Of all the notebooks currently on the market, the Asus N82JQ has had perhaps the longest amount of time between its announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in January to its release towards the end of July. I that amount of time, there have been a lot of other notebooks released, and one may wonder if the N82JQ was worth the wait. Keep reading to find out.
This unit was generously supplied by GenTechPC, a Notebook Forums Official Reseller and one of the premier places online to buy an Asus notebook. Now, you may not know it, but reviewers can sometimes select which models they get to review. I was excited to check out the N82JQ because it fit in a very interesting category: it’s one of the very few gaming notebooks with a 14” screen. That means that gamers on the go can easily carry around with them and when they arrive, the computer will have lots of power to spare. My review unit has the following specs:
14” 1366x768 LED screen
Intel Core i7 720QM CPU (1.6 Ghz up to 2.8 Ghz with Turbo Boost)
Atheros 802.11a/b/g/n wireless card
4GB DDR3 memory
Nvidia GT 335M w/1GB VRAM
500GB 7200RPM Seagate hard drive
6 cell battery (4400 mAh)
HDMI & VGA video out
4-in-1 card reader
3 USB ports – 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 2.0/eSATA, & 1 USB 3.0
Style & Design
When I took the N82JQ out of its protective packaging, I noticed two things right away. The first was that Asus figured out a way to have the absolute minimum of packaging while still completely protecting the computer, and the second was the color of the notebook - it’s brown! I don’t often see brown notebooks, so the color was unusual. But even more surprising, considering I’m not generally a fan of the color brown, is that I really like the design. The lid is covered by textured brown plastic and the touchpad feels like it is covered in the same type of surface. Opening the lid reveals neat rows of chiclet-style keys surrounded by the softest hard plastic I’ve ever felt. It feels like it’s rubberized for comfort and it is very comfortable as a palmrest.
While it may not look like it from a first glance, the lid is a fingerprint magnet and N82JQ owners may find themselves frequently needing to use the included cleaning cloth Asus provides with the notebook to keep it looking good.
Aside from being attractive, the computer also feels solid. Its weight is well-balanced so that there is little concern of the notebook accidentally tipping over or being dropped. There are no creaks when moving around the notebook and pushing on the back of the lid does not warp the screen.
There is one small build quality concern, though. The top edge of the lid has a small degree of flex from front to back, and when it is flexed, the top few rows of pixels on the screen darken. This is the main reason that I gave the computer a build quality rating of 8 instead of 10.
The notebook also contains one of my personal pet peeves. The lid opens out to approximately 130 degrees but not any further. I wish more modern notebooks would open to the full 180 degrees, but that’s a rant for another time. Still, if you need a notebook with a lid that has a full range of motion, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The screen is glossy, as are most current screens. The included Splendid color calibration utility was helpful for generally getting the color effects I was looking for. And colors look good on the screen. Brightness also seemed to be fine on the screen with both dark and light scenes being clearly viewable and not too washed out.
Unfortunately, there's a relatively small sweet spot for viewing, especially vertically. View the screen from too high or low an angle and the colors invert, and view the screen from too far off center, and the reflections can interfere with the picture.
Like other screens out there, the screen on the N82JQ is good enough when viewed from straight on or from slightly to the side or above. However, it is not a good choice for buddy viewing movies or similar activities due to the insufficient viewing angles.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The N82JQ has a chiclet-style keyboard that at first felt a little squishy but that I got used to using after a few days of use. The initial squishy sensation was a result of some keyboard flex which may annoy keyboard purists. However, in my opinion, most people will be able to get used to the feel of the N82JQ's keyboard without much fuss.
The touchpad also required some getting used to. It feels like the same type of surface that covers the notebook's lid and in my opinion, this surface is not ideal for a touchpad. I prefer smooth touchpads that fingers can easily glide across, and the N82JQ's touchpad is just not smooth enough to glide easily. On the positive side, multitouch gestures, which were demonstrated on the label of the touchpad, worked very well as long as I maintained a light touch and did not push down too hard. If I pushed too hard, the friction would cause my fingers to stop moving.
The notebook comes with a standard array of connections, including audio in and out, 3 USB ports, eSATA, HDMI, & VGA, but it arranges them in an interesting fashion. Or perhaps it can be better said that the design conceals the notebook's connections in an interesting fashion.
There is a multi card reader on the front edge of the notebook along with a physical wireless switch. These can be easy to miss due to the notebook's design which makes them invisible to users who are looking at the notebook from above, as most notebook users would do.
On the right side, the DVD drive is visible along with a seemingly blank panel. However, that panel can be opened to reveal a combination USB 2.0/eSATA port, an ethernet port, and another standard USB 2.0 port. While the cover does make the side of the notebook appear smoother when the ports are not in use, the cover can get in the way when those ports are in use. I suppose it's a matter of preference, but I use multiple USB ports enough that I find the cover more annoying than worthwhile and the same could easily be true for someone who was using an ethernet connection.
The back side of the notebook has no connections and is wholly taken up by the battery. The left side contains the power connector, VGA port, HDMI, and the notebook's highlight, the USB 3.0 port. I did not have any USB 3.0 peripherals to test with it at the time of the review, but I was able to do some anecdotal comparisons between USB 2 & 3 ports using a flash drive and an external hard drive.
The flash drive seemed to transfer 5 MB/s faster on the USB 3.0 port compared to USB 2.0, and HD Tune runs from the external drive are below. All told, there does not seem to be much a difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports for USB 2.0 devices, but when more USB 3.0 devices are available, having a port that can take full advantage of them is an advantage.
The wireless card was off by default when I first turned on the computer, but after enabling it, the Atheros card quickly detected and connected to my home network. I also was able to use the wireless network to try out Windows 7's Homegroup feature between my computer and the N82JQ. Connecting to the homegroup took less than 5 minutes and allowed easy transfer of files and streaming of media between the two computers. However, the maximum transfer rate between the two notebooks via 802.11g wireless (which has a theoretical maximum transfer rate of 6.75 MB/s) was only 2 MB/s, which was somewhat frustrating when transferring large files. Perhaps the networking would have gone better if I had been able to use 802.11n wireless connections instead.
The speakers on the N82JQ are rather weak by default. Thankfully, the notebook includes the Realtek High Definition Audio Manager, which can boost sound levels up to moderately acceptable volumes when enabled. Still, for any serious music listening, headphones or external speakers are a requirement.
The Q in the N82JQ stands for quad-core, and the quad-core i7 processor gives some real power to the notebook. When I reviewed the quad-core Asus G50VX last year, I wrote that I expected better performance from a quad-core processor. With the N82JQ, I can say that the processor is truly up to any task a user can throw at it and I am quite satisfied.
According to Soluto, a handy program for measuring full boot-up time, the N82JQ boots and loads between 1 - 1 and 1/2 minutes. The hard drive transfers at an average speed of around 80 MB/s according to HD Tune.
For overall system performance, the N82JQ got a PC Mark Vantage score of 6004 and a Passmark score of 1228.5.
You can see all the 3DMark scores and several gaming benchmarks on the right. If some of the gaming benchmarks look lower than expected, keep in mind that the policy of Notebook Forums official reviews is to test at the absolute maximum settings possible. For instance, Crysis at maximum settings and native resolution ran at approximately 5 frames per second, which is clearly unplayable. However, turning down the settings makes the game easily playable.
For Street Fighter 4, turning off anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering while leaving everything else at the highest settings doubles the average framerates of the game.
All this is to say that the game benchmarks included here are the worst case scenario. Absolutely every game I tested on the system is playable on it, although some need to be played at medium settings as opposed to maximum settings for smooth gameplay.
Mobility & Battery Life
While not the thinnest or the lightest notebook, the N82JQ is still quite easy to carry around. It is quite well balanced and should fit nicely into a small case or sleeve for easy travel.
However, even though the notebook is easy to carry, anyone looking to buy one should not plan to use it for very long in between outlets. The standard 6-cell battery lasts only 2 hours of web surfing and word processing in Battery Saver model and only 1 hour and 5 minutes in entertainment mode while playing a DVD. This is probably the weakest part of the notebook.
Heat and Noise
The notebook is cool during normal office operations except for the exhaust vent on the left, which is easily the hottest part of the notebook. After several minutes of benchmarking, the bottom of the notebook heats up as well, especially on the left side. However, the palmrest, keyboard, and touchpad stay cool in all circumstances. This would indicate that it is better to be playing games with the notebook on a desk or table instead of in the user's lap.
The primary fan is rather quiet. The secondary fan only spins up in the middle of intensive benchmarking sessions, and only for a limited time even then.
Other Notes and Idiosyncrasies
Asus includes a lot of software with the N82JQ, and some of it can be useful, but anyone can be overwhelmed at the dozen or so links on the desktop to all the various programs. The two that are of particular annoyance are a reminder to backup your system's original configuration and Trend Micro security's activation attempts. The backup message can actually be important since Asus does not include operating system backup discs with the system. The tool that pops up allows the user to do that. As for Trend Micro, they are the latest security company to have a deal with Asus. You can see their ad in the latest issue of Asus World magazine. Trend Micro requires the user to enter an e-mail address to start the security program running and in my experience popped up a message at least 1-2 times per day about it every day I did not register (and I never registered). Personally, I would recommend changing it out for a different security program, but that is the user's preference.
Another thing that needs mentioning is that Asus put a big sticker advertising that the notebook uses Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching technology. However, while the N82JQ's sister unit, the N82JV, has this technology, the N82JQ does not. Unfortunately, the sticker person at Asus mistakenly labeled the N82JQ units with Optimus stickers. If you buy one, feel free to remove the sticker since it's simply not true.
The N82JQ is a powerful and fairly well built notebook by Asus that can handle any task thrown at it. Despite having a 14" screen, it seems to have all the strengths and weaknesses of a standard desktop replacement. While Asus did manage to make the N82JQ one of the most powerful 14" notebooks around, prospective buyers should be aware that the computer is most in its element while plugged in and being used by one user.
Buy one if
you're looking for a small but powerful computer
battery life is not a concern
you like to game but don't have much room
Look for something else if
you want to watch movies on the computer together with all your friends
you need to compute for long periods away from an outlet
you use a mouse with your left hand
I hope you've enjoyed reading this review. Feel free to post any questions below.