27th Sep 2010 | 09:36
3D finally achieves gaming credibility, and looks set for the long haul.
Asus 51Jx: Overview
Over the last couple of decades 3D has spasmed violently in and out of fashion, never quite managing to break free from the sickening effects and dodgy cardboard spectacles that seem to have doomed its every attempt at making it mainstream.
Now, thankfully, technology has advanced far enough for companies such as Nintendo (with the 3DS) to demo 3D content without the need for glasses at all, albeit for more basic games and graphics.
The Asus G51Jx doesn't quite manage that, but it does employ nVidia's cutting edge 3D Vision technology, which features a special design of glasses that enable you to play the latest games – and enjoy 3D content – in impressive 3D.
Elsewhere the G51Jx proves itself to be a more than capable gaming rig, offering enough power and performance to play the latest gaming titles at full settings. It's also a highly versatile multimedia centre, which will suit you if you enjoy high definition (HD) movie editing, for example, when not playing the latest games.
Asus 51Jx: Specification
As mentioned above, we were very impressed by Nvidia's active 3D Vision technology, and the effect it produces. The system works using a set of wireless glasses that are connected to the G51Jx by an infrared module, both of which are bundled with the laptop.
We actually found synchronising the glasses to the infrared module to be quite a fiddly process first time round, despite a setup wizard and instruction manual, and even the nVidia representative had a small skirmish with the equipment when it was first demonstrated to us.
Once you've established a connection between the G51Jx and the glasses you're ready for action, and simply launching a game, opening a 3D video or viewing 3D photos will automatically cause the glasses to click into 3D mode.
The way the glasses work is surprisingly simple. Fundamentally each of the lenses shutter independently, with each eye offered a slightly different version of the image on the G51Jx's screen. Your brain naturally blends the two pictures into one image and the 3D effect is created.
Of the three types of 3D content you can view on the G51Jx (movies, photos and games), the first two are most consistent in producing a decent effect. In our experience the effect is less forced than when employed on the games, and we've been impressed by all the demos we've been shown.
But the G51Jx is predominantly a gaming machine, and ultimately it impresses here as well. nVidia's technology will turn pretty much any game into 3D, but some are more suited to the transformation than others – a comprehensive list can be found on nVidia's website here.
Many games have been designed specifically with 3D Vision in mind, yet some of the early ones, such as Resident Evil 5 and Batman Arkham Asylum, failed to make a splash when it came to the 3D effect. We especially found that colours were washed out and the screen brightness very dim.
Fortunately developers have reacted to the criticism, and the latest 3D Vision-ready titles such as Just Cause 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 are fantastic ambassadors for the technology, and it's fair to say that going back to playing these games in 2D is quite a depressing experience.
So there's no doubt that with the correct software, the 3D effect works great, and it's also worth mentioning that we suffered none of the nausea we experienced with Acer's Aspire 5738DZG-434G50Mn, which features a passive screen technology that'll have you reaching for a bucket after about 15 minutes.
The G51Jx's 15.6-inch screen is very bright when not in 3D mode, but we'd have expected a full 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution for such a high-spec machine. Nevertheless images are crisp enough, but, as with all screens with a shiny coating, reflections are irritating in bright light.
The G51Jx's backlit keyboard features the Asus chiclet design, but is a little spongy for our liking. The flex especially affects the centre of the board, and we found these keys to be a little sluggish to our inputs, which isn't ideal. Nevertheless the board is comfortable enough during everyday use, and you'll have no problem typing for hours on the G51Jx.
A dedicated number pad is included, which is great for left-handed gamers, and makes it quicker and easier to regularly input data.
The G51Jx boasts a decent array of ports. There's four USB 2.0 ports for connecting or charging any peripherals you may have, from a smartphone to an external gaming mouse, as well as both VGA and HDMI interfaces. These allow you to hook up to analogue and HD monitors respectively if you want to play games and view content on a larger screen. Obviously the monitor or TV would have to be nVidia 3D Vision-ready to enjoy 3D content on it.
The G51Jx also boasts a Firewire connection for importing video at high speeds from a camera, for example, and an eSATA interface for rapidly transferring data to a compatible external hard drive.
Although not as well built as the superb Alienware M17x, the G51Jx is well put together, and you'll be able to travel safe in the knowledge it'll absorb a few knocks and bangs.
Having said that, the 146-minute battery life will mean travel with the G51Jx is limited to the shortest of journeys, even though the 3.7kg machine isn't as hernia-inducingly heavy as the likes of the Alienware M17x.
As with the likes of the MSI GX660 a garish design with all the bells and whistles has been implemented. Flashing lights and aggressive paint schemes might not endear the G51Jx to everyone, but will certainly appeal to some.
Asus 51Jx: Performance
As you'd expect for a high-powered gaming machine, the G51Jx features some eye-wateringly fast performance.
A quad-core Intel Core i7 720QM, with 8912MB of DDR3 memory onboard, produces enough performance for you to multitask a variety of very resource-intensive applications with little problem.
As a result this is an option for those who really don't want to mess around when it comes to power, and you'll find this kind of performance also produces a serious amount of futureproofing – meaning the G51Jx will happily tick all the software requirement boxes for most applications for many years to come.
Likewise, the nVidia GeForce GTS 360M – backed up by 1GB of dedicated video memory – provides more than enough gaming power for running the latest titles at full whack. It's not quite as powerful as the Alienware M17x, which features two ATi chips, but it's not nearly as expensive either.
The 640GB hard drive spins at a fairly standard 5400rpm, and will provide you with plenty of storage for your multimedia libraries, alongside any work files and folders you might have.
The G51Jx also features a Blu-ray optical drive, for watching HD movies on, and although it can both write and read DVDs, it can only read Blu-rays. It's also a shame that because of the low pixel resolution of the screen, you won't get the full HD effect on the laptop.
A host of features include 2.0 mega pixel webcam for video messaging your friends and family, Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting to your smartphone, for example, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. The G51Jx also comes with a dedicated gaming mouse and bag, which is a nice touch.
Asus 51Jx: Verdict
So it looks like 3D has finally landed, and for good. The Asus G51Jx was one of the first on the scene, but a host of other manufacturers, including Toshiba with the Satellite A665 and Rock with the Xtreme 680, are pushing 3D Vision capable laptops out of their factory doors.
The Asus G51Jx itself is a good machine, with just a couple of quirks that stop it from being a great one. Either way the 3D element of the laptop works well, and we think you'll be pleased with the results too.
We like the fact that 3D works well on a laptop, and that the technology genuinely enhances the gaming experience – finally 3D isn't a gimmick.
The power on offer from both the graphics card and processor is formidable, and will keep you ticking software requirement boxes for many years to come.
The laptop may not be the most portable, but the 3.5kg weight is pleasingly light, meaning travel with the G51Jx is a possibility.
There's not a lot to dislike about the G51Jx. The garish design won't suit all, but we actually quite liked it.
It's a shame the panel doesn't feature a full HD screen resolution for the highest levels of detail, and it is also a shame the keyboard isn't a bit firmer. But in the grand scheme of things these are minor quibbles.
Ultimately this is a great laptop, and kudos to Asus for being the first out the gates with a nVidia 3D Vision laptop. That the technology works well – given the correct content – demonstrates that 3D is now ready to come out of the wilderness and start enjoying some success as a mainstream technology.
There are a few niggles, including the screen resolution and keyboard, but neither are a massive cause for drama.
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