Asus G73Jw: Speedy, Smooth, Feature-Rich Laptop Is Sabotaged by an Awful Keyboard
At a Glance
This is a great notebook for gamers who are willing to spend additional money on peripherals.
Gamers looking for a powerful yet portable machine can stop looking. The Asus G73Jw is here. It's only a mild update to Asus's most recent previous lean, mean, gaming machine, the G73Jh. But with a slightly faster processor (a 1.73GHz Core i7 740QM vs. a 1.6GHz 720QM), a Blu-ray combo drive, and improved battery life (2.5 hours vs. 1.75 hours), the G73Jw is definitely an upgrade. Unfortunately, Asus didn't redesign the notebook's exterior features at all, and the keyboard remains a serious weakness.
Our review model, priced at $1745 as of November 10, 2010, features the 1.73GHz Q740 i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB of space (spread over two hard drives), and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. It also has twin rear exhaust fans (for effective heat dissipation), an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M graphics card, a 2-megapixel Webcam, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a USB 3.0 port, and a Blu-ray combo drive.
The G73Jw looks exactly like the earlier G73Jh. It weighs a hefty 8.8 pounds (though is less of a burden to carry if you stow it in the Asus Republic of Gamers laptop backpack, which came bundled with our model) and measures 16.6 inches wide by 12.8 inches long by 2.3 inches thick. The G73Jw's power brick is considerably lighter than power bricks of some competing high-power desktop replacement laptops (the HP Elitebook 8740w comes to mind), but it still adds 2 pounds to your bag if you decide to carry this monster around.
Asus houses the G73Jw in a dark gray chassis that tapers off at an angle on all sides. A rubbery, fingerprint-resistant dark gray material covers the lid and makes it easy to grip. I didn't test it , but the rubbery material seems likely to be much more prone to scratching from normally nonthreatening metal objects (such as paperclips and keys) than a typical hard-plastic lid is.
The G73Jw has much the same array of ports as other notebooks in its league. Its shining feature is a USB 3.0 port, but it also has three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI output, a VGA output, an ethernet port, microphone and headphone jacks, and an eight-in-one card reader. It lacks an ExpressCard slot and eSATA ports, but most people aren't looking for these in a laptop today. The G73Jw also carries a Blu-ray combo drive, which is perfect for your HD movie needs.
The G73Jw's keyboard is one of the worst I've seen--a huge disappointment in a gaming-oriented desktop replacement. Most 17-inch notebooks have great (or at least well-laid-out) keyboards, but the G73Jw's keyboard is cramped, slippery, and generally frustrating to type on.
The interior of the notebook is as smooth and minimalist as the exterior--and in this case, that's not a good thing. A wide (at least 1.5 inches on either side) dark gray bezel surrounds the keyboard, which is crammed together at the center of the notebook. The keys are small and hard, and they offer virtually no tactile feedback for both typists and gamers, who depend on it. The tiny size of the keys on the Chiclet-style keyboard wouldn't be such a problem if they weren't so smooth and so closely packed together. The close proximity combined with the smooth surfaces guarantees that your fingers will repeatedly slip off one key and onto another.
The arrow keys and separate number pad keys--frequently used by gamers--are squashed in next to the regular keyboard and are even smaller than the regular keys. If you plan on doing anything more on this computer than watch movies or casually surf the Internet, you'd better spring for an external keyboard.
Asus may have missed the keyboard memo, but it certainly got the trackpad right: It's enormous and comes with two separate, easy-to-use buttons below it. The buttons offer plenty of feedback, and the trackpad supports multitouch gestures.
The 17.3-inch, 1920-by-1080-pixel screen is gorgeous, with bright illumination, rich colors, and deep contrast. Everything, from movies to spreadsheets to Starcraft II looks good under most conditions. The glossiness helps the colors look crisp, but it also produce some annoying reflections if you're sitting in bright sunlight. Realistically, though, you're unlikely ever to be sitting in bright sunlight with this 8-pound laptop.
Video playback was very good. High-def streaming video played perfectly, and Blu-ray discs looked fantastic. Audio was quite satisfactory, considering that laptops aren't known for their speakers. The G73Jw's speakers are situated just above the keyboard and deliver full, loud sound.
Gamers will love almost everything about this laptop, from its speedy processor to its Blu-ray combo drive to its sexy, futuristic styling. Unfortunately, the keyboard is a glaring deficiency, and after dropping $1745 on this machine, you may bridle at buying an extra keyboard. So unless you already have your peripherals lined up (or you've figured out a way to game without using a keyboard...Peregrine Gaming Glove, anyone?), the Asus G73Jw may not be for you.