Asus G53Jw £1350
10th Dec 2010 | 14:59
A strikingly designed, high-powered 3D laptop, but it's not without some notable flaws
Asus G53Jw review: Overview
Over the past twelve months we've seen a range of 3D-capable laptops released by some of world's biggest manufacturers. As well as the polarised screen technology of the Acer Aspire 5738DZG, the Nvidia 3D Vision based Toshiba Satellite A665-11Z and the ATI HD3D-powered HP Envy 17 3D, Asus was one of the first to get in on the act with the release of the Asus G51J at the start of the year – the world's first 3D laptop to use active shutter 3D glasses.
The Taiwanese manufacturer has now stepped back into the 3D market with the uniquely eye-catching Asus G53Jw.
Designed to combine the distinctive Stealth Bomber style of Asus' high-powered G73Jh gaming laptop and the 3D screen of the aforementioned G51J, the Asus G53Jw packs cutting-edge technology across the board.
Aiming to deliver one of the most feature-packed specifications yet seen in the desktop replacement laptop market, while also providing high-powered gaming performance and 3D capabilities, the Asus G53Jw has the potential to be the world's greatest 3D laptop, but only if it learns from the flaws of previous 3D machines and fixes the most common faults we've seen many times before.
Unfortunately, while the Asus G53Jw succeeds greatly in some areas, it falls flat in others, making it as much of a mixed bag as every other 3D laptop we've seen to date.
With that said, however, there's no denying the stunning combination of both style and substance on offer and, while the Asus G53Jw is not quite the market-redefining gaming laptop we had hoped for, it is certainly one of the better 3D machines you can currently buy – albeit one with some notable flaws.
Asus G53Jw review: Specification
The first thing that strikes you as you unpack the Asus G53Jw is its stunning design. As with the larger 17.3-inch Asus G73, the G53Jw's chassis has been inspired by the F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Bomber and its aggressively sharp lines and matt finish create a truly unique, high-end look that you won't find anywhere outside of Asus' gaming range.
Thanks to the matt finish, this also is not a laptop that's easy to scuff or scratch, adding resilience far too often missing from the many glossy machines found elsewhere in the market.
Continuing the Stealth-inspired look, huge exhausts on the rear of the Asus G53Jw's chassis are in place to keep the laptop feeling comfortably cool to the touch at all times. Air is drawn in through vents on the base of the chassis and is then blown over the powerful internal components and expelled away from you at the rear of the laptop as you work.
The whole system works extremely well, with the fans running near silently at all times and keeping the Asus G53Jw cool and comfortable to work with on your lap for long periods of time.
Despite being built around a 15.6-inch screen, rather than the more cinematic 17.3-inch panel seen on such rivals as the HP Envy 17 3D, the chunky dimensions of the Asus G53Jw's chassis make this one of the largest and heaviest 15.6-inch laptops we've seen.
Weighing 3.8kg, this is not a laptop that you'll want to carry very far and it's far better suited to use at home on your desk. This limited mobility is further illustrated by the poor battery life. We were able to keep working for just 75 minutes with brightness set at 50 per cent.
A benefit of the somewhat heavyweight chassis of the Asus G53Jw, however, is the extra space that it provides for the user interface. The large isolated-style, chiclet keyboard uses full-size keys to great effect and is a pleasure to work with.
Thanks to the slightly angled design of the Asus G53Jw, the keyboard slants ever so slightly towards you as you type, making it comfortable to place your hands on the palm rest and get to work. The board is also backlit and so is easy to work with in low light conditions.
Our only minor complaint is that the keys feel a little spongy and we'd have preferred a sharper, more tactile amount of feedback.
Unfortunately, while the large touchpad is just as comfortable to use as the keyboard, the Asus G53Jw's mouse buttons are far less usable. Despite their large size and comfortable matt finish, both buttons require an unusually firm amount of pressure to register, responding with a loud click when they're activated.
Although this is not enough of a problem to render the keys unusable, it does make them slower to access than we'd have liked and causes unnecessary delays when working, as you pause to fully depress the buttons.
Due to the large vents at the rear of the chassis, all ports on the Asus G53Jw are placed on the right and left-hand sides. While this of course makes them more accessible, it can lead to a slightly untidy appearance, with cables spewing from the sides of the laptop, rather than tucked away neatly at the rear.
On the right-hand side is a Gigabit Ethernet port, for the fastest possible wired network connections, alongside an analogue VGA port and a digital HDMI port, for connecting the Asus G53Jw to a larger external monitor, projector or HDTV.
There are also two USB ports positioned near the front of the chassis, for connecting external peripherals, with one of the ports providing USB 3.0 compatibility for high-speed data transfers to external storage devices. This is a pleasing addition, since there's no eSATA port in place on the Asus G53Jw.
The left-hand side of the Asus G53Jw is a more sparse affair, with just two USB ports – again placed near the front of the chassis for easy access – alongside the integrated, tray-loading Blu-ray optical drive.
The only other extras to be found on the G53Jw are an 8-in-1 card reader at the front of the chassis, for sharing files with compatible external devices, such as your digital camera or camcorder, and a compact webcam above the screen for taking basic snapshots, recording live video and using with online video messaging software.
Internal components are far more comprehensive, and make the Asus G53Jw one of the best-equipped laptops you can currently buy. You can get the G53Jw with a choice of dual or quad-core Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, and the model we tested was powered by a quad-core Core i7-740QM CPU running at 1.73GHz.
Backed by a stunning 8GB of high-speed DDR3 memory, even the most demanding users won't be left wanting for speed. The same can be said for storage, with a capacious 640GB of hard disk storage in place.
Graphics are equally capable, with a cutting-edge Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M graphics card and 1.5GB of dedicated, high-speed video memory in place.
Providing full support for the Asus G53Jw's 3D graphics via Nvidia's 3D Vision technology, as well as supporting the latest DirectX 11 games, the Asus G53Jw is again set up to deliver the best possible performance for the price, and provide a certain degree of future-proofing for gamers and home workers alike.
Asus G53Jw review: Performance
Obviously it is the 3D abilities of the Asus G53Jw that is the key selling point and, while Asus' previous 3D machine, the G51J utilised Nvidia's 3D Vision technology via an external USB 3D receiver, the Asus G53Jw has built the receiver into the chassis for easier and tidier usability.
Activated and deactivated by a hotkey above the keyboard, the 3D Vision technology synchronises easily with the supplied 3D glasses for an immersive experience when viewing photos or videos and playing games.
As with all Nvidia 3D Vision and ATI HD3D-based machines, the 3D effect is created through the use of active shutter glasses. This works by opening and closing the lens covering each eye in turn, in time with the refresh rate of the Asus G53Jw's screen.
In this way, the screen shows each eye a different image faster than the naked eye can register and tricks your brain into seeing a three-dimensional image that does not exist. The result is extremely effective, with images leaping from the screen with an impressive illusion of depth.
The technology works particularly well when playing games and Nvidia has worked closely with a wide range of games developers to ensure a comprehensive array of high-quality titles can be played in full 3D.
This includes such market-leading games as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum, among others, and the extra depth that 3D Vision adds to these games makes them among the most immersive entertainment experiences we've seen to date.
Unfortunately, however, the most common flaw of Nvidia's 3D Vision technology remains as present as ever when using the 3D features of the Asus G53Jw. Whenever we've tested previous 3D Vision-equipped machines such as the Toshiba Satellite A665-11Z and the Asus G51J, the active shutter glasses have the unfortunate downside of greatly reducing the brightness and impact of the laptop's screen when viewing 3D content.
The same flaw is on display here, with images greatly lacking vibrancy when viewed through the 3D glasses. While we had always previously assumed this flaw was inherent to active shutter technology, the rival ATI HD3D technology seen on the HP Envy 17 3D uses active shutter glasses to far greater effect, without impacting on screen brightness, so it seems totally avoidable and unnecessary for this flaw to still be present on the Asus G53Jw.
Nvidia has been aware of this situation for some time, however, and claims to be working to rectify the situation for future iterations.
More disappointingly, the Asus G53Jw's 15.6-inch screen is not without its own inherent flaws. While the screen is suitably bright and vivid and its 1366 x 768-pixel resolution allows you to watch high-definition 720p videos in all their glory, the screen itself has one of the worst viewing angles we've seen on any laptop this year.
Unless you view the screen straight on, with not even a degree of change in your angle, there are notable dark areas on all but the centre of the panel, leading to a consistently washed out and flawed image.
While it could be argued that it is essential to view any 3D screen straight-on in order to get the most accurate 3D effect, that is no excuse to provide such a limited viewing angle, as most rival 3D laptops provide far better performance in this area.
Since most users will be working without wearing the 3D glasses for the majority of the time, this screen flaw makes the Asus G53Jw a little hard to recommend for long-term use, for work or play.
Thankfully the balance is redressed somewhat by the excellent performance provided by the Asus G53Jw's cutting-edge components.
The quad-core Intel Core i7 processor powers the most resource-consuming software with ease and ensures that light work is made of even complex multitasking. The 8GB of memory adds to this performance, as applications open and respond quickly and even the largest files can be quickly loaded into your software of choice.
Graphics are just as capable, with Nvdia's DirectX 11-compatible GeForce GTX 460M graphics card running the latest games with aplomb.
While you shouldn't expect quite the same level of power you'd find on such high-end rivals as the Alienware M17x, the Asus G53Jw is nevertheless a powerful and reliable gaming and multimedia machine, with more than enough power for running your home office, as well as gaming and editing and enjoying your photos and high-definition videos.
Asus G53Jw review: Verdict
With its odd combination of highs and lows, the Asus G53Jw sits in an awkward place in the current 3D laptop market. While its stunning performance, striking design and cutting-edge technology mean there's no denying that this is a unique and highly capable 3D multimedia machine, its somewhat limited usability and flawed screen mean it's not the top of the range world beater you sense it was intended to be.
If you can live with its niggling flaws and you absolutely must have 3D capabilities, you'll find a level of power and style all too rare in the modern laptop market, but if you want the best multimedia powerhouse you can get for your money, and don't mind sacrificing the 3D screen, there are many better machines than the Asus G53Jw.
With its striking Stealth Bomber inspired chassis, the Asus G53Jw is one of the most differently designed laptops we've seen. And it's not style over substance either, because the large exhausts at the rear prove highly effective at keeping the laptop cool and comfortable to use.
Powered by cutting-edge components, the Asus G53Jw delivers fantastic levels of performance for even the most demanding tasks. While its not the most powerful laptop we've seen, few people will feel shortchanged by the stunning levels of power on offer here.
By building the Nvidia 3D Vision receiver into the chassis rather than using an external USB receiver, the Asus G53Jw is one of the easiest 3D laptops to set up and use on the move. And the 3D effect is truly startling, bringing photos, videos and games to vivid life.
With its poor viewing angles, it can be very tricky to get an adequate view of the Asus G53Jw's 15.6-inch screen. While the panel delivers decent levels of brightness, colour and contrast, the screen is just too flawed in use to be truly effective.
As with other Nvidia 3D Vision capable laptops, the active shutter glasses used by the Asus G53Jw render the already flawed screen even dimmer when viewing 3D content. This would be a problem on even the best screen, so here it only serves to increase the problem.
While usability of the Asus G53Jw is generally good, the slightly spongy keyboard and overly firm mouse buttons make this laptop a little awkward to use at times. Thankfully the spacious keyboard and backlit keys compensate somewhat, but we recommend you try before you buy.
Despite a few missteps along the way, the Asus G53Jw has enough notable strengths to make it a viable rival in the growing 3D laptop market. With its strong performance, striking Stealth Bomber design and comprehensive specification, you certainly get a lot for your money.
However, the flawed screen and slightly limited usability prevent it from truly excelling and, if you can live without the 3D screen, there are plenty of far better rival multimedia and gaming laptops you could spend your money on.
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