In this post we’re going to talk about the Asus G771 series.
The name suggests that it is, first of all, a 17 inch laptop, and then, a gaming machine, member of Asus’s G line (also known as Republic of Gamers). In reality though, despite getting the ROG branding, the G771 is imh mostly a complete multimedia computer with some gaming abilities and a follow-up of last year’s N750 series (which I also tested back in the days), as you’ll find from this review.
The G771 is by no means an ultrabook or even an ultra-portable, as it lacks the silhouette and the hardware required to get the “title”. But I’ve decided to host the review here anyways, as it’s a new and interesting product that should be available in stores in a few weeks and should have a fairly affordable pricetag.
We have the top configured Asus G771JW for this test and since it has not been officially launched yet, we are dealing with a pre-production model, but from what I can tell after playing with it for the last week or so, it’s pretty much similar to the final releases that you’d be able to buy soon.
Asus G771JW video review
The specs sheet for the Asus G771
|Screen||17.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, matte|
|Processor||Intel Haswell Core i7-4710HQ CPU|
|Video||integrated Intel 4600 HD + Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M 4GB GDDR5|
|Memory||16 GB DDR3|
|Storage||256 GB M.2 SSD and 1TB 2.5 inch HDD|
|Connectivity||Wireless AC, Bluetooth, Gigabit Lan|
|Ports||4xUSB, SD card reader, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, RJ45, Kensington Lock|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Size||418 mm or 16.8 in (L) x 284 mm or 11.1 in (W) x 37 mm or 1.45 in (H)|
|Weight||about 3.32 kg (7.3 pounds)|
|Extras||red backlit keyboard, stereo speakers, Blu-Ray combo|
Design and exterior
This laptop borrows plenty of design elements from Asus’s N family, including the overall shape, the choice in materials, the keyboard and the trackpad.
However, the G771 sports a black theme, with dark textured aluminum covering the hood, dark matte metal used for the interior and dark rough plastic for the sides and the underbelly. All these are sprinkled with a few bright red elements, like the chamfered edge that stretches around the lower body and the backlit Republic of Gamers logo on the hood.
Overall I’d say this looks nice, although perhaps a bit too simple, too plain, unlike the aggressive laptops we’ve seen before in the G family, like the G750 or the G75. But I believe some of you will actually appreciate these lines.
However, I do have one major nit with the aesthetics of this machine: both the lid-cover and the palm-rest are going to show smudges and finger-oil extremely easy and are going to be a pain to keep clean, which is just what always happens with dark metallic surfaces.
That aside, the G771 is rather massive and large. It weighs 3.3 kilos and is about 1.5 inches thick, but at the same time it is solid built, so it should not mind being lugged around to LAN parties if you can live with the extra heft.
You’ll find a good selection of ports on the sides, including 4 USBs, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort and LAN connectors, but also an optical drive (a Blu-Ray combo on this model). There’s also a card-reader and some status LEDs on the front lip. Only some of the LEDs have cuts on the edge though, most of them have very subtle ones just beneath the trackpad, in order to make them as less intrusive as possible.
Personally, I would have preferred to have the connectors pushed towards the back of the laptop, especially those on the left edge, as this implementation means that cables will get in your way more often than you’d want if you plan on connecting peripherals like an external monitor. But Asus chose to use those spots for the hot-air exhaust on the left and the optical drive on the right, so that’s just something you will have to live with.
Speaking of the cooling grills, I find it somewhat surprising that there are very few intake cuts on the bottom of this laptop (in fact, there’s only one on top of the RAM, but nothing over the CPU or GPU) and that does have a negative impact on internal temperatures, as you’ll see a bit later. On the other hand, the battery is removable and actually accessing the storage drives and the RAM is a very simple task, in case you want to perform upgrades. We’ll talk about this further down in this post.
As expected from a 17 inch laptop, the G771 offers a roomy interior, with a large arm-rest, full-size keyboard and trackpad, plus the speakers placed towards the top. I didn’t enjoy the tall front-lip though, which is in the way when placing this on a desk, but at least the edge is chamfered and not as sharp as on some other Asus machines I’ve tested in the past.
Keyboard and trackpad
However, this laptop inherits the keyboard arrangement from previous N Series laptops, which translates in narrower keys used for the arrows and the entire NumPad area, or the Power button integrated in the top-right position, despite having more than enough room for a better spaced layout. I could leave with the latter, but I would have definitely appreciated larger directional keys, similar to what Asus offers on the G750 and the G751 laptops.
That aside though, I was quite happy with the typing experience on this computer. The keys are firm and responsive, coated in a rubbery material and travel deep within the frame for excellent feedback. They are also backlit and you can adjust the red illumination intensity or turn it OFF if you want to.
Asus also worked on the aesthetics and added a RED border around the WASD keys, which makes them stick out easily and will probably appeal to most of you. I for one sure liked this fine touch.
The trackpad is fairly good as well, although it doesn’t seem to be made out of glass, but of plastic instead, as it’s not as smooth as some of the others I’ve tested lately. One might also find it clunky and somewhat stiff if actually going to perform physical clicks on it, but I usually rely on taps and these aspects did not bother me much.
Overall though, I’m satisfied, this trackpad was accurate and reliable, replied fast to my taps and the various gestures I’d perform on a modern computer these days (Asus also include a Smart Gesture app to enhance what you can perform on this laptop with one, two or three fingers).
The screen is another major aspect a laptop needs to ace and on this version of the G771 there’s a 17.3 inch 1920 x 1980 px display with what looks like an IPS panel from its wide viewing angles, solid contrast and popping colors. It’s made by LG and I haven’t seen it on other laptops before, judging by its HardwareID: LGD046C.
And the truth is most manufacturers (Asus included) offered TN panels on their 17 inchers in the last years and having an IPS screen on this one is a much appreciated novelty, although it does have one drawback: longer response time, which might bother the heavy gamers amongst you.
The panel is quite good, although not great. It covers 92% of the sRGB, 69% of the NTSC and 71% of the AdobeRGB gamuts and you can find its main features below (measured with a Spyder4 Elite bundle):
- measured gamma: 2.0 ;
- max brightness in the middle of the screen: 302 cd/m2;
- contrast at max brightness: 690:1;
- white point: 7400 K;
- black on max brightness: 0.44 cd/m2;
- average DeltaE: 2.65 uncalibrated, 1.46 calibrated .
That translates in fair brightness and contrast, good enough for indoor use, a rather cold white point and fairly accurate colors, especially after calibration. This is not a display meant for professionals (photo/video editing, etc), but it will do fine enough for casual use, multimedia and games.
However keep in mind that out of the box the colors might appear over-saturated, and that’s because the Vivid mode is selected by default in the Splendid app. You’ll probably want to switch that to Natural and I can’t understand why Asus are doing that, I noticed the exact same thing on the Zenbook NX500 I tested a while ago.
Before we move on, I will also add that this is a non-touch screen with a matte finishing, which paired with the ONLY 1080p resolution, makes it imh ideal for gaming and eliminates the potential scaling problems or the annoying reflections and glare in bright environments we usually get on higher density touchscreens. Yes, pixels are visible when dealing with fonts and maybe some of you might have appreciated a larger canvas, but given Window’s inability to deal perfectly with scaling (especially on third party apps), I’d rather get a panel like this one over a higher resolution option.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Alright, so far we can conclude that the G771 has what it’s required from a proper multimedia machine, with a few quirks here and there, like the cramped arrows keys or the limited intake cooling grids.
I was worried the latter spelled trouble and I was not entirely wrong. This laptop gets an Intel HQ Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 860M chip (with standard frequencies) and given the 1080p screen, these should allow it to fly in most programs and games even with details set to High or Ultra.
And it does most of the time, as proven by the benchmarks below, but in certain conditions the CPU shows signs of throttling so I did investigate this a bit deeper.
- 3DMark 11: P5006;
- 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 92735, Cloud Gate –13612, Sky Driver – 11119, Fire Strike – 3564;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3214;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 59.54 fps, CPU 5.76 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 93.93 fps, CPU 537 cb.
All these were performed with Nvidia’s 333.37 driver installed.
For the first test I’ve tried paying various games on Ultra/Highest settings for a few hours and I did encounter occasional glitches and frame drops after a while in titles like Grid 2 and even Dirt 3. Restarting the laptop would solve the problems though and even so, the hiccups were only occasional and did not actually hinder the gaming experience. I haven’t played too many FPSes though, where instant response is a must and a freeze at the wrong moment might completely break a close match.
OK, so this happens, but why? I’ve logged my activity with HWInfo and GPU-Z and I’ve noticed that both the CPU and the GPU occasionally drop their frequency below the nominal rates. By default, the Core i7-4710HQ processor runs all cores at 2.5 GHz, with Turbo boost up to 3.5 GHz, while the Nvidia GTX 860M chip runs at 1.1 GHz (with the memory clocked at 1.25 GHz) on this implementation. The logs show that the CPU tends to drop to as low as 2.0 GHz during gaming, with Thread loads of around 40-50%, while the graphics rarely also drop to 950 MHz, but under continuous 95-99% load. That’s corroborated with temperatures around 86-87 C for the CPU cores and around 80 C for the GPU Cores, which are high, but not really as high as I’ve seen on other laptops.
So it looks to me like Asus went with a safe thermal approach and decided to lower frequencies once these temperatures are hit. And that takes me back to the cooling solution and the lack of proper intake grills, which could have actually helped lower the temperatures and diminish the throttling effect.
Under stress-test with Prime95 and FurMark though, the CPU drops fairly quickly to an average of 1.5-1.6GHz but the graphics chip runs firmly at stock speed for the entire duration of my test (about 15 minutes, but everything seems to stabilize to these values after only 3-5 minutes). Temperatures registered under stress are similar to those mentioned before.
So overall, the G771 does throttle to some extent under heavy load and especially the CPU’s Core frequency is affected at high temperatures. This is rarely visible in some modern games if you play them on the highest possible settings, but dropping the details to High or Medium is enough to get rid of any problems (I’ve played several titles for an entire afternoon on Medium and haven’t encountered any noticeable glitch).
|19 x 10 Medium||19 x 10 Medium on battery||19 x 10 Ultra / Very High|
|Dirt 3||95 fps||–||45 fps|
|Grid 2||108 fps||–||45 fps|
|Tomb Raider||89 fps||–||27 fps|
|NFS Most Wanted||56 fps||–||36 fps|
|Bioshock Infinite||75 fps||27 fps||42 fps|
|Metro Last Light||56 fps||32 fps||30 fps|
There is however one other thing worth mentioning: on battery, the G771 performs significantly poorer than while plugged in and the logs show that the CPU’s cores are constantly jumping between a 2.5 GHz and a 0.8 GHz frequency, while the Nvidia graphics jumps between the 1.1 GHz stock frequency and a 275 MHz frequency, despite the fact that neither are under serious load. And that translates in poor performance in all the games I’ve tested. For instance, while on power I’ve got an average of 75 fps while playing BioShock Infinite with Medium details on 19 x 10 resolution, on battery I only registered about 25-27 in similar conditions, and the same huge difference is visible in other titles. Thus, if you plan on playing games on the go, the G771 won’t deliver.
Gaming aside, this Asus G771 offered a flawless everyday experience. Having the OS on a very fast M.2 SSD leads to fast boot (under 10 s) and resume from sleep times and basic activities, plus fast loading programs, while all sorts of multimedia files are easy bites for it, including 4K content.
I did test a top-tier configuration of the G771 here, equipped with 16 GB of RAM by default and two storage drives, a 256 GB Samsung MZHPU256HCGL SSD and a 1 TB Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000 HDD. But you can actually get a lower-end configuration and upgrade it yourself, as Asus actually encourages you to do that, by allowing simple access to the RAM and Storage bays.
They are hidden behind a plastic cover on the back and you need to unscrew a single Philips screw to get to them. There are two 2.5 inch bays on this device and they can fit 9.5 mm or 7 mm drives. Each drive cage is hold in place by four Philips screws. And there’s also an M.2 80 mm slot, protected by a metallic shield which is also hold in place by only two screws. See the pictures below for more details and make sure you remove the battery before getting messy with the components.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
We already talked about inner temperatures in the section below. On the outside, the G771 remains fairly cool. Hot air is blown through the massive exhaust grill on the left side, so you better make sure there’s nothing susceptible to heat-damage near it.
I did however notice that the area that sits between the Y and U keys and the top of the trackpad get slightly warm under daily-use on this machine, and even warmer under load. It never gets hot and it probably won’t bother you much, but if you’re living in a hot environment, it can cause unpleasantly sweaty hands. The palm-rest remains mostly cool though and merely gets slightly warm even when playing games for hours or running other demanding tasks.
As for noise, the fans inside the laptop are constantly spinning and they do get a bit loud when pushing the machine, but are once again never too loud. I’ve measured a noise-level of around 46 dB at head-height with several phone apps, which is not bad. I do lack the tools for a more accurate reading though.
The speakers are fairly good on this laptop as well, pushing loud and decent quality sound. But they’re not on par with the sound solution on the older Ns or on the other Gs I’ve tested before, as they lack any sort of subwoofer, thus push little to no bass. But they will do alright for daily use. And if you do care a lot about sound-quality, you probably have a solid pair of headphones anyway and you’ll be happy to know that the audio-output on the G771 works well and lacks any kind of hiss.
Connectivity wise, there’s Wireless AC, Bluetooth and Gigabit Lan on this laptop, but also a Blu-Ray optical unit (lower end configurations will probably be available with DVD writers). The Intel Dual Band 7260AC Wi-Fi solution was reliable and after using the laptop constantly on wireless for the last week, there’s really nothing to complain about: the speed matches my Internet connection and the signal is strong and consistent even a bit further away from the router.
One final aspect I wanted to mention here regards the battery. The G771 offers a removable one, which I’m sure many of you will appreciate, but it’s at the same time rather small (56Wh). And this translates in:
- up to 5, 5 and half hours or really light use, with the screen dimmed down, PowerSaving Mode and Wi-Fi switched OFF;
- about 3-4 hours of daily use on Balanced mode, with the screen at about 60% (that’s roughly 120 nits), Wi-Fi ON and the keyboard’s brightness occasionally activated, while performing casual tasks;
- roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes of gaming.
The laptop is paired with a 120 W brick, massive, but capable of delivering the power the G771 needs under load.
Price and availability
The Asus G771 series is already available in stores a few different configurations. Follow this link for more details and potential discounts.
To wrap this up, I had high expectations from this G771 and it mostly delivered, except for the occasional stuttering in games due to throttling, the poor performance on battery and some minor other decisions here and there (cramped right-side of the keyboard, average quality speakers, small battery, smudgy case).
But I did appreciate the solid build quality, the excellent typing experience, the IPS matte screen, the powerful hardware and the ease of upgrading it, and I do believe this Asus G771JW is going to be a solid option for those of you looking for a 17 inch multimedia laptop.
At the end of the day though, Asus’s pricing policy will need to make the difference here, as the G771 only offers a mid-level graphics solution after all (with a limited cooling implementation) and can’t compete with the higher end gaming machines out there, including its kin, the G751. That’s why this is imh mostly a complete multimedia laptop meant to tackle daily tasks, specialized activities (programing software, video/photo editing, etc) and video content, but still capable of handling games fairly well, just not on the highest detail levels.
If you’re interested in this laptop’s more compact and more powerful version, you should also check out my detailed review of the Asus G551JM, a 15.6 incher with Nvidia GTX 860M graphics.
Alright, there you have it, these were my impressions on the Asus G771JW. Let me know what you think about it in the comments section below and if you have any questions or do you want me to test anything in particular on this laptop, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to help. Just be hasty, it’s going back to Asus in a few days.