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Asus G51VX-RX05 Gaming Notebook Review
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Date: Aug 17, 2009
Section:Mobile
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction and Specifications


Recently, we've seen the meteoric rise of netbooks in the mobile space. Their ultra portability in conjunction with the global economic climate seems to have led consumers to think twice about spending large amounts of cash on mobile devices. This is especially true when netbooks offer the same basic services (word processing, internet surfing, email) for a considerably smaller investment than most other models. But with netbooks, problems surface when users want to do more than just the basic tasks. While no one can argue against their usability, size, and price point, netbooks don't have the processing power to play the latest games or handle significant multimedia workloads, which are key to meeting the demands of gamers and enthusiasts. 

With their Eee PC line of products, Asus has been at the forefront of the netbook revolution. However, they've also got an extensive line-up of full-sized notebooks that was recently expanded with a new gaming machine aimed at mainstream consumers, combining strong graphics performance and surprising affordability. The G51VX-RX05 is a member of the Asus Republic of Gamers line targeted at the performance enthusiast market and features a Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of DDR2 memory, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M GPU, a 15.6" LCD display, a spacious 320GB hard drive, and Windows Vista 64-bit operating system. While those specs are appealing, the most attractive feature we can list is the competitive asking price, which currently sits at about $1049. With the new school year just around the corner, we know consumers are in the market for notebooks that provide the best performance for their dollar, so let's take a closer look at what the G51VX has to offer.


Asus G51Vx-RX05 Notebook

Asus G51Vx-RX05
Specifications and Features (as tested)

Model

G51VX-RX05
Display

15.6" (1368x768)
CPU

Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 2.0GHz
Memory

4GB DDR2 800MHz (2x2GB)
Graphics

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M 1GB GDDR3
Storage

320GB 7200RPM
Optical

SuperMulti DVD
Operating System

Windows Vista Home Premium x64
Wireless

Intel 802.11 A/G/N
Webcam

1.3 Megapixel
Wired Internet

10/100 Ethernet, 56K Fax/modem
Ports

4 USB, 1 FireWire, HDMI, VGA, ExpressCard, eSATA, 8-in-1 Media Reader
Weight

7.3 lbs with battery
Dimensions

14.6" x 10.3" x 1.6" (WxDxH)
Warranty

1 Year Parts / Labor
Price

$1049


Stepping in at 14.6" x 10.3" with a weight of 7.3 lbs, the G51Vx is not ideal for everyday travel. While more portable than high end desktop replacement notebooks, we would still consider it a full size laptop better fit for just occasional trips, rather than the business traveler on the go.

In reality, we think it would be perfect for a college dorm room, where portability is less important and a full feature set and functionality prerequisite. That said, the G51Vx was designed for maximum gaming performance at an affordable price.  It's also one of the first machines we've tested with NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 260M mobile graphics processor under its hood.  So let's take a closer look at this new Asus-built hot rod; then we'll take her for a ride around the test track. 
 
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Design and Build Quality


The first thing we noticed about the G51VX was the notebook's unique design. The lid is made from heavy duty, white composite material that proudly displays the Asus Republic of Gamers logo and accents. The logo along with three bars on the lid emit a soft white light that stays lit during normal operation. While the system is off, the lights slowly pulsate.

 

As you can see, the top cover is made of a smooth white composite material that does not show fingerprints or handling marks. On the bottom, we find a large, round air intake used to increase cooling performance.

 

The right side of the notebook is home to a microphone input, audio input, SPDIF / headset output, two USB 2.0 ports, and a Supermulti DVD+/-RW / CD-RW drive with dual-layer support. Its worth noting that the drive hums and vibrates occasionally when reading disks. If desired, the mono microphone jack can be used to connect an external microphone. Doing so automatically disables the built in microphone. Along the left side, the G51Vx features a 15 pin D-sub VGA port, air vents, and USB 2.0, Firewire, eSATA, and HDMI ports. We also find an 8-in-1 media reader that supports the following types of flash media: SD, miniSD, MMC, Memory Stick (Pro, Duo, Pro Duo), and xD-picture card.

 

Along the rear edge of the notebook, we find a Kensington lock port, a USB 2.0 port, an RJ-45 LAN port, and DC power input. The Kensington lock port allows the laptop to be secured using Kensington security products, which include a metal cable and lock combo that prevents theft. The front edge features a wireless switch that enables or disables the built-in wireless LAN. Also, a set of status indicators light up blue or red to represent various hardware conditions.

 

Under the lid, the G51Vx sports a full size keyboard and number pad. All of the keys have good travel and cushion while providing an excellent typing experience. In addition, the Fn+F3/F4 buttons provide keyboard illumination which improves key visibility in low light conditions. There are four levels available: off, low, medium, and high. With a bright LCD screen just a few inches away, a backlit keyboard might be unnecessary but it sure does look cool. The touchpad works without any major complaints. It is relatively large and smooth with a dedicated scroll area, while the left and right mouse buttons felt secure and responsive. The audible clicking noise is a bit loud but bearable. 

 

On top of the screen, we find a built in web cam. It features a 1.3 megapixel resolution and a microphone to the right of the lens, along the edge. We couldn't find any more details about the webcam but the video it produced was clear and detailed, unless there was rapid movement by the subject. At the base of the screen, we find a series of touch sensitive media buttons. From left to right, there is an activity indicator, number lock indicator, caps lock indicator, display mode button, performance option button, touchpad enable/disable button, Express Gate key, and power on/off switch.

While the notebook is off, pressing the Express Gate key launches the streamlined environment within 5 seconds. From here, commonly used applications can be quickly utilized.
Express Gate provides instant access to web browsing, Skype, music player, and photo library, all without entering the main operating system. Keep in mind the Express Gate key will not function under the Microsoft Windows working environment.   

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Software and Accessories


Asus includes a small bundle to get things started. Included with the G51VX, we find documentation, a lint-free LCD cleaning cloth, power cable, AC/DC adapter, 6-cell battery, and software recovery disks. The good news is the notebook is ready to roll once powered on so only the power cables and battery are required right from the start. But we were disappointed in the user manual as it obviously was made to cover just the basic features of the laptop, in order to be used with several different models. Along with the drivers disk, there were several software utilities included. Among them were NB Probe, Net4Switch, ExpressGate, and Norton Internet Security 2008 trial.



The model we tested has Windows Vista Home Premium 64 bit with SP1 preinstalled, allowing it to make full use of the 4GB of RAM. It also qualifies for the Windows 7 upgrade program which provides consumers with a comparable version of Windows 7. In this case, Windows 7 Home Premium will be offered. We also find that it comes with other software such as LoJack, Microsoft Office trial, Microsoft Works,Power 4 Gear, Life Frame 3, CyberLink Power 2 Go, myPhotoMovie, Asus Camera Screensaver, Data Security Manager, Fancy Start, Splendid Video Enhancement Utility, and Adobe Reader.



As a notebook, we liked the fact that the bundle included LoJack software. Some might enjoy the CyberLink multimedia burning software or the Splendid video enhancing program as well. But the majority of the preloaded programs will likely see little use.
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User Experience


In our testing, everyday tasks such as word processing, internet surfing, email, and music playback were handled easily by the system. Multitasking performance was good and running multiple programs did not greatly effect the working environment. Of course, the 4GB of available memory helped greatly in this department as well as the dual core processor. We also want to note how comfortable we felt with the G51VX on our lap. With the warm air vented towards the left side of the notebook, the bottom stayed cool during normal operation.




The G51VX features the Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 mobile processor built using 45nm process technology. Our CPU ran at 2.0GHz (266x7.5) with a 1066MHz front side bus at only 1.14V. During idle states, we observed that the multiplier dropped from 7.5 to 6.0, lowering the processor speed to 1.6GHz but also reducing power consumption and heat production. The 4GB of DDR2 memory runs at 800MHz with 6-6-6-18 timings.  



To give you a better idea of the notebook's abilities, it scored a 5.0 in Windows Experience Index. The G51VX maxed out in Memory and Graphics scoring 5.9 in those categories and scored 5.8s in the Gaming Graphics and Hard Disk transfer rate tests, which is impressive as well. The base score is determined by the lowest subscore of all components which in this case, was the dual core processor. Windows Experience Index is not the most demanding benchmark but it does show how well the system can handle Vista.  



We threw several high definition movie trailers at the G51VX as well, to get a feel for its multimedia performance and can report that the notebook managed them with ease. The picture was clear and crisp while the audio played smoothly without any noticeable hiccups, or frame drops or stutters.
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PCMark Vantage & SiSoft Sandra 2009

We ran the Asus G51VX through Futuremark‚Äôs latest system performance metric built especially for Windows Vista, PCMark Vantage. This benchmark suite creates a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. We like the fact that most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, in order to exploit the additional resources offered by multi-core processors.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance





With an overall score of 3821, the G51VX performed as well as expected. During the benchmark, there was some noticeable stuttering during the TV and Movies benchmarks as both the video and audio would would continually pause throughout testing. We found this a little odd since we saw none of this during our real world video playback testing.

Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA 2009
Synthetic Benchmarks

We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2009, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant.  We ran three of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Memory Bandwidth, Physical Disks).
All of the scores reported below were taken with the processor running at its default clock speeds of 2.0GHz with 4GB of DDR2-800 RAM running in dual-channel mode.



Processor Arithmetic


Memory Bandwidth


Physical Disks

When compared to mobile dual core processors, Intel's P7350 performed well, even with its slight speed disadvantage. The 4GB of DDR2-800 memory provided 5.33GB/s of bandwidth while the 320GB 7200rpm hard drive offered a 68MB/s read speed.

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3DMark Benchmarks

What would a gaming notebook review be without some gaming benchmarks? With the Republic of Gamers logo displayed proudly on the G51VX, we wanted to see how well its integrated GeForce GTX 260M GPU performsed. In this machine, the the GPU is clocked at 500MHz core, 1250MHz shader, with an 800MHz memory clock with 1GB of GDDR3. On the next couple of pages, we'll focus on a few gaming specific benchmarks starting with the 3DMark tests. Note that these benchmarks were run using an external monitor in order to achieve these results due to resolution limitations between the notebook display and 3DMark's preset options. 

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024.



Futuremark 3DMark06
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark06

3DMark06 is a hard-core, forward-looking 3D rending benchmark that pushes a system and its GPUs to the limits. The test includes Shader Model 2.0, Shader Model 3.0, and HDR tests. To push the system, scenes are rendered with very high geometric detail and shader complexity, and with extensive use of lighting and soft shadows. The maximum shader length 3DMark06 supports is 512 instructions. The 3DMark06 Overall Score is a weighted average based on the SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0, and CPU scores.


 



Even with a discrete graphics card, we see how demanding 3DMark Vantage is. The notebook scored 4059 overall while recording 12.51 and 11.58 fps during the GPU tests. In 3DMark06 testing, the G51VX landed a score of 8460. These are very respectable scores for a mobile graphics solution and only the laptops featuring 280M or dual 4870 cards will perform considerably faster, but those options also carry much higher price tags.

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FarCry 2

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date. Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map. The test results shown here were run at 1368x768 resolution, DirectX 10 enabled,  4x Anti-aliasing, and different render quality settings.

Even with the settings cranked up, we achieved playable frame rates in FC2. Only a few frame per second separates High and Ultra High modes as we kept anti-aliasing at 4x. Even so, we experienced only mild stuttering throughout gameplay. For those looking for a smoother ride, try bumping down anti-aliasing to 2X.
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Battery Performance


According to its feature page,
the 6-cell lithium-ion battery that comes with the G51VX lasts up to 2 hours and 7 minutes. To test out all battery life claims, we use the notebook benchmark tool BatteryEater Pro running in Classic mode and record the time it takes for the laptop to shut down.
 
Battery Info & Performance
Testing with BatteryEater Pro



After 1 hour and 44 minutes, the G51VX used up a full charge. The battery life we experienced was on par with Lenovo's G530 which also sports a 6-cell battery. Keep in mind, our benchmark puts a continuous heavy load on the graphics card as well as the CPU so we don't feel that the 2 hour 7 minute battery life is misleading at all. With a lighter workload, the machine would have been able to hit that mark.  At any rate, it gives you just enough battery life to watch a movie or play a few rounds of your favorite game during a flight.
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Conclusion

 
Performance Summary: The Asus G51VX notebook turned in excellent scores throughout our testing. In Futuremark's PCMark Vantage benchmark, it beat out MSI's more expensive GT627 gaming notebook (3821 vs 3753) which sports a faster CPU. In addition, the G51VX performed admirably int he 3DMark benchmarks, again beating the the MSI GT627 (8460 vs 8197) in 3DMark06. After loading up the graphically demanding first person shooter, FarCry2, and cranking up all available settings, we witnessed playable frame rates that should satisfy the vast majority of gamers' needs.



A quick look at mobile gaming machines in the $1000 price range reveals very little competition. We find notebooks with slower 9800M and 9600M graphics solutions that can't keep up with the GTX 260M found on the G51VX. Moreover, looking for laptops with the GTX 260M reveals options that cost $300-$600 more than our review product. How did Asus do it? Looking at the G51VX's specifications reveals that this model uses a 2.0GHz dual-core CPU which is a bit slower but more affordable than the processors used by the competition. Needless to say, Asus has configured a well balanced machine that is a winner at its price point.

With a high level look at the G51VX, it is easy to be impressed with the notebook's combination of performance and affordability. Asus has produced a unique mid-range laptop with high-end gaming capability. It comes with a modern design that is aggressive and appealing. The lighted logo and backlit keyboard makes sure that onlookers know that this is machine is made for more than just e-mail and internet surfing. Given the system configuration's price of $1049, we think the G51VX represents one of the best values in gaming notebooks currently on the market. 



  • Excellent value
  • GeForce GTX 260M Graphics
  • Great Looking LCD
  • 4GB of memory

 

  • Short Battery Life
  • Very Basic User's Manual

 




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