We've seen an excellent crop of gaming and enthusiast laptops coming through our labs lately, each better than the last. First the G60J from Asus, then the M60J, took an A-List slot. But before you could say "i7 laptop", the Alienware M15X had claimed an A-Listing. Now Asus's G73Jh lands in our Labs with an ATI Radeon Mobility HD 5870.
The first thing we have to say about the G73Jh is that it's really big. The design is based on an F117 Nighthawk, with a subtle grey/charcoal chassis that feels sublimely smooth in your hands.
Of course, it also feels enormous, but we'll stick with the superlatives for now. The Republic of Gamers logo states its aspirations, as does the wedge at the rear featuring two massive exhausts to divert hot air away from your lap or desktop. The F117 styling extends to the bevelling at side and front, as well as the wedged rear, but doesn't continue inside to wrist rest and screen.
But the glossy screen doesn't need any jet fighter flourishes. At 17.3in and 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution, it speaks for itself. Screens are shaping up to be one the areas in which a laptop stamps out its quality this year, and we were impressed with the clarity and brightness of the screen for watching movies and for web browsing and other more mundane tasks.
The keyboard is full-sized, with a numberpad included. It's backlit via the function buttons, and gives three different lighting levels. We found its white glow pleasant to use in dark spaces, and clear enough to make typing or gaming a breeze. Having said that, the keyboard is a little soft-feeling and unresponsive, but it's the trackpad that is the true letdown.
The buttons are so soft that we couldn't always tell when we had clicked something, and often it turned out that our clicking hadn't registered. It's only the G73Jh's other many positives that outweigh this black mark against it.
Those positives have to start with the performance. The i7 720 onboard may have a default clockspeed of just 1.6GHz, but Intel Turbo Boost can bump the four cores up to a more satisfying 2.8GHZ. Combined with 4GB DDR3 RAM, it results in an excellent overall performance score of 1.52. It's so close to the score of the Alienware M15X as to make the two twins, with almost identical scores across the board.
But if it's indistinguishable from the M15X on processing power, it firmly stamps its authority over the gaming arena. Gaming is ferociously good. For our Crysis benchmark we saw our first ever scores over 100fps for low settings - the G73Jh clocked an impressive 113fps. It was just as outstanding, for a laptop, at medium and high settings, earning 79fps and 33fps, respectively.
That's the first laptop we've seen that can handle Crysis on high details settings, and it blitzes the previous A-Listed enthusiast laptop, the Alienware M15X.
The price is good, too, given the performance, size, two year warranty and Full HD monitor with Blu-ray drive - $2799 is a competitive RRP and street price should be around $2500.
It's not lightweight, slugging you for a full 5kg when you include the genuinely brick-sized power supply. That's the same as the slightly smaller Alienware, however. Asus supplies the G73Jh with a laptop bag suited to its bulk, a SteelSeries keyboard and Lazer mouse, but it's unlikely the entire bundle would come in under 6kg. As gaming-on-the-go goes, it's capable, but not exactly deft.
And, unsurprisingly, battery life is disappointing, even with the included 8-cell battery. It fares slightly worse than the Alienware M15X, with 1hr 23mins in our heavy use battery test, and 2hrs 53 on light use.
But this isn't a laptop you buy for the battery life. You buy it for its looks, and for its power, and on both those fronts, the G73Jh is a resounding success. It won't be for everyone, but if you lack space for a desktop, you can finally play Crysis as it should be played.