Every time we review a notebook, we test out its speakers by playing a few tunes and videos–and usually come away unimpressed. But laptop makers are now paying a lot more attention to both volume and fidelity, in some cases touting sound quality as a reason to buy their wares. With that in mind, we rounded up four systems that boast enhanced audio capabilities. While we’ve listened to enough notebooks to know what’s good and what’s bad, we don’t have the practiced ear of an audio pro. That’s why we enlisted Jamie, a sound engineer with more than 10 years experience working for major labels, to come take a listen. He played a number of tracks on each of the machines, ranging from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to Guns n’ Roses “November Rain,” and then weighed in with his expert opinion.
This 18-inch metallic monster features side-mounted speakers and ASUS SonicMaster Technology developed by sound engineers at ASUS and Bang & Olufsen ICEpower. Of all the systems we tested, the ASUS NX90Jq speakers had the best placement. They’re aimed directly at the user—like a real stereo—and not directed upwards, like most notebooks.
While Bang & Olufsen is known for its high-end speakers, the ones on the NX90 "sound like a cheap Casio keyboard from the 90s," according to Jamie. Although they were very clear, they weren’t very bright; even after tweaking the equalizer settings, high and mid-range sounds tended to drown out the bass. However, increasing the vocal clarity setting helped a bit.
Score: 3.5 out of 5