Asus G51J Core i7 Mobile Gaming Notebook Review - HotHardware

Asus G51J Core i7 Mobile Gaming Notebook Review

3 thumbs up

At 7.2lbs., Asus' G51J-A1 certainly isn't the lightest 15" notebook on the market. Far from it, actually. And make no mistake--it's no slimmter either at 14.6" x 10.3" x 1.3" - 1.6". All things considered, this is one of the largest 15.6" machines we've ever seen, but then again, it's one of the first to pack a mobile Core i7 chip within the confines of a gaming notebook, so we're willing to cut it some slack there. Intel's newest silicon puts off some heat, so it makes sense to think a little extra breathing room is needed to make everything work without having a meltdown. And speaking of heat, yeah, there's plenty of that, but we'll touch more on that aspect in the Experience section.


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Externally, the G51J-A1 is sturdy, but not what we'd call "built like a tank." There's an abundance of plastic, with the colorful top lid feeling a wee bit chintzy if we're being honest. We know, it's a "gamer's machine," but since when did gaming machines have to look like they were designed in the early 1990s? We much prefer Dell's sleek, classy stylish on the Studio XPS line to the vivacious design seen here and on Toshiba's Qosmio laptops. Of course, that's all totally subjective, but you won't find a lot of "drab" and "classic" here; it's all "loud" and "vivid."

    
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As has become par for the course on Asus machines, the stickers were out in full force here. The palm rest is splattered with a huge specifications sheet sticker on the left side, a sticker letting the world know the display is 1080p, as well as logo stickers for Windows 7, NVIDIA, Intel's Core i7 and the sound card. Honestly, it's overkill. But hey, it keeps with the design flair that starts on the LCD lid (which has two light-up panels on the sides), so we guess it's to be expected. Not really our cup of tea, but there it is.

    
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As you open the machine up, you'll find a matte palm rest, a nice-sized trackpad, two distinct left/right click buttons and glossy bezels around both the LCD and the keyboard. The keyboard itself is just dreadful. Asus attempted to squeeze a full QWERTY board and a numeric pad onto a 15.6" machine, and the result is a squished, offset keyboard that caused us all sorts of headaches. The biggest problem is just how left-justified everything is thanks to the numbed pad squeezed in there; we continually stumbled over keys and found ourselves fixing typing mistakes due to the odd layout, and while we're sure you'd get used to it with time, you'll undoubtedly not encounter this layout anywhere else. In other words, it's a different feel than any other keyboard--not ideal in the least. And then there's the matter of just how cheap the keys feel; each "chicklet" key is a slick piece of plastic with no texture at all, and the entire keyboard flexes quite a bit when pressed. To top it all off, the keys aren't backlit, so night gamers will have to provide an external light to see where things are. All told, this is unfortunately one of the worst typing experiences we've had on a gaming notebook, and it's quite odd considering just how much we generally like Asus keyboards. Asus tried hard to keep costs down on this machine, and it shows here--a lot of quality was given up on the keyboard, and to us, that's just not an acceptable place to shave costs. Asus should've ditched the number pad, made the keys larger, added some texture and removed some flex (in a perfect world, anyway).


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Moving on, there's the 2.1 Altec-Lansing audio system, which sounds surprisingly great for a notebook audio system. There's a bottom-mounted subwoofer that does a commendable job of keeping the lows going, and the all-around sound is plenty fine for casual listening. The 1920x1080 display is crisp, sharp and just gorgeous. Of course, it's a glossy panel, so things definitely reflect and it's quite difficult to appreciate outside, but it's tough to find a matte 1080p panel on any machine these days (sadly). One thing we did notice is just how large the bezel is around the LCD; at the top, where the 2.0MP webcam sits, there's over an inch of bezel present. That's just entirely too much, and it honestly reminds us of the bezels found on laptops of a decade ago. We can understand a laptop being thick in order to make room for a powerful CPU, but why the need for a huge bezel?


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Around the edges, you'll find a total of four USB 2.0 sockets (two on each side), a DVD Super Multi burner, audio in/out jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, a Kensington lock slot, power input, HDMI socket, VGA output, a mini-FireWire socket, a huge exhaust vent, 3-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, MSPRO), eSATA connector, an ExpressCard slot and a Wi-Fi on/off toggle switch.

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Just wanted to let you know that you made an error in the review. You said that the keyboard is not backlit, when indeed it is (and quite well at that). This is an important point and should be edited.

Also, I think you were a bit harsh in evaluating the keyboard. Other than the flex (which I agree, is quite a lot), I think it's a great keyboard. I make a lot less typing errors on this keyboard than I did on any other previous keyboard. It might be just me, but I have no problem with the keyboard spacing and such whatsoever. Just my 2cents.

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Thanks for the input Muster.

Overall this is a positive review. Since the battery is only 6-cell, the 1.5 hour battery life is expected. I would jump for the 9-cell option if available.

Other good things: Nice hi-res screen, nice GPU for a 15" laptop, and of course the i7-720QM for under $1500. The only hesitation I have is when ATI 5000 series hits mobile devices since they have lower power reqs than Nvidia.

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I just received my Asus G51J last week and i have to completely agree with you about this keyboard.  The typing experience is atrocious.  I honestly cannot believe how bad it is.  The keyboard is just not as responsive as i am used to with my previous computer (Dell Latitude D620).  I have to type very purposefully and press significantly harder on the keys than i typically do. The textureless keys are a bother, but the bigger issue is when you try to type two of the same letter like 'tt" it will usually skip one of them unless you press really hard.  The spacebar also is so unresponsive and i frequently find myself backspacing because the space was not inserted in.  Backspacing unforunately is really slow because some of the time the backspace is not registered (same issue with the unresponsive keys but worse now b/c i have to press backspace so many times).

Its really unfortunate b/c the computer is excellent otherwise.   

I am now contemplating on buying an external keyboard.  This is just sad 

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Yes, the keyboard is horrible. I notice, after typing a sentence that two or three of the characters I've typed are not there. I'm no stranger to typos; typically I'll reverse the order of a couple keystrokes, or just mistype one. But with the G51J, characters are just missing, and this never happens to me with other keyboards, even on laptops.

The problem is not limited to specific keys, and seems to happen pretty often with the spacebar. You can't tell me that I'm repeatedly failing to hit that key...my thumbs are resting right on top of it for pete's sake! No, keystrokes just are just ignored. Keys pressed in too quick succession seems to be the pattern, as WhiskeyPetes suggested.

It was bad enough that I initially assumed that my laptop was defective, and returned it for another, but it was pretty much the same, so I've just taken to living with it and plugging in an external keyboard. Honestly, I'm baffled as to how anybody can stand it. Possibly other people type more methodically than I do.

I would *definitely* recommend anybody considering this laptop try typing on one first and see whether it's compatable with their typing style. I expect each keystroke to register, but that's just me.

Otherwise, great gaming laptop.

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