Enthusiast-level gaming notebooks don’t need to cost a fortune; something ASUS proves with its $1,249 G53SX 15.4″ offering. It features a 1080p display and an NVIDIA GTX 560M that’s able to power today’s games to it. This, in addition to an Intel quad-core processor and 12GB of RAM make it a very powerful and drool-worthy notebook.
When I first received the G53SX, I didn’t think too much into it before cracking open the box. But I sure didn’t expect to fall in love with it either. I’ve tested a fair number of gaming notebooks in this price-range before, and none felt completely satisfactory to me. There were always caveats and I always had to cut down the graphical detail to a point I was never stoked over.
With the G53SX’s 1080p display, I expected to have to do a lot of that, but I was surprised I didn’t. That aspect has NVIDIA’s powerful GTX 560 Ti to thank. Its performance is somewhat on par with the desktop GTX 550 Ti, so whatever that card can run, this card should run just as well.
All five of the games I tested are current, and all of them were able to run at the notebook’s native 1080p resolution without having to suffer severe graphics degradation. Of course, some compromises had to be made, but nothing to the extent where you’d be unhappy with what you’re looking at.
I’ve had this notebook for about a month, and for the sake of remaining as professional on the surface as possible, I am unable to admit how many hours of gaming I sunk into it. Just let me say that it was a sufficient amount. During all that testing, I never experienced a problem due to overheating – not one. Even hours after launching a game, it ran as if I just launched it.
That said, the components inside do get warm (GPU topped out at around 90°C), but these parts are meant to cope with it. The G53 did get loud enough where if you weren’t using headphones it could be a little frustrating, especially if you had the volume down low. This is something to be expected of any notebook that provides an enthusiast-level experience.
For intense gaming sessions, nothing is more comfortable than an external keyboard and mouse, but what the G53 offers here is a good substitute. The keys on the keyboard are about the quietest I’ve ever heard of that design, and the touchpad is easy to use for long periods of time. That said, I didn’t use the touchpad for any game testing, because that would quite frankly drive me nuts.
Let’s tackle a couple of downsides. First, the obvious one: battery-life. No gaming notebook has excellent battery-life, and we know this. This one is no exception. At 93% full, I ran a single run of 3DMark 11′s Performance test, and when it was finished, the battery sat at 73%. That means with pure gaming (or stress-testing, rather), the notebook will last an hour.
Taking advantage of Futuremark’s just-launched Powermark tool, which simulates various realistic workloads on a notebook to test its battery-life, the notebook pushed out a much more impressive 2 hours 27 minutes worth of life for regular office work. With the Ultrabooks out there, 2 hours seems ridiculous, but again, this is not a notebook meant to last the entire afternoon unplugged.
One thing that struck me about this notebook is that it has a super-bright screen – easily the brightest I’ve ever seen on a notebook. I am not sure what its luminance rating is, but it has to be at least 300cd/m2, and might even be closer to 350cd/m2. Exact specs for the display (Samsung 156HT01-201) seem impossible to come by without being a vendor. While I found the display to be way too bright for normal operation, it’s easily dimmed to be a lot more easier on your eyes.
As mentioned earlier, one thing I would have loved to see in this notebook is a Blu-ray drive, even if it meant adding $50 or so to the price. It has a beautiful 1080p screen, so it would have been great to have that capability. However, as this is a gaming-specific notebook and not a media one, it’s a little hard to fault ASUS for this decision – and external BD-ROMs are not super-expensive if you did need one.
One caveat to take note of also is that because of a high resolution being used on a small screen, ASUS sets the Windows default font size to 125%, meaning fonts in some cases will appear a little bit larger than what you are used to seeing. In most cases, the fonts will look just fine, as the increased font size is used for compensation, but if you screenshot anything and view it on another display, you will certainly notice the large fonts there (take this dialog box for example). This isn’t a hit against the notebook at all – just something to bear in mind. You are of course able to restore the default font size, but you better have amazing eyes.
One other thing I would have loved to see tweaked is the location of the side connectivity ports. The USB ports are at the absolute front of the notebook which means you need to plug a mouse in one side and wrap it around to the other, else it will get in the way. The same could be said about the headphone jack, which is located where your mousepad will be (if you are right-handed). It would have felt like a better design to put those peripherals nearer to the back, and the same goes for the power cord, which is also on the side.
Audio-wise, the G53 performs well. The notebook’s speakers are some of the better I’ve heard, though nothing still compares to using headphones. With those though, you might want to pick up an amp, as even with the notebook’s highest volume setting, it wasn’t as high as I would have liked it. ASUS includes headphone amps in some of its audio cards, so perhaps we’ll see them head into their notebooks at some point also.
All-in-all, ASUS’ G53SX gaming notebook has impressed me a lot. If I were in the market for a “real” gaming notebook, I’d have no hesitation in choosing this one given what it offers at its price-point. I do still hate the lack of a BD-ROM, but that’s a personal want; yours may be totally different.
ASUS G53SX 15.6-inch Gaming Notebook
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