We've been very impressed with Nvidia's 3D Vision technology, which renders most games in pretty impressive 3D, but it requires an investment in compatible hardware, including a 120Hz LCD monitor, approved desktop GPU with dual-link DVI connection, and a pair of battery powered 3D glasses with a USB IR emitter.
Asus is the first PC maker to incorporate these hardware requirements into a laptop, and the result is an impressive package that makes 3D PC gaming more practical by incorporating the 120Hz display and compatible GPU into a portable all-in-one package. The $1,699 system also includes a pair of Nvidia's 3D glasses and the IR emitter that normally sells separately for about $200.
Unlike Acer's attempt at a 3D laptop (which used entirely different technology), this system is up to the task with an Intel Core i7 processor and decent Nvidia graphics card. In fact, it's such a powerful system that we're a little disappointed it tops out with a 15.6-inch screen (and with only a 1,366x768-pixel resolution). That's not ideal for high-end gaming, and keeps this from being a go-to gaming laptop, 3D element aside.
|Price as reviewed||$1,699|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||320GB 7,200rpm (x2)|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM55 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||14.8x10.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.5/9.1 pounds|
Typical for an Asus gaming laptop, the G51J-3D features a black, matte/glossy design with a few gamer-friendly graphical touches on the lid. It's big and bulky for a mainstream-size laptop, so you're not going to be carting this to the coffee shop
The matte keyboard has large, flat-topped keys, and manages to squeeze in a separate number pad, although the number pad keys are narrow. Its large touch pad, while decent, isn't of much use in gaming (3D or otherwise), for which you'll typically hook up a separate USB mouse.
The 15.6-inch display is both the system's best and worst feature. As a 120Hz LED backlit LCD, it can display the twin images required for 3D, and we'll no doubt see more of these in the near future. Unfortunately, the screen has a low 1,366x768-pixel resolution, which is increasingly common for 11-inch Netbooks, but not high-end gaming rigs.
While playing 3D games, the display works well, although you might want to turn the brightness level up (video look darker viewed though the sunglass-like 3D specs). However, when not using the Nvidia 3D technology the screen's low resolution is noticeable, and it detracts from general Web surfing and media playback.
|Asus G51J-3D||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone, microphone, S/PDIF jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, Mini FireWire, eSATA||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
With the G51J you get a selection of ports and connections more typical of an oversized desktop replacement, including a separate eSATA port and full ExpressCard/54 slot.
With a 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM CPU, this is a powerful system, although you can check other PC makers, such as Dell, and step up into Core i7 territory, minus the Nvidia graphics and 3D technology, for around $600 less. Still, it performed comparably with other Core i7 laptops we've seen, making it one of the fastest laptops you can buy.
As a gaming rig, the included Nvidia GeForce 260M is a powerful GPU, giving us 93.9 frames per second in Unreal Tournament III at 1,280x800-pixel resolution (higher resolutions are pointless, thanks to the low-resolution display). To get better frame rates, you'd have to skip the 3D and move to an even more powerful dual-card SLI setup housed in a larger 17-inch chassis, which would add some serious expense.
Of course, most of you gaming will (or at least should) be make use of the Nivida 3D Vision technology. In that market there's no laptop competition right now, making the Asus G51J the most powerful (and only) Nvidia 3D Vision laptop currently available. We tried a wide variety of games, from Left 4 Dead 2 to Batman: Arkham Asylum, and found the results to be impressive--although the 3D Vision works better with some games than others (Nvidia pops an on-screen message up when you launch a game, reporting any known issues with that specific title).