼38% -30%
Asus N551JK-CN166H
4131 Points ∼45% -16%
Schenker XMG A505
6042 Points ∼66% +22%

Legend

 
Asus N551JW-CN094H Intel Core i7-4720HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
 
MSI GE60-2QEWi781 Intel Core i7-4720HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
 
Asus N551JK-CN166H Intel Core i5-4200H, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
Schenker XMG A505 Intel Core i7-4720HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Micron M600 MTFDDAV256MBF M.2
PCMark 7 Score
4939 points
Help

Storage Devices

To resolve the compromise between fast and high-capacity storage, the manufacturer has installed two hard drives and separated them into three partitions. The SSD hard drive has been designated as the main partition with a capacity of 128 GB. Since it contains the operating system and all the major programs, it ensures fast workflow. A 1 TB HDD is divided into two partitions with sufficient storage capacity. By comparison: The Asus N551JK of our previous test was equipped with an SSHD hard drive. It is particularly important to note that the 4k rates have improved significantly in our current model. The installed SSD manages only a slight advantage in the sequential write rates over our old configuration.

Asus N551JW-CN094H
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
Asus N551JK-CN166H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4200H, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
CrystalDiskMark 3.0
-68%
-74%
Write 4k
53.84
0.993
-98%
0.768
-99%
Read 4k
31.26
0.52
-98%
0.326
-99%
Write Seq
124.9
124.7
0%
102.3
-18%
Read Seq
485.8
128.4
-74%
102.3
-79%
Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
Sequential Read: 485.8 MB/s
Sequential Write: 124.9 MB/s
512K Read: 282.2 MB/s
512K Write: 104.9 MB/s
4K Read: 31.26 MB/s
4K Write: 53.84 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 132.3 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 71.54 MB/s

Graphics Card

The manufacturer has installed the model of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 960M with the highest possible memory configuration of 4 GB. Other laptops, such as Schenker's XMG A505, often only have a 2 GB video memory. In terms of performance, NVIDIA's GTX 960M supposedly has an edge of approximately 10% over the former NVIDIA's GTX 860M. We use the program 3DMark 11 to determine the performance of the installed graphics unit. With over 5300 points, the review sample accomplishes 1000 points more than our previously tested model, which was configured with a weaker NVIDIA GTX 850M. However, it achieves 300 points less than an equally configured Schenker XMG A505.

 

Performance losses will have to be expected in battery mode (mobile use). According to 3DMark 11, only 2126 points are then achieved.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Asus N551JW-CN094H
5324 Points ∼15%
Asus N551JK-CN166H
4255 Points ∼12% -20%
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
5299 Points ∼15% 0%
Schenker XMG A505
5639 Points ∼16% +6%

Legend

 
Asus N551JW-CN094H Intel Core i7-4720HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
 
Asus N551JK-CN166H Intel Core i5-4200H, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
MSI GE60-2QEWi781 Intel Core i7-4720HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
 
Schenker XMG A505 Intel Core i7-4720HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, Micron M600 MTFDDAV256MBF M.2
3DMark 11 Performance
5324 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
59696 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
15422 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
3985 points
Help

Gaming Performance

We want to find out whether we should expect more power and by how much with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 960M based on a gaming benchmark. We opted for the same game that we used in the test of Asus' N551JK: "Thief" from 2014. The stronger graphics unit just allows smooth reproduction in maximum settings. The weaker precursor model of our Asus N551JW achieved almost 30% less frames per second.

Thief
1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:FXAA & High SS AF:8x (sort by value)
Asus N551JW-CN094H
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
25.7 fps ∼18%
Asus N551JK-CN166H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4200H, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
18.2 fps ∼13% -29%
Schenker M505
GeForce GTX 950M, 4210M, Samsung SSD 850 EVO mSATA 250GB
19.3 fps ∼14% -25%
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
25.2 fps ∼18% -2%
Schenker XMG A505
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Micron M600 MTFDDAV256MBF M.2
28 fps ∼20% +9%
1366x768 High Preset AA:FXAA & Low SS AF:4x (sort by value)
Asus N551JW-CN094H
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
43.3 fps ∼30%
Asus N551JK-CN166H
GeForce GTX 850M, 4200H, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
32.8 fps ∼23% -24%
Schenker M505
GeForce GTX 950M, 4210M, Samsung SSD 850 EVO mSATA 250GB
40.4 fps ∼28% -7%
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
41.8 fps ∼29% -3%
Schenker XMG A505
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Micron M600 MTFDDAV256MBF M.2
55.2 fps ∼38% +27%
low med. high ultra
Thief (2014) 48.745.643.325.7fps

Emissions

System Noise

As we found out in the course of our test, the 15.6-inch multimedia device has plenty of power. We will now dedicate ourselves to the noise development of the fans and HDD. Our review sample was exemplary in idle mode, and it did not produce any distracting noises above 41.2 dB(A) in load. We recorded a maximum noise of 44.7 dB(A) in the stress test. The only point of criticism is the occasional high-pitched hum of our review sample, which is only really audible in very quiet surroundings.

Noise Level

Idle
31.6 / 31.6 / 31.6 dB(A)
DVD
35.7 / dB(A)
Load
41.2 / 44.7 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test
Stress test

Asus' N551JW cannot be called exceptionally slim. The larger volume ensures a noticeably better heat dissipation than in slimmer laptops from the competition. Even during sustained load utilization the surface temperatures did not exceed 40 °C (~104 °F). For example, Acer's Aspire V 15 Nitro gets disconcertingly warm with a hot spot of nearly 50 °C (~122 °F). We have to note that the power supply reaches temperatures of up to 53.8 °C (~129 °F) during load. Thus, the user should make sure that it is never hidden under covers or pillows.

We used the programs Prime95 and FurMark to find out how the review sample behaved in stress situations. The CPU's clock frequency dropped to just 800 MHz during initiation. One to two cores still calculated with 3400 MHz. Only after some time did the multimedia device from Asus recover, and the clock rate was close  to the average base rate. We restarted 3DMark 11 after finishing both programs. Fortunately, it scored 5285 points, which is equivalent to after a cold start.

Max. Load
 31.7 °C
89 F
33.7 °C
93 F
30.5 °C
87 F
 
 36.6 °C
98 F
38.3 °C
101 F
30.6 °C
87 F
 
 28.8 °C
84 F
35.1 °C
95 F
29.1 °C
84 F
 
Maximum: 38.3 °C = 101 F
Average: 32.7 °C = 91 F
25.7 °C
78 F
36 °C
97 F
36.5 °C
98 F
26 °C
79 F
38.7 °C
102 F
39.1 °C
102 F
26.5 °C
80 F
29.3 °C
85 F
25.9 °C
79 F
Maximum: 39.1 °C = 102 F
Average: 31.5 °C = 89 F
Power Supply (max.)  53.8 °C = 129 F | Room Temperature 21.7 °C = 71 F | Voltcraft IR-360
(±) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 32.7 °C / 91 F, compared to the average of 30.9 °C / 88 F for the devices in the class Multimedia.
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 38.3 °C / 101 F, compared to the average of 36.5 °C / 98 F, ranging from 21.1 to 71 °C for the class Multimedia.
(+) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 39.1 °C / 102 F, compared to the average of 38.8 °C / 102 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 24.1 °C / 75 F, compared to the device average of 30.9 °C / 88 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are reaching skin temperature as a maximum (35.1 °C / 95.2 F) and are therefore not hot.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 29.1 °C / 84.4 F (-6 °C / -10.8 F).

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Despite the power guzzling components, Asus' N551JW consumes less in idle than its precursor. However, the high-performance hardware should be noticed during load, shouldn't it? - Not at all. With a maximum power consumption of 96 watts, it consumes approximately 4 watts less than Asus' N551JK. However, caution is recommended in view of the observed throttling in the stress test.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.2 / 0.2 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 7.4 / 11.9 / 13.8 Watt
Load midlight 95.9 / 93.7 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

As in the former model, Asus installs a 6-cell battery with a capacity of 56 Wh. It will be interesting to find out whether the runtime is now longer since the discussed power consumption is lower compared with the older model. We simulate Internet browsing at a brightness of 150 cd/m² in a real-life scenario. The device shut down after only 4 hours and 6 minutes, which is exactly one hour more than its precursor.

Battery Runtime - WiFi Websurfing 1.3 (sort by value)
Asus N551JW-CN094H
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, Kingston SMSM151S3128GD
246 min ∼9%
MSI GE60-2QEWi781
GeForce GTX 960M, 4720HQ, HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
222 min ∼8% -10%
Battery Runtime
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3
4h 06min

Pros

+ System performance
+ Build
+ Noise under load
+ Maintenance covers
+ Subwoofer included

Cons

- Somewhat spongy trackpad
- Somewhat bulky

Verdict

In Review: Asus N551JW. Test model courtesy of Notebooksbilliger.de
In Review: Asus N551JW. Test model courtesy of Notebooksbilliger.de

Asus is true to its principles and presents us with a successful and elegant multimedia laptop. As usual, the workmanship is satisfactory. The device could only be slightly slimmer for our taste. The input devices are even suitable for prolonged office work but the trackpad makes a spongy impression. By comparison: We did not observe this drawback in our former test of the differently configured Asus. With a price tag of 1400 Euros (~$1556), it costs far more than the 1000 Euros (~$1111) of the former model. However, we receive more power in all sectors - starting with the Intel Core i7 processor that proved noticeably faster. The manufacturer has also upgraded the graphics performance, and even enthusiastic gamers will be happy with this multimedia device. Last but not least, a fast SSD storage device is installed that was not present before. The higher performance does not lead to mobility restrictions in terms of battery life. Instead, one hour more is possible with 4 hours in real-world use.

Overall, Asus' N551JW is a recommendable and powerful multimedia laptop.

However, taking a look at the competitors from Acer or other cheaper configurations of the N551 could be considered if the price is too high.

Asus N551JW-CN094H - 02/24/2016 v5(old)
Nino Ricchizzi

Chassis
82 / 98 → 84%
Keyboard
83%
Pointing Device
83%
Connectivity
49 / 81 → 60%
Weight
59 / 20-67 → 83%
Battery
76%
Display
86%
Games Performance
82 / 85 → 96%
Application Performance
81 / 92 → 88%
Temperature
93%
Noise
82 / 95 → 86%
Audio
80%
Camera
45 / 85 → 53%
Average
75%
83%
Multimedia - Weighted Average

Pricecompare

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Asus N551JW (GTX 960M) Notebook Review
Nino Ricchizzi, 2015-07- 2 (Update: 2018-05-15)