The Bottom Line
Aug 10 2012 - ASUS offers a very affordable option for those looking at a 15-inch laptop with the A53Z. Based on the AMD Fusion processor, it comes with a quad core processor with improved integrated graphics that make it capable for some casual PC gaming. The downside is that the system is held back by its limited memory and small hard drive. Thankfully, the system is fairly easy to upgrade both of these components giving it some real potential for those willing to spend a bit more. If you aren't interested in internal expansion, it does offer a USB 3.0 port which most in its price range lack.
- Improved Integrated Graphics
- USB 3.0 Port Which Many In Its Price Range Lack
- Relatively Easy To Upgrade Hard Drive and Memory
- Smaller and Slower Hard Drive
- Less Memory Impacts Performance
- Stiff And Loud TrackPad Buttons
- AMD A6-3420M Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 3GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 320GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- 15.6" WXGA (1366x768) Display With VGA Webcam
- AMD Radeon HD 6520G Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless
- One USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 5-in-1 Card Reader
- 15" x 10" x 1.4" @ 5.8 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter
Review - ASUS A53Z-NS61
Aug 10 2012 - The ASUS A53Z is one of the most affordable of the ASUS laptops thanks to the AMD APU platform that it is based on. Prices for the system list just under $500 but it is fairly typical to find specials for the laptop at or under $400. In terms of performance, the ASUS A53Z-NS61 comes with the previous generation AMD A6-3420M quad core processor. This runs at a fairly low clock speed that means in many tasks, it is actually slower than the equivalent priced Intel based laptops. The extra cores should help it perform better when doing more demanding tasks or multitasking but it is held back by the 3GB of DDR3 memory which is less than the typical 4GB and the preferred 6GB for those looking to use it for multitasking. Thankfully, it is rather easy and inexpensive to remove the 1GB memory module and installed a 4GB replacement to upgrade the computer memory to 6GB.
Storage for the ASUS A53Z-NS61 is also below many similarly priced laptops. With just 320GB of storage space, it has roughly two thirds the space of the average budget system with their 500GB drives. The drive spins at a 5400rpm rate which is typical of budget laptops but it still feels very sluggish when booting or loading applications. If you do need more storage, the system does feature a single USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external storage. A dual layer DVD burner is included for playback and recording of CD or DVD media.
For a laptop that is available for near $400, the ASUS A53Z is a bit better than average. Mind you, this still isn't a spectacular screen but side by side it does seem to offer a bit more in terms of brightness and color. Viewing angles are decent but still not great. As with all the AMD Fusion processors, it comes with an integrated Radeon HD graphics core. For the A6-3420M, this is the Radeon HD 6520G. While this is a bit less feature rich than the new 7000 series cores in the Trinty based APUs, it still offers improved performance over what can be found in the Intel HD Graphics processors. The 3D performance is still going to be limited to more casual PC gaming at lower resolution and detail levels though. The other advantage it has over Intel is the ability to accelerate more non-3D applications thanks to the support of the OpenCL extensions.
Like many of their other laptops, ASUS decided to use an isolated keyboard design. It even includes a numeric keypad on the keyboard but has the disadvantage of making the spacing between individual keys smaller. The result is a keyboard that while comfortable could lead to accuracy problems for those with larger fingers. The trackpad is of a good size and performs decently. The trackpad buttons are dedicated right and left which is nicer than the integrated buttons. The downside is that the buttons are very stiff and loud making them fairly annoying.
ASUS uses a standard six cell battery pack with a 48WHr capacity rating typical to most low cost laptops. In my digital video playback, the laptop was able to run for just under three and a half hours before going into standby mode. This is pretty typical of most budget laptops. It is still a good deal less than what is achieved by the new Dell Inspiron 15R at four hours or the HP Envy Sleekbook 6 at its long five and a half hours.
In terms of its price range, there are really two really systems that it can be directly compared to. First is the HP Pavilion g6 which also features an AMD Fusion processor. It has lower performance from a dual-core processor but offers a larger 640GB hard drive albeit without any USB 3.0 ports. Second is the Gateway NE56 which uses the Intel Pentium which does offer better general performance without the same level of graphics capabilities. Like the HP, it also lacks any USB 3.0 ports.