[Disclosure: A review unit was loaned to Gaming Blend for the purpose of this review]
I'm not fond of reviewing expensive products I didn't pay for. It seems difficult to come to an objective conclusion at times that best reflects the interests of the consumer. With that in mind, I did run the Asus Republic of Gamers G-Series GL551JM through the series of rigorous tests, examinations and benchmarks. Ultimately, when all is said and done it must be asked: is it worth $1,099?
For the price of two-and-three-quarter PS4s, it's a lot of money for laptop designed for gaming. In this instance, it's not really about whether or not it does what it does well, but whether or not the price justifies what it does, and whether or not it's a viable alternative to other, cheaper alternatives. First thing is first... the specs:
Intel Core i7 4710HQ (2.50GHz)
16GB Memory 1TB HDD
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M 2GB GDDR5
1920 x 1080
Windows 8.1 64-Bit
So, you have to ask yourself this: do you plan to frequently travel and game or engage in high-end software productivity while on the go? If you don't travel much or commute long distances via public transportation, then you may as well stick with a gaming console or a desktop PC. However, if you travel frequently from the dorm to your parent's house, or go on business trips, or attend conventions, or make long treks from work to home via bus, subway or train, then you might consider getting a laptop.
For those of you who fit into the travel category of the above question, then the next question would be: are you a frequent gamer and do you like playing the latest and greatest games? If the answer is 'no' then you can stick with a tablet or low-end notebook for your travels. If you're a hardcore gamer and you do find yourself craving high-end gaming while you travel, then a gaming laptop may not be a bad option for you.
If you're also the kind of gamer who wants something that can play the latest games at the 1920 x 1080 resolution or plan on using your down-time at home to game on your 1080p HDTV from the comfort of your couch, then the GL551JM actually fulfills both those needs quite well (or heck, you could take it with you to a friend's house and hook it up to a TV and game locally with buds). It mostly performed at peak performance during most of the strenuous gaming benchmarks, but did run into problems with games like Metro 2033 and Sleeping Dogs when attempting to max out the settings while running at 1920 x 1080.
But what about gaming on the go? Well, unfortunately you're only going to get about two full hours of gaming out the GL551JM's battery. If you turn down the graphics, turn off the sound and lower the brightness, you might be able to squeeze an extra hour of performance out of the laptop.
Beyond gaming you'll also have a laptop that handles system productivity and operational services quite well. If you're a YouTuber or a Twitch live-streamer who needs a system that can crunch massive amounts of data in a short amount of time, or compress videos at the blink of an eye, the GL551JM managed to do the job quite well.
The 16GB of RAM ensured that the system was burning through applications at the speed of a click, and capable of opening and closing the next program at the blink of a thought. I would recommend, however, getting RAM flushing software – as it did have a problem dumping some of the benchmarking software that caused some programs not to open after running Futuremark's software all day long.
A couple of caveats: I have no idea what the threshold is for the GL551JM as far as longevity goes. For a month's time it performed superbly while in my possession, but you'll need to check other user reviews to see how well it does for six month stretches or longer of constant usage. I didn't install the SteamOS since it was being prepped to go back to Asus, so I can't entirely speak on behalf of whether or not you could use the GL551JM solely for the purpose of running SteamOS. I may try installing Valve's OS on future review units when SteamOS allows for proper dual-booting from a single hard-drive. Also, I found myself accidentally zooming in a lot of times with the mouse -- of course, you can always modify this by changing the mouse settings. It was just frustrating a few times because the mouse pad doesn't clearly state where the zoom function is.
With all of the above said, it's time to circle back around to the original question: is the GL551JM worth $1,099? I almost spent $750 on a Toshiba Satellite laptop a few years ago – for $350 more, would getting something like the GL551JM be worth it? If I were shopping for laptops, yes. But I've stopped shopping for laptops. So if you're shopping for a gaming laptop you have to ask yourself if the specs, performance analysis and features are worth $1,099 to you. Over time, and as the price drops, I can easily see this being a must-buy gaming laptop when it hits the $700 price range.
As for the final score...I'm docking a total of three points. One point for the short battery life when gaming. Another point for Windows 8 lacking proper compatibility to run mouse and keyboard emulation software that would have made the laptop a lot more convenient as a Steam Machine. And one point for the laptop not being able to consistently hit 1080p at 60fps on the higher-end games during the benchmarks.
Series: ROG GL551JM