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ASUS G75VW 3D Laptop Review

Introduction

I think it's fair to say that you won't find a bigger 3D fan than myself. I just love the stuff. I have multiple 3D computers for AMD and Nvidia platforms, I have more 3D monitors than I can count, and even at an amateur level, I do my best to get all my content produced and shown in 3D. I even have a 3D smartphone!

The one hurdle I've faced is mobility. As much as I enjoy going to conferences, interviewing people, and sharing 3D content on MTBS, it really sucks that it's next to impossible to publish stuff until I get back home.


The problem is twofold: first, my notebook computer is too old and doesn't have the processing power to render fast enough. Editing on the go is chunky to say the least, and encoding ten minutes could easily take over an hour PLUS the upload time. To add insult to injury, I can't see the 3D content the way it's Meant to be Seen, and that also makes editing and publishing harder to do.

Sometimes, I'm away from home so long, that I need to take my full sized desktop with me. A couple of years ago, my wife and I visited her grandmother for a week. Her 98 year old grandmother doesn't have high speed internet, computers, or even a three prong plug for that matter. I can get by with the Internet at the hotel, but I'm screwed for doing any kind of 3D game review, testing, or image views without the right equipment. The last time we went, we got stopped at the border, and the border guard was in disbelief that I really had my whole 3D setup in the trunk of our car ("He really has his office back here"). That's what it takes.

I decided to chase down a proper solution: a 3D notebook computer - but which one should I choose? I tried to get an HP Envy 3D, but they are discontinued. LG's 3D notebook computers are supposed to be pretty good, but they aren't sold in Canada, and I didn't want to risk a geography limited warranty on an eBay purchase. Samsung recently made headlines with a good 3D performer in Korea...but just in Korea. Grrrr!

What was a 3D fan to do?!?



A Book by its Cover


Thankfully, I got hold of a good deal through Best Buy for an ASUS G75VW-3D-DS73. For $1,679 + Tax (thanks to some price match negotiation), I got:

• Intel Core i7-2610QM Processor
• 12GB Ram
• Blu-Ray Disc Writer
• 17.3" 1920 X 1080P 3D Screen
• Nvidia 3D Vision 2 glasses + Light Boost Tech
• 1.5TB Hard Drive (2 X 750GB HDs)
• Nvidia GTX 670M GPU
• 2MP Webcam
• Multiformat Media Reader
• 4 USB 3.0 Ports
• LAN 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet
• Wireless (801.11 b/g/n)
• Bluetooth 4.0 interface

I've owned my share of notebooks over the years. While modern laptops go for as little as $500 a piece, I've always spent between $2,000 and $3,000 a unit because I like to game on the go, and I know each machine is going to be worn down to naked plastic, missing rubber feet, and a computer consciousness that contemplates digital suicide.


Out of all the machines I've bought over the years, this is the slickest I have seen so far. The painted plastic I've grown accustomed too has been replaced by a hybrid of plastic and a rubbery texture. We will see how it stands the test of time, but it strikes me as being more durable compared to what I've used before.


Instead of having heat vents on the sides, at the bottom, or just drilled in there because they didn't really know where to put them, ASUS did something innovative. All the ports are on the sides, and the vents are on the back of the unit. This means you could be melting your poor CPU and GPU with the latest games, but keep your lap cool by having all the air going out the back of the machine.

Over the years, I've usually stuck with Dell notebooks because I liked the feel of their keyboards, and they could usually be trusted sight unseen. I was pleasantly surprised by ASUS' keyboard. First, it just feels great. I can type away at full speed, it's responsive, and the clackity-clack just makes for a natural extension of my fingers. An added bonus is the keyboard is lit. You can easily adjust for brightness, and it's very helpful for gaming in 3D (with glasses that darken the room) or in the unlikely case of typing away in a dark airplane (more on that shortly!).


I don't know why, but all the indicator lights are at the front of the computer, which means they can't be seen while the machine is on your lap. It's really not a big deal - just a surprising design choice.

Even though the machine looks great, it has a hurdle there is no way to get around: it weighs a tonne! The computer is promoted as weighing just under 9 pounds (8.7lbs). Does that sound heavy? It is, and it's equally a misleading statement. What they don't tell you is that the power supply - the computer's umbilical cord - is easily another five pounds. I call it an umbilical cord because the battery life is about 2.5 hours in very low performance mode, and maybe an hour in high performance mode. Suddenly, this computer doesn't seem appropriate for long flights, does it?

It's with good reason that ASUS includes a special backpack for the G75VW complete with a separate gaming mouse. It's a great machine; just have realistic expectations.





The Display

With the exception of performance, the sole reason I got this machine over anything else readily available in the market is its 3D support. Unless it had a decent 3D screen that let me game on the go, edit 3D videos, and do everything else I needed at a whim - it was useless to me.

The ASUS G75VW comes with Nvidia's 3D Vision 2 glasses and features a built-in emitter using the Lightboost technique. I've been admittedly spoiled by ASUS' VG278H 27" and Samsung's 27" S27A950D 3D monitors. Given the mobile form, I didn't know what to expect.

DDD Ghosting Test
First, I would estimate that the G75VW is about 10% to 20% darker than what I have grown accustomed to from modern desktop 3D solutions. Nvidia confirmed that notebook solutions are indeed darker, and the best workarounds are to game in brighter rooms. If it's tolerable for your eyes, you can also reduce the refresh rate from 120Hz to 110Hz (50hz per eye) to allow more light to peak through.

What you lose in brightness, you gain in better crosstalk control. While not as bright, I would say theG75VW is competitive with the 3D desktop options out there like the ASUS VG278H and Samsung SA950D 27" 3D monitors.  Check out this selection of side by side pictures taken through the 3D glasses on a 3D camera:

Doom 3 BFG
Sniper Elite V2Batman Arkham CityPortal 2
That said, unlike the laptop's bigger brothers, the ghosting is much harder to predict. I don't think the crosstalk is bound to high contrast scenes; it's more about color choices and wavelengths. For example, the DDD crosstalk test runs really well on the notebook, but actual games perform differently depending on the color palette.

All in all, this is an excellent result. However, if you have an opportunity to buy an older 3D notebook based on the first Nvidia 3D Vision glasses that were darker, steer clear! I wouldn't want a 3D display that dimmed things any further.

If you absolutely must game in 2D, you will find little to fault with this laptop. It's very comfortable to work on, the colors are warm, and there is a hotkey to select different color profiles according to taste. Unlike the other 3D Vision branded monitors, this unit seems to have a different finish. It's not glossy, but it's not the rough matte either. It could just be that the nature of being 1080P on a 17" display versus 27" display sharpens things up more - I couldn't tell you for sure.




Bundled Software

As far as I can tell, most of the included software is "nagware". You get some basic stuff that lasts for 30 to 60 days (e.g. McAfee antivirus) and then you are expected to upgrade to the paid versions. It's unclear which is which, but most of this stuff can easily be replaced by free alternatives.

There are some worthy highlights though. First, ASUS has their own branded utilities that are quite good. My favorite is the "Instant On" feature. Unlike a traditional "sleep" function in Windows that only lasts for a couple days and can risk data loss, ASUS' version can supposedly last for two weeks on a fully charged battery. More than that, if the battery charge becomes too weak, the system will automatically store the computers RAM to hard drive so your data is safe. Nothing beats opening and closing the lid and having a shut-down and wake-up happen in two to three seconds!

While the battery life is abysmal, ASUS' power management features maximize your flexibility by letting you control the CPU throttling, hard drive timeouts, optical drive and webcam power distribution, and much more. It won't deliver a holiday miracle by letting your computer shine bright for eight days on a single battery charge, but it's the next best thing.

Love it or hate it, Windows 8 is here, and is likely to benefit stereoscopic 3D gamers in the long run. While the computer comes equipped with Windows 7 64 bit, you are qualified to get Windows 8 Pro for a whopping $14.99 US plus tax. I haven't installed it yet, but I will likely make the jump soon.


Audio


I don't really have a lot to say here. The computer is a stereo device with a subwoofer. There is an external headphones jack, but nothing for connecting to surround sound speakers - the exception being the HDMI and DisplayPort connectors (which I have no experience doing!). I've played my share of games on the G75VW, and it's plenty loud. I would have preferred more precise stepping in the hotkey volume control, but it's adequate.

While there isn't much in the way of distortion, the speakers are a bit tinny. Great for Call of Duty Black Ops 2, but not a replacement for dedicated surround sound speakers or some really, really good headphones. There is an equalizer, so you will be able to customize things to your liking.


The Touchpad

Every notebook computer has a touchpad, and I'm only bringing it up because I made an important discovery that should help fellow 3D gamers. After I got the machine, I was seriously struggling because the touchpad didn't seem to respond well while playing games, and even on the desktop it regularly went cold and didn't respond to my gestures.

While ASUS recommended the drivers on their site, the solution was to get the latest version from Synaptics directly and change the "PalmCheck" setting to a more appropriate value. It made a huge difference, and prevented an unnecessary RMA back to the manufacturer. You'll thank me later.




3D Gaming Options and Performance

Now the most important part of the review! Does the ASUS G75VW have the chops for gaming in stereoscopic 3D form? The answer is YES...if you know how to do it.

So far, I've tested Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Battlefield 3, Doom 3 BFG, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Metro 2033, and more. In all cases, I've been playing at 1080P in stereoscopic 3D form. While 60FPS or better can only be expected in select titles (e.g. Doom 3 BFG, Left4Dead 2), it's very realistic to get 25 to 35 FPS in such titles as BF3, COD Black Ops 2, Metro 2033, and more - all in 3D of course. In some cases, you will have to turn down some settings like ambient occlusion, or reduce the AA settings - but nothing out of the ordinary.

Battlefield 3

As far as I can tell, the benefits and limitations of Nvidia 3D Vision's software are the same on notebooks as they are on desktop computers. If you are playing a DirectX 9 game, you can still game in 3D using DDD's TriDef drivers in some instances - you will have to experiment.
Doom 3 BFG
If the 17" display isn't big enough for your needs, you can easily connect the G75VW to a full sized 3D HDTV with Nvidia's 3DTV Play software. You can also benefit from DDD's side by side modes if your 3D HDTV supports them.

I'm very surprised that the notebook doesn't have a dual-link DVI connector. It features DisplayPort and VGA, but not the connector which Nvidia has been married to since they first launched their 3D Vision product. Even ASUS' VG278H 3D monitor requires a DVI connector for maximum resolution in 3D mode. The good news is that according to Andrew Fear at Nvidia, if you want to connect a 3D Vision approved display like the ASUS VG278H, you can still do so with a DP to DVI converter.

Now what is the best way to get this machine cooking, you ask?

In the Nvidia power management option, choose "Prefer Maximum Performance" for the best results. The adaptive option works too, but not as well as keeping it in third gear.

Metro 2033
I also made a recent discovery about "unparking" the CPU cores (Google it). The idea is that as a power saving technique, Windows will turn CPU cores on and off according to how much processing power is needed. From what I've read online, unlike desktop computers, Windows tends to be more aggressive in keeping the cores off in notebook computers to save on battery power, and dropping this restriction can make a difference.

While the results will differ from machine to machine, I gave it a go and found a significant improvement with Battlefield 3. I can easily play at 1080P with settings on medium to high on complex 64 player maps. The FPS counter tends to hang around 25 to 30 FPS, but can occasionally dip to about 20. However, it's a smooth 20, and is very playable given how high the settings are at. I'm honestly impressed.

Tinkerer beware! Before you all unlock your cores, do some reading first. There could be some unforeseen hardware risk for doing this that we won't be held accountable for, and the results are likely mixed from game to game.



Conclusion

When I originally got the ASUS G75-VW-DS73 machine, I was just planning to give it a proper mention in our upcoming holiday buying guide. However, I've started to use it so regularly and for so many things, it seemed deserving of its own article.


I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't all that necessary to reduce my resolution or eye candy settings to play my favorite titles in 3D, and the machine is such a stylish workhorse, it completely suits my needs of having a lot of processing power on the go. The only caveats with the G75VW is its weight and dismal battery life. It's best suited for professionals who need to close the hotel room door and get down to work, or fellow gamers that are stuck at Grandma's.

Recognizing that the year is just about done and ASUS has the next refresh around the corner, now is the best time to buy this baby. A full gaming desktop with inferior specs and without a 3D monitor can easily go for $1,200 plus. Thanks to some sharp holiday pricing and beating, I got this machine for less than $1,700 plus tax. When you figure that the unit comes with a standard two year warranty, excellent specs, decent mobility, and portable 3D support to boot - you'd be crazy NOT to buy it.