At 6lbs, the Asus N56VM is no Ultrabook but then again, it's not designed to be either. This is a nicely decked out machine complete with a high resolution 15.6" matte finish, LED backlit LCD that spots a native resolution of 1920X1080. The panel offers a very sharp image quality with good contrast and color balance. Viewing angles are also very good with this panel.
The machine also offers a full-sized keyboard area with number pad, so Asus makes no bones about the fact that this is a multimedia machine capable of replacing your desktop system.
Asus N56VM: Intel Core i7-3720QM, 8GB DDR3-1333, GeForce GT 630M, 750GB/7200 RPM HD
**Note: We reconfigured our test machine with a 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD for testing.
Aesthetically, the N56VM is a nice looking machine with a brushed aluminum finish on the top side of its chassis that is supported with an all black plastic housing underneath. The materials and worksmanship are solid here and the keyboard is completely rigid with a nice amount of travel in the key caps. The touchpad area has a nice ever-so slightly textured finish on it and it's absolutely huge. It supports gestures like pinch to zoom, has two button control and aside from the occasional accidental cursor movement while typing, it's a pleasure to use. On the left edge of the machine are two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4a port, Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA port, audio line output and chassis venting.
On the right edge of the machine, are two more USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone ports, a Blu-ray optical drive, power jack and a Kensington lock port. Bang and Olufsen's ICEPower audio system adorns the area above the keyboard just underneath the display. We'd offer that the sound system in this machine is better than most but we've heard more open highs and deeper base response from higher end machines.
Trimming the package up nicely is a very dark pewter finish on a brushed aluminum surface that adorns the top lid of the N56VM. It adds a solid, quality feel to the machine but unfortunately shows off the occasional greasy fingerprint rather well. The good news is there is plenty of tilt angle to the hing mechanism in the lid, so the display can be positioned virtually at any angle you'd require for optimal viewing, whether sitting in front of or standing over the machine.
All told the Asus N56VM is a solid mainstream multimedia notebook that is designed to offer access to all of the latest features of Intel's Ivy Bridge mobile notebook architecture. This notebook should have an MSRP of $1149 - $1200 when it ships in the coming month or so. At that price, configured with 8GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M GPU, its high res panel and a Blu-ray player, it's a good value that will be powerful enough to handle just about anything you could expect this class of machine to handle. It's not a gaming powerhouse per se but, as you'll see, it's not your Daddy's ol' boat anchor machine either.