ASUS K53E: Enter Sandy Bridge Man

Last week, we looked at one of our final Arrandale laptops in the ASUS U41JF, a worthy follow-up to the U-series’ legacy. Today we have another ASUS laptop, this time one of the first dual-core Sandy Bridge systems to grace our test bench. The K53E comes to us via Intel, and they feel it represents what we’ll see on the various other dual-core SNB laptops coming out in the near future. Unlike the Compal quad-core SNB notebook we tested back in January, this notebook is available at retail, and it comes with very impressive performance considering the price, but there’s a catch.

Intel has taken the stock K53E and fitted it with a faster i5-2520M processor, which should be a moderate performance bump from the K53E with i5-2410M and a healthy upgrade from the non-Turbo i3-2310M model. The i5-2520M runs at a stock clock speed of 2.5GHz with Turbo modes running at up to 3.2GHz; in contrast, the i5-2410M checks in at 2.3GHz with a 2.9GHz max Turbo, and the poor i3-2310M runs at a constant 2.1GHz. There are a few other changes as well, depending on which model you want to take as the baseline. The K53E-B1 comes with 6GB standard and a 640GB HDD, while the K53E-A1 comes with 4GB and a 500GB HDD; our test system has a 640GB HDD and 6GB RAM (despite the bottom sticker labeling it as a K53E-A1). Intel also installed Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit instead of the usual Home Premium 64-bit, which means there’s no bloatware on the system—and ASUS’ standard suite of utilities is also missing.

If you want a ballpark estimate of cost for a similar laptop, the Lenovo L520 has the same i5-2520M CPU, 4GB RAM, and a 320GB HDD with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, priced at $826. Intel’s pricing on the i5-2520M is $225, so around $800 total for the K53E would be reasonable, but like most OEMs ASUS gets better pricing for the i5-2400 series parts and thus chooses to save money there. For most users, the stock K53E-B1 will be more than sufficient, as the extra 10-15% performance increase from the CPU upgrade won’t normally show up in day-to-day use—you’d be far better off adding an SSD rather than upgrading the CPU. Here are the specs of the laptop we’re reviewing.

ASUS K53E (Intel Customized) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2520M
(2x2.50GHz + HTT, 3.2GHz Turbo, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 1x4GB + 1x2GB DDR3-1333 CL9 (Max 8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics (Sandy Bridge)
12 EUs, 650-1300MHz Core
Display 15.6" WLED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
(AU Optronics B156XW02 v6)
Hard Drive(s) 640GB 5400RPM HDD
(Seagate Momentus ST9640423AS)
Optical Drive DVDRW (Matshita UJ8A0ASW)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8151)
802.11bgn (Intel Advanced-N 6230, 300Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR (Intel 6230)
Audio 2.0 Altec Lansing Speakers
Microphone and headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1 digital output (HDMI/SPDIF)
Battery 6-Cell, 10.8V, 5.2Ah, 56Wh
Front Side Memory Card Reader
Left Side 1 x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Exhaust vent
Right Side Headphone/S-PDIF Jack
Microphone Jack
2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive
Kensington Lock
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Dimensions 14.88" x 9.96" x 1.11-1.37" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.84 (with 6-cell battery)
Extras 0.3MP Webcam
102-Key keyboard with Numeric Keypad
Flash reader (MMC, SD, MS/Pro)
Warranty 2-year standard warranty on some models
1-year standard warranty on others
Pricing K53E-B1 (i5-2410M): Starting at $719
K53E-A1 (i3-2310M): Starting at $625

Like the U41JF, outside of the CPU we’ve already covered most of the items here. One new addition is the 640GB 5400RPM Seagate Momentus drive (previously we usually received 500GB models). With a higher areal density, sequential transfer rates will go up, but the random access speed is still going to be horrible. Also like the U41JF, there are quite a few missing features: USB 3.0, eSATA, FireWire, and ExpressCard are not here, so if you want any of those you’ll need to go elsewhere. The DVDRW, LCD, audio, and other items all typical features; the 0.3MP webcam makes the sacrifice of resolution in order to work better in lower light conditions.

There are a lot of similarities to the ASUS X72D/K72DR we looked at in October, though we’re running an Intel CPU and using a 15.6”-screen chassis this time, and there’s no discrete graphics option. Of course, the HD 5470 is no performance beast, so Intel’s HD 3000 actually posts similar results (albeit with perhaps less compatibility across a larger selection of games). Also interesting is that ASUS is using a 56Wh battery in place of the 48Wh units that have been so common; hopefully that will be the case on all of their midrange laptops going forward, though we’re still partial to the 84Wh batteries in the U-series.

The real purpose of this laptop is to get dual-core Sandy Bridge out there for the lowest possible cost. While the notebook as configured would probably need to sell for around $800, the K53E-B1 with i5-2410M is going to perform very similarly and will set you back $720. Because Intel performance a clean OS install, we also skipped out on the regular set of ASUS utilities. Power4Gear is about the only one we usually find useful, with the ability to power off the optical drive usually boosting battery life a bit relative to other laptops. Since we’re not looking at a stock K53E, though, we decided to just run the system as configured on both the hardware and software fronts.

ASUS K53E Impressions and User Experience
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  • MrSpadge - Saturday, April 9, 2011 - link

    I'm totally with you here, Jarred.

    In this review and in the Brazos review it was made very clear that you can totally forget about Atom. And there's a reason you don't include a Pentium 1 laptop from 1995 in these reviews.

    And the i5-25xxM being about 4 times as fast as Brazos in CPU intensive tasks is certainly worth mentioning. You have to say it, because it's ******* true. Whether this matters to someone or not is an entirely different qeustion and up to everyone individually. I think you really made this totally clear.

  • kevlno3 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    be frank , CPU not your sport car. you hardly notice the different in your 80% of time while you using it for work.
    I would said we happy to see the technology improve , but we better make up our mind to look at value of money.
    RM1.4k for Llano , within another 3-4 months time vs RM2k core i5 or RM1.4k core i3 2310. what do u think? core i5 only help u fast loading the program. core i3 can't handle the game. Llano A3400 will handle both easily. of course if you keep look at benchmark , u unable to sleep even you have a Core i7. i just throw my intel extreme cpu.
  • lenghui - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    I agree with you, Jarred. I am a AMD fan, but the includsion and comparison of E-350 is valid and does not take away anything from your well written article. Keep up the nice work!
  • tuskers - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    Fact-check: a simple search on Amazon for "E-350" can get you a 15.6" laptop for $357.70, as of this posting. Not exactly "around $450" or "$500 for similar components" as the article claims. And that's without even really looking for an affordable one. On the other hand, nothing in retail channels comes up for $600 on Amazon.

    In the article you artificially creep the price of what you're testing down, and creep the price of an E-350 solutions up, in order to make your claims that they're worth comparing. They're different segments: the E-350 was invented to be an ultraportable chip, and you're comparing it to a mainstream (or even desktop replacement) chip.

    People don't choose the E-350 because it's has a good graphics chip-- it merely has a good graphics chip for its market segment, compared to intel's CULV/UM, Atom, and Atom/Ion solutions.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    Sony YB pricing is coming down, and it looks like the MSI X370 should start selling in the US for around $550 as well. And really, E-350 shouldn't ever go to $500, let alone $550, which is the point I have been making.

    So now Acer has a 15.6" E-350 system for $335 or whatever. Great. Twice the price gets you more than double the performance, and Acer's 15.6" designs have NOT impressed me in the past. Is it cheap and fast enough for some people, yes. You're still getting what you pay for.

    Acer Aspire 5253-BZ602:
    AMD E-350
    HD 6310M
    250GB 5400RPM HDD
    15.6" 1366x768 LCD
    2x1GB RAM (so if you want to upgrade, you throw out a 1GB SO-DIMM)
    6-cell battery (quoted battery life of just 3.3 hours... not sure what they ran for that test though)
    Win7 Home Premium

    For that much money, sure, it's a fair price, but as I've said this is what I felt netbooks should have been from day one. Atom just sucks too much, and while there are performance compromises with E-350 it's at least going to handle multimedia content. If I'm going to actually use a laptop on a daily basis, I'll save up and spend more money on a good quality device. Just because something is really cheap doesn't make it a great bargain.
  • kevlno3 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    in fact , battery life is because except Asus giving you 56wh in common, non of them give you this high capacity battery pack . Acer will only provide you 48wh , to avoid hurt his flagship timeline 66wh ,claim can go up to 8 hours.
    currently i using Dell , 48wh. i3 2310 only can last 3hours.
    my friend K43U , E350 last 6 hours office work. 4 hours in facebook game. (i recommend him to buy it, but i fall in the Intel trap) i need to sell my N4110 fast , just 2 days using it. i hope to see Llano base notebook sell at RM1.4k without the HD6650
  • kevlno3 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    infact Malaysia are selling RM1499 for HP DM1 , Asus K43U is just about RM1099. currently Malaysia ringgit is grow up , USD 1 convert to RM 3 (before this is RM3.8) you keep telling the fake answer , USD 600 ,it's RM1800 .(pervious is RM2.4k ) we can buy Core i5 with HD6470 RM1899 from Dell ,even Timeline 4830TG for RM2449, but not the E350. in fact i just get my brand new Dell N4110 ,core i3 2310+ HD6630 just RM1600.
    currently Acer 5560G , is selling RM1800 A3400 + HD6650.
    I dont think the 2310 (or even core i5) cpu is so good to keep battery life go long. in fact is only the Asus quality factory given 56wh instead of 48wh battery to extend the battery life. Currently my Dell N4110 hardly get even 3h10mins when setting 30% brightness , wifi on , power saving mode.
  • kevlno3 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Dell N4110 core i3 2310 , HDD 500GB 7200rpm , HD6630 , 4GB . 14" LCD. this model you should do a review & tell whole world the Dell had a worse design ever . they put the 7200rpm HDD at the left palm rest area ,after 5mins turn on , it's start cook my palm. battery life even just 3hours 10 minutes.(HD3000 only) ,idle upto 5hours. power saving mode , 30% brightness , wifi & bluetooth on. only start maxthon 3 browser , no back ground program , no antivirus , no firewall. (this model seem like cant only turn on wifi)
    in air condition room you wouldn't notice that much about the left palm area heat issue. but i wonder how much lousy engineer work inside Dell.
  • kevlno3 - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    actually i dont mind you put the E350 , i like to know more review before i do a purchase. but in term of battery life the major reason not the CPU ,but the factory who willing give u the 56wh above battery pack.
    i buy Dell major reason is the person who doing promotion to sell it at RM1.6k . but the core i3 2310 not perform as what i read in most review. i read the Toshiba intel B940 can acheived 5h28mins . most of the review also show core i3 2310 will go up to 4-5 hours. but in fact it's just 3hours.
    now 2h15mins -56% , but in fact starting battery drop so fast , & it's doesn't me 4h 30mins even i just unplug the adapter.
  • fic2 - Friday, April 8, 2011 - link

    "lots of people rip on Intel's graphics as being unfit for just about anything"

    Lots of people rip on Intel's graphics because until Sandy Bridge they weren't fit for anything.

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