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Asus N56DP review (Radeon 7730M)

Table of Content (in short):

Yea! I want that!
Very good overall package for 800$ which no other laptop currently offers, including:

  • Moderate gaming performance
  • Good matte 1080p screen with wide viewing angles
  • Very good thermals – you won’t have to worry about this laptop getting hot
  • Very good noise levels – even under load, the fan noise is low and the sound it produces is not annoying (unlike some other fans)
  • Good looks with stylish yet solid design and silver/black colors
  • Making the package whole – 1TB HDD, backlit keyboard (white), nice speakers and external subwoofer.
  • You can get it from J&R store and save the shipping / tax.

 

Hmmm, maybe later..
In one word – this is not the fastest gaming laptop around 750$-900$ although, as said above, other laptops do not offer the same package. If you are looking for more gaming performance for you money, look here.

 

Introduction & Specifications

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:

ComponentDescription
CPUAMD A10-4600M
GPUAMD Radeon HD 7730M 2GB DDR3 (CPU@575MHZ, RAM@900MHZ) and an integrated 7660G
RAMHyundai 2x4GB 1600MHZ DDR3
HDDSeagate ST1000LM024 5400RPM 8mb cache
LCD Panelmatte 1080p ‘wide angle’ (150 W, 120 V) display
KeyboardBacklit (White)
Weight2.7kg
OSWindows 8
Connection ports and additional features1 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

Build quality, Case and design and looks

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.

Asus N56DP side looks

Keyboard & Touchpad

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.

Sound & Speakers

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.

General Subjective Performance Experience

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.

 

Gaming Performance

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:

CB11.59_N56DP

 

Test Methods & Drivers

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.

 

World of Tanks (WoT)

 

World of Tanks
SettingsFPSFeel
1080p, ‘Maximum’12-17Not smooth, but playable (though – why?)
1080p, ‘High’, no AA14-21, usually around 16-18not smooth, but playable
1080p, ‘medium’18-23, usually 20-23not smooth, but playable
1080p, ‘medium’, 2xAA16-21not smooth, but again – playable
1080p, ‘medium’, 4xAA13-18not 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.

LoL (League of Legends)

 

League of Legends
SettingsFPSFeel
1080p, Highest8-14Not smooth, but playable (though – why?)
1080p, EQ = medium, CQ = medium, EVQ = medium15-20, usually 17-20
1080p, CQ = medium13-19
1080p, all medium15-19not smooth
1080p, shadows off, EQ =very low, EVQ = very low15-22, mostly 18-22not smooth, but playable
900p, highet15-22almost smooth, but ok
900p, CQ = medium19-22usually smooth
900p, CQ = medium, SQ = medium23-25almost smooth, overall ok
900p, highest except shadows = off20-30, usually 23-25quite 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.

Skyrim

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?)

Skyrim, 1080p, Lowest FPSs 
SettingsFPSFeel
High, 2xAA, TF on quality21-30, mostly 24-27very smooth
High, AAx8, TF on quality26-35, mostly above 30very smooth
Highest (Ultra), 4xAA, TF on quality10-18, mostly 15-17not smooth and not very playable
Highest (Ultra), 8xAF, no AA, TF on quality18-33, mostly 24-30mostly smooth, highly playable
Highest (Ultra), 2xAA, TF on quality19-27, mostly 22-24mostly smooth, highly playable
Highest (Ultra), no AA, no AF, TF on quality25-30, 19-24 in the frozen woodsvery 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.

 

Far Cry 3

I actually don’t find this game to be enjoyable, but it’s a benchmark after all.

FarCry3, DX 11
SettingsFPSGameplay feel
900p, Medium, no AA16-20Not smooth, somewhat playable
1080P, Ultra, no AA5-7Not smooth
1080p, Very High, no AA6-8Not smooth
1080p, High, no AA9-11Not smooth
1080p, Medium, no AA11-15Not smooth

The 900p resolution made things a little better and playable, but this is still strange.

 

Borderlands 2 (1.2.2)

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:

Borderlands2
SettingsFPSFeel
Highest, 8xAF, all on, 1080p16-22Not smooth, but very playable
Highest, 8xAF, all on, 900p22-30, usually 25-27Very 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.

 

Sleeping Dogs

 

Sleeping Dogs, 1080p
SettingsFPSFeel
Extreme4-7unplayabe
High12-15Not smooth, but playable
Medium26-33Smooth
Custom, Everything on high, AA on Normal16-21not smooth, but very playable
Custom, Everything on high, AA on high10-14unplayable

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.

 

Screen & Screen quality

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.

Colors:

N56DP vs adobeRGB         N56DP vs sRGB

 

and some pictures of the screen displaying some colorful 1080p image:

Asus N56DP screen right Asus N56DP left Asus N56DP below

 

Thermals & Noise handling

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.

2013-01-17-18h58-Temperature-Core #0

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.

Battery

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.

Overclocking (7730M)

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

  • asix

    I want to buy AMD A10 laptop. Wich one of the best for gaming: samsung NP55V5C, lenovo ideapad Z585, asus N56DP, or asus K75DE?

  • http://www.ericdgreene.com Eric D. Greene

    Thanks for the review, I am considering this one vs MSI GE Series GE60 0NC-498US. Most likely going GE60 but I just like the look of the Asus plus it will be more lightweight.

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      The GE60 is not heavier than the N56DP plus it’s much faster for gaming. The N56DP in terms of performance/price is not that good, but as I said in the review – it has some other advantages being well built, cool and quiet

      If you are looking for a good gaming performance, I think you better go with the GE60

      • crocmak

        Why would you buy a 1366×768 resolution laptop for $800+ – The ASUS N56DP with 1080p screen seems like a steal for anyone who cares about image quality.

        You can always get much higher frame rates in games running them lower res on 1080p machine, but you will never get the image quality of a 1080p display on a crappy 1366×768 display

        • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

          agree about the last part
          but in terms of price performance there are better laptops than the N56DP, like the Y500, HP dv6t-7000/7300 and more

  • ballingtillthedayidie

    Did you buy this laptop?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      yes, I did

  • yuriy

    i tried to launch far cry 3,witcher 2,nfs,assass.creed 3 using dual graphics mode in catalyst center,but i didn’ see that both GPUs were loaded in amd monitor(.In 3d mark 2003 and 2011 both GPUs are loaded,but in games it doesn’t work.Did you watch gpu loading when playing Skyrim?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      Yes! (-:

  • yuriy

    have you ever seen BSOD on your laptop,if have,what was the reason?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      no, but the windows was restarted just like this. Maybe some Windows8 bug

  • yuriy

    try to check assassin’s creed 3.I have in average 15-20 in Boston,with drops to 11-12 fps,all for max,1080p.By the way,I resulted P2130 in 3d mark 2011, 28530 in 2003, 8900 ( in 2006 and 6300 in vantage.My n56dp has only 4 gb ram.I think the results could be better with 8 gb.Catalyst 13.2 appeared,have you tested it?What are your scores in 3dmark 2011?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      I saw the 13.2 but didn’t made any real tests yet. Seems like Skyrim FPSs are a bit higher, but I didn’t really checked.

      Let me check

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      3DMark 2011: P2240, Graphics: 2332 with Catalyst 13.2 beta 3

  • yuriy
    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      I think that this is about what I got with the 13.1 drivers and yes – it seems that the dual graphics worked for the 3DMark, but I don’t know about the games. They make it better and better with the drivers. It is pretty hard to compare with and without dual graphics since I don’t understand when the dual graphics really work.

      I can say that I didn’t see any difference in Skyrim.

      • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

        Any specific game you want me to check?

  • yuriy

    what about dual graphics,does it work on catalist 13.1?

    • http://www.gaminglaptopsjunky.com junky

      sorry, didn’t see – yes, works