We’ve already covered the Asus G751JY-DB72 laptop indirectly, when we reviewed mobile G-Syncand its impact on frame rates and visual quality earlier this fall. But after spending some time with this laptop, we wanted to do a more thorough review. The G751JY-DB72 isn’t perfect, and its base model has been on the market for well over a year, but don’t let that fool you — this system offers a better price/performance ratio than many more expensive systems that shipped in the past six months.
Specs and availability
Asus manufacturers a number of laptops under the G751JY brand, so there are some specific attributes to be aware of if you’re interested in buying one. The particular model we’ve tested has gotten a bit tough to find at retail, and the price can vary significantly depending on whether or not you want the 2014 model (which shipped with 16GB of RAM but without G-Sync support) or the updated 2015 version, which had G-Sync.
The specifications on the model we tested were:
- Intel Core i7-4720HQ CPU (2.6GHz base, 3.6GHz Turbo)
- 24GB of DDR3L RAM
- 128GB SSD w/1TB HDD for additional storage
- Nvidia GTX 980M (4GB of RAM)
- 17.3-inch, 1920×1080 display (G-Sync enabled)
The handful of DB72’s showing up for sale are priced around $2,000 for the G-Sync model and a 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD, which is still quite expensive. One alternative, based on the same form factor and chassis, is the G751JY-WH71. It’s identical to the DB72, but uses a DVD-ROM instead of Blu-ray, has “just” 16GB of RAM and a smaller 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD. The price, meanwhile, drops to $1,569.
If you want a powerhouse mobile gaming system, that $1,569 price tag for a GTX 980M and a G-Sync panel is very hard to beat. Even Asus’ refreshed G752 Series doesn’t come close. The G752VL-DH71 is a $1,499 system but only offers a GTX 965M, while the $2,000 G752VT-DH74 tops out with a GTX 970M. Both are capable GPUs, but neither is as nice as the GTX 980M.
The major difference between the two product families is that the older G751JY laptops are based on mobile Haswell, while the G752 series is based on Skylake. In this case, however, the differences are minuscule — the newer Skylake processor has a faster system bus, support for up to 64GB of RAM, and a 45W TDP instead of the 47W TDP on the older Haswell part. Skylake is slightly more efficient than Haswell, but the older CPU has a 3.6GHz maximum clock, 100MHz faster than its newer cousin.
If I had to pick which component I’d rather have to guarantee gaming performance and system longevity, it would be the GTX 980M over a Skylake CPU, hands down. The 17-inch 1920×1080 display has good viewing angles, contrast, and no ghosting issues.
For all that I like this system, it’s not a lightweight. It’s 12.5 inches long, 16.4 inches wide, and 1.7 inches tall when closed. It weighs a shade under 8.4 lbs, which puts it in “transportable” territory. You can carry it from Point A to B, but you’ll be getting an arm workout while you do.
Performance and throttling
We don’t do a lot of laptop reviews at ExtremeTech, which makes it difficult to publish much in the way of objective benchmarks. What I can do, however, is discuss whether or not the Asus G751JY family throttles — and I’d argue that in the long run, that’s the arguably more-important metric.
If you’ve ever looked at the specs on a high-end laptop and wondered how boutique manufacturers managed to stuff high-wattage CPUs and GPUs into chassis that are still a fraction the size of a modern desktop without running into thermal problems, the short answer is this: They don’t.
Throttling behavior varies between product generations, laptop designs, and system-level power consumption. There’s no “good” versus “bad” vendor list, and the same chassis may run perfectly with one set of components from Vendor A, but throttle badly with more powerful components with Vendor B. In my experience as a laptop reviewer, most vendors tolerate throttling in at least some workloads because they don’t want to lose sales to their competitors. Boutique customers, by their very nature, tend to demand top-end performance — if they don’t see the right components on the shelf, they’ll look for other companies that offer them. Whether those components actually perform at peak speed is a different question.
In order to test whether or not the Asus G751JY-DB72 throttled, we looped the laptop in a number of 3D benchmarks and conducted our own play tests as well. I performed the latter with the laptop physically on my lap, and ran the looped benchmarks with the machine on a wood desk. No third-party cooling solutions were used to improve the laptop’s native performance.
First, here’s Total War: Rome 2’s results measured 30 minutes apart. We ran the game’s benchmark from a fresh boot, played the game for 30 minutes, and then ran the test again. While this does potentially allow for a very small cooling-down window, there’s no way to run a continuous loop of the Rome 2 benchmark.
Here’s the frame rate data, derived using the FRAFS benchmark tool. The rates in question are the average frame rate, the 1% frame rate, and the 0.1% frame rate. If the laptop is throttling, we’d expect to see it show up here.
Here’s the actual runs themselves, frame by frame. Note that while the game exhibits high frame variability, we’re testing it at Extreme detail. The game only breaks the 30 FPS target on a relative handful of frames. Most importantly for our purposes, however, we see no significant variation between the two runs, 30 minutes apart.
We tested BioShock Infinite with similar methodology, evaluating the game’s performance in the same area by benchmarking initial performance, playing 30 minutes, and then benchmarking the original area again.As expected, the average, 1%, and 0.1% rates are identical. Framerates are higher overall in BioShock, and we see less variability.
The Asus DB72 has no trouble holding its frame rate under heavy load. Some reviews have claimed that the laptop can throttle in stress testing, when using sustained CPU and GPU workloads, but we saw no evidence of this during regular play. Notebookcheck.net ran the Asus G751JY-DB72 through a number of tests as well, and graded the system wellon its overall thermals and noise profile.
We performed additional play tests, in titles like Metro Last Light Redux, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Fallout 4. In every case, the Asus DB72 held its frame rates and overall performance steady, with no noticeable throttling, while delivering excellent 1080p performance.
Not quite perfect
The Asus GY751-DB72 is an excellent laptop, but I’d be amiss if I didn’t acknowledge a few weak points of the design. The trackpad’s palm-detection technology isn’t great. It’s no worse than other PC trackpads I’ve used, but if you were hoping to get Mac-like levels of accuracy and performance, you won’t be satisfied. The keyboard is excellent overall, but there are a few keys in odd places. It’s easy to hit the key above the escape button that will launch the video capture utility, as shown below:
The DVD drive is also easy to eject if you’re slipping the system into a backpack or carrying case, or when removing it again. On the whole, however, these are minor issues: worth mentioning, certainly, but not enough to derail a purchase. Asus likely expects that any serious gamer will use a stand-alone mouse and avoid the trackpad altogether, and I suspect that’s what most do.
The onboard audio is middle-of-the-road as far as volume. If you’re watching a movie in an otherwise quiet room, with the system in your lap, you’ll have problem hearing the speakers. If you need more volume than that, you’ll probably want to use a pair of headphones.
As for battery life, well, gaming laptops aren’t known for it — and the DB72 doesn’t distinguish itself, even for a gaming laptop. Expect 1-2 hours of game playing while on battery (depending partly on whether or not you use Nvidia’s BatteryBoost) and 2-3 hours of desktop work — again, depending on how aggressively you configure the system and lower the monitor’s brightness level.
Balance trumps specs
Asus’ G751 family may not be the absolute fastest hardware you can buy, but it’s the fastest hardware that I’d want to buy given the current crop of mobile GPUs and Intel’s current CPU stack. I’d take a Skylake CPU for the same price, of course, but the GTX 980M hits the sweet spot between excellent performance and system price.
The G751-DB72 doesn’t overheat. It doesn’t metamorphose into a blow dryer if you try to game on it. The price is right, the specs are right, and the hardware is top-notch. Of all the gaming laptops I’ve ever covered, this is the first one I’ve actually wanted to own.
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