ASUS long ago solidified its reputation as a manufacturer of downright sexy multimedia laptops, but with the 17.3-inch G75VW, it's out to prove that it can beat Alienware at its own game. Packing an Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge processor from Intel, 12GB of RAM, Nvidia's latest Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M graphics and more gaming-related features than you can shake a batarang at, the G75VW looks set to take the crown as the premier gaming notebook. Is the ASUS G75VW really the "Ultimate Fighting Machine"?
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Click to EnlargeLike a Ferrari, the G75VW is built for looks and speed. The notebook sports a soft-touch plastic lid with the ASUS and Republic of Gamers logos displayed prominently in the center. (The shieldlike Republic of Gamers design bears a passing resemblance to Ferrari's logo, too.)
The keyboard rests on an aluminum deck that wraps around the back of the notebook, and above it, a speaker grille runs the length of the system. The rubberized soft-touch plastic palm rests made using the keyboard for extended periods of time exceedingly comfortable. Large rear-facing vents complete the G75VW's sportscar aesthetic. Our only complaint is that the lid picks up fingerprints more quickly than we would have liked.
At 16.3 x 12.6 x 0.9-2 inches and 9.4 pounds, the ASUS G75VW is slightly larger (though a touch lighter) than the 17-inch Alienware M17x (16 x 11.9 x 1.8 inches, 9.6 pounds). The MSI GT60, a 15.6-inch gaming notebook that offers comparable performance, measures 15 x 10.2 x 1.8 inches and weighs 7.8 pounds.
Click to EnlargeUnlike many 17-inch notebooks, the ASUS G75VW features a matte display. At 218 lux, the screen is slightly dimmer than the average desktop replacement (220 lux) and significantly less bright than the MSI GT60 (268 lux). Nevertheless, the crisp 1920 x 1080 panel offered sharp details and vivid colors. Plus, the anti-glare finish provided generous viewing angles--we could move about a foot to either side of the screen before losing clarity).
While we watched the trailer for "The Hobbit" in 1080p on YouTube, the blues and greens of the idyllic landscape popped off the screen as the party of dwarves made its way across the Misty Mountains. We did notice some minor pixilation in the darkness of Gollum's cave.
Likewise, games benefit from the extra 2 inches afforded by the G75VW's 17.3-inch screen -- in fact, once we started playing, it was hard to remember what games like Arkham City looked like on a 15-inch display. Batman's iconic cape filled the screen as the Dark Knight glided through the city, and we were able to easily pick out fine details in the cityscape below.
Click to EnlargeA gaming machine wouldn't be complete without an impressive sound system, and the G75VW doesn't disappoint. When playing "Crysis 2," the built-in subwoofer rendered the sound of exploding grenades with a table-rattling thud, and the simulated surround sound -- pumped through Altec Lansing speakers and enhanced by ASUS's SonicMaster technology -- helped capture the feel of bullets whizzing past our head.
Although we had to tweak the audio to get the sound just right (if the bass is set too high, for instance, the system begins to sound like it's underwater), the G75VW delivers great overall sound. And if the built-in speakers aren't enough for you, the notebook supports HDMI 1.4 audio output.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to EnlargeThe island-style keyboard on the ASUS G75VW features a full number pad on the right. The keys offered just the right amount of tactile feedback to make typing quick and virtually error-free. On the Ten Thumbs typing test, we achieved a rate of 72 words per minute with an error rate of 0 percent, well above our average typing speed.
Perhaps due to the aluminum base, keyboard flex was nonexistent. Of course, no high-end system would be complete without a backlit keyboard, and the G75VW one-ups the competition by providing adjustable backlighting. (Sadly, this ASUS doesn't go whole hog and offer adjustable multicolored backlighting, such as the Alienware M17x or MSI GT60.)
Overall, the G75VW boasts one of the best touchpads we've seen. The G75VW's 4.1 x 2.5-inch Synaptics touchpad is positively spacious. The cursor glides smoothly and accurately across the screen, and gestures such as two-finger-scrolling, pinch-to-zoom and three-finger-flick work consistently. The mouse buttons depress almost inaudibly and don't require an excessive amount of pressure.
Thanks to its strategically placed rear-facing vents, the G75VW remains cool even when playing graphically intensive games such as "Batman: Arkham City." After 15 minutes of playing Arkham City on the highest settings, the bottom of the G75VW had reached a warm -- but not unpleasant -- 93 degrees (we consider anything above 95 degrees to be uncomfortable). The space between the G and H keys and touchpad remained cool at 84 and 80 degrees, respectively.
Click to EnlargeThe speed theme of the G75VW extends to its port selection. You get four USB 3.0 ports -- two on the left and two on the right. ASUS includes a Thunderbolt port as well, the first we've seen on a Windows notebook. There aren't many Thunderport-enabled peripherals available yet, but you'll be ready when they hit the market, such as high-speed storage drives. Other ports include a microphone jack, headphone jack, VGA and HDMI out, Ethernet and a 3-in-1 card reader.
Click to EnlargeThe ASUS G75VW's 2-megapixel HD webcam captures stills at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 and video at 640 x 480 using ASUS's LifeFrame software. Captured images were crisp and exhibited warm colors, but the webcam suffered from lag when capturing stills or video at the highest resolutions.
The G75VW isn't all looks -- underneath the hood, the notebook packs an Intel Third-generation (Ivy Bridge) 2.3-GHz Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor, 12GB of RAM (upgradeable to 16GB), dual 750GB 7,200-rpm Serial ATA hard drives, and one of Nvidia's brand-new GeForce GTX 660M GPUs with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Despite such promising hardware, however, when we put the notebook through its paces, the G75VW turned in somewhat middling scores.
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On PCMark 07, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the G75VW scored 3,041. Although this doesn't fall too far behind the category average of 3,162, the MSI GT60 (2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU, 12GB of RAM, dual 500GB 7,200-rpm HDDs) achieved a score 295 points higher.
The G75VW performed better on Geekbench, a benchmark designed to measure CPU and memory performance -- its score of 8,876 exceeded the average desktop replacement by more than 300 points. Once again, however, it still couldn't match the MSI GT60, which turned in a whopping 10,854.
The notebook's dual 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drives don't offer the fastest boot time or transfer speeds, either. The G75VW booted Windows 7 in 1 minute and 6 seconds -- 6 seconds slower than the average desktop replacement. By comparison, the MSI GT60 booted in 53 seconds.
It took the notebook's dual hard drives 2 minutes and 50 seconds to copy 5GB of mixed media files, a rate of 29.9 MBps. This falls just short of the category average (37.4 MBps) and far behind the GT60 (74.8 MBps).
The G75VW completed the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Test (matching 20,000 names and addresses) in 4 minutes and 51 seconds -- slightly slower than the MSI GT60 (4:26) and the average desktop replacement (4:24).
Graphics and Gaming
The G75VW really gets a chance to flex its muscles when playing games and editing HD video. Powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM, the G75VW tore through our graphics benchmarks. On 3DMark06, the notebook racked up an astounding 16,028 -- more than 3,000 points higher than the average desktop replacement. Once again, however, the MSI GT60 (Nvidia Geforce GTX 670M with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM) trounced the G75VW, turning in a nigh-unbeatable score of 19,359.
On 3DMark11, which measures DirectX 11 performance, the G75VW again performed admirably, turning in a score of 2,533. This beats the category average (2,258), but falls short of the GT60 (2,985).
But do these benchmark scores translate directly into blisteringly fast framerates? For the most part, yes. When we ran "World of Warcraft" on Good settings at 1366 x 768, the notebook achieved 231 fps -- 90 frames per second faster than the average. With the graphics turned up to Ultra and the resolution set to 1920 x 1080, "World of Warcraft" ran at 88 fps, almost 20 frames per second higher than the average. Still, the MSI GT60 ran faster, turning in 265 fps (Good settings, 1366 x 768) and 101 fps (Ultra settings, 1920 x 1080).
Of course, people buy a gaming laptop to play the latest titles -- and the G75VW delivers. Playing "Batman: Arkham City" at 1080p with antialiasing disabled, DirectX 11 off and the graphics set to Low, the notebook averaged 41 frames per second. Cranking the graphics up to Very High, enabling DirectX 11 and setting antialiasing to 4X MSAA caused the framerate to drop precipitously to 23 fps, however. The MSI GT60 outperformed the G75VW, clocking in at a blistering 101 fps in "Arkham City" with the graphics set to Low and 28 fps on Very High.
We decided to give "Crysis 2" -- another graphically intensive game -- a whirl as well. Playing "Crysis 2" on High, with DirectX 11 turned on, high-res textures enabled and at 1920 x 1080p, the G75VW turned in an excellent 45 fps. We found ourselves stopping frequently to admire the vistas of New York City. When combat started, gameplay was fast, intense and without a hint of a stutter -- just the way it should on a high-end gaming machine. Cranking the graphics up to Extreme caused the framerate to drop to 26 frames per second, hardly ideal.
Software and Warranty
Thankfully, the G75VW doesn't come loaded with a ton of useless bloatware. The preinstalled software largely consists of helpful ASUS utilities such as Fan Filter Checker (which lets you know if your vents need to be cleaned), e-Driver (which automatically checks ASUS hardware for the latest drivers), LifeFrame (a webcam utility) and ASUS WebStorage (the company's online backup and sync solution). Also included is the ubiquitous ASUS Vibe Fun Center, a portal for games, music and other multimedia entertainment.
Other preinstalled software includes trial editions of Office 2010, Trend Micro Antivirus, Adobe Reader 9 and Roxio CinePlayer.
ASUS offers a two-year warranty (parts and labor), including 24/7 tech support. See how ASUS stacks up in our Tech Support Showdown and Best & Worst Brands report.
Click to EnlargeThe G75VW doesn't offer the longest battery life -- but then, most people don't expect their gaming notebooks to last all day on a charge. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous surfing on the Web over Wi-Fi), the G75VW lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes, 24 minutes less than the average desktop replacement. The MSI GT60, by contrast, lasted 4 hours and 37 minutes.
In addition to the configuration we reviewed, ASUS offers a number of upgrades, including a 2.6-GHz Core i7-3720QM processor, up to 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 670M GPU with 3GB of VRAM and a 256GB SSD.
Click to EnlargeASUS touts the $1,799 G75VW as the ultimate fighting machine, and while that declaration may be more hyperbole than fact, the notebook is no slouch when it comes to gaming. The G75VW delivers where it really counts -- playing the latest games at silky smooth frame rates -- and it looks great doing it. Considering that a similarly configured Alienware M17x costs about $200 more, the G75VW is a good choice for anyone looking to buy a 17-inch gaming notebook.