ASUS G51J 3D gaming notebook
ASUS G51J review: An expensive 3D gaming notebook for early adopters
- Fast hard drive, 8GB RAM, quad-core CPU, can be used as a media centre, Blu-ray drive
- Could use a high-end graphics card considering the high price, screen needs to be perfectly positioned in order to get the best out of the 3D effects, 3D ecosystem is cumbersome to set up
The ASUS G51J is a pricey 3D notebook that's aimed at gamers. It has a powerful CPU, lots of RAM and a fast hard drive, but it needs more graphics grunt to compete against conventional gaming notebooks. Consider this model only if you want to be an early adopter of 3D technology and want a more immersive notebook gaming experience, but don't expect all of your older games to look good in 3D. That said, when you do run a good 3D game or watch a well-shot 3D movie, the experience is a very pleasant one.
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ASUS G51J: The 3D experience
A button on the chassis next to the power button lets you switch the G51J into 3D mode. While you're in this mode, every game will require you to wear the supplied 3D glasses in order to view them properly. There is a list of games on NVIDIA's Web site, which rates their 3D effects from 'Excellent' to 'Not recommended' so that you know what to expect when older games are run in 3D. Using a random selection of older titles, we found the 3D effect to be somewhat lame. For example, in certain titles only dialogue boxes or overlayed scores would be shown in 3D, while the main content was not given much extra depth at all. For games that have been designed with 3D in mind, the effect is much better as you can see much more depth, as well as things flying at you. The G51J ships with some gaming demos to whet your appetite, including Batman Arkham Asylum. If you're a keen gamer, and you should be if you're considering this notebook, our advice is to consult the list and go for all the games that have an 'Excellent' rating rather than anything lower.
Sample videos running in NVIDIA's stereoscopic video player looked great in 3D, but as is the case with most notebook screens, the vertical viewing angles on the G51J aren't great. You really have to tinker with the angle of the screen in order to get the best effect and brightness.
ASUS G51J: Physical design
Despite having a strong and somewhat intimidating mishmash of a design (it mixes glossy and dull finishes and also has some weird shaping), the G51J is a gentle giant. It has one of the softest keyboards and one of the smoothest touchpads we've ever used, and its palm rest is very comfortable for long periods of typing — after the annoying stickers are removed.
The keyboard is backlit and you can choose from one of three brightness levels; it looks great from above while typing at night, but the backlights are annoyingly visible if you sit back away from the notebook. It's a full-sized, chiclet-style keyboard with a number pad (although the number pad is slightly squished and we hate the position of the '0' key) and there are touchbutton shortcuts above the keyboard for toggling the 3D mode, changing the power profile and disabling the touchpad. However, these buttons weren't always responsive. We're also not fans of the touchpad's buttons, which are a little too hard to press.
The glasses that you have to wear in order to experience 3D are a tad uncomfortable (especially if you're not used to wearing glasses) and you can see out of the sides, which makes for an annoying viewing experience if you're using them with the room lights on, for example. The glasses also need to be charged (a cable is supplied) or plugged in to the notebook to work, and a receiver also needs to be plugged in to the note in order to complete the 3D ecosystem. All up, it's a messy affair for 3D gaming content that sometimes doesn't look all that good.
Around the edges of the notebook's base you will find a Blu-ray player, an ExpressCard/54 slot, an SD card slot, four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, eSATA, FireWire, microphone, headphone and line in ports and a VGA port. The Gigabit Ethernet and power ports are located at the back of the unit, which is a great place for them considering the G51J will primarily be used as a desktop PC replacement — they won't get in your way. You also get a 2-megapixel webcam, 802.11n Wi-Fi (although not dual-band) and Bluetooth.
We won't go into the weight and battery life of the G51J in too much detail: suffice to say you won't want to carry it around with you, you can't use it on your lap, and it lasted only 51min in our battery rundown test.
While the ASUS G51J won't appeal to many users, and it may even miss the mark when it comes to gamers who want to be early adopters of 3D technology — it could definitely use more graphics grunt under the hood in order to compete with other dedicated gaming machines on the market, especially considering its asking price. Furthermore, the 3D capability of the notebook will only be put to good use if you want to watch 3D movies (although there isn't much of a selection at the moment) and if you run the right games; lots of older titles may not show any worthwhile visual improvements at all and they will also look darker due to the glasses you have to wear.
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