Since recently, the 15.6-inch Asus K53U series laptop is available with the AMD E-450 dual-core Accelerated Processing Unit, successor of the E-350. In this review, we will present our view of the laptop regarding its design, build quality, cooling, and computing and battery life performance.
The E-450-based model available States-side is the Asus K53U-DH21, which packs 4GB of RAM, a 500GB HDD, and DVD burner, besides the APU with the integrated Radeon HD 6320 graphics and 1080p HD video decoder. “U” in the model name represents AMD’s APU, whereas the K53E packs Intel’s Pentium and Core processors.
Asus K53U (DH21) Specifications
• 15.6-inch 1366×768 glossy display with LED backlight
• AMD E-450 Fusion dual-core APU at 1.65GHz
• AMD Radeon HD 6320 integrated graphics
• 4 GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
• 500GB 5,400rpm SATA2 hard drive
• DVD burner
• 6-cell 5200 mAh battery
• Altec Lansing stereo speakers
• 0.3MP web camera
• HDMI, VGA, 3xUSB 2.0 ports, 4-in-1 media card reader
• 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet LAN
• Depth: 10 inches; height: 1.4 inches; width: 14.9 inches
• Weight: 5.7 pounds
• OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
• Color: Mocha Brown
Design and Build Quality
The Asus K53U is entirely made of plastics. The palmrests, lid, and area surrounding the keyboard are in a dark Mocha Brown color, while the front display frame, keyboard, and laptop’s sides are black. The trackpad buttons stand out with a silver-colored coating. The palmrests and lid have a zigzag texture, while the plastic around the keyboard has a finish which resembles brushed metal. That brushed metal look is prettier than zigzag, but the former feels slippery, so we assume that’s why Asustek has chosen zigzag for the palmrests and lid.
It’s a little bit hard to open the laptop due to stiff hinges, but when you do it, the display panel stays still in the position you choose. The lid can be opened to an angle of up to around 155 degrees.
On the whole casing there is only a small amount of flex which occurs only when you press the chassis hard. However, the display panel is elastic a lot.
HDMI, VGA, Ethernet port, and two USB connectors are located on the left side of the laptop. On the right, there’s another USB port and mic and headphone jacks. The media card reader is on the front side.
K53U Keyboard and Touchpad
In this field Asustek did a great job, considering the K53U is just a budget notebook. The flex is present only on the numeric keypad which sits on the top of the DVD slot. Other parts are virtually flex-free. The square buttons are large enough and have a fair amount of space between them, so typing errors were very rare in our case. Tactile feedback is good, although we would prefer slightly more travel when a key is pressed. The keyboard is quiet.
The multi-touch touchpad is a mix of good and bad. The smooth trackpad area allows fast finger movements and thus fast pointer navigation. It’s accurate and rejects palm touches, but sometimes only a tiny accidental contact of a finger with the touchpad surface produces pointer jumps across the screen.
Beneath the touch area there are two separate touchpad buttons, made of silver plastics. The buttons are on the stiff side, but not too stiff. The bad thing is that they are extremely loud, which can be annoying.
Display on K53U
The display is a mediocre one, like on the most of mainstream laptops with 1366×768 resolution. It can’t produce deep black colors and vertical viewing angles are not great, but horizontal angles are good. The display is bright enough so you can run it on brightness settings of 65% or %80, saving the battery life and still having a decent picture.
Speakers, Camera and Microphone
The Altec-Lansing-branded stereo speakers are located right above the keyboard and provide usual volume and sound quality for a laptop. The webcam is a basic one with a 0.3MP sensor, which will enable you to do video chats, but nothing more than that in terms of quality. It doesn’t perform well in low light conditions, with a lot of grain on the picture. We have no complaints regarding the microphone.
Asus K53U Performance and Benchmarks
The main upgrade in the AMD E-450, when compared to E-350 APU, is Turbo mode capability of its integrated graphics processor. The GPU’s clock speed ranges between 508 and 600MHz, depending on usage, versus 492MHz in the E-350. (Correction: We have previously said that Turbo mode is also enabled on the CPU cores, but the truth is that it works only for graphics).
Our real-world use (browsing, email, photo editing) impression is that the E-450 gives a CPU performance which is on a half way between one of an Intel Atom dual-core processor and an entry-level Intel ultra-low voltage CPU.
PassMark’s processor comparison chart says the same.
Web surfing with switching between multiple browser tabs, email, text editing in Microsoft Word, and spreadsheet editing in Excel run fast and you won’t notice any major difference between the Asus K53U and other higher end laptops, but when it comes to photo or video editing, its obvious the system is on the slower side.
As for gaming, the AMD Radeon HD 6320 and the CPU cores performed admirably when playing older titles like Quake 4 and Half Life 2 on high settings and maximal laptop’s display resolution. More demanding first-person-shooter games such as Crysis and Far Cry 2 are playable only on low settings and lower resolution of 1280×720 pixels. Change of settings to medium or an increase of resolution will make them unplayable.
Playback of a 1080p HD video from the HDD in Windows Media Player consumed between 6 and 14 percent of CPU power.
For more info on CPU and graphics performance, please read the separate review of the E-450 and Radeon HD 6320.
For battery life test, we simulated Internet use of the laptop. The power settings were set to a modified Balanced Mode, with screen brightness at 65 percent. Wi-Fi was on and the browser was opening a single html page every minute, did a search query on Google every five minutes, and played a 5-minute YouTube video at 360p every 15 minutes. Skype was on and Thunderbird email client was checking for new emails every 10 minutes. In the background, we played mp3 music from the hard drive in Windows Media Player at 50% volume.
Under these conditions, the battery life lasted a decent 4 hours and 12 minutes.
Heat and Noise
And last but certainly not least – the cooling system. Asustek calls it IceCool Technology and its also used in their other laptops. IceCool includes a dual-sided motherboard with hot components on the underside to prevent heat near user’s hands. This is maybe the coolest laptop we have ever used thanks both to IceCool and AMD’s E-450 with a TDP of only 18W. During the everyday computing tasks, the palmrests are completely cool or better said cold. The area between the space key and the palmrest is only a couple of Celsius degrees warmer. Even the air blown out through the vent holes on the left is not hot, but warm. Interestingly, because of the location of “hot components” on the underside we have expected some heat there, but the laptop’s bottom is also cold, with barely noticeable heat on the left area where the vents are and on the RAM cover.
The notebook is not loud. Its fans blow all the time, but the sound is low and not annoying.
Asus K53U Review Conclusion
The Asus K53U is yet another affordable mainstream 15.6-inch laptop made of plastics and isn’t much different from other notebooks in its category, but it has its qualities such as a solid chassis, great keyboard and surprisingly cool operation. Its processing performance is on the lower end when compared to the majority of today’s notebooks, but on the other side, the battery life of more than four hours is quite satisfactory for a 15.6-incher.
Priced at around $450, the Asus K53U-DH21 is a strong choice for budget-conscious consumers who want to do everyday computer tasks on a cool and quiet full size laptop with a nice keyboard.