Great performance and gaming meet sleek design and a weak keyboard in the Asus N53SV 15in laptop.

Asus's good-looking N53 series laptops have proven to be some of the faster all-purpose notebooks on the market. The latest Asus N53SV model is as well, only more so thanks to its new state of the art Second Generation Intel Core CPU. Our test configuration, which sells for abound £817 inc VAT, sports the high-end 2GHz Core Intel i7-2630M that pushed the unit to an excellent 126 WorldBench score. However, you can save some money at the expense of performance by ordering it with an i5-2410M or i3-2310M.

All configurations of the Asus N53SV ship with an Nvidia GT-540M GPU, which makes for good gaming. A game like Unreal Tournament 3 tops 100 frames per second in all the resolutions supported by the 15.6-inch, 1366 by 769 display. With more strenuous games, of course, you can expect lower frame rates. The other, less glamorous main components include 4GB of DDR3-1066 memory, a 750GB 7200 RPM hard drive (less capacious and slower 5400 RPM drives are available in some models), and an 8X DVD burner.

The slate-gray Asus N53SVis on the large side for an all-purpose laptop, bordering on the desktop replacement category. However, besides accommodating the large screen, it also allows for a spacious keyboard deck. The keyboard and touchpad are indeed roomy, and have a nice if somewhat soft feel.

Sadly, the Asus N53SV's keyboard pesters you with odd layout choices. The placement of the cursor keys shortens the length of the right shift key, and several oft-used editing keys such as Delete are stuck in non-standard locations. There's also no separation between the main alphabetical keys, said cursor keys, and numeric the keypad. This causes visual and tactile confusion at times. The left button was defective on our unit and occasionally required a good whack before it would respond.

One other minor issue is that the built-in Atheros AR9285 Wi-Fi adaptor is single-band, 2.4GHz-only. You won't be able to connect to the 5 GHz networks that are rapidly gaining popularity. On the other hand, the unit has Bluetooth, gigabit Ethernet, and one of the three USB ports is the sublimely fast new USB 3.0. Other ports on the Asus N53SV include a headphone jack, microphone input, and a SD/MMC/MS/xD card reader.

Asus touts the Bang & Olufsen audio on the Asus N53SV and as far as it goes, it sounds good - loud, spacious (with software aid), clear, and punchy. But "as far as it goes" is only down to the lower mid-range. No matter what audio company's logo is on a notebook - it needs a largish speaker and some air to provide bass response. As you'd expect with as much processing horsepower as the N35SV has onboard, video played super smoothly.

Asus bundles some nice software to take care of the peripherals: CyberLink's PowerDVD for playing DVD movies, Power2Go for other burning chores, PowerDirector for making movies, and MediaEspresso for converting videos and music between various device formats. You may also boot the N53SV to the Asus Express Gate Cloud - a Linux-based interface that provides quick access to photos, a calendar, the Internet, etc. However, the N53SV boots to Windows 7 so quickly, you might find yourself not bothering.

NEXT PAGE: our expert verdict >>

See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?

Asus N53SV: Specs

  • 2GHz Core Intel i7-2630M
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • Nvidia GT-540M GPU
  • 15.6-inch, 1366 by 769 display
  • 750GB 7200RPM hard drive
  • 8X DVD burner
  • 2GHz Core Intel i7-2630M
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • Nvidia GT-540M GPU
  • 15.6-inch, 1366 by 769 display
  • 750GB 7200RPM hard drive
  • 8X DVD burner

OUR VERDICT

The Asus N53SV has some excellent features. The price performance ratio is nice, and it's never been whacked with an ugly stick. If the minor keyboard issues don't bother you, it's worth a look.

Find the best price