The Asus G71V is designed to be the ultimate desktop-replacement laptop. In its most expensive configuration, it uses the first quad-core processor designed for portable machines, has a whopping 1TB of disk space, a Blu-ray combo drive and a high-end graphics card.
It's ideal for gaming, movie playback and just about anything else you throw at it. It's available from Amazon now for a starting price of £1,249.
The G71V is ugly -- there's no two ways about it. The glossy black finish on the lid is passable, but almost everything else looks like it was designed by a 4-year-old in need of a strong dose of Ritalin. Lift the lid, and you'll find glossy black plastic around the keyboard, a carbon fibre-effect wrist rest and a glossy red finish interweaving the two. Individually, these elements aren't so bad, but together they're less than pleasant to look at.
We expect a certain number of flashing LEDs on a gaming laptop, but the G71V takes the biscuit. It has two vertical LED strips on either side of the lid, one illuminating the Asus 'Republic of Gamers' logo in centre of the lid, one by the hinge, two on either side of the front edge illuminating the desk just in front of the laptop, and one framing the mouse trackpad.
There's also a host of LEDs just above the keyboard, four of which are backlights for an array of touch-sensitive buttons. One toggles the mouse trackpad on or off, one switches the performance mode between high performance and power saving, one launches the Express Gate software, and the other launches Asus' Direct Console software, which lets you customise how garishly the various LEDs should flash. Bizarrely, this software can be used to specify whether the lights should stay on all the time, vary the intensity depending on how much work the CPU is doing, or flash in conjunction with the speed of the system fan.
More interesting, perhaps, is the OLED message panel just above the keyboard. This displays various system status messages such as remaining battery power, whether you have any instant messenges unread, whether you have a meeting due, or if you have new email. You can also make it display a text message of your choice.
Lastly, most of the ports are shielded behind flaps on either side of the laptop, which is not a good thing. Sure, they help streamline the look of the device, but they can be a hassle to open and close, and when they break -- and inevitably they will -- it's not as if you can pop down to the laptop flap emporium to get a spare.
The G71's biggest selling point is the quad-core CPU. It uses an Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300, the first four-core CPU designed specifically for laptops. It has much in common with Intel's Penryn range of dual-core CPUs, except in this case the company has lumped two dual-core Penryns together to make a quad-core CPU. The only real compromise is that the Q9300 has 6MB of L2 cache memory instead of the 12MB found on the top-end desktop quad-core processors.
The G71V also contains 3GB of high-speed DDR3 1,366Mhz memory. We have to applaud Asus for this, as we've seen many manufacturers fob consumers off with (potentially) slower DDR2 800MHz memory in machines pitched at the high-performance market.
Likewise, Asus should be given props for the amount of storage in the G71V. It contains two 500GB Hitachi Travelstar 5,400rpm drives totalling 1TB. Considering modern games require as little as 3GB of storage, and DivX movies clock in at 700MB on average, it'll probably be some time before you need to think about upgrading this aspect of the laptop.
The G71V doesn't disappoint in the graphics department, either. It uses a very potent Nvidia GeForce 9700M GT graphics card. Sure, it doesn't use dual GPUs and it isn't the flagship 9800M chip, but the 9700M is fast enough to make mincemeat of most 3D games, even at high resolution and with all the detail settings cranked up.
A graphics card this powerful comes in handy when you consider the G71V has an integrated 2x Blu-ray drive. This allows playback of Blu-ray movies, but can also be used to write to DVDs and CDs at a maximum of 8x. Usefully, it'll also read BD-ROM, plus recordable BD-R and BD-RE discs.
Asus hasn't bothered providing any software capable of playing Blu-ray videos, so you'll have to remedy that yourself if you feel the need for HD video content. What you do get is a pre-installed copy of 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium, Express Gate, and a couple of Asus' own applications. The best of these is the SmartLogon manager, which uses the system's integrated webcam to recognises users' faces and authenticate logins. This works surprisingly well, and is far less effort than typing a password or swiping your finger over a fingerprint reader.
At the time of writing, the G71V is the fastest laptop we've ever tested. Its quad-core CPU barged its way to a PCMark 2005 score of 7,216. For reference, the Dell XPS M1730, which uses a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo T7700, scored 5,830.
Despite the G71V not using dual graphics cards, it achieved a very, very good score. Its GeForce 9700M GT card scored 7,100 in 3DMark 2006, which isn't too far behind the 8,870 achieved by the twin GeForce 8700M cards in the XPS M1730.
Battery life isn't the laptop's strongest point, but that's to be expected considering it's designed primarily for high performance. It lasted 37 minutes in our Battery Eater Classic test, which is just about long enough to move the laptop from one room to another.
The G71V is unnecessarily ugly, but brutally quick. Its quad-core CPU runs rings around all other laptops, and most desktop PCs we've come across. The Dell XPS M1730 is slightly quicker for gaming, as it has not one but two graphics cards, but the G71V is better in all other areas.
Edited by Nick Hide