Asus's G53SX proves that you don't need to spend a ridiculous amount of money to get a decent gaming laptop - if you don't mind toting around a 4kg monster. The G53SX is the perfect desktop-replacement-size all-purpose machine for gamers: it packs excellent performance in an enormous case, and is just portable enough for you to carry with you to your local LAN party.
Our review model, priced at around £1,370, came packed with a second-gen Intel Core i7-2630QM processor, 12GB of RAM (upgradable to 16GB), a 750GB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M graphics card with 2GB of video memory. This hulking machine also features built-in Wi-Fi, built-in Bluetooth, a full-HD (1920-by-1080-pixel) display, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. (Note: We've seen lots of different SKUs of this model in the UK, with up to 1TB hard drives, and Core i7-2670QM processors. Obviously, the better the components the higher the price. Check before you buy.)
Our test model performed very well for its class, with a WorldBench 6 score of 140. This outperforms many similarly priced laptops. The Asus G53SX laptop's graphics performance is also good. In our Far Cry 2 tests, it sustained a frame rate of 38 frames per second (at high quality settings, and 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution). In our "ultra" quality tests, it delivered 35 fps in Far Cry 2, and 30.1 fps in Stalker 2.
The Asus G53SX is a huge machine - much larger than the 15.6-inch screen it contains. The wedge-shaped chassis is thicker at the back, where a 2-inch protrusion that includes the battery and cooling system sticks out behind the screen. The laptop measures 60/30x297x391mm, and weighs 3.92kg.
See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?
The Asus G53SX isn't terribly impressive to look at. It has a soft, matte-black cover with a small, silver Asus logo in the center and a Republic of Gamers logo etched below that. The machine is quite angular, with slightly tapering edges, giving it the look of a bulky spacecraft. Inside are a rubbery keyboard deck, a touchpad with two discrete mouse buttons, and a keyboard, all in varying shades of matte black.
The array of ports is typical of what you'd find on a medium-size desktop replacement laptop: one USB3.0, two USB2.0, HDMI and VGA outputs, gigabit ethernet, mic/headphone jacks, and a multicard reader. You also get two Kensington lock slots (just in case, I guess), as well as a DVD-RW tray drive. All of the ports are located on the sides and front of the machine, even though there's a ton of room on the back.
The G53SX's keyboard is fairly standard - matte black, backlit, with Chiclet-style keys and a 10-digit numberpad. The keys were comfortable to type on, though the keyboard seems a bit flimsy in the middle (it flexed as I typed). The numberpad is a nice addition, but it's shoved in there - the keys are slimmer than usual. Three buttons are conveniently located above the keyboard: a lights on/off toggle, a battery-mode cycle, and a screen settings cycle. The lights toggle is especially useful; with one press of the button, you can turn off all of the lights, including some annoying status lights (though the status lights on the front of the computer remain on). The multitouch trackpad is on the small side, with discrete mouse buttons that are ever-so-slightly difficult to press.
See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?
The G53SX's 15.6-inch display, despite being a lot smaller than the laptop itself, is one of the best laptop screens I've seen in a long time. The LED-backlit, matte-LCD screen has a full HD native resolution of 1920 by 1080. Colour representation on this screen was excellent, and images looked very clear and crisp, with none of the "softness" that often characterizes matte screens. Off-axis viewing remained good, and there was virtually no glare.
Unfortunately, the screen's awesomeness didn't carry over to video playback. Multiple tests showed inconsistency in streaming video playback - possibly due to complications involving the unit's wireless radio (my Internet connection was not at fault, as I tested the same video on several machines). In various episodes of 30 Rock, for example, the back wall of Liz's office was discolored and bleeding. DVD upscaling was below average, too, with lots of noise, blocky artifacts, and considerable loss of detail.
Though the G53SX is billed as a gaming laptop with 3D capabilities, our test model lacked a Blu-ray drive (though one is available as a configuration option), and Asus does not bundle shutter glasses with the machine. Audio was pretty bad on the G53SX, too. The speakers, located above the keyboard, fail to produce any semblance of bass. Even TV shows sounded tinny and far away, and music sounded worse.