Published on October 27th, 2011 | by Gaming Mike30
Asus G74SX review – new gaming laptop, more powerful than ever
Asus announced their new top-of-the-line gaming laptop earlier this year, the monstrous G74. Part of their famous Republic of Gamers gaming line, this new 17.3 inch notebook comes to replace the previous G73 series and improve it. It keeps the “stealth fighter” chassis design, only it is stealthier now, as it was slightly redesigned from the previous generation; brings a new keyboard and some updated hardware, with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M graphic card, one of the most powerful Nvidia graphic chips you can get on mobile computers these days.
This post is a review of the Asus G74SX 3D model (the 3D appendix means it has a 3D screen of course). At the time we’re writing this post (June 15th 2011), this model is not yet available on the market so we are testing an early review unit, a sample if you like to call it this way. It is however an exact replica of what you’ll see in shops in a month or so, but performances on the final product should be a little better, as we’re still having some drivers issues right now on this test model. We’ll get into details further down.
Let’s proceed with the review in the article below, where we’ll take you through most of the important aspects of this laptop.
First though, let’s have a quick look at the specs, so we’ll now what to expect here:
- 17.3 inch display, Full HD 1920 x 1080 px resolution, 3D ready (120Hz refresh rate)
- Intel 2nd generation Core i7-2630QM quad-core processor clocked at 2.0 GHz, with TurboBoost (up to 2.9 GHz) and HyperThreading
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M graphic chip, with 3GB dedicated video DDR5 memory
- 16 GB of DDR3 RAM (4 x 4 GB module in quad-channel)
- 2x HDDs on this version, 500 and 750 GB, 2.5 inch drives at 7200 rpm
- Blu-ray combo optical unit
- 3xUSB 2.0 and 1xUSB 3.0 slots, HDMI, VGA, card reader, Webcam
- Wireless N, Bluetooth, Gigabit LAN
- 8 Cell 74Wh battery
- measures 420mm x 325mm x 20.9~62.0mm (16.5 x 12.8 x 0.8~2.4 inch)
- weighs 4.28 kg (9.42 lbs) – with battery included
So pretty much all the things you would need on a powerful notebook these days. However, there’s more about a laptop than specs…
Design and exterior
I’ve yet to meet someone who did not appreciate the extravagant design of an Asus ROG laptop, inspired by the American F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter (or at least that’s how it seems).
The body of the G74SX is massive, but looks and feels great. Entire case in covered in some black smooth plastic finish that should be quite reliable and deal OK with fingerprints, smudges or dust. Same finish is used inside as well, for palm-rest and the bezel around the screen, while the area around the keyboard is made from some dark-purple colored aluminum.
Entire body is massive and breathes quality, even the screen’s redesigned and now massive hinge feels built to last and for a good reason: it has to bear the weight of a 17.3 inch display.
You will notice that the G74 suffered a slight redesign over the G73 series, with most changes concentrated towards the back, where the cooling vents are now bigger and should be more efficient (you’ll see if it is so below).
Notice that on the bottom you get a square battery on its top-right side and a big panel for easy accessing memory and hard-drive, but not cooling vents at all like you had on the G73 series.
You can have a look at the sides ion the pictures below.
Also, the G74 seems sleeker than it was before, but that’s not really the case, the body is pretty much similar to the one on the G73, with some minor design changes; we’re still talking about a huge 9 pounds laptop that should never be lifted off your desk unless you plan to hurt your back. Yes, Asus offers a special carrying bag for it in the pack, but I’d only use it if I really really had to.
You’ll notice that the bezel around the screen is quite thick and there seems to be enough space in there for a bigger 18.4 inch display. Still, Asus kept the older 17.3 inch format and that’s not really a problem, as this screen is absolutely phenomenal. More details about it in the dedicated chapter below.
More details about the exterior of this laptop are available in the clip below:
Keyboard and trackpad
The trackpad is slightly different from what we had before, as it is wider and taller and is not deepened into the palm rest like it was on the G73. You also get two separated click buttons which are actually very comfortable to use, being easy to press and noise-free.
Overall, trackpad feels responsive and accurate, and while we first had some problems with multi-gestures, we got them sorted with some new drivers from Asus’s website. The only problem I had with it is actually the lack of some palm-rejection abilities and this can be frustrating when using it for typing, but I’m pretty sure this small issue can be solved in the future with an appropriate TrackPad software.
The keyboard was completely redesigned. First, you’ll notice that keys are now divided into two different sections, with the NumPad area being separated from the rest by a larger space and the arrow keys being better emphasized and spaced from the other keys around them. Keys also seem more square than before and overall the keyboard is very comfortable, with just enough flex and run, plus almost no noise. And of course the entire keyboard is illuminated; you can adjust the illumination level with FN+F3/F4 keys.
When I first turned ON the Asus G74 I was staggered by the colors and the blacks of its display. It was even better than my Dell desktop display with an IPS panel. I haven’t tested the G73s before, but based on some opinions of my colleagues who did, the screen on this one seems slightly better.
Of course, the display on our test unit is the top-model you can get on a G74, with Full HD 1920 x 1080 px resolution, non-glare finish and 120 Hz refresh rate (3D ready). When the G74 will hit the stores, you will be able to choose between a couple of different display types, but no matter how much this option will cost, I strongly advice towards picking it.
Like I said, Brightness and Contrast levels on this one are top notch, as well as color reproduction, so I’m guessing we have a superior TN panel with some extended Color gamut. I really wish I’d had the technology to measure the output of this screen but unfortunately I do not, so you’ll just have to take my word on this and also see the clips here on this review for more details about it.
Viewing angles are also very good and the display does not lean too much on the back, but since this one is meant for desk-usage, that’s not a negative aspect, like it is with portable laptops you use in bed or on the sofa and where a screen able to tilt all the way to the back would be required.
The laptop also comes with a pair of Nvidia 3D Vision glasses so you can enjoy 3D content on it, whether movies or games. You can easily turn 3D OFF permanently or in games if you want from the Nvidia Control Center.
Hardware and performances
We’re going to take a quick look right now at the hardware specs and the performances of this device. The clip below should tell you more about the screen, hardware and specs:
IMPORTANT: I once again must tell you that we’re testing an early release model and dedicated drivers are still in their early days or completely missing. Also, the device was running on an older BIOS version not completely optimized for this hardware. Thus, I’m pretty sure performances will get better on the final release, especially after a couple of months from launch, when drivers will get just enough time to reach maturity. With these in mind, please read the following lines.
Like I said, you get a Core i7-2630QM processor on this one 16 GB of memory in quad-channel and two HDD storage units. Both are standard 7200 rpm drives and they are not connected in RAID 0, so adding an SSD for the OS can greatly improve ratings on this one.
In terms of graphics, you get an Nvidia GTX 560M graphic chip inside, with 3G of dedicated DDR5 video memory. This is the fastest mobile chip from the new Nvidia 5xx line yet to become available, but it is still slower than the older Nvidia GTX 480M and 485M, the new ADM 69xx series and of course, the SLI/Crosffire solutions. Still, it is a fast graphic chip that can provide solid performances, superior to the GTX 460M we had previously on the Asus G73 laptops.
All the tests were run with a moded .INF versions of Nvidia’s Forceware 275.33 drivers, as Asus has yet to release any dedicated video drivers for this notebook (their latest release is Forceware 268.37).
Below you can see some of the results we got on this machine:
- Windows 7 rating: 5.9 , but with an SSD drive you can easily boost that to 7.2, as the lowest mark is given for the standard hard-drives
- Encoding a 14Mbps 812 MB .MTS video file to 1080P Youtube file in PowerDirector 9 took 21 minutes 34 seconds
We also ran a bunch of different synthetic tests and you can see the results in the gallery below.
There’s little difference in terms of hardware between the Asus G74SX and the Asus G73SW, as the first comes with the better graphic chip (GTX 560M versus GTX 460M). So, we should see slight 7-10% better scores in graphic intensive tests for the new model, but like I said, results on this one are surely affected by the lack of mature drivers right now. Comparing what we got here to the scores got on the Asus G73SW in this test from Annadtech, we see mixed results, with a slight advantage for the G74 in graphic tests and a slight advantage for the G73SW in CPU intensive tests, probably because of the immature BIOS available on the G74.
I also ran a mini-stress test so I could see if the same problem encountered on the G73SW was present here. Running prime95 and Furmark simultaneously made the CPU throttle on that G73. Same thing happens on the G74 almost instantly, thus this hardware problem was not solved on the new line. Print screen below proves it.
I doubt this will have a huge impact on your everyday experience with the G74, but it might when running intense CPU applications.
Of course, what’s more important for a laptop as this one than its performances in games? That’s why we ran a couple of different games on this one and you can find our results below. Notice that I’ve used FRAPS to record FPS in all these games and it is known that FRAPS usually dwindles performances, so without it we would have probably got 1-3 extra FPS over the posted results.
And here are the actual results (all games running at native 1920 x 1080 px resolution):
Bottom part, you can run well all the games we tested here on highest details in native Full HD resolution, but activating 3D mode will force you to cut off some of the details to keep the games playable. The clip below also shows you some of the games I’ve tried and how well they ran.
You will notice in one of my clips below that upgrading memory and storage drives on the G74SX is fairly easy. You have a big panel on the back of the device and you can access there the two hard-drives and the 4 memory slots. I do recommend of course getting an SSD for the operating system, like I said, you’ll really feel the difference.
Also, you’ll notice that you get easy access to all the 4 memory slots, which did not happen before on the G73 lines.
Noise and heat
One of the biggest problems for the Asus G73SW was the fact that it overheated when pushing the graphic chip to its limits, like playing modern titles on Full details for a bunch of hours.
The redesigned interior and back chassis of the G74 was meant to solve these problems and allow better air flow, thus a cooler overall platform. And we can say that they managed to do that, despite fitting a faster, thus potentially hotter, graphic chip inside. Below you have some HWMonitor temperature scores from the G74, one in idle mode after lightly using it for a couple of hours and the other after some heavy gaming.
When playing games like COD: Black Ops for a longer period of time, you’ll notice that the back part of the computer gets warm and there’s a lot of hot hair coming through those vents, but that’s what should actually happen. On the front face, the area just above arrow keys, next to the Enter and Backspace keys, will get quite hot, but nothing actually bothering. Once again, I wish I had a method of recording exact temperatures on this laptop but unfortunately I lack the required tools, so once again you’ll just have to take my word on it and read the results from HWMonitor.
As for noise, it is not a problem at all. Sure, the fans inside get active when running games or other intense applications, but they are not loud and will not bother you at all.
You get stereo EAX Enhanced stereo 2.1 speakers on this Asus. So a mini sub-woofer is included as well and everything is placed above the keyboard. They are loud and sound quality is definitely very good, as the G74 incorporates different technologies designed to enhance audio quality, like THX TruStudio which allows the user to set-up different audio profiles for different types of applications.
Of course, you can only get that much from a laptop sound system, thus for the ultimate audio quality, you can always connect your home system to the laptop, as it is capable to offer 5.1 audio signal via the headset jack.
There’s an 8 Cell 74 Wh battery inside the Asus G74SX 3D. However, considering the hardware inside and the big display, you will get around 2 hours of life during daily use with screen dimmed towards 50%, with up to 3 hours in light Office and browsing mode. Of course, when dealing with games, battery life will drop to around 75-80 minutes of life, based on what you’re running.
Definitely this is not a portable laptop, it should stay on your desk connected to its huge power brick. This review unit came with a 155Wh charging brick and I believe the same one would be found on the final release. But having the ability to run your basic tasks plug0free for a couple of hours is definitely a nice addition to the package.
There are a bunch of other aspects we should mention about this laptop. First, it comes with top notch connectivity, including Wireless N, Bluetooth, Gigabit LAN and USB 3.0 slot.
Also, you get an optical Blu-ray combo unit that might come in handy for installing games or running some Blu-ray content in 3D.
You also get a 8-in-1 card reader and a webcam on top of the screen.
Should also notice that above the keyboard you only get two buttons right now, one for powering the laptop and one for launching Quick Express. All the multimedia buttons found on the top-right side of the keyboard on the G73 line are now gone.
Prices and availability
As we said above, Asus plans to have the G74SX in stores worldwide during mid July, so in about a month’s time.
In the meantime, some shops already have this for preorder and they claim they’ll ship units by late June – early July, so pretty soon. We also have details on prices for the US market. You get basically the following configurations:
- Asus G74SX-XA1 – for $1499 you get 12 GB of memory, non-3D Full HD display, 750 GB single HDD, DVD-RW unit
- Asus G74SX-A1 – for $1749 you get 12 GB of memory, non-3D Full HD Display with a glossy finish, Blu-ray combo unit
- Asus G74SX-3DE – for $1979 you get 12 GB of memory, 3D 120 Hz Full HD display with a matte finish, Blu-ray burner unit and on pair of 3D Vision glasses
All the other specs are pretty much similar, including the Core i7-2630QM processor, Nividia GTX 560M graphics, 2 x 750 GB 7200 rpm hard-drives (for the last two options), illuminated keyboard, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit OS and two year warranty. Plus a backpack and a special mouse.
However, BestBuy also offers an Asus G74SX versions of only $1199. However, that one comes with only 8 GB of memory, same standard HD display, 2 x 500 GB HDDs and a poorer Nvidia GTX 560M graphic chip. While the one on the more expensive versions is a 192 bit chip, this one is only an 128 bit one, thus performances will be lower. Still, the price is significantly lower as well.
Personally I would go for the more expensive version for that magnificent non-glare display, even though I would have loved to have a non-glare non-3d option as well that could have helped saving some money. Still, prices are quite good and that turns the balance even more towards the G74SX line right now, when compared to the G73SW (which was in fact similarly prices and has now been discontinued anyway).
Asus ROG laptops have been well received during the last years, mainly because they offered solid performances and a sturdy reliable body for an affordable price tag. Affordable for a gaming laptop of course, when compared to other devices from Alienware, Clevo or Sager. Yes, the Asus notebooks are for sure not the fastest, but for the average gaming enthusiast looking to dump their desktop units for a portable computer, they are just the thing to get.
The G74SX 3D continues this story. With it, Asus kept the good parts, improved some of the faulty ones (like the overheating problems, bad screen hinges and cramped keyboard) and upgraded the hardware inside to improve performances. Once again they did not put the most powerful hardware available at the moment in their G74, but I feel like they did enough: this laptop allows you to run smoothly every modern game, even in 3D mode. Yes, in some cases you might have to get details from Very High to only High, but I for one can live with that and rather buy this sub $2000 laptop than pay 50-100% extra for the top notch mobile configurations that can offer improved performances I won’t even need most of the time.
The clip below also contain some of my final conclusions on the review unit:
- aggressive design
- solid build quality
- redesigned keyboard, trackpad and screen hinge
- redesigned air vents on the back meant to improve air-flow
- powerful hardware and solid performances
- can decently run every modern game on native resolution and with detail towards max
- amazing Full HD 3D display
- doesn’t get too hot or too loud
- Blu-ray combo unit included
- good speakers
- decent battery life for such a monster
- good price for its features
- heavy and bulky
- our early test unit lacked proper drivers, but that should be solved by the time the device hits the stores
- we encountered some throttling problems when stressing the CPU (inherited from the G73SW)
This is why the Asus G74SX is a laptop we would definitely recommend these days if on the market for a solid gaming laptop.
Of course, there’s one more question: would it be a smart choice to replace your older G73 laptop with this new one? If money are not a concern, than definitely yes. Otherwise, this really isn’t significantly faster than any of the G73s available below, especially if you compare it to the G73SW that is pretty much similar in terms of specs, but has a slightly slower graphic chip. So I’m not saying the G74 is not worth the upgrade, it definitely is a solid machine, just ask yourself if you really need the slightly better performances and if you really want to pay the upgrade fee for them (which can be quite expensive, considering you would have to sell your old unit and then buy a new G74 that will cost hundreds of dollars on top of what you’ll get on your G73).