ASUS K53E Impressions and User Experience

Last week’s ASUS U41JF review is going to be the most interesting comparison to the K53E. Sure, that notebook only comes with a dual-core Arrandale i3-380M, but the 15% CPU overclock option, 83Wh battery, and GeForce GT 425M Optimus graphics give it a leg up on the competition. Yes, i5-2520M is going to be a faster CPU, but everywhere else I’d rate the U41JF as the superior laptop. Before we get to the benchmarks, though, let’s take a closer look at the K53E.

The exterior and interior colors are an interesting shade of brown—almost a coppery color in the right light, and at other times the notebook can appear black. The lid is a textured plastic, which means that in normal lighting fingerprints don’t show up quite so well. Unfortunately, it also means that you can't easily wipe it clean with a microfiber cloth, and flash photography often brings out the greasy prints hiding in the indentations. I still prefer the silver styling of the U41JF (and other ASUS laptops), but the K53E doesn’t look bad.

The 15.6”-screen chassis happens to be one of the least expensive laptop sizes these days. It’s large enough that manufacturers don’t have to work as hard at cooling or internal layout, but still small enough that they’re not wasting a lot of material. Unfortunately, our biggest complaint with the 15.6” LCDs floating around is that most are of the 1366x768 variety, and the K53E falls into that classification. We’d really like to see some better resolutions in 15.6” notebooks—even 1600x900 would be better than 1366x768—but then we’d also like to see LCDs that have a reasonable contrast ratio, maximum brightness, and color quality. In case you were wondering, the AU Optronics B156XW02 v6 panel used in this particular notebook has none of the good features we’re looking for and all of the bad. Yuck.

The keyboard is a traditional ASUS chiclet design, with the numeric keypad wedged in on the right. Like other notebooks, we’re not happy with the 10-key layout, mostly because the zero is half-size and the right cursor key overlaps the 10-key space. It’s not so egregious a flaw that we’ll spend a paragraph or two ripping on the layout, but there’s still room on the sides that ASUS could have used to give us a full 10-key with no compromises. Typing action outside of the 10-key is fine, and the dedicated navigation keys in the top-right (Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn) are certainly welcome.

Something we do like with the K53E is the touchpad. It’s big enough to be useful without being so huge that you accidentally brush it while typing (and as usual, you can configure the touchpad to detect keyboard use and go to “sleep” for a short interval after typing to mitigate that particular problem). The tracking surface is also a nice, smooth texture and there are—gasp!—dedicated left and right mouse buttons. Why can’t we get these on the U-series? The palm rest is a nice metallic brushed aluminum finish, and the touchpad is slightly inset and has a different texture to help you find it without looking.

Rounding out the package, the speakers are still a weak point—every time I fire up a game or play some music on Dell’s XPS 15 (the L502x now has Sandy Bridge CPU support; review is coming soon!), just about every other laptop sounds horrible in comparison. Another big gripe I have is with the position of the AC plug. It’s on the left side, but instead of being at the rear of the notebook (as is usually the case), it’s located in front of the exhaust port. When plugged in, the AC cord gets in the way of the Ethernet, HDMI, and USB port on that side—or you can snake the AC cable around back, in which case you’re partially blocking the exhaust port. It’s not a big enough problem that you can’t use the ports while plugged in, but it’s just a weird design decision, particularly when you consider that nearly every other laptop puts the AC connector at the far back of the chassis.

Looking at the whole, the K53E is a very reasonable notebook for the price. It’s not going to outperform quad-core SNB or gaming laptops, but it will run just about everything you might want with performance to spare. The price also puts it into competition with many inexpensive laptops, and it’s a major reason why we think AMD’s Brazos platform at $600 or more is a dead end. Even the i3-2310M will run circles around an E-350 (in both applications and games), so the only area where E-350 comes out ahead is battery life. With a better LCD (or at least a better resolution) and more connectivity options (e.g. USB 3 and eSATA), this could be an inexpensive desktop replacement for people that don’t need maximum CPU and/or GPU performance. With the current design, the K53E is a decent mainstream offering that boosts performance and battery life compared to the previous Arrandale offerings.

Is that enough to warrant spending $100-$200 more compared to AMD Athlon/Brazos/Turion laptops—or Intel’s older Pentium and Core i3 systems? When you factor in the performance and build quality, I’d actually say that the $720 K53E-B1 is going to be a better all-around notebook than most of the $400-$500 laptops you can currently find at places like Best Buy. But then, I’d be far more likely to save up the remaining $80 to get a better GPU, like in the ASUS U41JF, or wait another month or two and see what AMD’s Llano APU can do for budget laptops. If you’re chasing lowest cost, small size, and battery life as your primary considerations, it’s difficult to beat HP’s dm1z, but as soon as you start customizing and approaching $600 (i.e. the Sony and MSI Brazos E-350 laptops), you have to look at the whole market and not just focus on netbooks.

ASUS K53E: Enter Sandy Bridge Man General Performance – Dual-Core Sandy Bridge vs. the World
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  • duploxxx - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    what a lousy comment:

    On the other side of the charts—literally—is AMD’s E-350. We know it’s not meant to compete with Sandy Bridge (or even Arrandale or Core 2 Duo), but keep in mind that the cheapest price for such a laptop is going to be around $450. On average, the i5-2520M lays the smack down hard and ends up roughly four times faster than an E-350. Ah, but the E-350 has a much better IGP, right?

    you could have also put some higher rated atom's here,Tthey all would have performed even worse for the same price. Its OEM who are pushing this price higher of the Brazos,

    Watch the HD3000 scores and how they will be demolished by the LIano A8 series within a month the acer with P520 provides already a good idea about that besides the fact that it will have 4 cores at a much higher turbo frequency. The only thing that will be left is the higher single and dual core turbo mode for intel,.Afterall the i5M is exactly what should be compared with AMD A8M series, not a brazos......
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    Exactly, which is why I mention Llano oh... about nine times in the article, and point out that it should double the Brazos IGP performance with a CPU that "is a huge step up in performance from Bobcat." As for Atom: "There’s little (well, nothing really) to recommend an Atom netbook over a Brazos alternative at the $300 to $350 price bracket." Elsewhere I make fun of netbooks (Atom) for being, "slow, often poorly built, slow, too small for many to use comfortably, and above all really slow."

    The point with the SNB vs. E-350 comparison is that lots of people rip on Intel's graphics as being unfit for just about anything. The reality is that if we take the same mindset, Bobcat is just as bad because the CPU is such a massive bottleneck that it can only muster average graphics performance that's slightly faster than Arrandale. In reality, without the CPU bottleneck (or RAM bandwidth bottleneck) I suspect HD 6310M would be slightly faster than HD 3000. But when SNB offers about twice the graphics performance and four times the CPU performance and 80% of the battery life, yeah, those are items worth mentioning. It's also about 50% more expensive, of course.

    A balanced approach is the best for laptops, and that's my complaint with a lot of systems. Sandy Bridge is at least fast enough on the GPU side that the only people who won't be happy are serious gamers--casual gamers can get by. Brazos is also somewhat balanced, but the Bobcat core isn't enough even if it beat Atom--it's less than half the CPU performance of an Athlon II P320 for instance, and you will notice that when installing programs, loading applications, booting Windows, etc. Right now, Brazos needs more CPU, Danube needs more battery life and less power/heat and a better IGP, and gamers need a discrete GPU. Llano could easily take care of all three items.
    Reply
  • crazyape995 - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    I think the point duploxxx might be trying to make is that you intentionally compared Sandy Bridge against the E-350 to make it look bad.

    I understand the comments about AMD graphics being better than Intel's, but those were directed specifically at the Atom platform.

    AMD's E-350 destroys anything Intel's Atom platform can do, even with Nvidia's help. But what sets me off is how you don't hesitate to put it against Intel's flagship processors, but nowhere do I see Atom's results in the benchmarks.

    The chart looks like it was devised specifically to make the E-350 look like the worst chip available. And no amount of explainations/disclaimers change that.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    Fact: There are $600+ E-350 laptops available. Regardless of whether or not they should exist, they do exist, and as such it's a fair comparison. I didn't include Atom because it's not even remotely in contention -- and if I had C-50 results I wouldn't include those either. If people don't understand that we selected 12-15 laptops for the charts out of our catalog of over 80+ reviews, I'm not going to apologize. Use Mobile Bench and make your own comparisons.

    The conclusion talks a lot about the strengths of Brazos and AMD, but some people have a history of being strong AMD advocates in our comments. Every time I/we suggest that AMD might not be the best choice, they have to post a rant about how we're paid off or blind/stupid/[insert pejorative]. Read our Brazos reviews and you'll see we focused a lot of good attention on the platform, though we didn't hesitate to call out the weaknesses.

    Simply put, E-350 is not good for current games, and it's not particularly fast in general applications. It's fine for multimedia and basic office work, it gets good battery life, and it doesn't cost a lot. If that's what you want, it's a great solution. Personally, there are too many things I like to do that are sluggish on E-350 (i.e. casual browser games like Bejeweled Blitz come to mind).
    Reply
  • derricker - Friday, April 08, 2011 - link

    "The conclusion talks a lot about the strengths of Brazos and AMD, but some people have a history of being strong AMD advocates in our comments. Every time I/we suggest that AMD might not be the best choice, they have to post a rant about how we're paid off or blind/stupid/[insert pejorative]. "

    Has it occurred that it's too obvious in front of everybody's eyes and that you particularly are not doing that great of a job in trying to deny the blatant bias in favor of intel??

    The rudeness of your replies comes as a surprise for me here at anand, seeing a heavily biased articled in favor of those who pay the bills, that's yesterday news.
    Reply
  • TypeS - Saturday, April 09, 2011 - link

    There's no rudeness in his post and it's quite clear the bias towards AMD that you and the other two posters who are attacking Jarred have. Seems Jarred has a point made about AMD fanboys and comments.

    Learn to be more observant and aware before you make such biased and unfounded accusations. It's OEMs like Sony who are placing Brazos into a regular notebook form factor and pricing it within striking distance of the ASUS notebook. The point that should come across is that if you start looking at some unbalanced (perhaps even overpriced) E-350 options out there, its worth an extra $100 for overall better performance.

    There's no Intel bias here. And AMD fanboys need to face reality, AMD has a brief moment in the spotlight with K8 but Intel has been 1 or 2 steps ahead ever since Conroe. Even when comparing appropriate alternatives (based on SKUs), Intel wins.

    But you'll find lots of articles where the writers here Anandtech praise AMD, maybe not as much in the CPU market but quite often a lot in the GPU market where they immensely improved and given nVidia a lot of smackdowns that no one expected woujld come.

    So take your defensive AMD fanboyism out the door and learn to be more observant and open-minded.
    Reply
  • kevlno3 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    To be reality is , don't trust the benchmark. it's not going to benefit you anything. It's only let Intel earn 86% in the market.
    i trust the benchmark , review . now i suffer in Dell N4110. it's doesn't perform well.
    I would said , value of money is most important. when u buy the new notebook , you can save RM3-400 ,why you need to buy Intel? it's wouldn't last you up to 3 years. your model will just out of date in another 9months.
    I will go back to AMD after i can let go this Dell N4110.
    To be frank to whole world ,80% PC user wouldn't notice the speed different in his work space. you can't notice the speed different in 80% time you turn on your computer , you wouldn't notice the different when u doing autoCAD , sending email , log in facebook . but only thing u notice is when u loading the program. (just because this reason we let Intel earn 80% in market.)
    Reply
  • erple2 - Sunday, April 10, 2011 - link

    Do you also believe that the Moon Landings were a staged hoax because the Astronauts gave up swearing to things that they were actually at the moon?

    It's not obvious in my eyes at all. If you want to be rude, go ahead. I think that Jarred (and most of Anandtech) has been quite unbiased towards either camp. Just because your team doesn't win out on every (reasonable) comparison, doesn't imply any kind of bias at all.
    Reply
  • ET - Saturday, April 09, 2011 - link

    Jarred, I agree with your reasoning for including the E-350. Some people are blinded by AMD fanboyism, it seems. I have a preference for AMD, but I think your comments are right on the money. I bought a Thinkpad X120e because I think that AMD did a great job reinvigorating the small form factor. At 15.6" the E-350 has more competition and the premium for Intel based solutions is lower, so I think it's a good idea to give buyers an idea of how it compares in this form factor.

    That said, I think it would have been interesting to see how the i3-2310M version of this laptop compares.
    Reply
  • kevlno3 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    i would tell u , u wouldn't notice you are using E350 or core i3 2310. i totally dislike my Dell N4110 core i3 2310 . because the battery life is just 3hours .(normal price is RM1899 from Dell website , i buy promotion price from dealer , RM1.6k with HD6630 , 4GB , 500GB 7200rpm) E350 is about 6 hours & price is just RM1099. of course i wouldnt go for that model , because i need to play game , i need some model at least with HD6470.
    in fact currently Llano notebook is going crazy . pair with 6650 but only help the benchmark about 10% & the price is nearly to the core i5 model. core i5 2410 + GT540 RM2299. Llano sell RM 1800.
    Dell i5 2410 + HD6470 is selling RM1899.
    i would agree the price if AMD Llano w.o the HD6650 & the price is selling RM1.4k with 5-6 hours battery life
    USD 1 = RM3
    in fact i using C50 to complete all my office work with 8hours battery life . but i think i can't do it with Atom. if not why most of my friend sell it after 2 week?
    Reply

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