When word of the Asus G73JH first came out at CES 2010 it definitely left an impression. A giant, all-black 17-inch full HD wide-screen gaming laptop with a Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, dual 7,200rpm 500GB hard drives, a Blu-ray combo drive, and a 1GB ATI Radeon HD5870 graphics card for $1,700 is tough to ignore. And unlike some of the stuff we see at CES, the system actually materialized as the Asus G73JH-A1.
If you need or want the fastest mobile processor and graphics performance available, the G73JH-A1 is a step behind gaming laptops we’ve tested featuring Intel’s 2.0GHz Core i7-920XM. However, its component combination is definitely strong enough to handle current games at medium to high graphics settings as well as other demanding tasks.
If you don’t have that much money to spend, the Asus G73JH-RBBX05 has most of the truly important components of the A1, but less storage, less memory, no Blu-ray playback, and a lower-resolution display–but at a significantly lower $1,200 price. Both are excellent high-performance notebooks for the money and well put together, too. We have a couple of issues with the design, but nothing to keep us from recommending it for anyone wanting a very powerful desktop replacement.
Price as reviewed $1,699.99
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM
Memory 8GB, 1333MHz DDR3
Hard drive 500GB 7,200rpm (x2)
Chipset Intel HM55
Graphics 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 18.4 x 12.4 inches
Height 1.8-2.2 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 7.8/9.8 pounds
Category Desktop replacement
Inspired by the F-117 stealth fighter jet, the angular chassis is big and aggressive-looking, but still somewhat low key. Gone are the flashing lights and garish color schemes of previous Asus gaming systems we’ve tested. The G73JH is instead a nice matte black with the lid and keyboard deck finished in a pleasant rubberized texture that, unlike glossy plastic, doesn’t need a constant wipe down to remove fingerprints. On the lid is a simple silver Asus logo with a small engraved Republic of Gamers emblem below it. The only lights are a handful of blue backlit buttons and a single beam of blue light tucked into the bottom edge of the LCD’s bezel. (The keyboard is also backlit for easier use in the dark.) It’s an impressively large notebook and far from travel-friendly. All things considered, the system weight isn’t bad; the power brick is gigantic, however, and weighs 2 pounds alone.
Immediately noticeable–whether the lid is up or down–is the junk in the trunk of this laptop. The keyboard deck is angled up 5 degrees to improve ergonomics, but also draws your eyes to the giant back end. There are two large cooling vents at the far left and right sides that apparently draw air through the keyboard and exhaust it out the back. The battery pack is tucked in between the two vents. The setup allows the system to stay cool and relatively quiet even under full load. There are two substantial hinges for the LCD, but they are not at typical location at the back of the system; they’re moved forward about 2 inches so the display sort of floats above the body with the vents extending out behind it.
At the top left of the keyboard are three buttons: one shuts off the blue light under the screen, another activates a TwinTurbo mode, and the last changes screen color modes (Normal, Gamma Corrected, Vivid, Theater, Soft, and a custom option). The TwinTurbo mode provides instant overclocking and didn’t seem to make much of a difference on this already powerful system. There are no discrete media controls, just markings on the Function and directional keys. It’s not a huge deal, but separate volume/mute keys would be appreciated. Asus as usual makes good use of Function button commands so you can quickly change things like power schemes (High Performance, Entertainment, Quiet Office, and Power Saving) by pressing Fn + space bar. The keyboard is, again, backlit and the intensity is adjustable or can be shut off entirely. The keys have a peculiar rattle to them when typing, and though the keyboard is pretty big, considering the size of the system, it seems unnecessarily compact; the number pad on the far right is noticeably squished in comparison to similarly sized laptops we’ve tested. In contrast, the touch pad and its accompanying single button are huge.
The 2.1 speaker system performs well, getting very loud without distortion, but for having a small subwoofer, it doesn’t have a great low-end. They sound good, but you’ll still want to invest in desktop speakers or headphones for gaming or media.
One of the major differentiators between the Asus G73JH-A1 and the G73JH-RBBX05 is the native resolutions of their 17.3-inch glossy wide-screen LCDs: the A1 is 1,920×1,080 pixels whereas the RBBX05 is 1,600×900 pixels. With the systems side by side, there is a noticeable difference with the A1 being sharper and clearer. However, the A1’s CCFL backlight is visibly dimmer compared with the LED-backlit screen on the RBBX05. If you want both the higher resolution and LEDs, you’ll have to step up to the G73JH-A2 (though you’ll lose the A1’s Blu-ray drive in the process). Aside from the brightness, the LCD looks great, with very good color and contrast performance. Viewing angles off to the sides are pretty good, too.
The networking and port assortment on this G73JH-A1 is pretty basic: no eSATA or FireWire ports; no ExpressCard slots; and no DisplayPort. You do get a Blu-ray reader/DVD burner drive, but Asus doesn’t include software for playing Blu-ray discs; you’ll have to install your own.
The combined performance from the Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 7,200rpm hard drives, and 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 is pretty great, especially considering the laptop’s price. It sailed through our multitasking, image processing, and audio encoding benchmark tests, achieving exemplary scores on all. In real-life testing it had no trouble handling streaming audio and video while simultaneously running IM and e-mail clients and other background tasks. We tested with a handful of gaming titles including Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Just Cause 2; all played smoothly. Again, for the money, this is a solid system.
The battery life from the Asus G73JH-A1 is predictably short, lasting only 1 hour and 31 minutes on our video playback battery drain test using the included eight-cell battery. Web surfing and other ordinary computer tasks are less demanding than our test, which keeps the hard drive in constant use. With simpler tasks you can expect to stretch that to 2 hours or a little beyond with some power management.
Asus includes a two-year, parts and labor warranty with the system that includes one year of Asus’ accidental damage coverage, which protects you against damage from fire, electrical surges, drops, and spills. You’ll find the typical online help–FAQ and troubleshooting pages, driver downloads, and user forums–on the Asus support Web site.