Three laptops are put to the test.
We recently had three very different laptops in the office so I put them through their paces. The Asus N Series and Asus G750 are two big powerful laptops, while the Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series is a smaller laptop with a touch screen.
Each one is quite different so direct comparison isn’t really fair, however, the G750 is my favourite simply due to its processing power and full-sized keyboard. But it’s designed to play games on and was heavy so won’t be for everyone.
Asus G750 – The Gamers’ Laptop
The Asus G750’s exterior is made from a soft plastic with sharp angular curves. I assume this is so when you pull it out people will gasp in awe at the science fiction-inspired computer you are using. The G750 is unapologetically a gaming laptop meant to inspire geek envy.
With this being said, the G750 is not a good day-to-day laptop option. While it has huge specs and looks cool, the sheer weight and size of the beast makes it unwieldy. The term “laptop” doesn’t seem correct as the G750 would be uncomfortable on your lap.
All that internal power does make for some pretty gaming. I loaded up the G750 (part of Asus’s “Republic of Gamers” line) with a bunch of Steam games and took it for a blast. I used the Total War games, Path of Exile and Shatter for comparison purposes, with lots of 3D to render and sharp colours and sounds.
On the G750, the graphics-intensive Total War games played like they were simple programs. Loading times were squeezed down to almost nothing. Moving the camera over the simulated battlefield was smooth and simple with no lagging or jittery animations that would make me think the computer lacked any grunt. Smooth and seamless were the words that came to mind.
I played Shatter more to see the colours on the screen than how the G750 handled the game. The screen is amazing. According to Asus, the G750 can output 4K through the HDMI 1.4 port and the laptop has the potential to output to three different screens simultaneously. I couldn’t test this and how much it would slow down the system but the picture on the screen looked stunning.
The audio was also good for a laptop. Usually I’d use decent headphones for gaming on a laptop but just using it on my table the sound was good. The bass was especially better than I expected, though perhaps needed to be dialled back a bit. The system has a number of audio options built in for you to play with.
The full-sized keyboard had a nice slope to it and the illuminated keys had a solid travel (how a key moves when pressed). This is a good thing if you had to type on it for a long time. The bad part was that it was raised slightly too high off the table for me. Still, if you are gaming on it, which is definitely what this beast is made for, then you may not be doing much typing.
The trackpad is another matter. I tried using it to play games and almost instantly changed to my plug-in mouse. It’s not that it wasn’t sensitive enough or in an uncomfortable place, just that a trackpad is terrible for playing most types of games.
Battery is the thing that separates a gaming PC from a gaming laptop. At times I didn’t even realise it was running on the battery until I got a warning - as I had accidentally turned off the plug at the wall. There was no slow down but of course the battery life is affected by what you’re playing. The more power graphics card needs, the faster it’ll drain.
Overall I loved the G750 as a home computer. I just can’t call it a laptop. The thing is huge! And frankly I found the exterior to be quite ugly (personal opinion, just sayin’). But playing games on it was a blast and it was grunty enough to just roll with anything. Having to use Windows 8 was a bit annoying (a lot of programs I use, including Steam, aren’t Win8 apps yet) but again it's something you get over pretty quickly.
The Asus N Series – The Pro Laptop
The Asus N Series laptops are big, full-sized laptops with aluminium casing. They look like a squarer version of a MacBook Pro but are heavier and bulkier. This is another laptop you wouldn’t want to carry around too much or use on your lap.
The first thing you notice with the N-Series is the metal body with a cool illuminated keyboard. It may also be your first problem as when the keys light up it gets difficult to see what’s on them. It’s not so much of a problem for touch typists, but knowing what keys do what functions can be an issue.
I also found the trackpad to be less responsive than I liked and a little small considering the size of the computer. Coupled with Windows 8’s function of responding to finger swipes at the edges of the trackpad, I found myself swearing a lot. I almost exclusively used my plug-in mouse after what I considered a long enough time using the trackpad.
In essence, this is a pretty good, but not great, laptop for someone like me: a writer who types a lot, does a fair amount of surfing and doesn’t mind sitting at a desk for long periods of time.
As this is a powerful laptop, I also tried the Steam games on the N Series. The performance with Total War: Shogun 2 was stuttering at times and didn't feel as fluid as it did when I was using the G750. Path of Exile also felt slow at times and, given that it was using the same internet connection as the previously tested G750, I have to assume this was because of the laptop.
But it's not all bad. The screen is great and vivid in colour. The keyboard, despite the light issue, is actually really nice to type on. For non-gaming tasks, it’s fast and start-up times were minimal. And the sound was crisp and clear.
Sound is one of the selling points of the N-Series, as the unit has been enhanced with Bang & Olufsen audio. It also comes with a little subwoofer that you can plug in and hide behind your screen. I didn't notice massive bass tones rumbling through the table, but it certainly added tone to an impressive sound system. Just don't expect high-end stereo quality audio from a laptop.
This is what I would call a "professional laptop" - a Windows computer made to rival a MacBook Pro, though in my opinion it falls a little short of that.
The Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series – The Touchable Laptop
Compared to the other two laptops, the Inspiron is much more modest. Its main selling point is the touch screen, which works really nicely with Windows 8 (Win8).
The case is metal, a bit like the Asus N-series, but it felt boxier and heavier than I expected. It felt like a basic laptop.
The trackpad was OK but not as responsive as I would’ve liked. The touchscreen was useful for logging in and navigating, but really I didn’t use it that much. It comes down to this - I don’t think I want to touch my laptop screen. Using a tablet is different. When you add a full keyboard and trackpad, most of the need to touch the screen goes away.
It was useful for Win8 tasks. In Win8, a lot of navigation is done by pulling the cursor in from the edge of the screen, but with a touch screen you can do this with your fingers. This saves some of the frustration of using the trackpad to do the same thing, but it’s still not perfect.
I’m not sure if it was a consequence of the touch screen or because of the fingerprints on it, but the Inspiron’s screen didn’t have that amazing look to it that the other big laptops had.
As a day-to-day basic laptop, it works. But if you want to push it, the Inspiron just felt like it wouldn’t take it. I’ve used better basic laptops than this and it’s no ultralight computer.
By Hadyn Green