ASUS G51: Affordable Midrange Gaming

The ASUS G51J is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the UL80Vt. It packs Intel's latest Core i7-720QM mobile CPU into a 15.6" chassis, and pairs that up with a GeForce GTX 260M. You also get 4GB DDR3 and dual 320GB 7200 RPM hard drives. Where the UL80Vt focused on balancing performance and battery life while keeping costs reasonable, the G51J kicks battery life to the curb and emphasizes performance. The cost is also nearly double that of the UL80Vt, but depending on the task the G51J is 2 to ~4 times as fast. $1450 might sound like a lot for a gaming laptop, but prior to the release of the Gateway FX notebooks most laptops that could actually run games cost closer to $3000. Let's look at the specifications.

ASUS G51J Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-720QM
(4x1.6GHz+ HTT, 45nm, 4x256KB L2, 6MB L3, 2.5GT/s QPI, 45W)
Chipset Intel PM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M
(112SPs, 500/1250/1598 Core/Shader/RAM clocks)
Display 15.6" Glossy Full HD 1080p (1920x1080)
Hard Drive(s) 2 x 320GB 7200RPM 16MB HDD (Non-RAID)
Optical Drive 8x DVDR SuperMulti
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Wifi Link 1000 BGN
Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
Audio 6-Channel Realtek ALC663 HD Audio
(2.0 speakers with three audio jacks + digital out)
Battery 6-Cell 53.28Whr, 11.1V DC, 4800mAh
Front Side Flash Reader (MMC, MS, MS Pro, SD, xD)
WiFi On/Off Switch
Left Side 2 x USB 2.0
HDMI
1 x eSATA
1 x Mini FireWire
Optional TV Tuner Input
Heat Exhaust
VGA
Right Side 3 x Audio/Microphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive (DVDR)
Back Side Kensington Lock
Power Adapter
Gigabit Ethernet
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.6" x 10.3" x 1.3-1.6" (WxDxH)
Weight 7.26 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
92-Key Keyboard with 10-Key
5% Overclock via Power4Gear
Warranty 2-year global warranty
1-year battery pack warranty
1-year accidental damage
30-day zero bright dot LCD
Pricing ASUS G51J-A1 starting at $1450

We have seen other laptops that provide either a Core i7-720QM processor or a GeForce GTX 260M for less money, but if you want both $1450 is about as cheap as you're likely to find. Besides providing a balanced combination of CPU and GPU performance, ASUS adds a few extras that many others don't provide. One of those extras is a 1080p LCD; there are far too many 15.6" laptops shipping with 1366x768 LCDs - or at best 1600x900. We were working on ASUS' own G51Vx when they dropped the G51J on us, only the G51Vx model we had used a 1680x1050 LCD, Core 2 Quad Q9000 CPU, and it cost about $200 more. In our limited testing, it looks as though the G51J is faster in virtually every area, so there's not much reason to consider the older model… well, almost.

While the Core 2 Quad Q9000 G51Vx has been displaced, you can get essentially the same thing as the G51J except with a Core 2 Duo P8700. That's a 2.53 GHz dual-core processor, and while core i7-720QM can Turbo up to 2.8GHz, for tasks that don't utilize more than two cores (i.e. most games) performance will be very similar. The ASUS G51Vx-X3A also omits the second HDD (add your own if you'd like) and costs $200 less while keeping the 1080p LCD. Both are very good gaming laptops; the only question is whether or not you want the number crunching power of the Core i7.

If you do video rendering or 3D work, the i7-720QM is going to be about twice as fast as a P8700 and about 20% faster than a Q9000. The G51Vx will also offer slightly better battery life if that's a concern, though we're still looking at less than two hours. The closest competition is the Gateway P-7908u: it's $1150 instead of $1250 for the G51Vx, but it has a 1440x900 LCD and bulkier 17" chassis.

Gallery: ASUS G51J

The UL80Vt is a thin and light sedan design, and the G51J is a large pickup truck by comparison. It tips the scales at over 7 pounds and is noticeably thicker (though not quite as large as 17" notebooks). The benefit of the larger chassis is that you can actually run high-performance parts, and you can also squeeze in two hard drives and a full size keyboard with 10-key. The G51J is much more of a desktop replacement as opposed to a mobility focused laptop, and it fills that niche very well. If you want to upgrade to something faster like an i7 CPU with GTX 280M, expect to pay at least $300 more, and the performance increase is only around 20%. The Clevo W870CU we tested previously sells for over $3000 with the i7-920XM and it's still only 30% faster at best.

ASUS includes the same Power4Gear utility on the G51J, but it doesn't help as much with battery life as there's only so much you can do with an i7 CPU and GTX 260M GPU. CPU overclocking is also supported (on the High Performance profile), but the performance boost is quite small: the maximum overclock is a 140MHz bus instead of the default 133MHz, representing a scant 5% boost in CPU performance. What's more, the overclock actually reduced performance in some of our gaming tests and it never improved performance by more than a couple percent. CPU intensive tasks like CINEBENCH and x264 encoding show the expected 5% performance increase, but most games showed a decrease. Our guess is that the maximum single-core Turbo mode on the CPU doesn't activate as much (or perhaps at all) with the overclock because of power/heat constraints, whereas heavily threaded tasks still get a 5% boost.

Gallery: ASUS G51Vx

We're officially reviewing the G51J, and we like the overall package. It's well-balanced for anyone that wants a fast CPU and GPU. However, since we used the G51Vx for a week or two before sending it back and getting the G51J, we feel we can speak to both laptops. On both designs the build quality is good and we really like the matte surface of the palm rest. The cover art is a little too much for our tastes, but it does fit with the gamer mentality and some will like the design. LCD contrast ratio is poor, like 95% of laptops, and it's a glossy panel (99% of laptops). We ordered an anti-glare cover to see if that will solve our complaints with glossy LCDs, so stay tuned.

Like the UL80Vt, the overall package and pricing is what really gets us. Not only do you get a great gaming laptop for a reasonable price, but ASUS throws in a nice laptop backpack and a Razer Copperhead mouse - about $100 in added value for the package. You don't get those extras with the G51Vx-X3A, making the real price difference more like $100; both laptops pack a lot of performance into a mobile PC. For the price we would have liked to see a better LCD (particularly the contrast ratio), but that and the relatively short battery life - something you get with any gaming laptop - are really the only complaints. For providing one of the best values in gaming laptops, we are pleased to award the ASUS G51J and G51Vx our Bronze Editors' Choice award.

Now on to the benchmarks….

ASUS UL80Vt: Nearly Perfect Testing Overview
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  • crydee - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    From reading other forums it sounds like the UL30VT has a nicer LCD and build quality. As soon as they start selling those and with the same battery as the UL80VT the price should be lower for an overall smaller laptop and no dvd-rom. That sounds like the laptop I'd want. 13" will be easier to handle the smaller resolution. Reply
  • duffmann - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    On my ASUS UL30a (which also has a SU7300) there is an option to do a 1-5% overclock in the BIOS. By default it was set to a 3% when I recieved the system effectively making it 1.339GHz. Is this option also present on the UL80Vt and if so, do the "stock" numbers in the article correspond to 1.3GHz? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    I did not check in the BIOS (and the laptop is on its way back to ASUS), but CPU-Z/Intel TAT showed a clock of 1.30GHz at stock and 1.73GHz overclocked, so if there is a BIOS overclock option it was not enabled. Reply
  • rubbahbandman - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    I got the Lenovo Ideapad Y550 over the holidays and think it should be considered as well if you're looking for a budget gaming laptop.
    For $820 (not including tax) I got:

    *Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 (only 25watt processor) vs i7 720QM (45watts for similar performance, and costs far more)
    *4GB DDR3 (pretty standard)
    *Nvidia Geforce 240M (23watt videocard) vs 260M (75watts)
    *320GB HD (5400 RPM, my worst part, but at least it's low power, quiet, runs cooler, and doesn't vibrate as much as a 7200)
    *HD LED 1366x768 native resolution doesn't seem like a disadvantage to me. It's comfortable for the eyes and doesn't require as beefy a videocard, uses less power too I'd imagine than 1920x1080. While the 240M offers far less powerful than the 260M, it good enough to play most games at 1366x768 with high settings and doesn't draw nearly as much power or produce as much heat as the 260M.
    *and it comes with bluetooth, wireless N, nice 'laptop' speakers (w/a tiny sub), win 7 64bit, hdmi, dvd writer, eSATA, 6 lbs, (no TV-tuner though).
    *with only a 6-cell battery I can surf the web for 4hrs 15min with my setup. gaming on the other hand is about 90min-2hrs, which is still very good compared to most.
    Reply
  • bennyg - Thursday, December 17, 2009 - link

    There's budget midrange gaming and there's budget highend gaming, you're comparing quite different categories here Reply
  • rubbahbandman - Thursday, December 17, 2009 - link

    "ASUS G51: Affordable Midrange Gaming"
    FTA
    I'm just pointing out there's affordable midrange gaming at less than $900 for laptops versus the $1400-1500 price tag for the G51. Neither of the computers in this article would be considered "high-end" for laptop gaming.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 17, 2009 - link

    The only thing significantly faster in laptops would be something sporting dual GPUs (for now). GTX 280M laptops are about 20-30% faster at most in gaming, which isn't much considering the majority of such laptops will cost well over $2000.

    Mostly, I call this "Affordable Midrange" because I consider $1500 to be the top of the midrange laptop market in terms of cost. The GTX 260M is about twice the performance (slightly more) of the GT 240M: 96 vs. 48 SPs, and clock speeds that are marginally faster, with 256-bit vs. 128-bit memory interface. Also, if you're going to quote 23W for power on the GT 240M, the GTX 260M would only be 38W -- 82W is the difference I measured between system idle and gaming load, which is going to be split between the CPU, RAM, GPU, etc. (I also only show a 31W difference between 100% CPU load and gaming load, which corroborates that 38W figure from NVIDIA.)

    Of course, the GT 240M is going to be around 2.5 times the speed of the G210M in the UL80Vt, so you'll be able to run any game as long as you're willing to drop the details. Where the GTX 260M is able to run games at 1080p with medium to high detail, the GT 240M will be limited to 900p at ~medium detail.
    Reply
  • Hulk - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    The flex results from the torque applied to the screen. Reply
  • Wesleyrpg - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    As well all know Asus underclocked the GTX 260M in the G51J from the defaults of 550/1375/950 to 500/1250/800 for heat management issues, but im wondering how much extra performance can be squeezed out of the system by 'overclocking' the GPU to its default speeds and beyond. I'm also curious to know how this affect the systems temps!

    Can the Asus G51J take advantage of faster RAM like DDR3-1333 or DDR3-1600 modules? At what point does the machine start to gain/lose performance because of extra bandwidth/latency of the faster modules?

    Reply
  • Wesleyrpg - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    ok so i did some testing and got some very interesting results, i ran 3dmark06 three time and here are the average results!

    10069 (500/1250/800)
    SM2.0 4417
    SM3.0 4036
    CPU 3179
    Temp min/max 64-91

    and now for the GPU running at 550/1375/950

    10983
    SM2.0 4854
    SM3.0 4559
    CPU 3191
    Temp min/max 64-92

    Thats it......a 10% improvement for a 1C in temp? Maybe im not getting the whole picture here or maybe Asus are downclocking for longevity reasons?
    Reply

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