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


View All Comments

  • digitalicecream - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    Not just that, but you have to be sitting RIGHT in front of the screen at the correct elevation in order to see the movie well. I have the latest powerDVD 9 Ultra and the movie looks like garbage AT BEST. I'm going to post a video on youtube so you can all see what I'm talking about...

    It's definitely a dealbreaker for some. For me, well I found this out after I bought it but DVD movie playback is not why I got this.

    Does explain the lack of a Bluray drive though.

    Gaming looks great btw.
  • digitalicecream - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    I take it back. I turned off AVIVO hardware acceleration in powerDVD and made some fine tuning and it looks great... my bad. Reply
  • bobjones32 - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    With all this optimus tech talk, it's dissuaded me from purchasing an m11x. The m11x has the 335M, compared to the 325M in this laptop, and I'm wondering if anyone knows how much they differ?

    16" mammoths just don't interest me. I really want something portable like the m11x, with it's fantastic battery life, but I want some options to pick between.

    1) Any chance that Anandtech will be reviewing the m11x? I was surprised it was never covered beyond the CES reveal.

    2) Any word on the 335M extending beyond its apparent m11x exclusivity any time soon, in case it's noticeably faster than the 325M?
  • gomakeit - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    I second that as well - I'm putting off on the m11x because of Optimus and the relatively lowsy CPU spec. Hopefully it'll get a refresh sometime during summer. But I'm interested in seeing a review from Anand nonetheless. Reply
  • Fastidious - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    I was originally concerned a bit about that as well but got a M11x anyways. I keep reading reviews just to make sure I didn't make a bad choice. Even this much larger system seems worse in games albeit better in CPU heavy tasks. Optimus is cool and I wish I had it but it really isn't that bad having to manually switch GPUs(just press fn+f2 on the M11x). Unless I'm plugged in I'm rarely gaming heavy stuff and I'm instead in conserve energy mode with the Intel GPU, less bright screen, etc. The CPU in the M11x is the weak point but the battery life in it is great so it depends what kind of balance you want. I don't think there is any laptop with a great CPU and great battery life in a smaller form factor. I get around 6-8 hours with decent screen brightness, wireless and just general browsing/word/light games on the Intel GPU. You can game just about any modern game but you might need to tweak settings(often specifically CPU heavy settings such as shadows) or lowering the resolution a bit but doing that doesn't bug me."> is the best review of the M11x I've seen
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    M11x has a faster GPU for sure, but the problem is CULV -- even overclocked -- can start to become the bottleneck. We're still waiting for a review sample; Alienware has said next month due to demand. It's a promising unit, for sure, but the lack of Optimus really makes it like a faster version of the old UL series. Reply
  • hagen81 - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    at notebookcheck you have a list of mobile graphic cards as well as some benchmarks, there's quite a diff between 335M and 325M Reply
  • f4phantom2500 - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    Is this computer able to power down one of the CPU cores? If so what kind of difference does that make to battery life? Seeing as this is an Arrandale CPU with hyperthreading, 1 core should be plenty fast in battery mode. Reply
  • lloyd dd - Thursday, March 18, 2010 - link

    it would be cool if the i5 had a mode in which you could power down 1 core and turn off turbo and underclock the active core.
    that plus optimus should give great battery life, with the performance when needed.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 14, 2010 - link

    Arrandale can put one core into a deep sleep state, but just how far that goes is difficult to say. Obviously, the standard Arrandale with the Intel HD graphics draws more power than CULV + GMA 4500MHD, but it also appears to draw quite a bit less power than an older Core 2 + 4500 laptop (see relative battery life chart). Reply

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