Asus ROG G55-ES71 user review

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Asus ROG G55-ES71 user review

Post by pvtnum11 on Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:20 pm

I'll preface this review post with a bit of history: Way back in June-ish of 2009, a number of us tech-geeks in the Church all dived in an purchased a BestBuy special they had for an Asus ROG G50vt gaming laptop. I think we had four of them around the same time - could have led to some confusion about whos was whos, but thankfully (to my knowledge), no one ended up with the wrong machine after a LAN party. As far as I know, Roman and I still have ours.

The G50 had served me well - aside from two instances of BSOD'ing to the point in which I had to reload everything (which went fairly well, even though I was missing the recovery CD) - and having to redo the thermal paste for the GPU and CPU, since it ran quite hot.

But even after redoing the paste, it still ran hotter than I would like. Plus, it was past due for replacement. The Core Duo processor was long obsolete, and even some of the cheap Indie games I like to try out were becoming too much for the machine to handle with ease. Yeah, I could lower resolutions, or disable some options and stuff would run, but no longer was I able to play stuff as intended by the developers - full graphics, all options. It was time to upgrade.

I had been looking to buy another Asus Republic of Gamers laptop already, since I was satisfied that I had gotten my money's-worth out of the G50. Now, I had always assumed that the G50 was a 17-inch laptop, so I looked to the G70-series units as a replacement - but this was not the case. Apparently, the 50-series are 15-inch units. The short-lived 60-series units are 16-inch. The 70-series are 17-inch. The newest offering to the ROG lineup, the G46, is a small 14-inch unit. I didn't know this until recently. The second digit of the model number is more or less the generation number. So a G55 is newer than a G53, which is newer than a G51, all of which is newer than the old G50. Once I understood that, I understood that a G75 (the thing I wanted) was HUEG.

Yes, it had all the important facets covered for my upgrade plan: A spare HDD slot, plenty of RAM and the ability to add more to it easily, an impressive cooling system (which is why the Asus units are shaped the way they are), an Ivy-Bridge i7 processor, and an nVidia 660M card - pretty much cutting edge or very close. All of that, and under 1500 dollars. The only problem was the size. The unit would be almost two inches wider than the old G50, which just barely fit on the tiny desk I have.

Enter the G55. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that Asus made something almost functionally identical to the G75, in a smaller form factor. Short story long, I looked around, did some review comparisons, and asked some questions. Finally, I bought the ES71 variant (the cheapest one I could find new), off of Amazon. This is my review.

Getting the unit via UPS was straightforward. I ripped my G50 off my desk (I've used it as a DTR configuration for the past 18 months), and slipped the G55 into position. Cabling up my external monitor was a bit iffy, as they moved the VGA output port to the right side of the unit, the G50 had it on the left side. The DVD drive was on the left now, so at least I could swap discs without interfereing with my mouse. Power connector is adjacent to the VGA port. Two USB connectors are on each side - the G50 had one on the rear panel. SD card slot is on the front edge, to the right of a row of LED indicators (CAPS, numlock, power, and so on). So getting the unit plugged in and ready to go in my favored DTR setup was easy and painless.

Fired it up. Startup times are quick, although I did spend a day or two running OS and Driver updates, and generally goofing around with it until I got it looking how I liked. No Aero, no fancy desktop eye-candy, just Windows Classic theme with a different color scheme, all over a black background.

Sure, I could've gone with something lighter. Lenovo, HP, Dell, all have lighter and thinner laptops. But Asus offers something that few others have - superior cooling. I have no A/C in my house, so what works in a cooled environment will not work well in my house. I found that the G50 ran great when I had it in a cooled room - but as soon as I got it home, it would run the GPU to the limit and it would downclock itself to compensate (and then the framerate would go all to hell). So I needed something that would shove a large quantity of air through the radiators. Asus did that. I wasn't made of money, so I had to get something that fit my budget. Yes, there are superior laptops on the market. But they all cost double or more what my budget would allow. Yes, I could've sprang more for a higher-tiered G55 (there are three versions currently on the market, mine has only 8GB of RAM and no Blu-Ray player), but I can always upgrade later on. The lack of a Blu-Ray player means nothing to me. RAM is easy to install - the mainboard has four slots, the first two are filled. The second two slots are empty, but are in the user-serviceable area of the mainboard. Cracking open the case to gain access to the interior two slots voids the warranty, but then I can shovel in 32GB of RAM (if I go about having 7-Ultimate installed).

Screen resolution is far beyond what I used to have, to the point that I find it too fine in Native Resolution mode. It's not Retina-tier, but it's beyond what I'm used to. I prefer it with the old clunky external flatscreen, as I can actually read text on the screen like that. I have bad eyes, mmmkay?

Speaker quality and volume is much nicer than the G50. Moot point, I use a Razer Megalodon headset. And although I'm not a big fan of chiclet-style keyboard (I really liked the keyboard on the G50), ROG was nice enough to put a braille dot on the W key, so that you can find it quickly when you're gaming. It is also backlit, with adjustable brightness levels. But I use a Razer Lycosa keyboard, so moot point (unless I LAN party with it). Touchpad supports multi-gesture. Nice to have. It's also decently-sized. Moot point, I use a Razer Deathadder. Again, it's used primiarily as a Desktop Replacement (DTR) machine.

Gaming: Kerbal Space Program made my old machine churn and burn, even with reduced graphics and such. Not here. Full graphics, and the machine is barely working. KSP looks very nice now. Fallout New Vegas looks similiarly impressive, with full graphics. Minecraft used to cook my GPU (tapping it out at 105 Celsius), but now I run at a consistent 70-80 C for hours. CPU runs hotter than the G50 did, but still well within thermal limits.

It's not the lightest laptop I've lugged around, but then again, the G50 wasn't a lightweight, either. The powerbrick for the G55 is a good deal larger and heavier, so packing it up in a bag takes a bit more thought. I might buy a larger laptop bag just so I can lug it around better. I've taken it to a few LAN parties, and aside from some glitches trying to run an Artemis client, remoting into Roman's server and trying to run Teamspeak all at once, it worked (it would flip out when I'd alt-tab between stuff, trying to adjust volume levels so the game didn't run over Teamspeak).

Graphics are nice! The 660M card does the job wonderfully, although it sucks battery life a lot. One of the quirks of the G55 is that graphics power is downgraded when operating off of battery. Also, the integral graphics on the i7 is disabled - why Asus did this, I have no idea. Other laptops that have a dedicated graphics card leave this feature enabled, which improves battery life - you can switch which graphics chipset you wish to use. 660M might be a tad overkill for looking at Facebook, yes?

In conclusion, the G55 is a very nice fit for my needs, budget and usage. I look forward to another three years of use out of it, and then we'll see what Asus ROG offers in 2015...
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