- Great build quality (not keyboard)
- Solid gaming performance
- Good looking design
- Short battery life
by Kevin O’Brien
The ASUS G51-series is a 15.6″ gaming notebook offering dual hard drive bays, NVIDIA GTX 260M graphics, and an optional quad-core processor. To enhance the multimedia experience this notebook offers a 1080P 16:9 display, a backlit Chiclet-style keyboard, and Altec Lansing speakers. Base configurations start as low as $1,049 with a dual-core processor and a single drive, and go as high as $1,699 with the quad-core processor and dual hard drives. In this review we see how well this system performs in a number of new games, to help you decide if this is the right gaming notebook for you.
Our review unit of the ASUS G51VX-A1 features the following specifications:
- Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 64-bit)
- Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000 (2GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 6MB Cache)
- Intel PM45 + ICH9M chipset
- 15.6″ WUXGA FHD LCD display at 1920×1080
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M 1GB GDDR3 memory
- Intel 5100AGN Wireless
- 4GB DDR2-800 SDRAM (2GB x 2)
- Two 320GB Seagate 7200RPM Hard Drives
- DVD SuperMulti
- Webcam, Altec Lansing speakers, Backpack, Razer Copperhead USB mouse
- 120W (19V x 6.32A) 100-240V AC Adapter
- 6-cell 53Wh 11.1v 4800mAh Lithium Ion battery
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 14.6″ x 10.3″ x 1.3-1.6″
- Weight: 7lbs 9.0oz
- 2-Year Global Warranty/1-Year Accidental damage
- Price as configured: $1,699
Build and Design
The G51 is part of the Republic of Gamers lineup from ASUS, meaning it incorporates the ROG logo on the front cover and a more aggressive notebook design. The outside cover has chrome trim around the side and bottom edges, and a futuristic pattern painted onto the lid; both helping to push the overall gaming theme. The sides are black plastic, with a silver strip painted on the sides and front of the notebook. You can tell these strips were painted separately, since you can see some faint overspray near the border edges. The inside of the G51 has a more back-to-basics look with a rubberized black palmrest, black backlit keyboard, and glossy black trim around the display. I personally think the design could have been helped by using the rubberized on more surfaces around the notebook, but that might be the ThinkPad fan inside of me talking.
Build quality is above average, with sturdy plastic used throughout the notebook, but there are some areas that could see some improvement. The screen cover feels very durable, and protects the screen against any distortion from impacts to the back cover or flexing the screen side to side. The palmrest and keyboard have absolutely no flex at all, which is something you need if you are going to be playing high-stress games and occasionally taking out some of your anger on your computer. The two areas that I think ASUS could have improved are the painted silver trim pieces, which shows some overspray, and the keyboard itself. It looks like this notebook was designed with a different keyboard in mind for it, since the Chiclet-style model included is sized just slightly small for the bezel around it. It is loose enough that with some careful prying, you can pop the keyboard out of its tray. This is a small gap of about 2-3mm, but it is just enough to let the keyboard slip past the notches that secure it in place.
Users looking to upgrade components inside the notebook will find it very easy, thanks to a single panel giving you access to all user-replaceable components. The only “warranty void if removed” sticker is covering one of the screws used to tension the processor heatsink, meaning that if you want to change out the processor or graphics card you will be forfeiting your 2-year warranty. Given the configuration of this notebook, I only see users really looking to swap out the RAM for larger modules or the hard drives for SSDs.
Screen and Speakers
Considering that this notebook will be used for gaming, an excellent screen is a must. The display on the G51 looks above average with good color saturation and better than average viewing angles. The glossy surface helps make the already good looking colors “pop” out at you more than they would on a matte display, as well as improving the looks of dark colors. While gaming I didn’t notice any lag or abnormal backlight bleed in dark scenes. Vertical viewing angles were very good, offering a broad sweet spot before colors started to invert if you tilted the screen forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles were excellent, keeping colors accurate, albeit slightly washed out, at very steep angles. Backlight brightness was more than adequate to be viewable in a bright room, but unless you stick to a shaded area underneath a tree, it won’t be viewable outdoors.
The Altec Lansing speakers sounded nice, but given the overall size of this notebook we had hoped for a subwoofer as well. Audio from the speakers consisted mostly of higher frequencies, with some midrange coming through. Bass was lacking, but without a subwoofer that is normal for most notebooks. As a gaming notebook I think headphones should be required, especially surround sound-enabled headphones so you can hear your surroundings and react accordingly.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard was comfortable to use, and really helped solidify the overall look of the notebook. The keys and inner trim were all matching black, with white lettering that lights up when the backlight is enabled. The individual keys were easy to press, and felt very solid with very little wiggle if you moved your hand around the keyboard. Support was very good, with no flex noticed in the primary typing region. The only complaint we have, is the size of the keyboard itself inside the tray area; it’s small enough to move around and come out with little effort.
The G51 includes a large Synaptics touchpad with a very smooth barely- textured surface. Tracking speeds are excellent with no lag noticed in our game testing, and the sensitivity was great even with the default settings. The touchpad buttons were easy to trigger, but didn’t give as much feedback as longer throw buttons.
Ports and Features
Port selection was pretty good for a 15″ notebook, with 4 USB ports, an eSATA connection, HDMI and VGA out, Firewire 400, LAN, and three audio jacks. The expansion ASUS included an ExpressCard/54 slot and a spring loaded SD-card reader. ASUS also found a creative use for the ExpressCard blank, turning it into a handy storage card holder. Considering that most of us will keep that blank card in the slot most of the time, it now becomes a handy storage device.
ASUS is always big on including freebies with notebook purchases, with the G51 being no different. They included a very nice padded notebook backpack, a Razer Copperhead gaming mouse, and a pair of Eee Stick game controllers. The backpack provides more than enough protection for the G51, with enough room to spare for accessories or even a book if you wake up in time for class. The Razer gaming mouse is a nice step up from standard generic freebie mice, and the Eee Stick controllers are good for games that might support them.