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Flying straight out of the US military's stealth hanger, the matte black, 17.3-inch Asus G73Jh pulls no punches in performance.
The G73Jh is part of the Republic of Gamers (ROG) line, where it pulls none in size and looks either, with its angular design and huge rear-facing air vents polarising the CNET office into camps of love and hate. After a quick survey, we discovered those who hated it weren't gamers, those who loved it were. In other words, Asus has perfectly hit its target market. At 3.85kg, it's also deceptively light for what's in it — still, this isn't a laptop you'll be buying for the ultimate in portability.
In the G73Jh Asus is calling out Alienware. While its configuration may not be as ridiculously overpowered as some of Alienware's machines, neither is it as expensive. A quad-core Intel Core i7 Q720 @ 1.6GHz sits as the CPU, although thanks to Turbo Boost it can hit 2.8GHz on a single thread if need be. Being an i7, this means hyperthreading is along for the ride too, offering eight threads on this beastly laptop.
The centrepiece of the G73Jh though has to be the graphics card — ATI's stonkingly fast Radeon HD 5870. Backed up with 8GB RAM, dual 500GB 7200rpm hard drives, Blu-ray/DVD+-RW combo drive, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and a 1920x1080 screen, it almost gets the combo right. Sadly, Asus has opted for a glossy screen over a matte one, spoiling its perfect run, and the monitor doesn't tilt back very far, which may annoy some.
It also supposedly has an Audigy inside for EAX 4.0 support, but this must be in software, as the laptop itself claimed it was nothing more than a Realtek card. This isn't necessarily a downside — CPUs long ago had more than enough spare cycles to emulate a sound card, and Creative's software actually makes a difference to audio quality.
This is paired with some of the best speakers we've heard on a laptop, with decent mid and bass, and good clarity at the high end.
Connectivity includes 802.11n, Bluetooth, gigabit Ethernet, four USB ports, headphone and microphone ports, HDMI, VGA and an MMC/SD/MS card reader. Conspicuously absent is eSATA, usually present in Asus' bigger laptops. If anything, perhaps this is the sign that USB 3.0 is on the way.
Asus has opted to put its status indicators on the lip of the laptop, effectively making them useless for quick-glance diagnosis. But this does do one other thing, and that's minimise distraction during gaming. We'd just prefer they were somewhere more visible, and that you could turn them off if you wanted to.
And this is exactly what Asus has done with the three lit buttons on the top left and the unearthly glowing blue LED under the monitor. Of these three buttons, one turns the lights on and off, one gives access to TwinTurbo mode (pushing the bus up to 143.3MHz from 133MHz for more CPU and memory grunt) and one cycles through Asus' "Splendid" image presets for the monitor (which as usual, should be avoided). Sadly, the power button light stays on.
Despite the extra wide touch pad, Asus hasn't included multi-touch scrolling, instead opting for circular scrolling. There is pinch to zoom, but its effectiveness in Windows is limited and a little erratic.
Asus has also chosen to squish the number pad and arrow keys to a smaller size, an odd choice considering how much space there is to play with. Thankfully though the keyboard is backlit, making it perfect for those late-night gaming sessions.