by Mark Mierzwa
This is a review of the G1 Gaming Laptop by ASUS. This laptop defies traditional categorization since it provides gaming performance while maintaining a mobile capability. Normally gaming notebooks are isolated to larger entertainment style laptops that have low battery life. However, the Asus G1 being reviewed here can provide excellent multimedia and gaming performance while remaining portable with good battery life.
The box was secure and did not seem like the contents were loose or shaking inside. After opening the first outer box, the backpack and G1 box were revealed. A piece of cardboard the height and length of the remaining space wedged the G1 box in snuggly. The backpack was folded and sealed in plastic. Inside the G1 box, the contents were divided into two sections, the laptop in an anti-static bag secured by fitted plastic foam and a brown box. Inside the brown box was contained all the various discs, parts, and promised corded gaming mouse. The top of the laptop was covered with a plastic protective film along with other various protective measures, such as a sheet between the monitor and keyboard, and a plastic sheet over the monitor. Several decorative and informative plastic inserts highlighting the features of the notebook were also present.
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Asus G1 gaming laptop, fresh out of the box (view large image)
I observed the overall design and proportions of the unit and found them satisfactory. The laptop was not small but certainly not huge. The finish and textured look was impressive and gave a sophisticated look to it. It was scratch free and did not have any obvious blemishes. Finger prints were not immediately noticeable, though at close inspection you could observe them. All the expected ports and devices were present. The optical drive had several labels but nothing in regards to LightScribe (More on this later). The laptop being billed as a Gaming Laptop was certainly true from the exterior. The strobes, colored squares around the "W", "A", "S" and "D" keys, a sleek dark design, OLED, and all seeing evil eye gave it that serious gaming experience on the exterior. A true Gaming Laptop is impressive inside and out.
Top view of Asus G1 (view large image)
Under side view of the Asus G1 (view large image)
On the outside it had ‘the look,’ but would it cook?
During the time I first started charging the laptop I decided to call ASUS support for more information. I spoke with an Albert there and he seemed friendly enough,after a moment of relating my information to him he asked how he could be of assistance. I inquired about his knowledge of the unit, which he was aware of and semi-knowledgeable about. I asked as to whether or not the indicator would show when the battery was full, and if he knew if there was LightScribe or not (more on this later). He advised me that the battery indicator would turn off, and that he had seen LightScribe as an option on the model they had trained on, but had not tested it and would need to inquire further. I asked about hours of operation and so forth and he seemed to know what he was talking about. Satisfied, I returned to waiting and after about one hour the light turned off as promised.
I plugged the laptop in, per the instructions, and waited for an indication of a full charge. After about one hour the charging indicator extinguished. I turned the laptop on and was able to boot up without incident. The POST (Power-On Self Test) had a cool little ASUS Gaming Laptop logo that made a neat sound effect and, after making a mental note to disable it, I proceeded to wait for the rest of the startup. Windows proceeded through the setup normally and I was on the desktop in no time. I was then advised to reboot. After the reboot I proceeded my testing with single-minded precision.
Specs for ASUS G1 AK008M:
- Processor: ASUS G1 Intel Core™2 Duo T7200 (2.0GHz)
- Screen: 15.4" WSXGA+ (1680×1050) ColorShine
- RAM: 2048M DDR2 667
- Hard Disk: 160GB HD 5400 RPM
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForceGo 7700 GPU 512 MB
- Optical Drive: M-a-t-s-h-i-t-a DVD-RAM UJ-850S DVD RW DL (No LightScribe)
- Wireless: A/B/G + Bluetooth
- Card Reader: MMC, SD, MS, MS-Pro
- Operating System: Windows Media Center Edition
- Kensington Lock hole
- 1.3 Mega Pixel camera with microphone
- Included Accessories: ASUS Optical Mouse (Logitech MX518), backpack
Reasons for Buying:
I’ve been considering my laptop purchase since last year, and have pondered many models by all manufacturers, but in particular models by Acer, MSI, and ASUS. I had previously considered the ATI x700 and x1600 graphic chipsets, so it is odd that I decided on an Nvidia 7700 GPU based model, but in my opinion it was the best current GPU for the 15.4" laptop.
My main requirements were gaming performance, battery life, manageable body size, a good warranty and a cost below $2,000. My wish list included LightScribe, Windows XP Professional, ExpressCard slot, DVI-D, and Bluetooth. The G1 satisfied a number of my wants and all of my needs. I did consider waiting for a DX10 certified mobile GPU chipset, but then I decided that limited immediate adoption and the DX legacy compatibility of DX9 made it worth picking this one up now.
Where and How Purchased:
I purchased the laptop from MilestonePC.com. I placed my order as a pre-order and was very fortunate to receive the laptop from the initial shipment. Danny was very helpful and the service was good. As an early adopter, I did pay the original MSRP of $1,799. I purchased it as an individual outside of any group plan and there were no other incentives.
Build & Design:
The laptop is solid with little flex. The build is of good quality. The hinge is sturdy and the screen easily adjusts position. It does wobble slightly when shaken and may prove disturbing on trains, planes, and automobiles. I pushed on the lid and received no observable ripple. I twisted the LCD but it did not have any give. When closed, you can pull up on the top and observe the latch does not hold the unit together firmly. Some may consider it slightly annoying that the laptop does not snap shut tightly. The textured look is very subtle but noticeable and does not show finger prints too obviously. At roughly 7 lbs (6.8lbs by some accounts, though I have yet to weigh it myself) it is light enough to be considered portable and the backpack is ideal for transferring the weight into an easily carried form.
All the lights and buttons have worked thus far. The strobes, illuminated eye above the DJ, and OLED display add to the overall presentation rather than giving a gimmicky feel as they could have. I am not sure what the cause of the strobes to illuminate is, it’s seemingly random and they activate at unusual points, but when they do light they are bright but not blinding. I examined the features for Direct Flash and only observed an On/Off option.
The screen is beautiful with a slight hint of imperfection. There is a touch of light leakage on the bottom portion of the screen. I am not overly sensitive to this and it’s only really noticeable on a black screen and if you’re looking for it. It is not as bad as some Asus A8Js models I have seen images of in the NBR Forums, but still there is some. If it becomes an issue I will more clearly document it.
The laptop has a native resolution of WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050) displayed on a 15.4-inch TFT screen.
I have not observed any ghosting on the screen and the desktop and applications display well. There were no dead pixels and the screen is free of scratches or any type of damage.
A web camera is located at the top of the screen (view large image)
The speakers are on the front right and left corners of the laptop and point seemingly outward left and right. I have listened to a few Windows sounds and watched a DVD and can say everything is clear. The audio seems louder when you are on either side of the laptop, but the blend in the middle will provide the best of both channels. Like many laptop speakers, they are good enough but do not match the quality and fidelity of external speakers. They are above average for laptop speakers but for ‘gaming’ you would like the precision and depth that advanced speakers and headphones may provide.
Processor and Performance:
The processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2.0GHz). Boot up sequences are quick and the POST is probably on a quick check by default.
The hard drive is a SATA 160GB 5400 RPM drive. A fairly large sized amount of space though at only 5400 RPM this may lead to longer delays in read times.
The laptop contains 2GB of DDR2 667MHz memory. The two slots are filled with 1GB sticks, maxing out the upgrade potential. 2GB seems like a lot for Windows XP Media Center though in Vista with additional addressing space and memory intensive applications, 2GB this may seem less hefty.
The Nvidia Go 7700 is not as capable as the 7600 GT or 7800 and higher chipsets, but still very capable. With more power behind it than most multimedia laptops it competes almost directly with the Acer Ferrari 5000 series.
(Driver’s used during benchmarking: ASUS 7700 driver 126.96.36.199)
3DMark05 Results and comparison:
3DMark05 tests the graphics processing capabilities of a system:
|Notebook||3D Mark 05 Results|
|Asus G1J (Core 2 Duo, 2.0GHz, NVIDIA 7700)||4,247 3D Marks|
|Asus W7J (Core Duo 1.83GHz, NVIDIA 7400)||1,974 3D Marks|
|Asus W3J (1.83Ghz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||3,925 3D Marks|
|Sony VAIO SZ2 (2.16GHz Core Duo, NVIDIA GeForce 7400)||1,851 3D Marks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,236 3D Marks|
|Alienware Aurora M-7700 (AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB)||7,078 3D Marks|
|Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, NVIDIA Go 7400 256MB)||2,090 3D Marks|
3DMark06 Comparison Results:
3DMark06 tests the graphics capabilities of a system, it is more demanding than 3DMark05.
|Notebook||3DMark 06 Results|
|Asus G1J (Core 2 Duo, 2.0GHz, NVIDIA 7700)||2,389 3D Marks|
|HP nc8430 (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||1,745 3D Marks|
|Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,528 3D Marks|
|Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M)||3,926 3D Marks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX)||4,085 3D Marks|
|Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB)||1,654 3D Marks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||4,744 3D Marks|
PCMark05 Comparison results:
|Asus G1 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7700)||4,727 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO C140 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500, Intel GMA 950)||2,994 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,427 PCMarks|
|Asus G1 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|Sony VAIO C140 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500)||1m 23s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 29s|
|Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 41s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
Heat and Noise:
The heat thus far from the unit has been manageable. It starts to become uncomfortable in my lap after about an hour and a half. After three hours my legs were tired, but the laptop was not any hotter than it was at the 1.5 hour mark and the touchpad was barely more than normal warmth. Given the time of year, my hands are actually somewhat cold while typing this and might enjoy a toasty touchpad!
A heat vent is present on the back of the unit, there are no side vents. There are several vents on the bottom and the center, the largest vent produces the most heat.
The fan uses a variable speed and I rarely hear it enter cooling overdrive. There have been moments on startup when loading the entire OS that it starts up at full speed but then slows down.
Keyboard and Touchpad:
The keyboard and touchpad are well designed with a few noteworthy features.
Keyboard and touchpad view, the (view large image)
The keyboard is an 88-key keyboard that is situated in a normal manner (centered). It does not have an ergonomic curve and is rather straight across. The keys press softly with little noise. You would probably not be scolded for typing away in a quiet room. There is a small amount of flex in the center of the keyboard but it is not obvious without applying above average force and looking carefully. The W, A, S, D keys are highlighted in green to make them more apparent, their significance is well known to the gamer demographic they are targeting. Of note, the Ctrl and FN keys are positioned so that the Ctrl is the outer key and FN is wedged between it and the Windows key.
"DJ" media buttons located at the front of the G1, above them is the glowing gaming eye (view large image)
The touchpad features the same textured look as the rest of the body with the glowing gaming eye below the touchpad, acting as a type of divider between the left and right click buttons. The eye is lit constantly and serves as no type of indicator and is not a button. There is a scroll bar on the right of the touchpad and it is easily activated.
The DJ is not technically part of the touchpad, but it is located directly below the touchpad. Pressing the PWR button loads Windows Media Player though pressing it again does not turn it off. While in Media Player you can use Next/Fast Forward, Previous/Rewind, Stop, and Play/Pause buttons to control the playing media. The Fast Forward and Rewind functions do not work while playing a song as they merely skip to the next or previous song. While Media Player is not on, pressing the Play/Pause button turns on the ASUSTek ASUS DVD application. There is no worry about pressing these buttons accidentally with your arm or finger as they are flush with the lip of the case. This does make them difficult to press as you need to apply pressure on the button surface with a finger nail and depress a small amount.
Typically I can navigate the controls without issue and for a laptop touchpad and keyboard they are very functional with a little extra touch of special features that adds to the gaming design. In its shortcomings thoug, it can be noted that the laptop does not take advantage of Windows Media Center’s additional input functions such as a dedicated volume slider, turn knob, or touch activated slide sensor. Without using the software the only way to mute, unmute, raise, and lower the volume are with FN combinations. These functions depend on Windows to operate and therefore cannot be used before it loads.
Input and Output Ports:
The Asus G1 has the following ports:
- 1 x TypeII PCMCIA slot
- 1 x Microphone-in jack
- 1 x Headphone-out jack (S/PDIF)
- 1 x Line-in jack
- 1 x VGA port
- 1 x DVI-D port
- 4 x USB 2.0 ports
- 1 x IEEE 1394 port (4 pin)
- 1 x RJ11 Modem jack for phone line
- 1 x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert
- 1 x TV-out(S-Video)
Asus G1 Left side view (view large image)
Asus G1 Right side view (view large image)
Asus G1 Front side view (view large image)
Asus G1 Back view (view large image)
I would have preferred an ExpressCard slot, but instead the unit included a Type II PCMCIA slot. I at least have a developed line of existing PC Cards to choose from.
Included with the accessories was an S-Video to RCA output adapter cable.
The necessary ports are seemingly all present though. I used the card reader and was able to open my 1GB SD card but it required a reboot. The power input is on the back of the laptop, which is a plus.
The built-in wireless A/B/G + Bluetooth is an excellent feature. Thus far, I have tested the G wireless and was easily able to connect to my Belkin router and remain connected. I could turn the WiFi on and off and each time it would reconnect quickly. The Bluetooth and WiFi controls are paired so you can pick one of four options with the FN+F2 combination to select between WiFi and Bluetooth, WiFi Only, Bluetooth Only, and both off. I have always been a fan of Bluetooth and probably liked it more than it deserved. I have a Treo 700W with Bluetooth and I am already trying to think of the possibilities and hopefully there are more than just synching. There is supposedly a modem in there, which I might have never noticed if not for the notification area icon for it. The laptop does lack infrared, but I had no plans of utilizing it.
The laptop comes with two specific accessories that are designed to complement the overall gaming package. These include the backpack and the ASUS optical mouse (Logitech MX518 rebranded).
Included Asus mouse (view large image)
The backpack is roomy with two main pouches, a front pouch that contains a large section and holders for pens with two smaller pockets and a main inside pouch that holds the laptop. The main inside pouch is the one located nearest to the the back when worn. The main inside pouch holds the laptop in an upright position between two stiff, soft cloth supporters with a velcro, elastic strip that secures over the top once inserted. In this pouch space exists on either side of the supporters though items probably should not be placed here. Above the supporters is a decently sized net pouch with a zipper. The best place to carry the power brick would most likely be the front pouch along with any other loose accessories. Externally there are four pockets, two that are netted and two that are placed along the zipper on the front pouch. The material is of good quality and it seems durable. The ASUS logos are not obvious though there is one indented on the front pouch so the casual observer would not be inclined to know there is a laptop contained inside. The straps are thick, re-sizeable and generally comfortable. I have worn the backpack only short distances but I have never been uncomfortable when wearing it. There is also an attaching clasp to secure both straps together for extra support.
Asus G1 with included backpack (view large image)
The mouse is a rebranded Logitech MX518 mouse, as it clearly states on a label on the bottom of the unit. The mouse works well and thus far I have been using it on fairly poor surfaces with good results. It is optical and not laser. The corded mouse is somewhat irregular in the concept of the laptop, especially one with Bluetooth included but it does ensure the best response time and performance in games. Regardless, I will replace it with a good RF mouse in the near future as the cord is too cumbersome.
After a quick charge of about one hour the laptop charged from an unspecified level of power to full. I attempted a few tests and having never used BatteryEater my results have not been definitive. I will give more details on the battery later after more tests and anecdotal experience. Right now the laptop has been on with Wi-Fi on but with no connection, screen brightness 86%, Bluetooth disabled, in Quiet Office mode for 2 hours, 37 minutes with a remaining estimate of 10%. I have been doing little activity, checking features and verifying items for the review.
I am happy with the battery life and with the power saving Power4 Gear+ running it should allow me to watch a DVD before the battery runs down while on the road. To be on the safe side I do have a power inverter for the car as I do suspect I will need it on long trips.
Operating System and Software:
The included operating system is Windows XP Media Center. It runs well with the specs and in the future it will run Windows Vista (drivers and ASUS willing). I wish it included Windows XP Professional and I am not sure if Media Center was required to make the DJ buttons or any other feature operate, or if it was just a move to diminish cost.
The storage drives include the hard drive, detected as ST9160821AS, and the optical drive, detected as a Matsushita DVD-RAM UJ-850S.
The hard drive was partitioned into three primary partitions. The first was a recovery partition of 3.9GB, a system, active partition of 87.1GB, and a partition labeled data of 58.0GB. The partitions are FAT32 with no preinstalled programs or information on the data drive. The recovery partition does not have an associated drive letter. (Drive sizes quoted per Windows)
The optical drive, located on the left side of the laptop, is responsive and spins up quickly. The eject/open button has worked with each depression. On a small label there are three stickers: DVD, MULTI-RECORDER, and RW DVD + R DL with their respective industry images. The laptop comes preinstalled with LightScribe software but after a check with ASUS through an email correspondence and a quick call it was revealed that the laptop is not LightScribe capable. Why the software was installed or presented clearly on the desktop is unknown to me. A week ago Albert, a rep I spoke with to test the responsiveness of the customer service, was uncertain about LightScribe being on the device and a week later another rep was certain it was not included per an email he had just received. My disappointment aside about LightScribe, the optical drive does work well. The noise it generates is audible, especially during burning, but overall not so much that it may disrupt a movie.
There is a comprehensive set of ASUS branded software included and thus far the largest complaint is the limited features of customization in the Direct Console for manipulating the Direct Flash and Direct Messenger. Direct Messenger allowed me to add a personal line of text, display the current time (uses system time), and choose from a series of icons of which I could add several. I am able to add a series of icons and text in one display, but that is of limited value. Some of the applications may prove useful later but I do not expect myself to use the RAM drive or Skype software.
I spoke with an Albert and he seemed friendly enough and after a moment of relating my information to him he asked how he could be of assistance. I inquired about his knowledge of the unit, which he was aware of and semi-knowledgeable about. I asked as to whether or not the indicator would show when the battery was full, and if he knew if there was LightScribe or not (This laptop does not include LightScribe). He advised me that the battery indicator would turn off, and that he had seen LightScribe as an option on the model they had trained on, but had not tested it and would need to inquire further. I asked about hours of operation and so forth and he seemed to know what he was talking about.
Several days later after developing concerns about LightScribe I placed an afterhours email support request and was answered sometime the next day, though I never received an email notifying me my question was answered. Rather I noticed an update to my ticket/issue on the URL they provided when I placed the request. The question was answered in less than a day with a one line response stating ‘The G1 model laptop ODD is only for Supermulti, not capable for LightScribe’. I called back and conferred with a rep that then took my phone number and about an hour later familiar Albert called. He stated there was no LightScribe and that it may have been due to a ‘master image issue’ which personally I do not believe. I went over a few more items with him such as how to acces the BIOS (F2 on POST), any other features/discrepencies missing or misreported (which he had none), what kind of screen the laptop has (I speculated IPS but he had no idea), and if Direct Messenger was to be improved (He stated there is a known issue with Outlook that was being resolved but no additional functions were being added to his knowledge).
The warranty is a global warranty for two years and Albert stated that I may have an option to get an extra year but it is generally through them (if purchased directly through ASUS) or with the reseller.
Asus G1 vs Asus G2
Since the sister system, the G2, runs rival chip maker ATI’s (now AMD) X1700 GPU comparisons are inevitable. So here are my two cents: You can wait for the G2 to come out, but if all reports are to transpire you may see a performance edge on the G1 due to its slightly more powerful Nvidia 7700 GPU. The head to head is yet to come, but the G1 has given a strong performance first.
- One of the best gaming laptops in this screen/body size
- Sleek, solid design
- Unique, cool features
- 2 year global warranty
- Upgrade eligibility to Vista
- $1799 is an affordable price for a gaming laptop
- XP Media Center rather than XP Pro
- OLED may be difficult to customize
- Few options with Direct Flash
- Slight Light leakage
- No ExpressCard Slot
- LCD can wobble when shaken
This laptop is all gaming, inside and out. The look is sleek, polished, and solid while the performance is admirable. The price is right for the feature set, and provides you with the type of system required for the gamer-on-the-go. The laptop hits the mark for the gaming enthusiast, the purist may prefer a more powerful 17 inch or larger model, and those waiting for a DirectX 10 laptop should just pass on by.