So far, then, the Asus G73Jh looks and feels like a premium product, but what's it like to use? As with so many stylish laptops, Asus' latest uses an isolation-style keyboard. Its layout is spot-on and a full number pad has been included. Feedback is slightly shallow but still well-defined, and the huge sloped and textured palm-rests make for an extremely comfortable typing experience. There's some very minor flex in the keyboard's centre, but it does little to detract from the experience. Our only other disappointment is the lack of dedicated macro keys, as found on the Rock Xtreme 840SLI-X9100.
Like the keyboard, the large multi-touch touchpad is a pleasure to use. It's probably the roomiest pad we've come across barring the likes of the Apple Macbooks, and it's nice and sensitive. Unfortunately, the pad is rather badly let down by its buttons. Incorporated into a single rocker switch, they not only offer shallow and undefined feedback but are also very stiff; a combination that makes them almost unusable for more complex actions like dragging and dropping. The only mediating factor is that for gaming, an external mouse is mandatory anyway.
Connectivity is also somewhat disappointing. The G73Jh's chassis offers bucketloads of room for connections, but all you get is four USB 2.0 ports (two on each side), VGA and HDMI video outputs, 3.5mm headphone/digital audio and microphone jacks, a memory card reader and Gigabit Ethernet port. There's no sign of DisplayPort, eSATA or an ExpressCard slot, the latter two of which even the smaller Asus G60J managed to include! USB 3.0 would be a nice addition, too, especially as Asus has begun including it on some of its new models.
On the other hand, the G73Jh's audio performance is singularly impressive. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that this laptop's 2.1 system provides the best sound we've ever heard from a laptop (certainly for gaming and movies), making even more of an impact than the previous champion, the Toshiba Qosmio X500-10T. Not only do the stereo speakers provide a convincing soundstage with plenty of clarity without distorting at high volume levels, but the subwoofer adds substantial punch. While the resulting audio is slightly bass-biased, this is not a disadvantage for its target audience, and frankly everything from explosions to subtle background music comes across beautifully. It's all underpinned by the G73Jh's integrated EAX Advanced HD 4.0 sound chip, which helps to get the most out of compatible games.
Unsurprisingly, the 17.3in screen doesn't quite live up to the quality of its speakers, but is nonetheless a cut above many gaming laptops. Unfortunately it's just as reflective as most, though this does help improve perceived contrast and the G73Jh is not really the kind of laptop you'd be using outside anyway. On the topic of contrast, it does somewhat better than many rivals, displaying quite subtle dark gradations - albeit at the cost of white purity, but that's a sensible compromise on a gaming machine.
Colours also tend to be reasonably realistic, and it doesn't suffer from banding or obvious artefacts. Meanwhile its Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution means you get plenty of desktop real-estate and excellent sharpness, while ghosting was minimal.
On the negatives list, viewing angles are quite narrow, though they don't suffer as much contrast shift as many TN-panel based displays. There's some backlight inconsistency and edge bleed from the left-hand side, though this is only noticeable in a dark environment. It's a sad fact that if you want a really good display on a gaming laptop, Dell is still the only choice as far as we're aware, with an RGB LED-backlit option (like that on the Dell Studio XPS 16 we reviewed a while back) making its appearance in the company's Alienware M17x.