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Asus ROG G550J Laptop (Provided by Asus)

PC gamers have a love/hate relationship with gaming laptops. Some can see the use for them (it’s how I started PC gaming), especially when it comes to portability, but others see them as an expensive and underpowered. The Asus ROG G550J has some decent grunt to keep the most hardcore gamers happy, but still lightweight enough to take to LANs for those all-nighters.

Straight out of the box, the Asus G550J is pretty to look at. The Asus Republic of Gamers logo stands proudly among the brushed aluminium front. Under the lid, it’s all matte black and red. The keyboard is printed with red keys and has a matching red black light, which you can dim or brighten with function keys. The base is even lined with red. Since red is my favourite colour, I’m pleased with the colour scheme, but I can imagine it’s not for everyone.

The keyboard took a little getting used to, like all new keyboards do. But once I knew the positioning of all the keys, writing on the Asus G550J was a comfortable experience. I decided to re-write a couple of old reviews to get a real feel for how the keyboard would work in an everyday environment. The keys press nicely and are a nice size. One of the problems with 15.6” laptops with a full alphanumeric keyboard is the small size of the keys. Luckily, that’s not an issue with this keyboard.

The G550J also boasts enough ports to keep even the most intense user happy. With three 3.0 USB ports (two on the left side, one on the right), you can still plug a mouse in to the laptop, charge your phone and still have a port left over. There’s also a HDMI port (right side), an optical Blu-ray drive, a mini display port, an SD card slot (always handy) and a headphone jack. Something you won’t see on all laptops’ is the small yellow port near the charger, which is where you plug in the sub, which comes with the laptop. The sub looks like a small can and certainly boosts the low-end sounds of games, movies, and music.

I picked two games to test the limits of the Asus G550J with the help of a friend of mine. We took into consideration the graphical strain and how resource heavy the games would be and decided on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and The Witcher 2.

Both games can be played on their highest settings and look beautiful on the 15.6” LCD screen with the help of the Nvidia 850M 4GB graphics card.

During the initial set up, The Witcher 2 auto-detected what settings can be best played on. The surprising (or not so surprising)        result was to play in Ultra Spec. In Ultra Spec, everything is cranked to the max. Shadow details, character details and graphical details are all set to ultra.

When I started to play The Witcher, I had a few issues in the beginning with the touchpad getting in the way and trigging some menu options (an issue I have with all laptops), but once I switched the touchpad off and got back into gameplay, it was all smooth sailing.

The same can be said about The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. While I don’t run Skyrim with too many mods (just an inventory mod and a “realistic” skin mod), it can still be a difficult game for some computers to handle. The G550J automatically ran Skyrim on Ultra where all details are played in high (or ultra, where applicable.) With the battery in high powered mode, there’s plenty of power to play both The Witcher 2 and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim in their wonderful glory.

The good thing is that I didn’t notice the laptop getting too hot during sessions of long gameplay. Having it sit straight on my desk, there was enough room for proper ventilation to keep the laptop comfortably cool.

The Asus G550J does make a lot of noise. The fan can be distractingly loud at times, even in balanced mode. While I had the laptop idling in balanced mode, it sounded as if it was playing a game in high powered mode. While it’s not a huge deal, with the noise being easily drowned out by background noise or headphones, it could be distracting while using the laptop in a quieter environment.

I could get 2-3 hours out of the battery with some general use (Wi-Fi on, brightness at max, battery on balanced). However, when playing games, I changed the battery into high power mode and made sure the laptop was plugged in. While a good habit to be in when it comes to gaming, not necessarily a great habit for reviewing.

Overall

The Asus ROG G550J could easily satisfy any PC gaming enthusiast with its looks and power. However, with the hefty price tag of AU$2,699, many gamers could find themselves resorting to cheaper options. Paying the extra isn’t without its benefits. The LCD screen performs wonderfully in all angles and all the power under the red and black colour scheme can easily play the most resource heavy games without becoming outdated too quickly.

The SSD drive size (256GB) leaves something to be desired for a gaming laptop, but it boots quickly and quietly, which could be enough for some users to load their favourite games and still have room left over for whatever else they needed to store on the drive.

If I had to pick a new laptop for gaming, the G550J would definitely catch my eye. It’s stylish, easy-to-use and powerful enough to do whatever I need it to.

tl;dr

Specifications:
• 15.6” LCD screen (1920 x 1080 resolution)
• 256GB SATA3 SSD
• 16GB DDR3 RAM (2x 8GB sticks)
• i7-4700 CPU @ 2.40GHz
• GeForce GTX 850m (4GB)
• Optical Blu-Ray drive
• 1 x HDMI ports
• 3 x USB 3.0 ports
• SD Card reader

Great for gaming, SSD is a little small, very stylish.

 

 

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Product Review: Gamehook (Producted provided by MobileZap)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a massive handheld or mobile gamer. After being spoiled for choice with my PC and consoles, it feels like a bit of a downgrade playing stuff on my Nintendo 3DS or my phone. When Chris from MobileZap emailed me last week saying that he had a nifty toy for my phone that I could play with, it definitely grabbed my interest.IMG_0036[1]

What crossed my desk is called the Gamehook. It looks like a phone cradle you’d find in any car, but you can attach a PS3 controller into the bottom and play Android (Sorry iOS users) games wired, or wirelessly.

(Entirely off-topic: While downloading a game to demo for this review, I spent several giddy minutes controlling my phone with the PS3 controller. The integration between the controller and the Android software is seamless. Whether this is because my phone is ALSO a Sony product is unknown, but it’s done rather well.)

IMG_0037[1]The Gamehook is designed to work with any Android device under 5.5 inches. The part of the Gamehook that holds your phone expands with the push of a button to hold phones on the higher end of that 5.5 inch scale. With my being just under 5.5 inches (5.47 inches to be exact), my Xperia needed all the room it could get! The phone dock should still hold a phone with a case and there’s enough room for bulker phones to sit comfortably in the dock.

The cradle isn’t anything special to look at from the front. “Gamehook™” is displayed on the bottom of the phone cradle and the whole product is black. The back has a nice carbon fibre pattern on the back, which is a nice style touch, but when you’re working with something so simple, there isn’t much you can do with the looks. I wouldn’t mind seeing it in other colours like red, purple or green but again, these are just small style choices.

Putting the PS3 controller was a little confusing to start with, but once I played around with it for a while, getting the controller in and out of the cradle is pretty easy.

The only problem I had with the entire time I review the product was trying to find mobile games that had gamepad support without resorting to a Google search. Most of the popular game choices aren’t compatible with gamepads and the couple of games I tried weren’t either, which was surprising with games like Sonic Racing Transformed and other racing-themed games.IMG_0038[1]

The Gamehook is definitely something I didn’t think I’d use, but with the right games, it’s the perfect way to introduce a PC or console gamer into the world of mobile gaming. The device can be a little top heavy, but that’s par for the course when you’re using a whole phone just for the screen. It’s going to sit happily with the rest of my gaming peripherals and I’m happy to add it to the collection.

Thanks to MobileZap for sending me out this genius little product for me to play with.

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