Two new laptops from Asus mark the launch of the company's first series aimed squarely at gamers. For £1,599, the larger ATI-based G2P (reviewed here) is decorated in ATI red and features both a hybrid TV tuner and a 17-inch 'ColorShine' display. Its smaller Nvidia-based brother, the G1, comes without the TV capability, uses a 15.4-inch monitor and is detailed in Nvidia green.
Resembling a decorated slab of brushed metal, the Asus G2P looks like a virtual prop from a futuristic first-person shooter -- it's festooned with exposed rivets, knurled hinge-pieces and red inlaid details. On powering up, you're greeted with an animated BIOS logo complete with its own sound effect, and multiple coloured lights twinkle into view.
Some of these lights are actually useful, such as the bright blue OLED display above the keyboard. When you're playing games you often don't get to see desktop accessories such as clocks and email alerts, but this little display makes sure you can always see just how late you're staying up, even when your monitor is engaged in full-screen action. If you'd rather not know, you can program it with your own messages and icons instead.
Plenty of pointless fun can be found in the big, red side-mounted flashers that light up when the graphics are going at full-tilt. It's a real attention-grabber -- you can't see much from in front of the screen, but don't try using it on the Underground.
The G2P makes it easy to land on-target by marking out the home keys -- W, S, A and D -- in bright red. All the keys are a comfortable size and they're well built, so they should cope with regular rough finger poundings.
The bright, clear 17-inch widescreen display is a good choice for a gaming laptop, and with a 1,400x900-pixel resolution it'll give you a good-quality image whether gaming or watching video. Although 720p is no problem, it's not up to full 1080p video, but if you're happy to tweak the settings (most games run in 4:3 and require some fiddling to run in 16:9 widescreen), the G2's Mobility Radeon X1700 is a good match for this screen resolution.
Above the display sits a 1.3-megapixel webcam with an integral microphone. It works very well, but unfortunately is fixed firmly in position with no tilt or swivel adjustments. The laptop's Intel high-definition audio and stereo speakers provide good sound quality and special separation. The built-in speakers have a tendency to distort at higher volumes, but we'll forgive it this indiscretion as many laptops fall victim to this.
The G2P has excellent connectivity and plenty of ports. Wireless 802.11 a/b/g and Bluetooth v2.0 are seamlessly integrated, with a hardware on/off switch for the former -- handy for turning off during flights, for example.
Mini-FireWire and a total of five USB ports are provided, one side-mounted and the rest at the rear, which also houses DVI-D and VGA connectors. An AV port allows you to link a break-out cable to a TV or to an antenna to connect the internal hybrid analogue/digital tuner.
Unfortunately our review model came with XP Professional installed, which gave us no means of using the tuner in digital mode, but Asus says final retail models will use XP Media Center Edition or Windows Vista Home Premium, which has Media Center functionality built-in. If you buy the G2P before the official release of Windows Vista you'll get a free upgrade when the new operating system is launched.
Storage is provided by a 160GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and the super-multi DVD burner supports the usual +R and -R formats, as well as DVD-RAM. Impressively, it also supports HP's LightScribe technology, which lets you etch monochrome labels to the backs of compatible discs -- a great, if slightly slow, way of labelling your optical media.
The G2P comes with an excellent software bundle. All the gadgets and gizmos have driver and utility software that integrates seamlessly into the Windows environment, often attached to dedicated hotkeys above the main keyboard. These give you one-button access to power-saving and display options without having to open up clumsy desktop control panels -- their status indicator icons fade elegantly in and out of view.
Going on spec alone, the G2P may appear a little pricey, but you do get exclusive designer looks, a free rucksack and a Logitech optical gaming mouse, and you're covered by a two-year worldwide collect-and-return warranty.
While the ATI Mobility Radeon X1700 is capable of playing most recent titles, hardcore gamers may be disappointed when playing demanding 3D titles at high resolutions. The G2P scored a solid, if not electrifying, 2,011 in 3DMark 2006 -- higher than the similarly-equipped 's tally of 1,964. If, however, you want all-singing, all-dancing graphics performance, you're better off buying the Alienware Aurora mALX, which scored 5,905.
The Core 2 Duo T7200 is a nippy CPU. It racked up a PCMark 2005 score of 4,722, so it's quicker than most laptops. The G2P's target audience probably won't bother itself with too much hardcore video or photo editing, but if they do, the laptop certainly won't shy away from the task.
Edited by Rory Reid
Additional editing by Kate Macefield