Gaming notebooks are a funny niche. They’re not especially thin nor light, and they generally don’t have excellent battery life. They’re also not as speedy as a similarly priced desktop. What they are is a great compromise between portability and power, though, and the brand new ASUS G550JK stays true to that trend.
What Is It?
ASUS G550JKreasonably powerfulAlienware 14
MSI GT70 Dominator Pro
As you’d expect, the G550JK runs Windows 8.1 Pro out of the box. Although you can buy different variants at different price points — the lesser Core i5 model is $1999 — my $2699 spec uses an Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor on Intel’s HM86 Express chipset — which means all the USB 3.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 extras you’d expect to find.
What Is It Good At?
The Full HD IPS panel of the top-spec ASUS G550JK is a thing of beauty, if you’re a fan of antiglare displays. The matte coating on ASUS’ screen does an excellent job of dissipating direct light sources without reducing contrast across the entire LCD; the end result is a laptop that you can happily use in a bright office environment or even outdoors in the midday sun. It’s a nicely detailed display for the screen size, but it’s not too high-res as to require excessive processing power for modern 3D games. You can also get a lesser 1366×768 pixel non-IPS antiglare screen on the cheaper model, although it’s likely to lose points on both viewing angle and outright detail.
ASUS G550JK: Performance
CPU: Cinebench: 343 Cinebench (OpenGL): 83FPS
Graphics: 3D Mark Fire Strike: 5423 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme: 1282
Gaming: Tomb Raider: 32fps Metro: Last Light: 25fps Battlefield 4: 58fps Crysis 3: 23fps
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 114MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 110Mbps
Battery: Gizmodo Torture Test: 3hr 52min Gizmodo Torture Test Extreme: 2hr 1min
This notebook’s keyboard is also one of the best I’ve used, equaling the MacBook Pro’s simple and consistent chiclets. ASUS’ keys are raised somewhat compared to an Apple notebook, but the keypress feel is consistent and there’s a noticeable ‘click’ point that makes quick typing feel excellent. The large, multitouch trackpad is also a smart choice and the default sensitivity is good; the solid tactile feedback from pressing either the left or right semi-physical mouse buttons on the pad is something that trackpad manufacturers often neglect so it’s reassuring to see that the unit used here is a high quality one.
What Is It Not Good At?
This is the most minor of niggles, but the ASUS G550JK’s beautiful satin finish and few colourful accents are so happy to pick up and display fingerprints. You’ll see them in the various photos around this review; try as I might I wasn’t able to get pictures of the G550JK without the odd smudge or mark. If you’re a clean freak, this is one small point worth considering before you buy.
Should You Buy It?
The ‘Republic Of Gamers’ tag doesn’t sit completely comfortably with the ASUS G550JK, given its mid-range graphics card. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a very well built, quite attractive notebook with specifications that will handle most modern games at reasonable quality. It’s more of an everyday workhorse than an all-out gaming monster, but that’s a point in favour of the G550JK’s versatility.
The $2699 price tag is a little much for ASUS’ mid-range notebook, given the strong competition in this area. If you can find the ASUS G550JK for a slight or significant discount, it’ll become better value, and I’d recommend it more strongly. As it stands, if you’re willing to pay a slight premium for the ROG brand name, and if you want the sleek black-and-red colour scheme, there’s nothing that should stop you getting the G550JK.