You might not know it, but ASUS has been making gaming notebooks for quite a while. What makes the G73Jh-A2 special? It’s the company’s first machine that really gives Alienware a run for its money in both the looks and performance department. Inspired by a stealth fighter, this menacing black rig delivers quad-core power and 1GB ATI graphics, a gorgeous 1080p display, and a full terabyte of storage. All of this for $1,599—about $1,000 less than a similarly configured Alienware M17x. You have to pay extra for Blu-ray, but overall this 8.8-pound beast is a killer deal.
Inspired by the design of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, the G73Jh-A2 definitely has a testosterone-filled aesthetic. Coated in a black, rubberized material, the understated chassis just oozes power. At 8.8 pounds and 16.6 x 12.8 x 2.3 inches, the G73Jh-A2 is a bit of a behemoth, but due to the tapering edges, aerodynamic cuts, and austerity of design, the rig emanates sleekness.
The only adornment on the lid is a silver ASUS emblem and an etched Republic of Gamers logo below. Under the hood, the first thing we noticed is that the back of the system sticks out a bit, similar to some of the laptops in Dell’s consumer line. The battery doesn’t take up the whole width of the system, but nevertheless gives the rig some extra junk in the trunk.
Under the lid the barebones aesthetic continues. A speaker strip extends the whole length of the upper deck with blue, glowing buttons for Backlight, Turbo Boost, and Splendid control on the left and power on the right. A matte coating covers the deck, keyboard, and number pad; indicators for Caps Lock and Number Lock sit on the left. Below that the rubberized wrist rest kept us comfortable through long and arduous gaming sessions.
While the Alienware M17x is considerably more expensive, that system has a more durable anodized aluminum case and customizable lights along the touchpad, under the keyboard, and on the back of the lid. But the G73Jh-A2 has its touches of flair as well. An LED strip at the base of the display casts a blue glow over the deck in the dark, adding a little ambiance to your midnight sessions.
ASUS designed the G73Jh-A2 not just for looks but also to funnel heat away from the user. By putting all of the heat and noise-generating components at the back, this notebook is designed to draw air in and shunt it out of the back, keeping you cool both on top and in your lap. This worked fairly well as long as the G73Jh-A2 wasn’t sitting on a surface that absorbed heat instead of releasing it. We noticed some warmth while gaming, but nothing too uncomfortable.
With the laptop sitting on a desk, we played Hulu at full screen for 15 minutes then measured the temperature in three key places. The touchpad only rose to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the space between the G and H keys got to a reasonable 96 degrees. The middle of the underside measured 99 degrees, which is acceptable.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The responsive keys on the G73Jh-A2 make for comfortable typing, especially as they offer a soft touch and return, perfect for composing blog posts or navigating enemy territory. We wish the right Shift key was a bit larger, but otherwise the keys are well sized and placed. Gaming features include white backlighting and icons on common keys used for movement.
The large multitouch touchpad sits in a shallow well at the bottom of the deck, demarcated from the wrist rest by a slight dip from the rubberized surface. There’s very little friction, so we had no trouble getting the mouse across the screen or controlling POV in games.
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The single mouse bar is separated enough from the touch surface that our finger didn’t often stray where it didn’t belong. We prefer distinct mouse buttons, but the G73Jh-A2’s bar is long enough; we had no trouble distinguishing it between left and right clicks, even in the heat of battle. It just feels a little stiff.
Display and Audio
It’s full HD alright. The 17.3-inch panel on the G73Jh-A2 sports a resolution of 1920 x 1080, making the dark hallways of Batman: Arkham Asylum and the battlefields of Afghanistan in Call of Duty 4 all the more immersive. We experienced deep blacks, bright colors, and excellent detail in the games we played. The Splendid button on the upper left of the deck switches between several display modes, changing the quality of color slightly depending on the settings. We preferred Theater mode for both gaming and casual surfing.
While watching a 1080p trailer for The Discoverers and streaming IMAX HD test from YouTube, we were pleased to discover that the horizontal viewing angles are pretty wide. We had to crane our necks to an extreme angle before encountering color distortion. However, as the screen is glossy, reflections were very apparent. Vertical viewing angles are fairly wide as well. Keeping the display tilted just a bit forward of its maximum angle provided the best view.
Though HD video is predictably beautiful on the G73Jh-A2, standard-def video doesn’t fare as well. At full screen we noticed fuzziness and indistinct lines in an episode of Being Human we’d downloaded and an episode of House streamed on Hulu. It wasn’t enough to ruin the experience, but we much preferred watching hi-def content because of it.
Audio quality on the G73Jh-A2 was quite good, as befits a gaming rig. At 50 percent the volume wasn’t quite as clear or booming as we’d like, but we found the sweet spot between 60 and 75 percent. The subwoofer on the bottom left side of the notebook complemented the balanced mid- and high-range tones. We encountered some distortion when we cranked up The Killers on Slacker, but fiddling with the built-in equalizer helped. There are also separate EAX settings in the included Audio Center software (including Ampitheater and Jazz Club) and a CMSS-3D setting you can enable for stereo widening.
Ports and Webcam
The left side of the G73Jh-A2 houses a standard array of ports, including Ethernet, two USB, headphone, and mic. On the right: two more USB, HDMI, VGA and 8-in-1 card reader. We were surprised to find no ExpressCard port on a notebook of this size. You also don’t get a DisplayPort or one for lightning-fast backups, such as eSATA or USB 3.0.
The 2-megapixel webcam atop the display impressed us by capturing accurate colors for both skin and clothing. We didn’t need to adjust settings to achieve good light/backlight balance. And though a Skype friend noticed some blur when we moved quickly, it was minimal most of the time.
The 1.6-GHz Intel Core i7-Q720 CPU and 8GB of RAM earned the G73Jh-A2 a score of 6,460 in PCMark Vantage, blowing away the desktop replacement category average (5,064) and rising comfortably above the ASUS G51J’s score (6,001). However, the rig lags behind the Malibal Satori (13,187) with a slightly more powerful Core i7 CPU and the Origin Eon18 (11,039) with a Core 2 Extreme processor. But as both of those systems are thousands of dollars more than the G73Jh-A2 and include SSDs, this gaming rig stands up pretty well to the competition.
The two 7,200-rpm, 500GB drives helped drive this system to excellent performance. They copied a 4.97GB folder of multimedia files in 2 minutes and 43 seconds, for a transfer rate of 31.2 MBps. This is on a par with the average (31 MBps) and again just above the G51Jh-A2 (27.2 MBps). The SSD-equipped Eon18 and Satori trump the G51Jh-A2 with scores of 99.8 and 149.7 MBps, respectively. The boot time lags behind the average desktop replacement by 3 seconds, but still gets users into Windows 7 Home Premium in just 67 seconds.
The G73Jh-A2 handled multitasking with ease, opening applications quickly even while playing or streaming media. Transcoding a 5-minute-and-5-second MPEG-4 to AVI with Oxelon Media Converter took 1 minute and 6 seconds. Though this time is fairly speedy, the category average is faster by 3 seconds and the G51J 3D (1:02), Eon18 (0:56), and even the Samsung R780 (1:01) all come out ahead.
The G73Jh-A2’s ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 graphics card and 1GB of dedicated graphics memory earned an impressive 12,460 points in 3DMark03 and 8,187 marks in 3DMark Vantage. Both scores are comfortably above the category averages (7,151 and 5,812, respectively). In 3DMark06 the system easily beats the ASUS G51J (9,424) and G51J 3D (11,313), almost catching up to the more expensive Malibal Satori’s score of 12,872. The G73J does beat the Satori in 3DMark Vantage, with the latter rig only earning 6,441 marks. However, the Origin Eon18 is still ahead in both tests with 13,158 in 3DMark06 and 12,049 in 3DMark Vantage, but costs over $3,000 more.
Gaming on the G73J was more than satisfying. We experienced smooth gameplay and fast frame rates. In Far Cry 2 the rig averaged 110 frames per second in auto mode (1024 x 768) and 51 fps at full resolution. Only the Satori did better at the lower resolution (121 fps), while the G73Jh-A2 beat the G51J (99 fps), Eon18 (99 fps), and the category average (69 fps). At 1080p the Eon18 was faster, but not by much (55 fps). When we switched to World of Warcraft, the G73Jh-A2 got a similarly impressive 111 fps at max resolution.
When playing Batman: Arkham Asylum, we were impressed with the level of detail on clothing, skin, and the environment around us. Batman moved fluidly when taking down the Joker’s henchmen. In Call of Duty 4, shrapnel from explosions rendered with a high level of detail, as did blood spatter and gore when we got a bit too close to a targeted comrade.
Wi-Fi and Battery
Click to enlargeThe Atheros b/g/n wireless radio inside the G73Jh-A2 managed a data rate of 37.1 Mbps at 15 feet from the router and 19.6 Mbps from 50 feet. Though comfortably above the averages (25.4 and 17.8), this connection wasn’t as strong as the Malibal Satori (44.7/25.3 Mbps) or the Samsung R780 (47.4/22.1 Mbps).
Gaming rigs aren’t known for their long battery lives, but some may be disappointed in the G73Jh-A2’s endurance. The system lasted just 1 hour and 53 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, below the 2:29 average. Still, this runtime is more than half an hour longer than the G51J (1:15), Satori (1:00), and the Eon18 (1:09).
Recharging the G73Jh-A2’s battery took 2 hour and 41 minutes; during that time, the notebook used an average of 69.3 watts. This system’s Battery Efficiency Rating (total watts divided by total battery life) was 98.7, which is significantly higher than the average desktop replacement score of 67.3.
Software and Warranty
Click to enlargeThe G73J doesn’t include much preloaded software or trialware beyond the basics. The normal suite of ASUS-branded apps and utilities includes SmartLogon, Power4Gear Hybrid, Live Update, NB Probe+, Life Frame 3, Wireless Console, Splendid, Express Gate, and Fancy Start.
Multimedia utilities and software include Creative Labs Alchemy for managing enhanced audio options in games, Media Source 5 player, and Wave Studio 7.
The minimal trialware includes Microsoft Office 2007 but no virus program, not even the free Microsoft Security Essentials.
ASUS covers the G73Jh-A2 with a two-year limited global hardware warranty and one-year accidental damage warranty plus 24/7 phone, e-mail, and online support. Click here to see how the company fared in our Tech Support Showdown.
Aside from our model, the G73Jh-A2, ASUS also offers the $1,699 G73Jh-A1, which has the same specs but adds a Blu-ray drive (a $100 premium). NewEgg carries a slightly modified SKU, the $1,599 G73Jh-X1, that has the same specs as the A2 but only one 7,200-rpm, 500GB drive and no included Republic of Gamers bag and mouse. Best Buy carries the $1,599 G73Jh-RBBX09, again with the same specs as the A2 model but a lower resolution 1600 x 900 LED backlit panel. You can also find the $1,199 G73Jh-RBBX05 with this same 1600 x 900 panel, one 7,200-rpm, 500GB hard drive, and 6GB of RAM.
While it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the Alienware M17x, the ASUS G73Jh-A2 delivers tremendous power—and good looks to match—for much, much less. It’s a great choice for gamers and multimedia mavens who demand more muscle than a traditional desktop replacement and an aesthetic that’s mean, clean, and cool.