ASUS N61Jv-X2: An Excellent All-Around Notebook

It's clear that ASUS did their homework in putting together a competitive midrange notebook. The $900 price point was probably set by Amazon from the start, and ASUS has done everything they can to provide a quality mobile solution while stretching the available budget as far as possible. There are laptops that are smaller with better battery life, but they're also slower. Other laptops provide similar performance and better battery life, but they cost more. The one thing that nearly every other option is currently missing is NVIDIA's Optimus Technology, and that gives the ASUS and the N61Jv a clear leg up over the competition. It looks like Optimus is able to improve battery life by around 20% compared to similar performance notebooks that lack the technology (and lack switchable graphics in general), which is a far bigger jump than we've seen from other platform updates in the past.


In terms of competition, the N61Jv runs into a variety of offerings from all the major brands. There's the Dell Inspiron 15, for example, and we've also got the Acer Aspire 5740G. We can state unequivocally that the N51Jv-X2 bests the Inspiron 15 in every important metric. With the same i5-430M CPU, the Dell 1564 costs $799 (with a current $95 instant rebate). $100 less gets you about half the graphics performance, no USB 3.0, and a 5400RPM hard drive; you also lose Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n, instead getting 100Mbit and 802.11g. We like the appearance and build quality of the N61Jv more than the Inspiron 15 as well, making such a match a no brainer.

The more difficult match is the Acer Aspire 5740. If you don't care about graphics/gaming, you can pick up the 5740 with Blu-ray for $685. In that case, you get a 320GB 5400RPM drive and an i3-330M CPU, but the overall package is quite good. For the performance oriented crowd, the Aspire 5740G skips Blu-ray but adds an HD 5650 GPU for a total cost of $750. We can confirm that the HD 5650 is faster than the GT325M in the N61J, but the 5740G also ends up getting about 25% less battery life. The HDD is also a 5400RPM model and it doesn't include USB 3.0 or an ExpressCard slot, and the ASUS warranty is better as well. Build quality seems quite good, and we do like the keyboard layout a bit more on the 5740G, but the N61Jv looks better in our opinion and we like the "rubberized paint" coating on the palm rest. All told, the 5740G definitely offers some stiff competition and the DX11 support may be enough to sway some buyers.

Ultimately, while there is plenty of competition, ASUS has done a lot to stand out from the crowd. Features like USB 3.0 support and Optimus make our "must have" list for any new laptop purchase. We can't point to any single area on the N61Jv and say, "wow… they messed up there!" The worst aspect is the mediocre LCD panel, but when everyone uses lousy LCD panels (at least in sub-$1000 laptops and notebooks), we can only complain so much. The LCD panel and somewhat small battery capacity prevent us from giving the N61Jv our top Gold award, and we'd like the same matte black coating on the cover and LCD bezel and not just the palm rest. Those are minor complaints at best, however, and we are presenting the N61Jv with our Silver Editors' Choice award for providing a superbly balanced package.

Like the recently ended Olympics, the difference between Gold and Silver often comes down to splitting hairs; unlike in the Olympics, though, we can have multiple winners and we don't actually have a competing laptop that we'd currently rate as the Gold standard. By that token, the N61Jv is the best midrange ($800 to $1000) notebook currently available. It's possible to match or surpass it with competing products, but not without sacrificing in other areas. What we want to see now are laptops that can match ASUS in all the good areas, and then add some other extras to sweeten the deal.

ASUS N61Jv-X2 LCD Quality
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  • cknobman - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    Why did you not do any battery life comparisons of optimus enabled vs disabled for this laptop? It would have been really nice to see that so we can see the actual direct benefit of optimus on this laptop instead of having to compare it to another laptop from a different vendor using different specs. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    Optimus is always enabled, but the GPU is shut off unless needed. The only way to test battery life with the GPU enabled would be to run a test that uses the GPU. That means games, CUDA apps, or certain video decoding scenarios. The problem is that the video decoding is now all done on the IGP without any glitches, so the GPU isn't needed. Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    so it runs twice as fast around 60fps at ultra low and low resolutions on a low screen resolution..., yuk. Yes it is better than intel graphics and will play WoW like games fine but this is no gaming machine. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    Which is why I include results from the same games at Medium and High detail, and as you can see it runs most titles at such settings with more than reasonable frame rates. Obviously it's not faster than GTX 260M, but 260M is able to run most titles at high details and 0xAA at a resolution of 1080p; for a 1366x768 panel there's no need to get much more powerful than the GT325M. You'd be better off upgrading the LCD first to something where the graphics quality difference wouldn't look washed out. Reply
  • Aidic - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    Though not specifically this laptop, I bought the N71jv-x1 from newegg a couple of weeks ago. Similar specs (larger screen, switched out core i5 for core i3, runs at 1600x900). I am able to play Left 4 Dead 2 with all graphics options turned high at the resolution of 1600x900. Also, my battery has similar run times.

    2 problems ive noticed though, and I am not sure if I am the only one: After the laptop has been brought back from suspend there is a greater chance for graphical errors when switching between gpus (specifically in WoW, though I have noticed it in Batman Arkham Asylum as well), and ASUS put a lot of bloatware on this thing. Some of it useful, the majority of it isnt.
    Reply
  • nortexoid - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    They need to offer a high resolution version. Reply
  • mikeev - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    I've been spoiled by a fingerprint sensor on my work PC (to hell with passwords), and I noticed on the Asus website that it lists the N61jv-X2 as having an "Optional" fingerprint sensor. Has anyone seen this variant? I'd gladly pay an extra $50/100 for this feature. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    Most laptops will charge about $25-$50 extra for a fingerprint scanner. We don't have the i3-330M or i5-520M N61Jv models yet, nor the Blu-ray version, but they're all supposed to be in the works. The reviewed X2 model is for Amazon.com and thus won't have the scanner, but keep an eye out and we'll likely see the other options start to show up. I'm curious as to where they'll position the scanner as well... between the mouse buttons, or somewhere else? It would be good to get it in the touchpad and get a separation between the buttons IMO. Reply
  • mikeev - Monday, March 15, 2010 - link

    That's a good question. I've seen lighted variants now (LED-pipe around the scanner) for feedback these days. Hopefully it's one of those. I actually prefer it to be in the lower right hand corner myself. Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    IF it had a 1600x900 screen or better; hell, throw in a higher capacity battery give me a 1600x900 screen and I'll gladly give them an extra 100 bucks! Reply

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