What We Think
The ASUS is the gaming laptop for the more aesthetically pragmatic, though it still packs a punch. It’s a well catered for machine in power terms, with a good 3D screen and plenty to recommend it.
Gaming laptops seem often to be designed by people who have played a few to many sci-fi games. The ASUS G74SX is a gaming machine, though it is a little more subtle than those of the Alienware ilk.
The 17.3 inch machine is of a similar size to most of the larger devices, the M17x in particular and also weighs in pretty much in the same ballpark as the Alienware and throws itself in the ring with the big Dell.
As we’ve mentioned, the ASUS is quite subtle looking. It’s a matte black laptop, with a silver logo on its slightly rubber feeling back. This grippy feel transcends to the palm rest of the aluminium covered machine in a slanted aesthetic. The device’s main gaming tribute is the huge vents at the back, which would dictate its gaming credentials. However, other than that it’s humbly attractive and doesn’t have the blinking and whizzing of other machines. It’s also a decently built device and you feel you’re getting what you pay for, though at 4.6kg and over 60mm thick, it’s not too portable and more of a desktop replacement, than slip of a machine for those looking to commute.
The device’s keyboard really makes use of the machines large chassis and there is a nice divide between the keyboard and numeric pad. In fact, it’s almost desktop size. The keyboard is solid and has a nice feel, while the touchpad is one of the largest we’ve seen for a while – perfect for the 17.3inch screen. It’s also very smooth and accurate and provides on-the-ball gesture control – something many Windows laptops can take a leaf from in our opinion. Gamers may prefer a gaming mouse, though it’s nice to have a good touchpad.
The display itself is also quite good. It’s a 3D display with a resolution of 1920x1080p, making it high definition and has a matte display meaning there is little glare. Screen quality is nice and the high definition is sharp, to a pin point. It also offers quite good angles, though when pushed it can look a little washed out and blacks do look a little grey.
It comes with Nvidia 3D vision, and we found it quite easy to configure. One of the things we did find was that it had a lovely bright screen, something of a necessity when you wear 3D glasses which often have a tint that dulls the brightness. The fact the display is quite good and addition of a BluRay player, make a good speaker setup a necessity and we were impressed with the Altec Lansing effort. The addition of TrustStudio software worked a treat and we did find a noticeable difference when it was turned off, making us feel confident it’s a positive addition. The 2mp camera was also nice and clear and looked great, as did games on the well powered machine.
Of course, with a gaming machine processing power is a significant factor and the ASUS doesn’t disappoint with its Intel 2630QM machine. It’s a top end i7 Sandy Bridge Intel chip with all the top Hyper Threading, a 6M cache and Turbo Boost of up to 2.9GHz from a 2GHz processor norm. The 8GB of RAM is also far from stingy and is a necessary addition on a machine like this. This can be increased to 16GB if you feel it is necessary to put a man on the moon. It’s also a good machine for any sort of task you can throw at it and the brightness of the screen means it is good for more arty, design tasks. The device also has 2x750GB drives – plenty of storage so.
Though, the most important piece of hardware for gamers is a good graphics chip and the GeForce GTX 560M GPU fits the bill reasonably well. We found the whole machine to be extremely smooth and games such as Battlefield were lovely and smooth. It also ran at nice high frame rate in 3D and is up there with the Alienware M17x, and the Dell XPS 17 3D.
The connectivity is average, though not astounding. The ASUS has a Kensington lock slot, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet an Card Reader, as well as 4x USB – one is USB 3.0 and a BluRay player. There however is no Express Card, eSATA, or Firewire connection – which you may expect for the price.
On a machine like this portablilty is never going to be central and for its class the battery in the ASUS is a little below what would be expected. Expect to get less than two hours in powersaviing mode and it lasted 63 minutes in the Battery Eater 06 test – so get a PS Vita for longer train trips.
The ASUS is up there with some of the top end boutique machines and puts up a good fight. We found the screen to be nice in both 2D and 3D modes, and the device to have a good level of power for gaming. It’s also subtle in its styling, though attractive which makes a change from the usual. The keyboard and touchpad also deserve a mention.
There are some lackings in battery power, connectivity isn’t just what it should be and it is quite heavy and unportable. It’s also a little expensive, and becomes increasingly so, if you decide to add extras to the machine. On the other hand, this significantly increases what you get and the pace of the G74SX. The ASUS is a good machine, and almost a great machine. However, the competition of this gaming market is stern and there’s plenty of excellent rivals to choose from.