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User Review of the G73JH-A1.
The idea of having a laptop that can do it all is a beautiful idea. Being able to do work and play on a compact design that can be stored away when not being used appeals to both power users, and aesthetics. In the market, we call these units “Desktop Replacements”. An idea that also carried an expensive pricetag, and fraught with design issues, like weight, battery life, and thermal cooling. I’m sure you’ve used a notebook and had to get a cooler for it to prevent burning yourself. In fact, there’s a healthy aftermarket of notebook coolers available online and at local tech retailers.
In 2010, manufacturers raised the performance bar of the $1000-$2000 laptop market by introducing designs that realistically performed as well as mainstream desktops, both in processing power and graphical performance. Nvidia had the GTX2xxM series, and later introduced the GTX4xxM. AMD brought in the HD5870M, and the introduction of both these series caught the attention of consumers worldwide. The AMD solution interests us here, as we will be discussing Asus’ G73JH.
The G73JH sports Asus’ new Stealth Fighter case design, which is both pleasing to the eye, and also works very well as its cooling system, which will be discussed in more detail later. The case is constructed of durable plastic, and has a rubberized finish on the palmrest and outer upper shell, giving an overall matte finish. This helps prevent the unit from becoming a fingerprint magnet, and can be cleaned using a microfiber cloth (one is included, but I suggest having 2, and use one only for the screen) to pick up finger oil. The back panel only has a chrome “ASUS” logo, and the ROG logo inscribed into the rubber. This allows the unit to have an attractive office appeal, as it has no distractive lighting or flash. The G73JH weighs in at about 9 lbs.
The bottom area has ventilated access panel, for access to the WiFi module, reset button, and hard drive area. Of note are the rubber feet that protect the bottom casing. 2 of them (the long triangular ones) are notorious for coming off by friction. I cannot highly recommend enough the suggestion to reinforce them with an application of superglue. Just peel them off, remove the existing 2-way sticky, and apply a drop or 2 of superglue, and reapply. I had them rub off coming out of my backpack, and almost lost one.
The screen panel is supported by two tension hinges, which allows for an arc of about 130 degrees, and uses tension to keep the lid closed. I’ve grown to like this method instead of having a clip, since I primarily store mine in a backpack. (Some models come with a backpack) Under normal usage, the tension hinges should work great (99.5% of the time), however, if they do loosen, they can be tightened up by opening the panel above the cooling vents. I never had to do this myself. The panel itself is a Hannstar 17.3” HSD173PUW1 Glossy FullHD (1920×1080) for most of the G73JH configurations. Best Buy models use lower 1600×900 resolution LG or AUO models.
Under the panel lid you will find a full QWERTY keyboard and numberpad that illuminates. It’s a scissor-switch chicklet type design, which seems to becoming more popular. The keyboard is easily replaceable, should you happen to damage it, or spill anything, once you overcome the death-grip of the 2-way tape they used to support it. There is also a Synaptic 4” trackpad and unibrow buttons, supporting all the latest in finger gestures. These units connect to the motherboard via the PS/2 port.
Under The Hood
In the Americas, the G73JH comes with an Intel i7 720QM, or with the later B1 refresh, an 740QM on an Intel HM55 chipset. Other regions have various i5 options. Various retail boutiques offer CPU upgrades, including Extreme processor (920XM/940XM) options. An upgrade to the 940XM processor would make the laptop equivalent to a desktop i7 950 if overclocked properly, and would make a great portable workstation. The motherboard sports 4 memory slots containing 8GB of Kingston (2GB PC3-10600 DDR3 1333 x4) upgradable to 16GB if so desired. The HM55 chipset does not support onboard RAID.
The AMD HD5870M (1GB RAM) sits on top of Intel’s PCI-E 2.0 bus, which is limited to 2.5 Gb/s transfer rates. Will this slow down your games? Not really, testing shows the fps drops to be negligible, if at all. Recent AMD drivers fixed a slow bus interface that crept into the build fork. The GPU is clocked in at 700Mhz core/shader, and 1000MHz for the video memory, with 800 core shaders @ 1.15v. This would make it an underclocked HD5770 desktop equivalent (850/1200 @ 1.2v). The voltage settings are hardwired, so overclocking options is limited, tho 800/1100 is commonly achievable. (I run my system at 815/1070). Cooling this badboy and the i7 is Asus’ new cooler design. The cooling system has become a trademark of this series, and makes it unique from the competition. Each chip has a dedicated fan and copper/aluminum combo heatsink, with dual heatpipes. Air is drawn in from the grill mesh above the keyboard, where the 2 speakers are, with hot air pushed out the back. Some convection pulls in air from the front subwoofer hole, and from underneath where the hard drive bays are, but the pull is minimal. This system maintains the components very effectively, and runs amazingly quiet. There is minimal transfer of heat to the underside and the keyboard, so these areas stay effectively cool. A laptop cooler is not required for comfortable operation, and can be used on surfaces like a bed spread without significant effect. My operational temperatures come in around 60-70C on the GPU for gaming loads, and 64-66C on max CPU load with OCCT 3.1.0, tho forum averages tend to be a few degrees higher.
Expansion for the system is minimal, as it does not sport any eSATA, Firewire, or ExpressCard ports. It does have 4x USB 2.0 (later JW & SW refreshes have USB 3.0), and Realtek Gigabit LAN, and an Azureware Wifi card, either AR5B95 or AR9285. Both are 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 later A3 and B1 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 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 Audigy HD MB software, which gives the system CMSS-3D and Alchemy support for EAX4. See my Drivers Reference Page to download a Windows 7 update for that software.
If you use Steam, please update your audio drivers, as the stock drivers have a known issue with Steam’s current clients. You can also upgrade to the later X-Fi MB package ($19.95 licensing fee) by downloading a 1.1 Trial installer. This will add Crystalizer support, plus better Win 7 compatibility, and updated ALchemy. Unfortunately, you cannot add Creative’s Dolby Digital/DTS Connect add-on package. The JW and SW series comes with the THX Studio NB package, which comes with EAX 4 support.
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 Creative application to adjust bass levels for the 3-inch subwoofer (oxymoron?), or as some have done, uninstalled the Creative application, and use Realtek’s Equalizer for that. The Creative application also sports an Equalizer. 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 and 15 min to 1 hr 40min on the battery, depending what Power plan you are using. Desktop replacement units are not known for their power conservation. With some tweaking with the video BIOS (vBIOS) GPU clock settings, you can get 2 hr 30 min or better. I have a modified video BIOS that will give enhanced battery life available on my Driver Support Page. 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.
The large 1920 x 1080 17.3” desktop makes working with office applications a pleasure. Good, solid dot-pitch allows for easy reading of the text at standard sizes, and plenty of space for spreadsheets. VGA and HDMI Out allow for simple connections to TVs and projectors for Presentations with office personnel and clients. Full QWERTY and trackpad for convenience, plus Bluetooth for external mice and remotes. The quadcore i7 CPU is overkill for number crunching, and performs well for video encoding work utilizing Intel TurboBoost. If your applications support DirectCompute, then you can even get GPU acceleration. JW models having Nvidia GTX460M’s have the added CUDA support. Asus includes a built-in overclocking tool called Twin Turbo, but experimentation with your applications will be required to see if they benefit your application.
The system comes with a limited version of Microsoft Office. If you cannot get a full licensed copy from work, and you are on a budget, may I suggest looking at OpenOffice. It’s full featured, and free.
CAD work and graphic rendering can be done with this laptop, or with the JW depending on software support. The laptop can be upgraded with aftermarket Extreme processors to improve performance with the unlocked overclocking BIOS options. Properly setup, you can get equivalent performance to an i7 950 desktop setup, and the FullHD screen offers plenty of workspace.
Laptops make great HTPC units. They’re self-contained, support all the fun codecs, and have plenty of storage options. Plus, when you are done watching, they can be put away out of sight, or used for other “productive” activities, like NFS: Hot Pursuit. The max sized internal HDDs that can be put in are 750GB 2.5” SATA drives. There are higher ones, but they are too thick for the HDD bays. You can also opt to replace the optical drive with a HDD caddy, and that can support the thicker HDDs, for a total of three internal HDDs. USB allows for even greater expansion options. The unit sports a toslink option in the Line-Out plug for SPDIF-Out for older receivers and some multimedia speaker systems. Ideally, you would use the HDMI-Out, and configure it for either 5.1 or 7.1, depending on your system. You can then decode all the audio in software, and use LPCM to send it to your audio system uncompressed, or bitstream it. The system comes with a limited OEM copy of PowerDVD 9 2+2. A little legwork on amazon allowed me to find a vendor selling copies of PowerDVD 10 Ultra Retail at a reasonable price. Of course, you can use whatever software you prefer, like WinDVD or ArcSoft, or even such apps as MPC HC.
The CPU and GPU have plenty of processing power to give smooth framerates, and improved FullHD scaling vs hardware solutions. Even simulated 3D is possible via software players, if you have a 3D capable TV or panel, as comes with the 3DE variety of laptop models. Streaming from a home server can be accomplished using either using a wired LAN Gigabit connection, or over wireless N. The included Atheros is limited to 150mbit, however, and may not be enough to stream HD video. I would recommend an inexpensive upgrade to the Intel 6200 mini-pcie card. This will give you 300mbit N support, as well as 5GHz support, which is great for HD streaming.
I believe this is why many people buy this laptop. An elegant design with an i7 mobile processor, plus one of the best single-chip GPU solutions of its time, with probably the best cooling system. All for an affordable price. Win! However, there’s a catch. The 2nd revision ATI HD5870M cards that were used for this model allowed for an instability issue to creep in, causing a Grey Screen of Death if you used any AMD drivers after Catalyst 10.1. This could happen in both 2D and 3D usage. However a beta video BIOS was developed for the card to address this. Needless to say, there were many heated threads over this issue before a fix was available, and probably the source of the many refurbished G73JH’s that exist today. But, as I said, an update exists, and you will need a bootable USB flash drive to apply the patch. The update package includes utilities to make the bootable drive, available at http://www.asusrog.com/forums/showth…D-Vbios-Update . If you are not technically inclined, you can get assistance at a local Asus ASP center.
Once patched, you can update to the latest drivers made available monthly from AMD, and enjoy some sweet gaming loving. Just remember to uninstall the old drivers and apps first.
As we all know, I hope, that when a computer system is used for gaming, it puts a huge stress on the entire system. This stress generates heat, and laptops are known for cramped spacing. This tends to lead to a hot laptop, and laps. In fact, the industry has a whole line of aftermarket cooling solutions to prevent permanent damage to one’s personals, and to allow for squeezing out just a few more FPS with overclocking. The G73 series introduced a revamped cooling system, and is the best I have used personally. Traditional units would draw in air from the underside, and blow it out the back. This system draws it in from the front (subwoofer vent), and out the back. The underside barely gets warm, and coolers may adjust the temps up to about 3C. Some users will open the bottom vent, but I do not recommend that, since you WILL accumulate dust like mad. More information on healthy temperatures when using this laptop is available here.
The main reason I upgraded was that with gaming, my older unit, a Gateway P-7805u, with the nvidia 9800M GTS, was getting taxed too hard with the updating of my games. I moved up to Dragon Age: Origins, and I had to disable AntiAliasing to get decent framerates. I like to have at least 2x MSAA enabled to get rid of the jaggies, and the newer HD5870M does very well with it enabled.
So, how does the system perform? I could run a bunch of benchmarks, but I do not play benches, I play GAMES! So here are some of my favorite games in action:
(Videos and performance marks will be added as generated)
Dragon Age: Origins
Settings: 1920×1080 32bit 4xMSAA 8x Aniso
GPU Clocks : 810/1070
CPU: Stock with Intel TurboBoost
Avg FPS reported: 55
Settings: 1920 x 1080 “Medium” In-game Settings
GPU Clocks : 810/1070
CPU: Stock with Intel TurboBoost
Avg FPS reported: 30
Code of Honor: Black Ops
Settings: 1920×1080 2xMSAA Aniso 4x r_glow_allowed disabled
GPU Clocks : 810/1070
CPU: Stock with Intel TurboBoost
Avg FPS reported: 50-55, with 81 peaks.
This article was originally written by Chastity,?TeamROG Notebook Moderator.
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