Asus continues its progress on the laptop PC gamer market and certainly isn't afraid to innovate. The G51J 3D is the first notebook with NVIDIA 3D Vision. Performance is also pretty good with high-end components under the bonnet. According to Asus, we'll be getting full immersion: once more unto the breach!
Gamer laptop PCs are very often garishly designed. Fortunately, the G51J 3D doesn't go too far in this direction and retains an aesthetic that should appeal to most. The glossy black around the keyboard and screen is mixed with matte black that's rubbery and nice and soft to the touch. Only the design of its hood, glossy blue with a sort of white flame betrays its gamer origins. The finish is excellent and overall it has a good, solid feel about it.
The keyboard has separated keys (15 x 15 mm). Backlit (3 levels of brightness), it has good comfort of use, solid, quiet and pleasant keying. There's a number pad on the right hand side, which can be useful for office doc work. Above the keyboard, 3 buttons allow you to activate 3D Vision, move between different performance modes and deactivate the touchpad.
Created using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imager from Distrame.
The Asus G51J 3D is audible during office document usage and becomes noisy in gaming sessions. Quite a lot of heat is generated and it's best to keep your hands away from the hot air vent.
The touchpad is very comfortable to use in spite of being pretty standard in size (76 x 47 mm). Its matte coating has a very good glide and precision is also up to standard. The left and right clicks, built into the border in brushed aluminium, are also of very good quality.
The webcam is of good quality (aren't the 3D glasses swish!). The colours are natural, fluidity good and sharpness satisfying.
You get full connectivity, with 5 USB 2.0 ports including an e-SATA combo, a FireWire, an HDMI, a VGA, an RJ45, a memory card reader and mic sockets, an in and a headphones out (+ S/PDIF).
The G51J 3D also comes with a DVD burner and Blu-Ray player. Blu-Ray really comes into its own when the laptop is linked up to a television (even better if it's a 3D model!).
Under the machine, a large panel (12 screws) gives access to the main machine components: processor, graphics card, 2 hard drives, 2 RAM modules, Wi-Fi card. All these components are well positioned and it'll be easy (for those who're used to doing this) to upgrade at a later date.
||VGA, FireWire, combo USB 2.0/e-SATA, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0s
|Mic, line-in, headphones, 2 USB 2.0s, DVD burner/Blu-Ray player
||Asus G51J 3D from above
Processing power: 4-core processor for multimedia and gaming too!
Windows 7 index: 5,9. Details: CPU 7.1 - Memory 7.3 - Graphics 6.8 - Gaming graphics 6.8 - Main hard drive 5.9.
The G51J 3D uses the 4-core Intel Core i7 720-QM that is now often used for high-end configurations. A good idea as performance levels surpass all the others tested. The CPU index is up to 140 compared to 100 on our reference machine (100 on the index), the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400). This score is representative of the rapidity and responsiveness you feel when using it.
The turbo mode (automatic) that is built into the Core i7s no doubt contributes to these performance levels as the processor adapts its clock (up to 2.8 GHz) according to the application you're running. For some software (video encoding for example), the Core i7 720QM uses all 4 cores (x2 thanks to hyperthreading), while on other applications (the majority of games for example) only 2 cores are used and the clock is increased. A clever system that's particularly effective: performance can sometimes be doubled in comparison to a dual-core model.
HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) is a formality for such a processor. However, we do advise you to allot this task to the graphics card so as to reduce power consumption and free up the processor. For this, all you require is software that handles graphics card hardware decoding. Power DVD 9 or Media Player Classic HC (with the right codecs) does this.
3D gaming: games at native resolution with nice graphics
The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M graphics card that equips the Asus G51J is a high performance model that is particularly at ease with the latest titles. With the low native resolution of the screen (1366 x 768 pixels), we had no problem running our selection of games. All work at high settings: Race Driver GRID, Fallout 3, Unreal Tournament 3 or Half-Life 2. Even Crysis runs correctly at high settings (20 fps on average), although it is recommended to lower a few graphics effects to be sure not to get any annoying slowdowns.
NVIDIA 3D Vision technology
In terms of 3D, we very much appreciated the video results. NVIDIA also offers a utility that allows you to convert standard 2D videos to 3D. Although not as nice as native 3D, the effect is impressive all the same, particularly for certain films. Some passages of Star Wars converted to 3D made us very impatient to get our hands on the true 3D version!
With 3D video gaming, we noted quite a performance fall-off (in terms of processing it's almost as if the machine had to calculate 2 frames for each 2D frame). Here you'll want to lower graphics settings in most games. A higher performance graphics card would be welcome to cope with the demands of 3D.
Overall, the 3D results were convincing and the glasses effective. Perception is close to what you get in dark rooms, although the small screen size isn't ideal for real immersion. There is however a bit of crosstalk, when an image is occasionally doubled. It's also a shame that the receiver isn't built into the machine. The current solution necessitates an adaptor which you plug into the USB... shame!
Audio: could do much better
In spite of the Altec Lansing speakers, the sound is very average. It lacks bass and spacialization. The headphones out is however clean and also functions in S/PDIF mode to link the G60J to a real speaker kit or amp.
Mobility, battery life: not even half of some films
Battery life was 1 hour 27 minutes film playback (brightness at 100 Cd/m², Wi-Fi disactivated and headphones plugged in). Not much! The day when we see gamer laptops with decent battery life is not yet upon us. High performance comes at a cost and the 4800 mAh battery doesn't last long under the voracious demands of the processor and graphics card.
We can't wait to get our hands on the first models equipped with 2 graphics parts and Optimus technology. With a power consumption conscious system, this technology could finally bring us laptops that ally high graphics performance with longer battery life.
At 3.3 Kg, the G51J is rather heavy and hasn't been designed to be carried around everywhere. You can nevertheless take it on an occasional trip if you have strong shoulders. Thankfully, this PC laptop comes with a rucksack, which makes things a bit easier. Unfortunately however, the charger is heavy and takes up quite a bit of space.