ASUS UL80Vt and G51J: Going for the Goldby Jarred Walton on December 15, 2009 1:30 AM EST
- Posted in
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)
|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|
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
1 x eSATA
1 x Mini FireWire
Optional TV Tuner Input
|Right Side||3 x Audio/Microphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive (DVDR)
|Back Side||Kensington Lock
|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)|
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.
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.
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….