With my custom built gaming desktop rapidly approaching its fifth birthday (and having moved well beyond being useful for gaming without serious upgrades), and with games like Diablo 3 on the horizon, I decided it was time for a new PC. I spent nearly two months researching various models and builds, trying them out, deciding what I could live with and live without, and weighing everything I'd be doing with this new machine before finally pulling the trigger on the Asus G53JW-A1. So far, I'm quite pleased with my purchase.
Recommend this product?
The G53JW is the little brother of Asus' popular G73 line, a gaming laptop series with a 17-inch monitor and some pretty beastly specs. Rather than build another desktop, I opted for more portability this time around - because I not only do some gaming on my computer, but I also work from it (writing) and watch films. I was tired of being tied to my desk, basically, but wanted a laptop with enough oomph under the hood to run games at decent specs - without breaking the budget in the process. When it was all said and done, it came down to the G53 and the MSI GX660R - and like all things in life, neither was quite perfect. The Asus won out in the end, though.
Calling the G53 portable is a bit of a misnomer. It is a laptop in that you can carry it around or stick it in a backpack (which Asus is nice enough to include with this package), but if you're looking for light and tiny, think long and hard about this one. Instead, the G53 is a desktop replacement - a laptop that can be transported here and there, but is really best served by sitting in one central location most of the time. Don't believe me? Here are the dimensions: 39.1 x 29.7 x 2.00-5.00 centimeters (W x D x H). It also weighs in at 7.5 pounds. It's a 15.6 inch laptop that looks almost like a 17 inch. If you're ever accosted in a dark alley, this thing will make a viable weapon.
The first thing you're likely to notice about the G53 - aside from the size - is the appearance. Asus has made both the G53 and G73 with what it likes to call "Stealth Bomber styling." The laptop has sort of a wedged look to it that does definitely remind you of the infamous bombers. It's a fairly thin machine at the front end, but then widens as you reach the rear, then slightly tapers again. I like to think of it as "curvy" - and I do find the appearance of the machine nice. Unlike some other gaming rigs, it's fairly understated in appearance at first glance. It has a matte black finish and a definite dearth of the LED lights that seem so common on gaming machines. In fact, the only thing that lights up on the exterior of the case is the Asus logo on the back of the monitor. Even that's relatively discreet - the factory version shines with a soft white light and not the "screaming red" of companies like Alienware.
As mentioned, the laptop has a matte black finish that seems fairly resistant to fingerprints, but less so to finger oils. The good thing is that it cleans up easily with a microfiber cloth. The case is plastic, but it's solidly built and feels sturdy. You wouldn't want to drop it, but it certainly feels substantial enough to be moved around and carried in a backpack without worrying that it'll never boot up again.
Flipping around to the rear of the machine reveals one of my favorite features on the G53 chassis: Two gigantic exhaust ports. Gaming laptops have always struggled with heat and how to effectively disperse it - but Asus appears to have figured out a great way to solve that issue once and for all. The two exhaust vents on the rear of the machine (one on each side of the battery slot) blow hot air from the GPU and CPU (each have their own dedicated fan) directly out the back of the machine. This means you can hold the G53 on your lap for extended periods of time without it burning you or killing your chances of fathering children someday. Seriously, the cooling system in the G53 is really impressive. Even at load, the machine doesn't get higher than 90 degrees celsius. I've used other laptops and many of them tend to get really warm under load. This one will certainly heat up, but the vent and fan system moves the hot air effectively and in a way that it never really impacts the user. Kudos to Asus for that. Extra kudos to them for achieving this without making the G53 obnoxiously loud. I'm amazed at how quietly this laptop runs.
Moving on to the more technical aspects of the machine, the Asus comes equipped with a variety of connection slots. On the right side of the model, you'll find the AC adapter plug-in, ethernet port, HDMI, two audio inputs (mic and headphones), VGA connector, a USB port, and a USB 3.0 port. The left hand side offer up the DVD Multi Drive (which can be upgraded to Blu-ray if you're so inclined) and two more USB ports. The front of the machine features the 8-in-1 card reader. All in all, it's a nice layout. My only complaint is that the AC adapter plug in is on the right hand side of the machine, right next to where you'll be plugging in a gaming mouse. This means the cord will often be in your way - and since the G53 gets less than two hours of battery life from its 8 cell unit when playing heavy games, it is something you will deal with regularly. I understand why they did this (the back of the machine's real estate is taken up with the battery and exhaust ports), but it's still frustrating. This is primarily a gaming machine - people are going to be using a mouse.
Opening up the G53 is a cool experience - the lid is stiff but not difficult to manage and even though the back end of the case is raised, the screen tilts back quite a ways.
With the machine opened, you'll notice a very nice 15.6 inch screen. The G53JW comes with a True High Def panel, running at 1920x1080 resolution. Viewing angles on the screen are decent (horizontal is significantly better than vertical), if not overwhelming. Glare can be an issue, unfortunately. After making some adjustments, the colors and black levels are nice and I almost regret not getting the Blu-ray player included. It's a great way to watch movies or play games.
If you're in to the whole video chat thing or want to make some low-budget YouTube videos, Asus has you covered. Above the monitor is an integrated 2.0 Megapixel webcam and built in speaker. I recently used the webcam for video chat and it worked adequately.
Moving down from the screen leads to the chiclet-style keyboard, which features a full number pad -- something gamers are always in favor of. Typing on the G53 is a pleasant experience - the keys are firm and responsive, but do require a bit of force. Don't baby the machine and you'll get used to it in no time. I haven't noticed any significant flex when typing, which is a definite plus. The G73 had reported issues of the keyboard missing keystrokes, but I've not encountered it on this machine thus far. When I thought maybe it was happening, it turned out to be a user mistake as I adjust to the new keyboard.
Another feature sure to appeal to gamers is the backlighting for the keyboard. Again, Asus has gone relatively understated with this feature - it's a pale white light, and not the crazy variety of colors you'll find on the standard Alienware laptop. I didn't think backlit keys were a big deal when I was shopping, but the reality is they're very handy. I sit in the dark watching movies a lot, and it's great to be able to find the keys without having to fumble around. This function can be turned on and off with the press of a button on the top right side of the keyboard area. That area is also of interest since it houses the "Power4Gear" button, which allows for instant (slight) overclocking of the machine when games get intense.
My only complaints with the keyboard as a whole are that the right shift key and the spacebar are short. I miss the spacebar on this thing constantly, as the shortened end is on the right side - where I tend to hit most often. I'm sure I'll get used to it in time.
Moving south of the keyboard leads to the palmrest and touchpad. I really like the palmrest on the G53, as it's a fingerprint resistant rubber-like material. It's been very comfortable so far and it doesn't seem to get a build up of grease and smudges as quickly as other machines. The touchpad, meanwhile, is also nice. It's responsive and a good size (not as huge as the one on the G73...). The only minor complaint here is that the buttons are very tight and take a lot of effort to click. Perhaps they loosen up with use.
Now that we've covered all of the external features of the G73JW, let's get to the good stuff, shall we?
The machine is running a Core i7 740QM processor (1.73GHz Quad-Core with Turbo Boost up to 2.93GHz) and so far I'm pleased. I'm sure the second gen Sandybridge i7s will be featured in the machine at some point, but I was happy to go with the current 740QM. So far the machine blasts through games and other tasks without breaking a sweat.
The G53 comes standard with 6GBs of DDR3 RAM at 1066MHz. It has four SODIMM slots and can be upgraded to 16GBs of RAM if you're looking for crazy performance or running some kind of program that would need that much memory. Upgrading the RAM (or anything else in the G53, for that matter) isn't as easy as it should be. For some reason, Asus designed the system so that you have to remove the keyboard to get to one of the RAM slots and to do many other upgrades - and it's a bit daunting. Removing the keyboard requires some effort and I doubt I'll ever attempt it after watching videos of the process. This is one instance where I'll just pay someone to install RAM or anything else if I need it. It is a bit of a disappointment, though - part of the allure of gaming systems is that you can customize them as you go. The G53 seems to make this a little more difficult than it needs to be.
Storage-wise, the G53 comes with a 750GB hard drive that runs at 7200 RPM. There's also room to add a second HDD, but you'll need to find a caddy to hold it in place either from Asus or a certified reseller. This is nice since it allows the potential to add a Solid State Drive or just more general storage if you need it. Also, the G53JW has no RAID support. Something to keep in mind.
Your wireless needs will be met by the 802.11 b/g/n adapter. Not the nicest wireless set-up, but it'll get the job done.
Finally, since this is a gaming rig, we have to talk about the GPU. The G53JW comes standard with an Nvidia GTX460M graphics card. This is, from my understanding, a fairly high-end graphics card built on the Fermi architecture that's maybe not quite as nice as ATI 5870 Broadway card (which came in the MSI GX660R I was considering), but is in the same ballpark. The GTX460M comes with 1.5GB of onboard RAM, and does native DirectX11, so it should be useful for the foreseeable future. As an added bonus, you'll also get Nvidia's 3DTV Play, which allows for the projection of 3D games, photos, and movies onto a 3D HD television through the HDMI 1.4 port. Seems unlikely I'll ever use this, but if you have a 3D set, this could be of interest for you.
I haven't had an opportunity to run something like Crysis on the machine yet, but a quick perusal of forums and YouTube will show you videos with the game (and other graphically intensive titles) running at high settings with good framerates. The machine is fully capable of running current games at high level settings - which is great, considering the price point.
Asus stocks the machine with Windows 7 64-bit, but doesn't send you a disc, or give you the option of buying one, which is annoying. The machine comes with a small amount of bloatware installed. I'm actually hesitant to even call most of it "bloatware" as the majority of it seems at least somewhat useful and removing it is more of a decision of "will I ever use this?" than one of "this is pure crap that doesn't do anything." You'll be able to uninstall what you don't want in around an hour.
Should, God forbid, something ever go wrong with your G53, the machine is covered by Asus' two year warranty. Even better is a one year warranty that's included that covers things like accidental drops, spills, fires, or surges. Asus will cover shipping both ways should your machine need to go into the shop - and while turn around time varies, people I spoke to were happy with the service they received (although not many people had ever had a cause to send their machine in...).
The G53JW is not the highest end gaming machine on the market, but with a price-point under $1400 (I paid $1289 for mine, which included a $100 rebate along with a free Razer Abyssus mouse and a backpack), it offers a lot of bang for your gaming buck. A similarly specced Alienware, for example, ran a few hundred dollars more. So, if you're in the market for a relatively affordable gaming laptop, the Asus G53JW is certainly a machine that should be on your shortlist.
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