ASUS G73Jw: Out with the Old, In with the Newby Jarred Walton on November 3, 2010 12:33 AM EST
ASUS G73Jw: Still a Good Notebook after Six Months
So let’s make it clear: when we first reviewed the G73Jh, we were very impressed with the features and performance, not to mention its great price for a high-end gaming notebook. Six months on and it still packs a punch—and the G73Jw revision doesn’t substantially alter the formula. If you disliked the stealth aesthetic, nothing has changed on that front. If you wanted a better price (without dropping to lesser components), things remain the same or perhaps even a bit more expensive, but the price—on both models—is still attractive, and either one would make for a fine gaming notebook. If you'd like some customization options and are willing to pay the price premium, you might also be interested in checking out XoticPC or AVADirect where you can customize the G73; unfortunately, while you keep the ASUS warranty, you don't get credit for the original parts—i.e. the i7-840QM is a $575 to $610 upgrade.
In short, our Gold Editors’ Choice gaming notebook is still tough to beat, but now you get to choose between identical twins with a few minor differences in personality. What the G73Jw offers is USB 3.0 support, roughly equal graphics performance, and CUDA/PhysX as a bonus. PhysX tends to put enough of a strain on performance that you’ll have to choose higher quality settings and anti-aliasing or go with PhysX. CUDA on the other hand is a technology that continues to see growing support, with major applications like Premiere CS5 now featuring CUDA optimizations. If you’re interested in Badaboom, Premiere, vReveal, or some of the other CUDA applications, the G73Jw is a worthwhile update to the G73 line. If all you really want is maximum gaming performance, we’d give a slight edge to the Mobility HD 5870.
Battery life is also an improvement, thanks to better idle power requirements from the GTX 460M. You’re still only getting 2-3 hours of typical use, but that’s better than nothing. We’re not sure if anything has improved on HD 5870 equipped notebooks since our last look, but NVIDIA does have a lead there. Conversely, raw performance on battery power is still in favor of the 5870 in the G73Jh, which runs closer to its AC performance than the G73Jw—at the cost of getting even less battery life. Somehow, we can’t really see the ability to run games faster for 30 minutes as being a major bullet point.
So that’s essentially it: you get the same design, USB 3.0, an updated CPU, and a new GPU. We don’t think the improved battery life is really a major deal for anyone shopping for a gaming laptop. Perhaps that will change when we get Sandy Bridge, since we’ll finally have the option for a quad-core Intel CPU and switchable graphics, but until then Clarksfield means that even a large 98Wh battery is likely going to fall below three hours of useful battery life. The G73Jw is a good laptop and certainly a viable alternative to the G73Jh, but if NVIDIA was looking for a knockout blow from ASUS this isn’t it. They've got a heavyweight contender in the ring, and both sides are landing blows, but this one is going to end up a split decision.
Finally, with the results from the GTX 460M we need to look at the mobile GPU market again. "High-end" notebook GPU performance remains highly compressed, with a spread of about 25% separating the top GTX 480M from lesser offerings like the HD 5850 and GTX 460M. In addition, the cost of upgrading to a faster GPU(s) can be prohibitive, and what we want more than anything is faster mobile GPUs that won't break the bank. What we really want right now is something like a mobile variant of the new Radeon 6800 parts, only this time with a full set of Stream Processors (unlike the 5870 where AMD used the 5770 desktop core for the mobile part).
The desktop 6870 is able to provide 93% of the desktop 5870 with fewer processor cores and it does it while using 12% less power. Or if you want another comparison point, the 6850 is 25 to 50 percent faster than the 5770 with 9% more computational power (cores * clock), it has slightly lower idle power draw, and load power draw is only 13W higher at most. If NVIDIA can put a 100W TDP 480M into notebooks, surely AMD can put in a true mobile 6870. Unfortunately, parts like that are probably still several months out—or more—and if the past is any indication, the mobile 6800 chips will come with dramatically reduced clocks and core counts (or get called the "Mobility 6900"), so what we get is plenty of choice but no killer product. Sandy Bridge and Optimus (or an AMD equivalent) with at least the performance of 460M is what I’m looking forward to seeing as the next generation of mobile gaming, and if we can get better than 480M performance with a TDP of 70W or less so much the better; hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to get exactly that.