In the past year or so, Asus and MSI have been consistently churning out great gaming notebooks, giving stiff competition to Alienware. We've already see some examples of their handy work in the form of  the G73Jw and the GX660, and today we have Asus’s flagship gaming notebook for review, the G74SX. Armed with the same DNA as the rest of the R.O.G series notebooks, let’s see how high it ups the ante.

Build and Design
The G74SX is designed like a stealth fighter and built like a tank. The rubber coating on the entire notebook makes it easy to grip and maintain. It does attract some finger prints, but not a lot as compared to a glossy-finish notebook. The matt finish is a welcome addition, giving the notebook a very simple, yet striking appearance. The hinge is extremely sturdy and the lid can easily be opened with a single finger, which brings me to the weight of the notebook. With the 8-cell battery, it’s about 4.28 kgs, which clearly indicates this is designed as a desktop replacement, rather than being portable.

The rubber coating gives it a stealthy appearance

The rubber coating gives it a stealthy appearance

All the exhaust vents are placed in the rear, so you don’t come in contact with the heat, no matter how you use it. The large vents are designed so as to give you maximum ventilation while still maintaining the aggressive look of the notebook. There are loads of connectivity options available like four USB ports (including one USB 3.0 port), Blu-ray writer, HDMI, VGA and headphone and microphone jack.

USB 3.0 adds some future proofing

USB 3.0 adds some future proofing

Opening up the lid, we have an anti-glare, Full HD resolution screen. Next to the 2MP webcam is Nvidia’s 3DVision transceiver built right into the bezel, itself. This way, all you need are the 3D shutter glasses and you're good to go. The full-sized keyboard is backlit with adjustable brightness and the layout of the keys is well done with good spacing. The trackpad is nice and large with ample room for the palm rest area. There are just two buttons placed above one for the power and one for toggling between different power modes set by Asus (Power4Gear). Unfortunately, there's no physical button to toggle the 3D mode, which means if a game isn’t giving you good frame rates in 3D, you’ll have to exit the game and switch it off from Nvidia’s control panel. This feature has been consistently missing from their entire 3D notebook lineup.

Easy access to the hard drives and memory

Easy access to the hard drives and memory

Swapping out the hard drives and memory is a completely screw-less operation. The large button shaped lock can be opened using a coin, which gives you easy access to the two hard drives and four memory slots. The battery compartment is placed on the side, which is just as easy to replace.

Asus has sent us a totally pimped out version of the G74SX with all the bells and whistles. Powering the notebook is an Intel Core i7 2630QM Sandy Bridge CPU, along with a massive 16GB of DDR3 memory. Suffice to say you’ll never complain about Windows running slow. For storage, we have a 500GB and a 750GB hard drive both running at 7200rpm, which is good for a gaming notebook.

The graphics is taken care of by a single Nvidia GTX 560M with 3GB of GDDR5 dedicated memory. Gaming at a high resolution and in 3D requires a large frame buffer, so the more the better. The 17.3-inch screen sports a Full-HD resolution and a max refresh rate of 120Hz for the Stereoscopic 3D to work right. The in-built speakers support EAX Advanced HD 5.0 and THX TruStudio sound enhancements. Finally, we have Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit holding everything together. Next, let’s see how this monster performs in our tests.

While the CPU performance is solid, the gaming performance is what I was most keen on seeing.

Click for a larger image

Click for a larger image

In the three games we tested, all the settings were maxed out, except for the AA levels in Dirt 2. At Full HD resolution, I managed to get a solid 30+ frame rate in FarCry 2 and Resident Evil 5. Dirt 2 just about managed 28fps, which was lower because of the DX11 post-processing effects.

3D puts a big dent in the framerates

3D puts a big dent in the frame rates

Playing these games in 3D at these settings do not make for a very pretty picture. FarCry 2 was affected the most, dropping to less than half the frame rate. The same goes for RE 5 and Dirt 2. If you’re going to be using 3D, then you’ll have to drop the settings and possibly the resolution, which is quite unfortunate. I think Asus should have an option for a faster graphics card, that would have made more sense instead of 16GB of RAM.

General and Multimedia Usage
The notebook is extremely comfortable to use, thanks to the wonderful chiclet keyboard. Typing for extended periods of time does not cause a lot of fatigue. This is is also attributed to the 30 degree incline of the keyboard that makes it very ergonomic. This is not something you want to use on your lap as it’s really heavy. The LED backlit screen is blinding at full brightness, but is necessary when gaming in 3D.

Backlit keyboard is joy to use

Backlit keyboard is a joy to use

The speakers are placed just above the keyboard, thereby giving you loud and wholesome sound. The added sound effects help in boosting the volume and also enhances the mids and highs. Bass is quite weak, but then I didn’t really expect much here, anyways. The 3D effect in gaming is good as we’ve come to expect from Nvidia’s 3DVision. The only problem here is that you can’t adjust the depth or toggle between modes, since the transceiver is built into the bezel. Also, you cannot play a heavy 3D game when you’re not plugged in since all the clock speeds are automatically scaled down.

The tranmitter is built right into the bezel

The transmitter is built right into the bezel

Movies look great on this screen, especially HD. You can even watch a 3D Blu-ray movie, if you happen to have one. Our model came with a Blu-ray writer, which means you can backup up to 50GB of data onto a single disc.

Battery Life
Asus may have bundled an 8-cell battery, but that’s still not enough for a great battery life when you use top of the line components. In our Battery Eater Pro test, we managed to get a little more than an hour of battery life, which is below average for a laptop but not an uncommon sight amongst gaming notebooks. Since you'll always be using this at home on a desk, I don't think this should be a big problem.

For a price of Rs.1,24,990, the Asus G74SX offers good value when you consider what you’re getting. A similarly spec’d Alienware would cost you about 30K more, so keeping that in mind, Asus offers better value for money. But they’ve still not rectified some basic problems that were present with the earlier models. The main issue is the lack of a physical toggle switch for the 3D mode. I want the choice to switch it on and off when I please, without having to run to the control panel every single time.

Also, there’s no way to adjust the depth of the 3D effect while gaming. Finally, Asus gives you plenty of choices and configurations for all the components, leaving aside the most important one, the graphics card. The GTX 560M is a powerful card, no doubt, but it’s not enough for 3D, which is quite clear from the benchmarks. These are a few, but crucial areas, which stops the G74SX from being a clear winner.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,