Oh gaming laptops. Too often, when discussing them, the conversation boils down to one key question: does the benefit of high-end mobile gaming outweigh the inevitably exorbitant pricing that accompanies these beasts?
The problem is that serious PC gamers – at least the kind that are going to drop 20K plus on a gaming machine – are often the kind of people who want the best value for their money. While they are willing to spend hard cash, they are a discerning bunch who want solid bang for buck. Bottom line; we want the most frames per second, for the best price.
This is where the entire concept of a gaming laptop gets tricky. Gaming laptop X costs Y, and we can usually build a home machine that offers superior performance to gaming laptop X, for a price that is substantially lower than Y. The obvious differentiating factor is mobility. The gaming laptop theoretically allows you to play anywhere; airplanes, airports, road trips, your bed, the list goes on. But do they really? Given that most games require a proper mouse to be playable, you need some desk space. Oh, and don’t forget that battery life is pretty limited when running the machine at full tilt, so a power point is necessary if you want to make it past the second loading screen.
Despite the fact that the regular benefits of a laptop are slightly crippled when looking at the platform specifically for gaming, there is no denying that there are pros. The most obvious is for LANing. Forget multiple trips to the car, lugging around cases and monitors, and then plugging it all together. Unfolding your gaming rig seamlessly onto a LAN table is awesome, and this convenience is a strong motivator for the gaming laptop as a concept.
Another benefit is its simplicity. For those who aren’t “tweakers,” and would prefer to never see the inside of their PC case, then the gaming laptop is ideal. No fiddling with jumpers, or resetting your BIOS because you stuffed a memory module in upside down. Forget the days of having to dust off your heat sink. Remember that time you forgot to switch your fancy new 800W power supply from Chinese to Western voltage settings, and in the process blew 3 of your shiny solid state capacitors clean off the motherboard? Those days are over. Gaming laptops are prebuilt and configured, and require little to no fiddling in order to get up and gaming.
So how does ASUS’ G73J stand up? Well, very nicely in fact. Next to the Toshiba Quosmio which we reviewed in March last year, the G73J appears stoic and dignified. No shinning bright neon lights, or obvious lame attempts to cash in on the “eXtreme” culture which seems to have swallowed gaming over the past few years. The G73J is dressed in plain mat grey, with a few subtle logos and embellishments.
More important than its aesthetics though, is the machine’s performance. Put simply, it is one of the most powerful gaming machines I have ever played with. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at the specs:
||Core I7-720QM 1.6GHZ|
||4X2GB DDR3 1066|
|Graphics||Mobility Radeon HD 5870 1GB|
|Storage||2X 320GB Solid State Harddrives|
||WIndows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit|
The mobile i7 CPU cuts through pretty much every day to day application you could possibly throw at it like a knife through warm butter. The CPU’s gaming performance is also solid, and it more than keeps up with the mobile HD 5870, which has little trouble throwing pixels around the screen at a ridiculous rate. Although the mobile version of the HD 5870 is a stripped down version of the desktop counterpart, it is no slouch. To back it up you have 8GBs of DDR3 RAM, which provides more than enough back-end support for high-end gaming and multitasking. Loading times are also sharp thanks to the dual 320GB solid state drives.
All the added extras are also in place. Four USB slots are adequate, although 5 would have been pretty special. A 2.1 speaker system with built in sub is superior to most laptop sound setups, although you will be better off with a good pair of headphones. A nicely backlit keyboard does a good job, and the magnificent 13.3 inch screen packs 1920×1080 pixels of HD goodness.
The 8-cell battery would be admirable in any ordinary laptop, but considering the power requirements of such a beast, an hour of gaming time unplugged would be generous. When not operating at full tilt, the battery lasts an equally unimpressive 1.5 hours. Let’s be honest though, you’re not reading this reviewing hoping for something with the battery efficiency of a Thinkpad.
So, how was it’s in-game performance? We ran some benchmarks against our test rig, and were pleasantly surprised.
Test rig specs
CPU AMD Phenom II 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz
Graphics HD 5870 1GB
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P
RAM 2x2GB Mushkin DDR3 1600MHz
|Crysis Warhead 1920×1080 – 2XAA – Gamer Settings – Frost Benchmark||Far Cry 2 1920×1080, Ultra High, DX10||H.A.W.X 1920×1080, Maximum Visuals, DX10||Dirt 2 1920×1080 , 4xMSAA, Maximum, DX11|
While the G73J is no match for our (cheaper) desktop machine, it offers impressive performance in its own right. The vast majority of games on the market will be very playable, and if it is mobile high-end gaming you are after, then the G73J is a great option.
Simple elegant design, excellent mobile performance, well rounded portable gaming machine.
Still expensive for its performance, difficult to upgrade, poor battery life.
Recommended Retail Price R22,000