The Asus G51Vx-A1 is the latest in Asus' line of gaming notebooks. Its 15.6" screen size allows the computer to be more portable than models with 17" screens and its powerful video card and quad-core processor allow it to play almost any game without a problem.
My review unit was generously provided by GenTechPC, an Asus reseller in California. They also let me use several of their pictures of the computer for my review. Any pictures with a solid white background are theirs. You can find their forum representative, Ken Lee, posting on this site and also on Notebook Review (not affiliated) under the forum name GenTechPC. He knows a ton about all things Asus, so feel free to ask him a question about either GenTechPC or Asus in general.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000
OS: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Chipset: Intel PM45 (Montevina)
Memory: 4GB DDR2 @ 800 Mhz
Screen: 15.6” 1920x1080 (16:9 ratio) LED backlit
Video Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M w/1GB GDDR3 VRAM
Hard Drive: 2x 320GB 7200RPM SATA
Optical Drive: DVD-RW Super Multi with Lightscribe
Wireless: 802.11n (draft), Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
Connections: 4 USB, HDMI, eSATA, S/PDIF, VGA, IEEE 1394, Ethernet, card reader
What's in the Box:
In previous reviews, I have mentioned how impressive I find it that Lenovo includes so much documentation with their systems. While Asus does not have quite as much documentation as Lenovo, they include a ton of other extras that no other company provides. Along with the notebook is included a Razer Copperhead gaming mouse, a backpack you can use to tote around your notebook, a cleaning cloth for the screen, as well as documentation and recovery discs.
Design and Build Quality
The machine is deceptively well-built. What I mean by this is that the predominantly plastic construction feel like plastic and when I opened the lid, it flexed somewhat from left to right, giving the first impression that the machine may not be very well built. However, after some testing, the lid protects the screen very well with no pressure marks appearing on the screen when I pushed on the back of the lid. Also, the lid stayed in the position in which it is set regardless of how violently I shook the notebook. So it is better built than I expected after opening it.
As to design, it is a gaming notebook and thus is meant to attract attention. There are blue lights on the back and sides of the lid and a blue on black pattern on the back of the lid that is reminiscent of lightning. The chiclet-style keyboard is also backlit, giving gamers a better chance to see what they're doing in the dark. One of the best design features of the notebook that can be easily overlooked is the rubberized palmrest, which makes long gaming sessions much more comfortable on the wrists.
The screen is glossy and has a few different color presets via Asus' Splendid utility, which allows the user to customize the overall look. Colors look very good, and brightness is also good. The negative of the screen is that it has rather bad vertical viewing angles and only mediocre horizontal viewing angles, which means that in order to see the picture at its best, you may have to do some screen adjusting and not move too much once you find a sweet spot.
This is the first chiclet keyboard I have used so far, and it has a different feel than the other keyboards I've used. The keys, while responsive, feel somewhat softer and a bit squishy compared to what I am used to. There is also some flex to the keyboard in general, and the whole thing can, with some effort, be shifted a millimeter or so from side to side. Even with the flex, the keyboard is still easy to type on and the chiclet-style separated keys make mistakes less common.
The touchpad is smooth and responsive. It works flawlessly in Vista. My only complaint with it is that scrolling does not work in Asus' instant-on Express Gate environment. Of course, most people using this computer will forego the touchpad entirely in favor of the superior gaming mouse Asus provides with the notebook, so perhaps this weakness won't even be noticed. The buttons are part of one piece of metal, and they work well, although users used to softer buttons may find their clicking a bit loud.
The built-in wireless card detected my home network instantly and connected with no problems. Thoroughput was consistent and good.
As with most notebooks, the speakers on the G51Vx-A1 are not the most powerful. Sound quality (including the explosion sound that accompanies the Asus splash screen) is okay, but volume is comparatively low.
I found the webcam on this unit to be surprisingly adept at responding to semi-fast motion, unlike the webcams of the two Gateway notebooks I have reviewed. While the webcam is still no substitute for a real camera or video camera, it is more than adequate for quick pictures and chatting over the internet.
One of the interesting ways the G51Vx-A1 is layed out is its placement of USB ports. There is one on the left side, one on the back, and two on the right side, allowing for a wide range of peripherals without cluttering up space on one side of the notebook. Also along the left side are HDMI, eSATA, IEEE 1394, VGA monitor-out, a card reader, and the main exhaust vent.
On the right side along with the two USB ports is the DVD Super Multi drive.
The rear USB port shares its side with the power adapter socket, ethernet, and a blocked-off modem port. It seems Asus has assumed the buyers of this notebook are not using dial-up internet.
Performance and User Experience
The G51Vx is the second gaming computer I have reviewed so far, and its performance beats out that of the Gateway P-7811 FX I reviewed last year in most situations. If you look on the right, you can see the results of several benchmarks. As for real-world gaming performance, here's a list of the games I tried and what the average frames per second (recorded by FRAPS over a 60-second period) were for each one. Games were tested using the native resolution of 1920x1080 and the highest available graphics settings.
- Call of Duty 4: 59 FPS
- Bioshock 69 FPS
- Half Life 2 - Lost Coast: 77 FPS
- World in Conflict: 14 FPS
- Company of Heroes: 60 FPS
- Crysis - Very High (Maximum) settings: 4 FPS
- Crysis - High Settings: 10 FPS
- Crysis - Medium Settings: 28 FPS
While the G51Vx-A1 is a very capable gaming machine, I had expected more from the included quad-core processor. Based on the benchmarking and gaming results, it seems to me that there are still relatively few applications that can effectively make use of more than 2 processor cores, and that limits the CPU's effectiveness in those cases to that of a 2 Ghz dual-core processor, which is not nearly as impressive.
When I first turned on the machine, it took me through the last steps in Vista's setup process, allowing me to enter in my own chosen username and password. After that, I was allowed to select my desired starting desktop background from several Asus-provided options and then all the Asus applications and utilities automatically loaded on the computer. This step seemed to take approximately 30 minutes, and it was frustrating to me because here was a new computer that supposedly was very powerful but could not seem to install applications any faster. In the future, I think it would be better of Asus to only install the needed drivers in that time and then list all the other applications as optional installs. Doing this would vastly cut down the waiting time before the new computer can be used.
However, that said, some of Asus' pre-installed software can be very useful. For instance, the Splendid utility for adjusting the color pitch, hue, and gamma correction of the screen allows quick screen adjustment at the touch of a button without needing to go into several different video options to make the adjustments manually (although that, of course, is also available). Power 4 Gear Extreme, Asus' power utility application, also has an affect on performance. Switching from Home and Office to High Performance mode, for instance, gained approximately 1000 points on 3DMark06.
Size and Weight
The G51Vx-A1 is quite portable for a gaming computer. It weighs approximately 7 pounds and is easy to grab and go. Also, even with the optional 9-cell battery, the unit is well balanced, so it feels comfortable to carry. Compared to notebooks with 17" screens, the G51Vx-A1 is more compact, lighter, and more portable.
Heat and Noise
Other than the furnace your left hand feels blowing out if you move it to close to the vent (my metal USB drive was HOT after I had it plugged in the port immediately next to the vent), the machine is fairly cool to the touch, even when running heavy benchmarks and games. The machine can also be safely used on your lap without worry of scorching your shorts, although you will notice anything immediately next to the aforementioned vent on the left side.
The machine is typically quiet as well. There is a noticeable increase in noise when the fan speeds up to cool down the processor and video card, but this does not seem to happen often except during times of prolonged intensive gaming or benchmarking. When the fan does spin up, the noise is not overwhelming, just noticeable.
All the performance of the G52Vx-A1 comes at a cost, and that cost is battery life. I tested both the 6-cell and 9-cell batteries by playing a DVD on full screen brightness and High Performance Mode Power 4 Gear setting until the machine turned itself off. The 6-cell battery lasted only 1 hour 5 minutes watching a DVD, and the 9-cell was not much better, only lasting 12 minutes more, to 1 hour 17 minutes. However, the test I used was meant to show a worst-case scenario. For instance, maximum battery life can probably be double what I found when word processing on minimum brightness using Battery Saver mode.
The G51Vx-A1 is meant to be a solid performer for gamers on the go, and in that it succeeds admirably. It will play anything you throw at it without a problem, and the vast majority of games can be played at maximum settings with perfectly smooth frame rates. It is also portable and has an attention-getting design. When taking the surprisingly sturdy construction, the extras included, and Asus' standard 2 year global warranty with accidental coverage for the first year, the G51Vx-A1 seems prepared to offer the likes of Sager and Alienware some solid competition in the $1500-1600 price range.
Get one now if
- you love to game and also want to be able to take your notebook wherever you go without developing back problems
- you need a machine that can take a few hits and still run well
- you like to game in the dark
- you want a quad-core notebook at an affordable price
Pass on this one if
- you plan to be away from an outlet for long periods
- you don't want your notebook to attract attention
- you only need a computer that does the basics - word processing and internet
- you're looking for an ultraportable