ASUS N73SV (TZ033V) desktop replacement notebook

ASUS N73SV review: A Full HD desktop replacement notebook with a Blu-ray writer

ASUS N73SV (TZ033V)
  • ASUS N73SV (TZ033V)
  • ASUS N73SV (TZ033V)
  • ASUS N73SV (TZ033V)

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Lots of internal storage
  • Good speakers

Cons

  • Poor keyboard
  • Wi-Fi not dual-band
  • No RAID

Bottom Line

The ASUS N73SV is designed to live on a desk and undertake almost any task you throw at it with ease. In addition to run-of-the-mill office and Web tasks, it's also useful for video editing, gaming and even design work. However, it has an awful keyboard, a low-end Wi-Fi adapter and it doesn't support RAID for its two internal hard drives.

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The ASUS N73SV has a lot of the power and features of a basic desktop computer, which is a good thing, too, because it's designed to replace your desktop. It's a 17.3in, Full HD laptop that runs an Intel Core i7 CPU, has 6GB of RAM and includes a Blu-ray burner. It can be a super-fast work machine, a media centre, a decent gaming machine or a video editing station. Perhaps the part is that it costs well under $2000.

Size and features

With a weight of around 3.4kg and a base that's 425x290mm, the N73SV has a large and heavy footprint and demands a nice spot on your desk. Two arrays of ports are located on the right side and at the rear of the base, while the left side houses the Blu-ray burner and a large vent. For a desktop replacement notebook, the connectivity options are fairly basic, yet useful: you get HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0 (three ports), USB 3.0 (one port), an SD card slot, and microphone and headphone ports. The only thing that differs from the norm is the inclusion of an antenna port for the machine's built-in digital TV tuner. Unfortunately, it doesn't ship with a remote control.

You don't get eSATA or DisplayPort, nor is there an ExpressCard expansion slot. You get 802.11n Wi-FI and Bluetooth, but it's based on the Atheros AR9004WB-1NG module, which we think has been included to keep costs down. It's designed to be an inexpensive chip and, as such, it doesn't support dual-band operation. Its performance in our tests wasn't great either as it often reported low signal strength. Furthermore, disabling Wi-Fi also disables Bluetooth, which can be inconvenient if you want one but not the other. We'd much prefer to see a notebook of this calibre supplied with an Intel Centrino dual-band Wi-Fi solution and a separate Bluetooth module.

Performance

As for performance, the N73SV supplies lots. It recorded a blazingly-fast 24sec in our Blender 3D rendering test, which matches the time recorded by the MSI GE620. Both notebooks use a Second Generation Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU with a frequency of 2GHz, four cores and Hyper-Threading. It's an excellent CPU for multitasking and for running multi-threaded applications such as Blender. Even in applications that can't make use of all of the available cores, it will provide decent performance. This was shown in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, in which the ASUS recorded a time of 47sec, which is 3sec quicker than the MSI.

Graphics are taken care of by an NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M adapter, as well as integrated Intel HD graphics. The system selects the appropriate graphics adapter for the job automatically and this seemed to work in our tests (it hasn't always worked properly on other NVIDIA Optimus-based notebooks we've tested). In 3DMark06, the NVIDIA card propelled the ASUS to a score of 8312, which is a decent mid-range score indicating that the machine can be used for gaming. You'll be able to play some games such as Dirt 2 smoothly in Full HD; games such as Mafia 2 will run well at a resolution of 1366x768 — we clocked it at 40 frames per second (fps) at this resolution, while at the screen's native resolution of 1920x1080, it recorded only 24fps.

Storage

The N73SV has two hard drives installed, which each have a capacity of 750GB and a spin speed of 7200rpm. This is a huge internal storage capacity for a notebook (1.35GB total formatted capacity) and it means that not only can you install a whole heap of games and applications, you can also store a large library of music and video files, as well as TV recordings, without having to resort to an external drive. You will need a large external hard drive to back it all up though.

The drives in our configuration were Seagate ST9750420AS models and they were installed as individual drives. In our file transfer tests, in which we copy 2.12GB worth of 2-50MB files from one location on the drive to another, the system drive recorded a zippy 55.78MBps. There isn't an option to use RAID though, which is disappointing. System recovery can be undertaken through a hidden partition by hitting F9 during boot-up, but there are no options to create RAID 1 or RAID 0 arrays through this — nor could we find anything related to RAID in the BIOS.

User comfort

User comfort isn't high with the N73SV. It has an awful keyboard that bounces noticeably while you type. The reason for the bouncy keyboard is that the keyboard isn't actually held firmly to the chassis. It's clipped in place so that it can be removed to provide access to one of the notebook's memory slots. Furthermore, despite the notebook being so big, the keyboard doesn't have a proper number pad. Instead of having the zero key span the length of the one and two keys, the right arrow is located under the one key and the zero is under the two key. Anyone who is used to punching in numbers on a pad will be put off by this layout.

The touchpad is smooth and comfortable to use, but we dislike the combined single-button moulding for the left- and right-click buttons. Speakers are located just below the screen, and they provide very good quality compared to the speakers on most of the other laptops we've heard (except maybe for ASUS' own NX90). There are useful media player buttons to the left of the keyboard, so that you can easily adjust the volume or skip or pause files, and you also get a button that allows you to quickly change power profiles.

Battery life

A 6-cell battery is installed in the base, and it ran for 1hr 34min in our tests, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. As the N73SV isn't designed to be mobile, its battery life isn't overly important, but you could drag it to the balcony or your backyard from time to time to watch a video or browse the Web.

A pre-boot environment based on Splashtop is installed, and its purpose is to let you log on to the Internet quickly to perform basic tasks. On a netbook, this type of operating system can be somewhat useful for basic Web browsing, as it will boot quickly and not consume as much power; however, on a desktop replacement, it's a feature that's unnecessary.

Conclusion

Overall, the ASUS N73SV is a desktop replacement with very good performance, plentiful storage and a nice Full HD screen. However, it's far from perfect. It could use a much better keyboard, a dual-band Wi-Fi adapter and seeing as how it has the capability to run two hard drives, we'd also like to have the ability to implement a RAID array.

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