When not making tiny netbooks, Asus is busy crafting enormous gaming laptops that are fast enough to melt your face off. Its latest effort, the 17.3-inch G73, is the first we've seen that features the ATI Radeon HD 5870 GPU -- ATI's fastest mobile graphics card to date. The model sold in the UK, the G73Jh, also features an Intel Core i7-720QM CPU, 1TB of storage, a Blu-ray drive, and 8GB of DDR3 memory. It's available now for around £1,900.
The G73Jh is the Hulk Hogan of laptops. It measures 420 by 67 by 310mm, and weighs 3.9kg, so you'll struggle to use it anywhere other than at home. That's a shame, because it's a sexy beast.
Unlike most gaming laptops, it isn't adorned with flashing lights and garish embellishments hinting at its performance. Instead, it politely suggests its aggressive nature with a menacing matte black finish and a chassis inspired by the iconic F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter. Every surface -- from the area around the keyboard to the frame of the webcam -- features slanting surfaces and jaunty angles. The G73Jh may not be a bomb-dropping, radar-dodging bringer of atomic death, but one glance is all it takes to convince you that it means business.
Although the G73Jh lacks a built-in light show, it's not dull to look at -- there are plenty of appealing touches that look cool and also serve a real purpose. For instance, the battery pack isn't some off-the-shelf unit borrowed from another Asus machine. Its chunky, angular aesthetic is completely coherent with the rest of the laptop's design, and it gives the G73Jh a wedge shape, raising the keyboard to an ergonomic, five-degree angle.
The keyboard itself is fabulous. Its chiclet-style buttons are well spaced out and have a responsive feel. The entire keyboard is backlit too, so you can see what you're doing in the dark.
The G73Jh is brimming with high-end components. An Intel Core i7-720QM processor takes centre stage, accompanied by 8GB of high-speed DDR3 PC3-10700 memory and a top-of-the-range ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics card.
These components can generate a massive amount of heat, so it's just as well that Asus has fitted the G73Jh with an elaborate cooling system. Two large vents live at the rear of the system, sucking air in and away from the internal components. It looks like the sort of thing that would generate a great deal of noise, but, for the most part, the G73Jh runs quietly and remains cool to the touch.
Rock out with your clock out
The G73Jh's Core i7-720QM CPU runs, as standard, at a relatively modest 1.6GHz -- the same clock speed as most netbook processors. Don't let this fool you, though -- it's a quad-core monster with the ability to overclock itself dynamically. It can sense when the user requires more performance and increase its clock speed to a mammoth 2.8GHz -- provided the unit is operating in the right temperature and power envelope. Accidentally cover up a vent, for example, and the system may get hotter than normal, limiting its overclocking potential.
If 2.8GHz isn't enough, don't worry, because Asus provides a facility that lets you overclock the overclocking. You'll find three buttons just above the keyboard -- one toggles the keyboard backlight, another changes the screen preset mode ('gamma correction', 'vivid', 'theatre', 'soft' and 'normal' are available) and the third toggles Asus' 'twin turbo' mode. Hit that last button, and the G73Jh will overclock the CPU by approximately six per cent, from 2.8GHz to 2.97GHz.
Asus has thrown in two 500GB, 7,200rpm hard drives, totalling 1TB of storage. The G73Jh is also the proud owner of a Blu-ray drive, which is just as well, because the gorgeous 17.3-inch display runs at a whopping 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. As a result, you'll be able to enjoy Blu-ray movies at a 'Full HD', 1080p resolution on the laptop itself or pump video (and audio) via the HDMI output port to an external display.
The G73Jh is well equipped in terms of audio, too. Its on-board speakers are loud enough to fill a room and the 'subwoofer' mounted underneath the chassis adds a sprinkling of low-frequency noise, although we'd hesitate to call it bass. Asus also includes a set of 'Republic of Gamers' headphones in the box. These deliver surprisingly good audio quality for a bundled set, although they leak a fair amount of sound, so you may find yourself annoying those around you with the screams of your gaming victims.
Gamers should appreciate the fact that the G73Jh's on-board sound card complies with Creative's EAX (environmental audio extensions) digital-signal-processing presets. They're best thought of as a library of sound effects -- occlusion, reverb and so on -- that can change the nature of in-game sounds to increase realism. For example, without EAX, firing a pistol underwater in a game would sound the same as firing it in a corridor. With EAX, the sound could be given an occlusion mask to make it sound more authentic.
The G73Jh is not only the Hulk Hogan but also the Usain Bolt of laptops. Running in standard, non-overclocked mode, it achieved a PCMark05 benchmark score of 7,861 -- the highest we've seen to date. Overclocked, using Asus' twin-turbo feature, it racked up 8,077.
The laptop's gaming performance was even more impressive. In non-overclocked mode, it racked up a 3DMark06 score of 11,828 -- 513 points more than the Alienware M17 scored with its single ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics card last year. With twin-turbo mode enabled, the G73Jh scored 13,036 -- the highest score we've seen from any laptop with a single graphics card.
These obscene numbers translate to equally outlandish real-world performance. The notoriously demanding Crysis ran at an average of around 30 frames per second, with all detail settings set to maximum, and played at a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution.
The G73Jh's battery life is, understandably, rather pants, but not as bad as we thought it would be. The battery lasted 1 hour and 33 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, which is exactly the same length of time managed by the Toshiba U500-1EX -- a thin-and-light laptop with a 13.3-inch screen. Considering the G73Jh is a 17.3-inch gaming behemoth that offers nearly 20 times the U500-1EX's gaming performance, 1 hour and 33 minutes isn't a bad figure.
The Asus G73Jh is an epic machine. Not only is it the fastest laptop we've tested so far, but, unlike many of its rivals, such as the Alienware M17x, it's also beautiful to look at. If you want a gaming laptop that's brutally quick, gorgeously designed and excellent value for money, this is the machine for you.
Edited by Charles Kloet