A straight-up-and-down chassis
It's nice to see gamer machines that don't light up like a jukebox. Even the RoG logo looks discreet. This is something we had already remarked on with the G53SX, one of the 15.6-inch models in the range.
Although its chassis isn't exactly the same as that used for the 15.6-inch previously tested here - especially when it comes to the expulsion of hot air - both models do have a matte black shell that gives them a nice robust feel. The finish could do with a little work. The palm rest, with its soft coating, and the keyboard unfortunately sink in slightly when you press down on them. While this is by no means a major problem, it does somewhat spoil the overall feeling of quality. Again, this is something we also remarked on with the G53SX.
Looking at the keyboard, the 17-inch chassis has the advantage of not imposing any restrictions when it comes to the size of keys when a numberpad is added. The G74SX therefore has well-proportioned and well-positioned keys. Once again, however, keying is a bit too soft, something for Asus to improve on in future generations.
The touchpad covers a large area and is much nicer to use than the smaller ones that you all too often find on laptops. This one is also a multitouch and the glide is smooth and nice to use.
The webcam gives pretty good results as long as there's not too much movement. It's far from being among the worst we've seen however and it'll be fine for occasional use.
The connectivity covers most of the bases. On the right, there's an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, VGA video outs, an RJ45 and the power socket. On the left there are two other USB 2.0 ports, a DVD rewriter and the mic and headphones sockets. An eSATA port and a Blu-ray player wouldn't have gone amiss but given its price/power ratio - which doesn't affect the rating - this would perhaps have been too much to expect.
In terms of noise and heat, it comes out very well. Not only is it quiet, even when you push the components hard, but the hot air is expelled out the back of the machine which means the hot air isn't directed straight onto your knees when you're using the G74SX on your lap.
The G74S's temperature readings when you push the components hard
Readings taken using a Fluke Ti25 (Distrame) camera
Underneath, with the panels off
USB 2.0 port (X 2), DVD rewriter, headphones and mic
SD card reader, USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, VGA out, HDMI out, RJ45 and power socket
Processor power: good performance
Like the majority of recent gamer machines, the G74SX uses an Intel Core i7-2630QM processor. Each of its four physical cores can launch two processes in parallel. On applications that are optimised for it, it will, on average, be twice as efficient as a processor like the Core i5-2410M. It handles office work, file decompression, HD video encoding, 3D modelling and so on. Nothing gives it any trouble.
It does it all and it does it fast. Decoding of 1080p (Full HD) videos is also a walk in the park for the G74SX.
Windows 7 Family Premium edition (64-bit) takes 37 seconds to boot. You then have to wait another 10 to 20 seconds for the various pieces of software and connection to a wi-fi network to launch. It turns off in under 15 seconds.
Gaming: fill your boots!
A gamer oriented machine, the G74SX has a high-end graphics card, the GTX 560M, which can handle any title. In practice, certain particularly demanding games, such as Dirt 3, Metro 2033 and Crysis 2, will require you to lower your settings. Most function in native definition (1600 x 900 pixels) with all settings pushed to a maximum.
Audio: it could have been perfect
Overall the G74SX has decent audio but isn't unfortunately perfect. Installing a 2.1 kit will give you a clean but veiled sound and the subwoofer gives the impression of being off-centre.
The mic-in distortion curve... did you say interference?
The headphones socket is excellent, clean and with plenty of power but the same can't be said for the mic in, where there's a lot of interference.