Review Asus G55VW-S1020V Notebook
Although the G55VW's design has been updated compared to its predecessors, the G53SX and G53SW, Asus has kept the stealth bomber-inspired concept in black with large vents on the back of the laptop that tapers off towards the front. asus u31sd-rx159d charger The cooling part adds to the laptop's weight and bulk, making it as heavy or even heavier than some 17-inch desktop replacements. This is not only a design choice, but fills a highly practical purpose, noted in the temperatures and noise section of this review.
The most interesting news in the G55VW is of course the brand new hardware, including the new quad-core, 22nm Intel processor from the latest Ivy Bridge generation, the Core i7-3610QM. This is a die shrink of the predecessor Sandy Bridge and not a major leap forward in terms of performance first and foremost. asus u41jc charger The biggest improvement is found in the processor's integrated graphics part, which is never used in this laptop.
On the graphics side, the G55VW-S1020V comes with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660M--a new mobile graphics card based on Nvidia's 28nm Kepler architecture. This is the entry model in Nvidia's high-end GTX lineup and should be a bit faster than the GT 650M, but still slower than the Fermi-based GTX 670M (a renamed GTX 570M). Even so, it has little in common with the GTX 560M found in numerous gaming laptops from previous generations, including the G53SX. asus u41jf charger
Our test model is one of the Nordic versions of the G55VW, more specifically the G55VW-S1020V. Other than the keyboard layout there seems to be very few differences between the various model name extensions so far. Just different amounts of RAM and hard drive capacities.
asus u41jf-wx089 charger There is a lot to like about the overall design, but there are also some less inspiring aspects that have carried over from the G53. The G55VW looks like a smaller version of its big brother, the G75VW. The G55 borrows heavily from its predecessors, but Asus has updated the design by adding a recessed keyboard area in a brushed metal finish that extends down the sides of the laptop. The upper parts of the laptop, including palm rest and lid, consists of a rubberized material that is comfortable to the touch and much less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges than glossy plastics. asus u41jf-wx125 charger
Another change for the better is found on the bottom side; it is no longer necessary to disassemble the entire laptop just to access the hard drive and RAM slots. A small hatch gives you easy access to the user-serviceable parts, but unfortunately not to the fans, which remain difficult to clean.
asus u41jf-wx149v charger Depending on your personal preference, the plain, low-key design is very elegant. Unlike some of its competitors, the laptop is utterly devoid of multi-colored LED lights and other colorful highlights. This once again proves that a gaming laptop doesn't have to "look the part" to be attractive to gamers, considering that the previous models in the series have all been very successful.
asus u41sv charger One of the things that is less ideal is the size--although the screen is only 15.6 inches, the laptop's size and weight tell a different story. The G55VW weighs no less than 3.8 kg (8.4 pounds), which is heavier than some 17.3-inch desktop replacement laptops such as the HP Envy 17 or dv7. It also has a relatively large frame around the display and the cooling solution protrudes significantly from the back of the laptop. This also puts a limit on how much you can tilt the display backwards--the lid can only be opened to an approximate 120-degree angle. asus u41sv-wx031v charger
On the plus side, and perhaps in part because of its bulky design, the laptop feels very sturdy. There are no apparent flaws in the casing such as poorly joined plastic parts. The screen flexes a little bit when mild force is applied, but not enough to affect the impression of a solid chassis. asus u41sv-wx036 charger
Intel's 3rd-generation Core i7-3610QM is the entry-level model in the quad core Ivy Bridge lineup, but that doesn't mean that it is slow in any way. The 2.3 GHz base clock is automatically increased up to 3.3 GHz in single-threaded applications thanks to the Turbo Boost feature, or several steps in-between depending on the current load. asus u41sv-wx036v charger These clock speeds can be compared to the 2.2 GHz and 3.1 GHz (Turbo Boost) in the Sandy Bridge predecessor, the Core i7-2670QM.
Ivy Bridge is a die shrink of its predecessor Sandy Bridge and not an all new architecture, but Intel is now using 3D ('tri-gate') transistors and the production process is down to just 22nm, compared to 32nm for Sandy Bridge. The biggest improvement is found in the graphics part of the chip, which is never used by the G55VW because it uses the Nvidia card exclusively (no Optimus/switchable graphics support). asus u41sv-wx049d charger
There is no question that the i7-3610QM is a very powerful processor. The four physical CPU cores can handle eight threads thanks to Intel's Hyperthreading technology, so the operating system treats it as an 8-core processor for practical purposes. 6 MB of L3 cache is the same amount as the corresponding model from the Sandy Bridge generation (2670QM), and the same goes for the faster 3720QM. The L3 cache is increased to 8 MB starting with the Core i7-3820QM. asus u41sv-wx050d charger
Since the graphics core is inactive in the processor, there are no other major performance enhancements to report in the Core i7-3610QM, but the clock speeds are higher than its predecessor while it retains the same power consumption (TDP).
Intel's Turbo Boost feature has improved a great deal since the (re-)introduction in the 1st-gen Core i7 series. The processor now has more leverage than ever to increase its clock speeds on demand. asus u41sv-wx051v charger In this case, that means that the CPU overclocks itself from 2.3 GHz up to 3.3 GHz in single-threaded loads, or to other steps if several cores are in use, as long as it stays within the thermal constraints.
We can see this in Cinebench, where the processor goes to 3.1 GHz and stays there even though all of the cores are in use. These high clocks would have been unthinkable with the first Core i7 models with Turbo Boost technology. It seems that today, the base clock frequency is mainly a power-saving feature--this CPU can and does run at considerably higher speeds even under full load. asus u41sv-wx056v charger
To test the limits of a system we apply an extremely high load by running Furmark and Prime95 simultaneously. This is an unnatural level of stress that is almost never achieved under normal circumstances (including gaming), but if there is a weakness this test should expose it eventually. Asus U41JF-A1 charger
Asus has a reputation for throttling the clock frequencies to keep the laptop running within its power and thermal boundaries, but unlike the Asus G75VW, no throttling can be observed even when the G55VW is excessively tortured and the processor cores hover around 95 degrees C. The GTX 660M reaches around 77 degrees, i.e., nowhere near dangerously high temperatures. It seems that the huge cooling solution is doing a great job, as it should. Asus U31SD-A1 charger
The Core i7-3610QM is clearly a very fast mobile processor, especially when considering that the base clock speed is exceeded consistently when the CPU is working. At this writing, there are only a few mobile processors that can compete with the 3610QM, namely the faster CPUs in the Core i7 series (including the fastest models from the Sandy Bridge generation). Asus U31JG-A1 charger
As expected, the benchmark scores put the processor on par with similarly clocked CPUs from the previous generation or slightly higher. For example, the G55VW's Cinebench R10 score is a bit better than the Schenker XMG P511 (2760QM, GTX 570M) and marginally slower than the MSI GT70PH with the same processor as the G55 but a GTX 670M GPU. The result in the x264 HD benchmark was 127/32 fps in pass 1/2. ASUS G73 charger
The PCMark scores are greatly affected by the laptop's storage device, i.e. laptops equipped with a solid state drive consistently produce much higher PCMark scores compared to those with mechanical hard drives. The same goes for the extremely simplified Windows Experience Index, where systems with mechanical drives are capped at 5.9. ASUS G73J charger
The Core i7-3610QM is clearly a very fast mobile processor, especially when considering that the base clock speed is exceeded consistently when the CPU is working. At this writing, there are only a few mobile processors that can compete with the 3610QM, namely the faster CPUs in the Core i7 series (including the fastest models from the Sandy Bridge generation). ASUS G73JH charger
As expected, the benchmark scores put the processor on par with similarly clocked CPUs from the previous generation or slightly higher. For example, the G55VW's Cinebench R10 score is a bit better than the Schenker XMG P511 (2760QM, GTX 570M) and marginally slower than the MSI GT70PH with the same processor as the G55 but a GTX 670M GPU. The result in the x264 HD benchmark was 127/32 fps in pass 1/2. ASUS G73JH-A1 charger
The PCMark scores are greatly affected by the laptop's storage device, i.e. laptops equipped with a solid state drive consistently produce much higher PCMark scores compared to those with mechanical hard drives. The same goes for the extremely simplified Windows Experience Index, where systems with mechanical drives are capped at 5.9.
Battery Life ASUS G73JH-A2 charger
All gaming laptops require a respectable amount of power to operate, even if the power consumption remains far lower than in a comparable desktop system. The G55VW comes with a large power brick rated at 180 Watts, which appear to be sufficient. During light loads with display brightness set to the highest setting, the laptop doesn't use much more than 30W, but this number increases to well over 100W when you apply some load. ASUS G73JH-RBBX05 charger
For some reason, Asus has chosen not to include Nvidia's Optimus feature (switchable graphics) in the G55VW, meaning that the GTX 660M is active all the time and does not switch to the integrated Intel GPU to save power, even when running on battery power. Since the 660M uses more battery juice than the Intel IGP, the battery doesn't last as long as it could have. ASUS G73JH-X1 charger
In Battery Eater's 'Reader' test, with virtually no activity, no WLAN, minimum display brightness and all power-saving measures active, the G55VW stayed alive for 3 hours and 44 minutes. In a more realistic scenario--web surfing with medium display brightness--the laptop ran for 2 hours and 38 minutes. Oddly enough, the German version of the G55 performed better in all of the battery tests in spite of using the same methodology. The different panels could explain some of the difference, but other factors could also be in effect, such as differences in battery cell configuration. ASUS G73JH-X2 charger
That Asus hasn't enabled Optimus is unfortunate, since the battery would no doubt have lasted longer if the laptop had been able to utilize the graphics part of the processor. Gaming is not possible when running on battery power anyway, due to automatic clock speed reductions in the GTX 660M. ASUS G53 charger
The G55VW is clearly an improvement over the G53SX, and anyone who is in the market for a 15.6-inch gaming laptop should definitely consider it. However, all would-be owners should also be aware that they're getting a 15-inch laptop that is far heavier than average. The difference in weight compared to the 17-inch G75VW is quite small (3.8 kg vs. 4.35 kg). ASUS G53J charger 15-inch laptops are more commonly found in the 2.5 kg to 3 kg span, so that's quite a bit of extra weight to carry around. But, (and in case you skipped to this part right away), the G55VW has an ace up its sleeve in the form of an absolutely brilliant cooling solution.
It is quite possible that the G55VW is the only laptop in this category that runs as cool and quiet. Neither has Asus compromised on the hardware. Although you could argue that this is one of few 15-inch laptops that could handle a GTX 675M or HD 7970M without nearly melting, the combination of the new GTX 660M and Core i7-3610QM offer lots of performance at an attractive price point. ASUS G53JW charger
The new design is appealing compared to the predecessor. Although it is easy to see that the G55VW and the G53SX are from the same series, the inlaid brushed metal highlights gives the new model a more striking appearance. Another plus is that the port selection now features a DisplayPort output and only USB 3.0 compatible USB ports.