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 (1920x1080) for most of the G73JH configurations. Best Buy models use lower 1600x900 resolution LG or AUO models.
Left Viewing Angle
Right Viewing Angle
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.