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Asus G751J (G-Sync) review: A great gaming laptop adds Nvidia G-Sync

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The Asus G751 was one of the first laptops we tested and reviewed with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M graphics card back in late 2014. That excellent GPU has become the standard for high-end gaming laptops because it can not only handle current games at very high detail settings, it can also easily output nearly any game at 4K resolution to an external 4K monitor or television.

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8.3

Asus G751J (G-Sync)

The Good

Asus adds Nvidia G-Sync technology for smoother gameplay. The hefty keyboard is great for gaming, and high-end CPU/GPU combo delivers killer performance, even when outputting to a 4K display.

The Bad

The clunky design feels out of date compared to newer, slimmer gaming laptops, especially for this price. The display resolution is capped at 1,920x1,080 and is not a touchscreen.

The Bottom Line

While still expensive, the Asus G751 remains one of our favorite gaming laptops, especially now that it adds Nvidia's G-Sync, making games look better without taking a performance hit.

Now Asus has updated the G751 line with another new Nvidia technology, G-Sync. Previously available only in desktop computers, and even then only when connected to special G-Sync-branded displays with a custom chip inside, you can now find the same technology built into a handful of gaming laptops , including this one.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For the uninitiated, G-Sync promises to eliminate tearing and screen stutter, and improve input lag (where input commands can be out of sync with the action onscreen). It does this by synchronizing the monitor's refresh rate and the GPU's render rate, so images display the moment they are needed.

In the desktop setups we've tested it on, G-Sync has performed impressively, with games looking smoother and faster, even though we we pumping out fewer frames per second, not more. That's because the GPU's output in a G-Sync setup is locked to the refresh rate of the screen, which in this case is 75 frames per second.

In this laptop, as well as on the Origin PC Eon17-X with G-Sync we tried at E3 2015, we saw similarly smooth results. But, unless you're very familiar with how PC games look and play under different hardware, the effect is subtle. The big advantage is that you can go into the settings menu of your favorite PC games and turn off the checkbox for "v-sync," shorthand for "vertical synchronization," which can be a big performance drain, even on powerful gaming PCs.

If you've read our review of the previous version of the Asus G751 , you'll find that aside from G-Sync support, little has changed. This is still a premium 17.3-inch gaming laptop that combines a high-end Core i7 CPU, a hefty 24GB of RAM, a big 256GB SSD paired with a 1TB 7,200rpm HDD, and the GeForce 980M GPU.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This configuration is $2,499, while similar configurations are available in the UK for £2,339 and AU$3,299 in Australia. Finding a specific Asus configuration in retail or online stores can be hit-or-miss.

As a comparison, for about the same price, you can also get a similarly configured Origin PC Eon17-X (with less RAM but a slightly faster processor). The advantage of going to boutique shop such as that is the very wide range of customization options and the personalized service and support. The downside is the generic off-the-shelf laptop bodies smaller PC makers use for gaming laptops. The body for the Asus G751 is big and bulky, and but it's well-designed and laid out.

If you were thinking of shopping for a system in this high-end price range, it's not a radical game-changer, but the addition of G-Sync support to the Asus G751 is a timely update to a great workhorse gaming laptop.

Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync)

Price as reviewed $2,499
Display size/resolution 17.3-inch, 1,920x 1,080 screen
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ
PC Memory 24GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M
Storage 256GB SSD + 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Design and features

Everything G-Sync-related happens on the inside of this laptop, so the exterior is identical to the version reviewed in late 2014 with the exception of a couple of new stickers, one promoting G-Sync, the other pointing out this laptop is ready for Windows 10 (which it would presumably ship with at this point).

There have been a handful of forward-looking small gaming PC designs since that last review, including the HP Omen laptop and the Alienware Alpha mini-desktop, but overall, the G751 is as big and clunky as most high-powered gaming laptops, and our impressions remain the same. There's still a call to be made between having a thin, ultrabook-like body, and having the latest components. In this case, Asus goes for performance over style.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The chassis rises in the back but is tapered toward the front, giving you the illusion of a slimmer laptop when viewed from the correct angle. Decoration is minimal, but the matte-black lid is accented by a chrome Asus logo and the red backlit logo for the company's ROG (Republic of Gamers) gaming line, which is an inexplicably arched eyebrow. The rear panel houses two giant fan vents, painted red, so you can't miss them. If you can't hide the giant vents, you might as well accentuate them.

Inside the matte-black interior is a backlit keyboard that feels well-tuned for gaming. The all-important WASD keys are highlighted with red key shafts, a subtle effect that you only really notice when not sitting on top of it. The keys have a deep, satisfying click, and the space bar bows out slightly on the left side, presumably to make it easier to hit with your left hand while gaming. A handful of quick-launch and custom-programmed buttons sit above the keyboard on the left side. One has the familiar logo of Steam, the PC game-distribution platform. Hit the button, and Steam automatically launches (if installed). The keyboard design and layout feel superior to the ones on equally fast laptops from boutique PC makers, who almost universally use the same handful of generic off-the-shelf laptop bodies.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The large touchpad has the older style of separate left and right mouse buttons that most other laptops have done away with by now. But, odds are you'll rarely use the touchpad, as PC gaming is nearly exclusively done with a mouse or gamepad.

With the addition of G-Sync support built right into the display, the screen is even more important than ever. The one here has a 1,920x1,080 native resolution, which is still the standard for PC gaming, although higher-res screens, all the way up to 4K, are more common every day. Colors and contrast remain strong when viewed from off-angles, and the screen coating is nonreflective enough to avoid most glare. When G-Sync is turned on, it looks and plays incredibly smoothly.

Ports and connections

Video HDMI, VGA, mini-DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone/line-in jacks
Data 4 USB 3.0, SD card reader, Thunderbolt (doubles as mini-DisplayPort)
Networking Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance and battery life

If you want to output the video signal to an external monitor to play on a 4K TV, you'll be pleased to find HDMI, VGA, and mini-DisplayPort outputs. Note that if you want to use G-Sync-compatible monitor, that requires DisplayPort. You also get a Blu-ray drive in this configuration, but with almost all PC games downloaded from Steam or other online stores, that's less useful than it might have been a couple of years ago.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This version of the Asus G751 had a very similar configuration to the previous non-G-Sync model we tested in 2014. Both have the Intel Core i7-4710HQ CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU, along with 24GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD/1TB HDD storage combo. That's pretty close to the top of the line, although we should expect newer CPUs from Intel's latest Skylake generation sometime later in 2015.

In gaming tests, this new G751 turned in excellent scores, helped by the top-end graphics card and the hefty 24GB of RAM. In non-game applications, it fell a little behind some laptops with more powerful MX and K-series Core i7 processors, but not by a huge margin.

Game benchmarks with frame-rate scores are deceptive when judging a G-Sync setup (and the same might be said of the AMD version, called FreeSync). While these tests show us how many frames per second the GPU is actually working on, you'll never see more than 75 frames per second displayed on-screen, as G-Sync locks the GPU output to the display refresh rate. Case in point: the Tomb Raider PC benchmark displays the actual frames per second from later in the signal chain than some other game benchmarks -- with G-Sync turned off, it reported 217 frames per second, but with G-Sync turned on, it accurately reported 75 frames per second, the exact refresh rate of the screen (and it looked smoother).

Sarah Tew/CNET

In any event, the Asus G751 scores compare very closely with other Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M laptops in other game tests, but the onscreen presentation had a subtle smoothness on the Asus that made it especially pleasing to play on. Nvidia says there shouldn't be a performance cost from switching G-Sync on and off. We've seen slightly higher scores in some benchmarks with it turned off, but the games still look and play better with it on. For more on the mechanics of G-Sync, see our original walkthrough of the desktop version and a recent hands-on with a new Origin PC Eon17-X , which was the first laptop we tried with G-Sync.

While you're experimenting with game and graphics card settings, you should probably keep the G751 plugged in. Traditionally, big gaming laptops have not done well in battery-life testing, and there's nothing about the Asus G751 that's going to change that. It ran for 3:14 in our video playback battery-drain test, which is about 90 minutes less than Asus' more mainstream gaming laptop, the UX501, a slim 15-inch system with a less-powerful Nvidia 960M GPU.

Conclusion

The Asus G751 offers as close as you're going to get to a premium gaming experience without trading up to a full desktop. It's fantastic at 1,920x1,080 gaming and pretty good at 4K gaming, but so are many similarly priced 17-inch gaming laptops.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's the addition of G-Sync (and you'll soon see that in several other high-end gaming laptops) that gives this updated version a real boost. Our primary caveat is that the other components inside are already at least a year old, so this particular configuration may not be at the top of the heap for as long as its high price would suggest.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test

Origin PC Eon15-X 129Origin PC Eon 17-S 154Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync) 165HP Omen 167Asus ZenBook Pro UX501J 210
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

HP Omen 164Origin PC Eon15-X 169Asus ZenBook Pro UX501J 178Origin PC Eon 17-S 181Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync) 192
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Origin PC Eon15-X 69Origin PC Eon 17-S 77HP Omen 88Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync) 89Asus ZenBook Pro UX501J 91
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video-playback battery-drain test

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501J 312Origin PC Eon 17-S 252Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync) 194HP Omen 191Origin PC Eon15-X 150
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

BioShock Infinite gaming test

HP Omen 51Asus ZenBook Pro UX501J 53Origin PC Eon15-X 110Origin PC Eon 17-S 111Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync) 112
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Metro: Last Light gaming test

HP Omen 19Asus ZenBook Pro UX501J 19Origin PC Eon15-X 44Origin PC Eon 17-S 44Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync) 46
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Asus G751J-DH71 (G-Sync) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ; 24GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; 256GB SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm HDD
Origin PC Eon15-X Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7 4790K ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD 5,400rpm
HP Omen Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i7 4710HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M; 512GB SSD
Asus ZenBook Pro UX501J Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 4720HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M; 512GB SSD
Origin PC Eon 17-S Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-4940MX; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 8,192MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; RAID 0 (2) 120GB SSD, 1TB 5,400rpm HDD

asus-g751-g-sync-03.jpg
8.3

Asus G751J (G-Sync)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 8Battery 6