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Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops

Hands-on with with the Republic of Gamers G73

Here in Taipei, we paid a visit to Asus to check out the firm's latest laptops. We started off with the Republic of Gamers G73. As you might expect, its design largely totally ignores battery life and to respect, portability - the G73 is a desktop replacement. We know these 17in monster DTRs polarise people's opinions but we've been told by numerous sources here in Taiwan taht the gaming notebook market is continuing to grow. It's the only option for serious gamers not wanting or unable to use a full system. And this is a serious gaming system...

Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73 Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73
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Graphics are provided by a Mobile Radeon HD 5870 1GB, an 800 stream processor 'Juniper' part. Architecturally, it's a HD 5770, but clocked at HD 5750 clock speeds. It comes with a 700MHz core clock and 1GB of 4GHz GDDR5 memory, versus 850MHz core and 4.8GHz GDDR5 on the desktop Radeon HD 5770 card. The upside is the TDP is now half that of the desktop part, at 50W versus 100W.

Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73 Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73
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Also inside the G73 is a Core i7-720QM - a 45W true quad-core chip that alternates its clock frequency between 1.6GHz and 2.8GHz depending on how heavily threaded the workload is. When we first tested the chip, we found Turbo Boost worked really well - the only thing that held our i7-720QM test machine back was the G92b based Nvidia graphics chip.

Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73 Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73
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While Nvidia is working overtime to launch mobile GeForce GTX 480 GPUs, the reality is the company's ageing, G92b based GTX 280M has been the best GPU laptop gamers have been able to find, so we're really keen to see what ATI can do. Asus is going with a 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) screen, so the GPU is going to have plenty of pixels to keep it busy.

Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73 Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73
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The chips are housed by a H55 motherboard with up to 8GB of DDR3 and two hard drives (the G73 will usually be spec'd with 500GB models), Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth, Creative EAX 4.0 audio (software supported) and a Blu-ray drive and it's as much a full PC as most of us own.

The H55 chipset has no RAID option, but we wouldn't opt for one anyway in a laptop. We've yet to hear from Asus as to whether there will eventually be an SSD option though: a small, fast SSD combined with large storage is an excellent combination.

Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73 Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73
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As for the G73 shell all this hardware is shoehorned into; it's a monster. With sharp lines and aero-styled exhausts, you expect it to require Velcro to strap it to the desk! On first impression, the huge hinge and 'backside' behind the LCD is not particularly elegant, but after using it this actually stops it from being too big. Using the full length with would mean your arms would be abnormally far outstretched in front of you. As it is there's already a considerable wrist rest, and thankfully Asus has tapered off the front edges to make it easier to use, while keeping the lines in-check with the design.

Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73 Hands-on with Asus' latest laptops Hands-on with the Republic of Gamers G73
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Opened up and the design is crisp and neat and gone are the fancy red or blue lights, apart from the odd LED around the edges. Despite having a keypad squeezed in on the end, the keyboard and touchpad isn't awkwardly thrown off to one side, however we would have liked to see some reinforcement in the keys to withstand the constant abuse of gamers and battering of rage-quits. No matter how much you love your expensive notebook, we've all succumbed to seeing red when that little camping sod on the mountain snipes you again.

That also brings us onto the general build quality; the 80s grey plastic used here isn't the final design, we're told, it will be black instead. That's good, because this one frankly feels awful and hollow, so we look forward to seeing and using the retail spec part.