ASUS G56 reviewed – sleek and portable gaming

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Gaming notebooks are a bit of a strange hybrid. We expect the portability of a laptop with the performance of a proper gaming rig. They need to be lightweight, while still boasting all the bells and whistles we’ve come to know and love. The ASUS G56 aims to give you all that – fantastic gaming power in a pretty, light and well designed portable package. So, how does it stack up?

See me, hear me, touch me

G56 keyboard

Upon opening the box, I was struck by the sleek design of it all. The G56 has that smooth, spun finish, making it practically beg you to touch it. The one-piece keyboard sports an adjustable red backlight for gaming in the dark, although in all honesty the backlighting like that doesn’t make much of a difference for actual gaming – it just looks pretty so if you take it to a LAN you can also show off your flashing lights.

The screen certainly sets this notebook apart. With a 178-degree viewing angle and anti-glare, you can always see what’s going on, not matter what bizarre angle you like to game from. Going full HD on this screen made my eyeballs happy in a way I don’t expect to get from a notebook screen.

However, possibly the best design choice comes from the sound. Notebook speakers are notorious, but gamers expect high end sound and don’t always have the best headsets on hand. Instead, the G56 comes bundled with an external subwoofer. Of course this pumps up the bass, and makes for a much improved audio experience as you are able to get much more volume, as well as frequency range, out of the notebook.

G56 subwoofer

Then there is the matter of weight and size. it’s 15.6 inches (39.6cm) and weighs 2.7kgs (5.6 lbs). It certainly is portable, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend gaming with it on your lap. It feels best when used on a desk or at least coffee table – despite the range of view and comfortable design, it just isn’t ideal (especially with that subwoofer) for couch gaming. Plus, despite having an excellent track pad, it still just isn’t comfortable to game seriously without a mouse in hand.

The battery power, unfortunately, is also less than stellar. Despite lowering performance levels to allow for longer battery life, I still only managed about two hours of gaming before I received those “your battery is about to die” warnings. Sure, it’s enough for a quick round of multiplayer, but it didn’t even last me an entire Civ V game. So, if your portable needs include the use of a flat surface and power source, you will be fine, but if you are expecting to take this gaming PC on the road, its endurance might not match yours.

What’s in the box?

The G56 is more than just a pretty face, it has some decent power under the hood. Sporting a powerful Intel Core i7 Haswell processor, it avoids all the pitfalls of the Sandy or Ivy bridge. Additionally, it has an integrated Intel HD4600 iGPU for normal day to day tasks (internet browsing, Skype, actual work) or when the machine is on battery power. Then, it switches over to the supped up NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M for more demanding applications – like games.

The dedicated GPU is a mid-end chip – it is perfectly serviceable for most gaming, but you may need to tweak some of your settings, especially if you want to run at 1080p. I was able to run all my usual PC games at high graphic settings (although generally with reduced textures) and they ran with buttery smoothness. Of course, anecdotal results are meaningless, so I also ran some (equally meaningless) benchmarking tests.

Benchmark 1

3DMark runs three tests with increasing stresses on the system. The first test, Icestorm, received a score of 98 137. This is a top score (way above the norm) and was a delight to behold as the graphics test ran at an average of about 700 fps and the physics test ran at 132 fps. Of course, as things got harder, there was a difference. The next test, Cloud Gate, got a score of 12 092, which seemed to be high quality, but also fairly standard for people running this test: graphics ran at an average of 70 fps on this one, with physics chugging along at 20 fps. Finally, we got to Fire Strike, the big daddy of benchmarking tests. This test threw all the pixels at the machine, and I must admit that the G56 struggled to keep up. It managed a respectable 2 258 on the test with an average 10 fps on the graphics test and 28 fps for physics. This may sound rough, but it was actually fairly on par with other machines running the same test.

According to 3D Mark, these results mean that while the Notebook definitely doesn’t compare with high end gaming PCs, it is far better than ultralight notebooks and only slightly below the standard of other gaming laptops.

Benchmark 2

That said, benchmarking tools aren’t the end all be all in this game. I was very impressed with the visual fidelity offered by the G56. It was crisp and clear, even with tons of particles flying across the screen. I never experienced any stutter or framerate issues while using the notebook. Sure, it might not stack up to some of the bigger machines, but for a portable gaming machine, it can certainly hold its own.

The ASUS G56JR comes standard with Windows 8. Beyond that, ASUS is generous to give you a plethora of their own software. This ranges from video editing to audio wizardry. It even has USB charger+ which takes advantage of the USB 3 ports to help your USB devices charge faster. Users also get access to ASUS WebStorage, their very own cloud.

G56 behind open

Technical Specs

  • Processor: Intel Core i7 4700HQ
  • CPU: @2.40GHz (8 CPUs)
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 760M
  • Memory:8192MB RAM
  • Display: 15.6 inch, 16:9, 1920×1080 pixels
  • Weight: 2.7 kgs
  • RRP: R14 999

Verdict

G56 edges

When you get down to it, the G56 is not the most powerful machine, nor does it have the longest battery life. However, it is strong enough to handle most of the games you could throw at it, offering fantastic visuals and audio, as well as an excellent feeling keyboard. Coming in at about R15k, it’s way more affordable than your average gaming notebook, and has the ASUS durability behind it.

If you are looking for a laptop that you can use for gaming, as well as use for business and leisure, this might just be the machine you’re looking for.

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Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!

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