Table of Content (in short):
- Introduction & Specifications
- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard & touchpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Screen / Screen quality
- Thermals & Noise handling
- Overclocking (7730M)
Welcome to the Asus N56DP-DH11 laptop. This is the mild midrange gaming laptop Asus has to offer and it sports a Radeon 7730M and a A10-4600M for around 800$ including a Windows 8 OS. This combination might not be the bets for gaming at this price range, but with this laptop Asus tries to buy our hearts and eyes (and pockets) with several features like the good looks, external subwoofer, nice matte 1080p screen (90% sRGB gamut from my testing, probably like the N56VZ) and the good thermals, noise and battery levels.
First, a summery:
|GPU||AMD Radeon HD 7730M 2GB DDR3 (CPU@575MHZ, RAM@900MHZ) and an integrated 7660G|
|RAM||Hyundai 2x4GB 1600MHZ DDR3|
|HDD||Seagate ST1000LM024 5400RPM 8mb cache|
|LCD Panel||matte 1080p ‘wide angle’ (150 W, 120 V) display|
|Connection ports and additional features||1 x Microphone-in jack|
1 x Headphone-out jack (SPDIF)
1 x VGA port/Mini D-sub 15-pin for external monitor
4 x USB 3.0 port(s)
1 x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert
1 x HDMI
Lets start with the review
The case is made out of plastic. The plastic itself is sturdy enough, although not the most hardened one. Anyway, not really a problem. The screen surrounding panel is strong enough and pressing it didn’t yield any distortion in the screen. The outer lid, like in many other laptop, is not too hard and will – for reason unclear to me, this is very common.
The looks are good. The silver and black colors combination make it look modern enough and although made of plastic, the N56DP has a somewhat metallic looks to it. The outer lid has a light brushed finish.
The keyboard is backlighted with a white light. The keys are well separated and typing is very easy and fluent. The keys feel nice and I didn’t feel uncomfortable and it felt good right from the first click. No clicks were missing. Also, the keyboard does not producde much noise. I wish the Eurocom Racer 2.0 keyboard was like that.
The touchpad is a quite big multi-gesture touchpad and it is also quite comfortable, at least for me. It is responsive ad the touching it doesn’t feel annoying. However, the touchpad includes the left and right buttons under the same surface, so you might click it by mistake, since you don’t see where the touchpad itself ends. That’s annoying, although looks good.
We are talking 2.0 Bang & Olufsen speakers system + SonicMaster subwoofer. Now, I’m not sure about the subwoofer. You can hear it, but only if you place it near you – don’t except hearing the subwoofer while wondering around your house and there is no volume option to it. Anyway, the subwoofer produces subtle low audio which really adds to the sound.
As for the 2.0 speakers. The sound is somewhat on the richer & balanced side of things, the mids and highs are ok to good (laptop good, not audiophile good) and you can really hear music with this thing. The highs sound plasticy or distorted sometimes (you can hear, for example, in songs like “fashion” or David Bowie). Also, it sounds like there is some kind of obstacle between you and the sound, like the speakers are actually located deep in the laptop body and not so near to the surface (they are near to the surface, don’t worry) – we can’t say it is the speakers fault ofcourse, it might be the sound chip which is the Realtek “high definition” something, no exact model – probably the ALC 269. I guess the chip used isn’t one of the best ones, though it wouldn’t really add to the price. Bottom line, ok to good sound, but for a 800$ laptop a bit disappointing. This is common even with 1000-1500$ laptops, though.
First, the Windows has to configure itself and it takes some time. After that, the laptop is very responsive, but the Asus nonsense software and the installed McAfee AV makes things a bit slower, so I disabled the AV. Booting times are ok and after that the laptop is fast for common use and it is enjoyable using it. Even switching constantly between games (like Skyrim) and the desktop didn’t seem like a problem.
EDIT: It seems that the new AMD 13.1 Catalyst package has some problems. Installing the new drivers resulted in having and old version for the 7730M in the device manager (the old 8.X driver from 8/8/2012 instead the newer 9.12 from the 19/12/2012). Also, BL2 stopped working for me. I’ll have more updates on this later
I won’t do synthetic staff, only games benchmarks. For syntethic benchmarks, you can check the notebookcheck records (or other sites). The settings I used are non-standard ones (like in the notebookcheck case) and there is a reason for it – I tried to test and find the most interesting settings for each game. For example, I didn’t spend time on testing 768p resolutions as it won’t look good. If you have an external monitor you’d prefer to use, it would probably have a higher resolution.
Cinebench 11.59, OpenGL and multithreaded:
Graphics drivers – 13.1 AMD drivers from AMD site.
OS – Window 8 6.2.9200 build 9200, fully updated
Though I used FRAPS and benchmark tools, the FPS rates are simply the ones I got after trying many scenes in each game, trying also to push the limits and making it hard for the GPU, so we can get the minimal FPS rates too. Now, this is not an Academic test, since, for example, you might get some minimal FPS at some point which is way lower than what I wrote at some specific point, but it won’t reflect the actual gaming experience. Same for average. I stated the range I got and what was my feel playing the game.
Future reviews might include a graph of the FPS rates. What do you think? Is it necessary?
Now, for some numbers.
|1080p, ‘Maximum’||12-17||Not smooth, but playable (though – why?)|
|1080p, ‘High’, no AA||14-21, usually around 16-18||not smooth, but playable|
|1080p, ‘medium’||18-23, usually 20-23||not smooth, but playable|
|1080p, ‘medium’, 2xAA||16-21||not smooth, but again – playable|
|1080p, ‘medium’, 4xAA||13-18||not smooth, playable with much lower fun|
The advantage of WoT is that you can play it with lower than 24 FPS, due to the nature of this game.
|1080p, Highest||8-14||Not smooth, but playable (though – why?)|
|1080p, EQ = medium, CQ = medium, EVQ = medium||15-20, usually 17-20|
|1080p, CQ = medium||13-19|
|1080p, all medium||15-19||not smooth|
|1080p, shadows off, EQ =very low, EVQ = very low||15-22, mostly 18-22||not smooth, but playable|
|900p, highet||15-22||almost smooth, but ok|
|900p, CQ = medium||19-22||usually smooth|
|900p, CQ = medium, SQ = medium||23-25||almost smooth, overall ok|
|900p, highest except shadows = off||20-30, usually 23-25||quite smooth|
It seems that the best option in this case is the 900p (or 1680×1050) one.
If you have an external display with such a resolution, that will be great. I tried many settings combinations with 1080p and 900p, but it seems that you won’t get smooth experience with 1080p resolution whatsoever. This is somewhat strange that you can lower all settings besides the resolution and still get not that very good FPS rates.
TF = Texture filtering
These numbers are the lowest I got. In scenes like caves (less stress on the GPU), the FPSs are higher. Unlike the Nvidia control panel, the Catalyst doesn’t currently have the ambient occlusion option, so I didn’t use it (does anyone know something about it?)
|High, 2xAA, TF on quality||21-30, mostly 24-27||very smooth|
|High, AAx8, TF on quality||26-35, mostly above 30||very smooth|
|Highest (Ultra), 4xAA, TF on quality||10-18, mostly 15-17||not smooth and not very playable|
|Highest (Ultra), 8xAF, no AA, TF on quality||18-33, mostly 24-30||mostly smooth, highly playable|
|Highest (Ultra), 2xAA, TF on quality||19-27, mostly 22-24||mostly smooth, highly playable|
|Highest (Ultra), no AA, no AF, TF on quality||25-30, 19-24 in the frozen woods||very smooth|
Very high settings are available with the Radeon 7730M. In some specific cases, like in some frozen woods where a lot of frozen leaves and snowflakes are apparent, the performance gets lower, but since you probably won’t stop and try to appreciate the finiest details (if it’s even possible), I suggest lowering the settings and / or using some performance mods, like that, so in these cases, the textures will be lowered automatically and you won’t suffer such a performance hit.
I also suggest giving up the AF (or AA, but AF preferred) or alternatively using ‘high’ settings instead of ‘ultra’ as I suspect the difference for the eye is actually not very pronounced for almost no one.
EDIT: using the new 13.1 Catalyst drivers, the performance has increased actually, even in the heavy textured frozen woods.
I actually don’t find this game to be enjoyable, but it’s a benchmark after all.
|900p, Medium, no AA||16-20||Not smooth, somewhat playable|
|1080P, Ultra, no AA||5-7||Not smooth|
|1080p, Very High, no AA||6-8||Not smooth|
|1080p, High, no AA||9-11||Not smooth|
|1080p, Medium, no AA||11-15||Not smooth|
The 900p resolution made things a little better and playable, but this is still strange.
Note: With the official stable 12.10 drivers, the FPSs were way lower and stood on around 8-9 FPS (All highest, no AF/AA, Ambient occlusion on), so download the new 13.1 drivers. I’ll post two settings and then explain:
|Highest, 8xAF, all on, 1080p||16-22||Not smooth, but very playable|
|Highest, 8xAF, all on, 900p||22-30, usually 25-27||Very smooth!|
Checking many other configurations, it seems that the most effective wa y to get good FPS rates is lowering the resolution a bit. You can also play in window mode, so the pixels won’t get mushed and all. I truly suggest using AA in this game as the graphics of BL2 benefit a lot from AA even on 1080p resolution. It also doesn’t seem to have to much effect on the FPS rates.
|High||12-15||Not smooth, but playable|
|Custom, Everything on high, AA on Normal||16-21||not smooth, but very playable|
|Custom, Everything on high, AA on high||10-14||unplayable|
It is interesting to see that on extreme setting, many systems produce only very low FPS rates. The Eurocom Racer 2.0 with GTX 670MX didn’t give us more than 10 FPS too, this is strange and probably related to game implementation. For Sleeping Dogs, just use ‘Normal’ AA settings and you are good and the game will be very playable on 1080p resolution with this system, which is great.
We are talking a matte 1080p screen here. I don’t know what is the model as I don’t want to disassemble the laptop currently, but it is a matte 1080p screen and from the screen testings, it might be the same as in the N56VZ, maybe the Samsung 156HT01-201. In the tests (w/ DataColor Spyder 4 Express), this screen achieved a 90% sRGB color gamut and 66% adobeRGB color gamut. Not for professionals, but very good colors for the eye.
To my eyes, the colors seemed rich enough, the maximum brightness is high (I set it on 40%-60%) and the contrast is good too, although I don’t have exact numbers. Horizontal viewing angles are very good and vertical viewing angles are not bad, but colors get distorted much quicker. Tilting upwards, the colors are distorted but no too much. Tilting downwards making the colors more washed and distorted. Subjectively, it seems that brightness distribution is good, also when tilting the screen, so no black corners, for example.
I’ll add pictures of the screen later this week.
and some pictures of the screen displaying some colorful 1080p image:
Thermals – The thermals of this laptop, as expected, are quite good. Using the OCCT Linpack test, the cpu temperatures topped at around 67C and after a while went down to around 64-65C probably due to the fan spinning faster. At idle, the laptop usually stands on around 42-50C, depending on what you are doing and the room temperature. I wish more machines were like that.
Noise – This laptop is very quiet. When idling/low use (like writing/surfing the web), you’ll hear a very low ‘woosh’ sound when it is quiet around, like at night. Under load, this sound will become more noticeable but not annoying.
Working with this laptop, surfing the web using WiFi and settings the screen on 40%, I got around 3.5-4 hours of play. I guess that disabling the WiFi, dimming the screen to the lowest level and restricting the use to none or simply reading, you can get around 4.5-5 hours.
My tests didn’t yield any significant impact on performance. I could overclock the DDR3 memory up to around 990MHZ and the core up to 690-700MHZ without getting any errors. I didn’t see noticeable effect in the tested games. Maybe a few FPSs in Borderlands 2. I’m sorry.
What makes this laptop distinguished above others for this price is probably the combination of the added value for this price – nice external subwoofer, 1TB HDD, the good matte 1080p screen, very good keyboard and comfortable/big touchpad, not-too-bad speakers (which I suggest replacing with 50$ speakers), backlit keyboard, the stylish looks and the very good thermals / noise levels. Only for 800$ which you can get from the store (like from J&R) and save the shipping and tax. Now, for this price or a bit above, you can get considerably faster laptops for gaming, even with a matte 1080p screen (like the HP dv6t-7000 1, 2).
But again, for 800$ you probably won’t find such a features combination. Bottom line, if you are looking for more gaming performance, you can spend 100-150$ more and you are not loyal to Asus too much, then there are other options for around 800$-1000$, but if you are looking for a very good balanced package and don’t want to spend more than 800$, this is a very good option for you.