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G73JW-A1 Review: Featuring NVIDIA

Level 10

With the success of the new Stealth design of the G73JH, Asus has decided to keep a successful formula working with a refresh of the model with some nice updates added for good measure. The G73JW-A1 is very much like it's predecessor, having an identical setup with hard drives, and same Hannstar LCD panel, backlit keyboard, touchpad, and HM55 chipset. However, they did include a refresh on the CPU, now including the i7 740QM. This chip is one multiplier higher by default, and operates at 1.73GHz. (up to 3.0 GHz with Intel TurboBoost) The unit here also came with 8GB of 1333 DDR3 RAM. More CPU power is always welcome, and can be upgraded to Extreme processors for those with greater CPU needs. (See your retailer about CPU upgrades)

Another refresh to the series was the addition of the Fresco USB 3.0 chip, converting one of the 4 USB ports to a 3.0 capable device. Those wanting eSATA speeds can invest in USB 3.0 external HDDs and flash drives to attain the faster transfer rates. You can identify this port by the fact it has a blue USB port. (right side) Please be aware that USB 3.0 is a new technology, and will have growing pains. If you have a device that doesn't work off the bat, try using it on the other 2.0 ports, like say for USB printers. Also check regularly for driver updates.

See the blue that is USB 3.0!

Finally, Asus refreshed the graphics card, opting for NVIDIA's GTX460M card. This GF104 chip has 192 enabled CUDA cores, and comes with 1.5GB of GDDR5 memory on a 192-bit bus. What does this all mean? It means it a decent gamer. 🙂 Default clocks are 675 core/1350 shaders/1250 memory, and has some decent overclock-ability. On battery idle it drops to 51/135, offering about 2 hrs and 45min on battery, or more, depending on what is enabled. How does it compare to the previous HD5870M? Both are DX11 capable, the NVIDIA chip has CUDA/Physx support, and in real-world gaming benchmarks, they're about the same performance-wise. The NVIDIA solution also supports 3D Gaming with appropriately configured hardware with 120Hz panel & glasses, as in the G73JW-3DE. Other models can do 3D over HDMI to 3D capable TVs, but you'll have to supply the glasses and transmitter.

The cooling system is on par for this GPU, keeping it down to 38-40C on idle, and peaking at 83-84C on extended load, as demonstrated below.

Expansion for the system is minimal, as it does not sport any eSATA, Firewire, or ExpressCard ports. It does have 3x USB 2.0 and a single Fresco USB 3.0, and Realtek Gigabit LAN, and an Azureware Wifi card, the AR9285. It's agn capable, up to 150mbit on 2.4GHz. Fortunately for those needing better WiFi speeds, and 5GHz support, replacing the card is easy, and all is needed is to take off the underside panel. The WiFi can then be unscrewed, and replaced with a mini-PCI card of your choice. I replaced mine with an Intel 6200 ($20), although you can go to a 3-wire card if desired, if you are willing to run the 3rd antenna around the screen panel. This gave me 300mbit and 5GHz support.

The unit also comes with an Azureware BT-270 Bluetooth (2.1 +EDR), except for the Best Buy configurations. There is no built-in fax/modem. There is also a Multi-Function card reader (8 in 1 card reader SD,MMC,MS,xD,Smart Media,mini SD w/ adapter,MS-Duo) for reading SD and other memory cards for portable devices.

Standard storage are 2 Seagate Momentus 7200RPM 500GB HDDs. The ROG and 3DE refreshes have the Momentus XT drives, which are hybrid with 4GB NANO Memory cache. Some budget configurations only sport 1 hard drive. If you get one of those, and are looking to expand later by adding a hard drive or SSD, you will need to acquire a second HDD caddy, available online from Asus’s eStore, or you can get creative. Installation is through the underside panel. You can also easily expand storage using USB 2.0 & 3.0 external devices. The unit also comes with an optical BluRay reader and 8x DVD+/-R DL burner. Budget configurations do not have BluRay capability, tho the drive is easily replaceable if it is so desired. The system is preinstalled with Windows 7 x64 Home Premium.

Audio is provided by the Realtek ALC269 Stereo 2+2 HD Audio chip, and a pair of Altec Lansing 2.1 speakers (2 speakers for stereo, plus a 3rd bass driver). Realtek’s whitepaper rates the unit with 98dB of dynamic range, tho RightMark tests demonstrate a capacity of 101dB with 24bit audio. Asus opted not to license the SRS option available to the chipset, so no Dolby Headphone, or Dolby Digital Live for the SPDIF Optical out that this unit has. You can do multichannel out via the HDMI 1.3a port to an external HDMI-capable receiver. Asus did opt to include Creative’s THX TruStudio NB software, which gives the system Alchemy support for EAX5. There is no SRS Support, thus no Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect support for the Optical Out. If this is desired, you would need to look into an external USB Soundcard that supports it.

The quality of the Altec Lansing speakers is good, for laptop speakers. You can certainly use it to supply music for a room and watch videos and movies. You can use the Realtek Audio application to adjust bass levels for the 3-inch subwoofer (oxymoron?). The Creative THX application sports a Speaker Enhancement. The unit has a Line-out for stereo speakers or headphones, and the same port is also the optical toslink port for digital stereo out.

The system also has an integrated mic, as well as a Mic-In port. You can also use the HDMI port to bitstream to an external receiver for watching movies with surround audio, supporting HD Audio and 8-channel LPCM, allowing the unit to serve as a Home Theatre PC, if you upgrade the existing included PowerDVD 9 2+2 OEM software to regular retail license. I myself upgraded to PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D, and use my system to watch BluRays in my entertainment room.

A Chicony 2.0 Megapixel camera is integrated into the screen panel bezel, while budget configurations have a 1.3M unit. Quality is average for a cam; useful but nothing to write home about. The system also uses an application that does facial recognition to logon with. I find it mostly silly since it can be defeated by using a photo of the registered owner, and the photo recognition loses accuracy when you have new backgrounds. Skype users will find the cam + integrated mic useful for video chat.

The battery is an 8-cell Lithium-Ion type, and on a stock configuration, you can get about 1 hr 40min on the battery to 2hr 45min, depending what Power plan you are using. Desktop replacement units are not known for their power conservation. The included power brick is rated for 150w. Aftermarket units of 180w or better are recommended if you plan on overclocking and going to an Extreme CPU.

Gaming Benchmarks:

(More to be added)

Call of Duty: Black Ops

FullHD 1080p 2x MSAA 4x Aniso Clocks: 800/1600/1450 on 267.24 Beta
High Settings
Default Config - No Adjustments

FPS Range: 42-91
Average: 60
Rating: Very Playable 🙂

Starcraft II

FullHD 1080p Mixed High/Ultra Settings with High Shaders/Medium Post Processing
Clocks: 800/1600/1450 on 267.24 Beta

FPS Range: 43-92
Average: 45 (some areas) otherwise 60
Rating: Very Playable 🙂
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