Good for Gaming, but Can’t Touch the GTX 485M

As for gaming performance, this is the real purpose of the G73 series, and here the Sandy Bridge only offers moderate increases in most titles. This is why either the 470M or even the 485M as an option in the G73SW would have been good, although that would bump the price up even higher. MSI’s GT680R also includes a “Turbo” feature, only this time instead of overclocking the CPU (as in the previous generation GX640), it overclocks the GTX 460M slightly. GPU memory speed is unaffected, so the benefit ranges from negligible to potentially 5% thanks to the GPU overclock (708MHz instead of the stock 675MHz). In practice, there’s a bit more variance than that, but it’s typically just the margin of error for gaming benchmarks.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mafia II

Mass Effect 2

Metro 2033

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Starting with our High Detail benchmarking, the first thing to note is that all games are playable (i.e. above 30FPS), and even at the LCD’s native 1080p all games remain so, with the exception of Metro 2033. That happens to be a punishing title on even the fastest of GPUs, so we wouldn’t worry too much about the lower score. Also worth noting is that for some reason, both the G73SW and the MSI GT680R scored exceptionally high on the STALKER benchmark; there’s apparently something wrong with our test resolution of 1600x900, as 1600x1024 and 1366x768 both ran much slower. We’ve chosen to scale the 1600x1024 result by 13.8% (i.e. 1024 is 13.8% more than 900) as the 900p score of 114.6 is clearly wrong—we’re just not sure why the test runs so much faster than other resolutions. This appears to be a bug in the 266.58 NVIDIA driver, as performance with older drivers was as expected.

As far as comparisons go, the G73SW ends up being anywhere from 10% slower to 10% faster than the older G73JW. In theory, it should never be slower, but driver changes likely account for the discrepancies. The performance in BFBC2, L4D2, and Metro 2033 remains unchanged (i.e. the new CPU doesn’t change the performance at all); DiRT 2 and Mafia II are 6% and 9% faster, respectively; finally, StarCraft II is the poster child for Sandy Bridge, as performance is up a healthy 43%. Moving over to the MSI GT680R comparison, as expected the differences are generally negligible. BFBC2 and Metro 2033 are 6% faster and L4D2 is 8% faster, while the remaining five titles are within 1% of each other. And then there’s the P170HM with GTX 485M, which is anywhere from 13% (StarCraft II) to 73% (Metro 2033) faster than the G73SW. Actually, only L4D2 and SC2 are under 25%; the other six titles show an improvement of at least 41%.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mafia II

Mass Effect 2

Metro 2033

STALKER: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Bumping up to our Ultra settings tends to be too much for most of the single-GPU mobile solutions. DiRT 2, L4D2, and Mass Effect 2 still break 30FPS, but everything else is in the 20s or even teens. One of the major issues with most mobile GPUs is that they simply don’t have the memory bandwidth to handle high detail settings with 4xAA, but then there are titles like Metro 2033 and STALKER where enabling DX11 features and SSAO just kills performance. Even the mighty 485M and 480M SLI fail to break 20FPS in Metro 2033 at our Ultra settings.

Looking at comparisons once more, this time the G73JW and G73SW are nearly tied (-1% to 4% lead for the SW), with the exception of Metro where the SW is 44% “faster”. Of course, 12.1FPS versus 8.4FPS is hardly a meaningful comparison, as neither option is remotely playable. The slight overclock of the GT680R GPU also fails to help here, as the memory bandwidth requirements overshadow the 5% core clock increase, resulting in scores that are all within 1%. Finally, the GTX 485M is able to post comfortable leads across the test suite. The closest the G73SW can get is in STALKER, where the 485M is 47% faster; in the remaining titles the lead is at least 55% and as much as 73%.

When you consider the total cost of a gaming notebook, the extra $500 to upgrade the P170HM to a GTX 485M actually starts to make sense—who'd have thought? But what about the HD 6970M from AMD? If you don’t mind a little spoiler.... <spoiler>I can tell you that out of the eight titles we test, the GTX 485M leads in five games and the 6970M takes the other three; most of the margins are single-digit percentages, but a few break into double-digits. It looks like NVIDIA will maintain their overall lead in mobile GPU performance, but only by a small amount; the question now is how the two GPUs compare in terms of power, heat, pricing, and availability. We’ll get into that more with our review of the Clevo P150HM next week… </spoiler>

Application Performance: Plenty Fast Investigating Battery Life and Power
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  • ImSpartacus - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    Ok, I haven't finished the review yet, but I'm wondering about the extent of the recall that was mentioned at the very beginning of the piece.

    Didn't it just affect the SATAII ports? I thought the two SATA3 portswere unaffected, so most laptops could simply use those ports. I don't know of any laptop that uses more than two hard drives anyway.

    So why would there be any trouble with SNB laptops? Have I misinterpreted the recall?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    This particular laptop has two HDDs, an optical drive, and an eSATA port, so they need at least four "good" SATA ports in an ideal world. Laptops without eSATA and with only a single HDD could still ship and only use the two 6.0Gbps ports, but I'm not sure if anyone has done that. B3 chipset should be available from some places now, with more vendors coming online as the month progresses. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    Ohhh, I forgot disk drives use SATA, but I didn't even know eSATA used SATA ports. Can you tell I'm not majoring in IT? Lol. Thanks for the answer. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    Oops... correction: no eSATA port on this notebook, so it's just the optical drive and two HDDs. Reply
  • SyndromeOCZ - Saturday, March 05, 2011 - link

    Yeah, this laptop is amazingly under-ported. No express card either. Reply
  • Kaboose - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    Am i the only one who thinks ASUS dropped the ball on this one? The only real difference i can see from the older G73 is the Sandy bridge CPU, now this isn't a bad thing, however i don't think that warrants the price increase. I got my G73JH-RBBX05 for about $900, I7-720QM, HD 5870m. My laptop for $900 could trade blows in most games with this laptop. I really dont think ASUS has marked this laptop in the right price range. I couldn't see spending more then $1,500 for this.

    Maybe i'm the only one.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    no, if you got urs for 900 then I'd say this worth an extra 200 for the newer components and USB 3.0 and all. I'm guessing that was on sale though. Still, it's obviously marked up too much. And no Optimus? WTF Asus, WTF! Reply
  • ph00ny - Sunday, March 06, 2011 - link

    I dumped my g73jh-a1 after having to deal with all the little quirks with ATI drivers

    I've been waiting for the sandybridge version to pop up and this certainly is a disappointment for missing out on few key features that are essential for a laptop. Also what's wrong with asus for not upgrading the graphics card???

    I'm torn between g73sw, m17x r3 and clevo based units but i'm not sure i can go with non-g73 laptops after enjoying the lack of noise/heat from my g73jh
    Reply
  • ph00ny - Sunday, March 06, 2011 - link

    G73JH-RBBX05 is the water down version with less ram, lower res screen, one less harddrive, no bluray drive etc right? I don't know how comparing your g73 to this g73 unit is a fair comparison Reply
  • Kaboose - Monday, March 07, 2011 - link

    I have 12GB of RAM at 1333mhz for $120, and then a 64GB SAMSUNG 470 series SSD for $90 so i spent $920 on the laptop and $210 on upgrades so $1,130 total the only thing mine would do worse in is CPU intensive duties. Mine does better in everything else. (the 5870m and 460m are close enough to be equal) Reply

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