Asus is the manufacturers’ version of an early adopter. Its new 3D laptop is the first real gaming laptop to get a 3D makeover. This is provided by Nvidia’s excellent solution 3DVision, which requires a 120Hz screen to work and comes with a pair of wireless goggles. It is somewhat dissapointing that it hasn’t been fully integrated into the laptop, but it works really well coupled with the quad-core i7 performance in the G51J 3D.
Hardware and Build
Gaming laptops usually get the full makeover with eye-catching and sometimes exaggerated “gaming-inspired” design, but the Asus G51J 3D is a relatively low-key model, aside from the fancy lid decoration. The glossy black plastics surrounding the keyboard and the screen are mixed with a matte black, rubbery material, which is very pleasant. The overall finish is excellent and gives off a sturdy impression, and the backlit keyboard also makes it look great in the dark.
The G51J-3D is quite heavy for a 15.6-inch laptop, which is no huge surprise considering the powerful hardware inside, including an Intel Core i7 (quad core) and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M graphics card. There’s no shortage of raw performance here – the 1.6GHz Intel i7-720QM, although not the fastest mobile i7, is still significantly better and less power-hungry than the old Core 2 Duo Quad-Cores. It also has the Turbo Boost feature that kicks in when two of the cores are idle. In addition, the G51J-3D comes with 4GB of DDR3.
In terms of connectivity, there are four USB ports located on the right and left sides. There are also VGA and HDMI ports, Firewire, eSATA, Ethernet and of course audio in/out for connecting a headset. Lastly, it also has a Blu-ray player/DVD-burner combo (might vary with configuration) and a multi-format memory card reader. Asus could have done better with the speakers. In spite of the Altec Lansing branding, the sound is rather tinny and lacks bass.
The 3D Kit
Somewhat surprisingly, the infrared emitter for the active glasses is external and connects via USB, so it’s essentially an Nvidia 3D Vision kit that comes separately with the laptop. Some actual integration would have been most welcome. Also noteworthy is that the HDMI cannot connect an external 120Hz monitor to show 3D. But on to the fun parts.
Clearly, the screen is the centerpiece on the G51J as it’s the first laptop screen capable of the 120Hz frequency required by the Nvidia 3D kit. I had the privilege of testing 3D Vision at CES last year – it was very impressive then and it’s still really impressive. Of all the attempts at 3D so far, Nvidia’s is by far the best. The image is remarkably stable and rendering 3D works without a hitch. A small damper on the enthusiasm is the relatively small 15.6-inch, 1366×768 screen, which puts a limit on the immersion effect.
Another limitation is the graphics performance when using 3D in games. The GTX 260M is one of the better laptop GPUs on the market right now, but the 3D technology requires some extra juice to show its full potential. It works well enough in most games, but in some of the newer titles the settings have to be lowered for everything to run fluently at native resolution. This is probably the reason why Asus decided on the lower-resolution screen for the 3D version of the G51J.
Besides gaming in spectacular 3D, NVIDIA also offers a utility for converting movies into 3D. Although it is not as fun as watching actual 3D video, the effect is nonetheless quite impressive and lends itself well to certain movies.
3D Gaming Performance
The Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M in combination with the quad-core i7 CPU should have no problems coping with the latest games, but the 3D feature still pushes it to the limit. On the other hand, the relatively low-res 1366×768 screen allows most games to run at native resolution without dropping to embarrassing frame rates.
We had no significant problems running our selection of games, which included Resident Evil 5, Race Driver GRID, Fallout 3 and Crysis. All of the games ran fluently at native resolution and mostly high settings, except for Crysis, which is apparently still the real torture test for any graphics card. That’s not to say it doesn’t work – of course it does – but not with high details and native resolution. In the Resident Evil 5 benchmark it ran at just over 30 frames per second, which means completely fluid gameplay.
Windows Experience Index:
Graphics: 6.8 – 5.9
Gaming Graphics: 6.8
Hard Drive: 5.9
As usual, the Windows Experience Index score is not very interesting, since it’s always capped at the lowest common denominator – in this case the hard drive. So the actual score is 5.9, which isn’t really fair. More interesting is that 3DMark 06 delivers a score of just over 10,000 (10,046), which is great. Interestingly, turning on 3D Vision drops that score by almost 30% so there is some significant overhead when using 3D.
Don’t entertain any thoughts of gaming away from an outlet – at least not for more than 30 minutes. This is not an ultraportable or a low-voltage laptop and that is reflected in the battery life. If you enjoy watching lengthy dramas you will also be disappointed by the 1:30 of video playback it delivers. Thankfully it’s just enough to watch Fletch if you skip past the credits – epics like Conan the Destoyer is another matter altogether.
Right now, the Asus G51J 3D is without a doubt the best 3D laptop thanks to the excellent solution from Nvidia – or more like the only 3D gaming laptop considering the low specifications of Acer’s 3D offerings. We only wish the receiver for the goggles had been integrated. Performance-wise it is excellent, and its design is pleasantly low-key for a gaming laptop. A higher screen resolution would have been nice, but that would also have had a negative impact on gaming visuals, as it wouldn’t be able to run at native resolution.
- 1.6GHz Intel i7-720QM Core i7 Quad Core Processor
- 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 2 slots, 4GB Max
- 640GB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM); DVD SuperMulti Drive
- 15.6-Inch Widescreen HD LCD Display; NVidia GTX 260M Graphics with 1GB DDR3 VRAM; 3D Gaming Glasses and Transmitter Included;
- Windows 7 Home Premium (64 bit); Gaming Backpack and Gaming Mouse Included