Asus Republic of Gamers GT51CH Review
When I build PCs, I build my own, I build cheap, I build small for ease of transportation. But what if I were actually sensible (uim... ) and went all out, budget be damned?
Asus has given me the opportunity to see what happens if I were to completely go against everything that I do and just grab this rig that their engineering team is going to mass produce.
The Review Unit
This set is apparently meant to be distributed to reviewers and, like the ROG GL502VS laptop I reviewed last year, seems to have been intentionally distributed over-specced.
- Core i7 7700K (Kaby Lake) w/ Closed loop cooler
- 64GB RAM DDR4 @2800ghz
- Asus GTX 1080
- Realtek ALC1150
- Intel Wireless AC8260
- Intel I219V Ethernet
- BeQuiet! 600W PSU
- Seagate 3TB ST3000DM001
- Intel M.2 1TB SSD
Look and feel
If I were to put the casing of the GT51CH in terms of Star Trek, this case is more like a JJ Abrams design, similar to the Acer Predator series - as opposed to Lenovo’s, Dell’s and HP’s choices of going ol’ 90’s Gene Roddenberry.
Its mostly black, with a bit of chocolate brown, and red ROG accents all over, looking as if it is designed for the cliched gamer in a darkened room.
The GT51 case is a stark reminder of why I abandoned full tower computers all those years ago, slowly migrating to smaller form factors and board sizes. This unit is tall enough that it is guaranteed to not fit in the legroom beneath your desk (well, unless your “desk” happens to be a bar countertop and your chair a bar stool).
Its also large enough to take up a significant amount of desk space if you choose not to rest it on the floor - you’ll need more than a classroom desk to properly place this one, with all the basic peripherals you’d need.
That said, what you get for the kit is quite decent - and durable. Maybe the paint will scuff, but it’ll take quite the effort to bend even the pastic parts out of shape. Sure the case heavy, but that’s a good thing - kind of reminds me of those Dell and HP “tanks”, to a lesser extent.
It comes acrylic windowed on the left side as standard.
Inside, everything is properly segmented, with the usual CPU fan being eschewed in favor of a closed loop water cooler. The entire area around the processor and RAM assembly is free of messy wiring and parts, all the better to be viewed through that side window.
The board is a Z270 base. This chipset is the best out of Kaby for 2 reasons - it not only takes the highest bandwidth DDR4, it has the unique property of having 2 physical M.2 slots.
Both slots are taken - one for the SSD, and 1 for the Bluetooth/AC combo card.
The board has 3x full-size PCIe x16 slots, and 2x PCIe 1x slots,. Bandwidth of these slots and the M2s are shared between 24 lanes (as per the Z270 standard IIRC) - with 16 guaranteed to be taken up by any of the GPU setup.
I’m not too sure how many lanes the M2 slot on this board counts as.
The set I’m evaluating here is the 1-GPU setup, but it’s quite easy to extrapolate that I’d still have enough space even with a multi-card SLI setup. YMMV though. SLI leaves less lanes per card (IIRC 2-way SLI makes the cards run at 8x each), which is why multicard has the reputation of having diminishing returns.
Z270 pretty much means your USB 3 ports are 3.1 standard, boasting higher transfer rates for existing USB 3 external disk drives. You have 6 of them up the back and 2 more in the front.
There’s an additional 2 old standard USB 2.0 ports in the back, to be used in a pinch, and a C-type in the front for charging newer cellphones.
All headers on the board are fully utilized and are already externally connected - further keeping the interior empty.
There’s an entire compartment dedicated to throwing 3.5” hard disk drives because I don’t know what else anyone can do with them. The board has enough SATA ports and remaining PCIe lanes to turn the GT51CH into an overkill media or file server.
The PSU is relegated to its own area, a compartment at the bottom of the case. There’s enough space for even the largest of its variety (the 1000W and greater ones tend to be longer).
I do have one niggling issue with the GT51CH’s peripheral configuration tho.
It’s that side loading optical drive - a laptop part. You can take off the other side of the case to see it. This… is slightly harder to replace than the 3.5” ones we know so well.
Speaking of 3.5” slots… there’s no space for them whatsoever on the front panel. In fact, there is NO front panel; you’ll have no use for hotswap bays, front panel USB extensions, internal card readers, physical monitors and of course any other 3.5” optical drives that you have.
This review unit has a single GTX 1080 driven with an i7-7700k. On its own, even with just 16GB of RAM, the combination than drives enough frames to keep a lot of us happy - and it does this at 1440p.
This rig is pretty much maxed out in terms of basic hardware on the Intel side - what you have is an i7 7700k Kaby Lake, the best of the consumer Intels - at least until the end of this year. (I’m not going to count Kaby-Cs, the only thing that changed there’s the board). It’s also the only choice consumers have for this system.
I had to loan an actual gaming monitor from Asus, a Swift PG279, fairly push this rig to the limit.
I can safely promise you a bit more than 60fps with contemporary games with DSR to 4k, and you can indeed drive a 4k monitor off the HDMI port. Tone down your requirements to a more reasonable but still uncommon 1440p resolution, and you can hit 90fps.
However, for >100fps at 1440p and above - I don’t have the ability to see framerates better than 75hz, but I get the feeling that the hardware will want you to trade framerate for resolution.
To get any better than this, you’d have to spring for the 1080Ti OR attempt to go for an SLI setup - the former being an already diminishing return from using a 1080 instead of a 1070, and the latter will need to have support added in games.
The water loop shines by being nearly noiseless on full load. Even with the GPU running, the unit is only as noisy as a standard laptop, and generally quieter than the (less specced) air cooled rig that I'm running right now. Temps are decent too, with the processor area hovering around 75-80C. Pretty good considering how hot the weather is in Singapore.
Onboard sound system is, as usual, a Realtek 1150 that further has its Dolby and SRS functionality enabled through Asus drivers. You can’t really escape using Realtek these days, but they’re actually decent when the manufacturer unlocks them - the plug detection feature makes it a cinch to hook up an analogue 3.5” jack 7.1 sound system.
Dedicated sound cards are completely optional.
HDMI and DP audio out is possible (in which case Nvidia leverages the GPU hardware to process the output for you), but the only hardware I have to test this is a HDMI/DP monitor with built-in speakers. To use this to its full potential requires certain hardware which I unfortunately do not possess.
Both sound channels are active at the same time and completely separate from each other - so you can do things like run your game sound through HDMI/DP, and leave the internal sound card for pure, headset voice comms. Not very useful if your monitor doesn’t have speakers and you don’t have a proper passthrough option, but this presents some interesting options with respect to minimizing voice record artifacts.
The GT51CH comes with onboard Intel Wireless AC/Bluetooth 4.1 combo - which is for all intents and purposes exactly the same as the one in the ROG GL502VS I reviewed, complete with maximum bandwidth of 900Mbps over wifi AC.
For reference, on non-laptop platforms you usually only find integrated wireless. Once again, this isn’t the best of its class, but it will use the usual 300Mbps wireless N swimmingly.
For all other things, there is an Intel 1219V ethernet port. That happens to also be capable of 10G (Intel standard). It’ll give gamers 1Gbps just fine, even without any sort of Killer technology.
This heavy, bulky box is something you definitely won’t be taking to LAN parties, but as a gaming rig that’ll never leave your room, buyers get everything they possibly need from the current era. Just add keyboard, mouse, sound system and monitor.
(...Yes, I know X299 is coming. Go ahead if you can afford to wait another year).
I suppose if one day I get really lazy/old and stop building my own, and I actually have more money than I can ever reasonably use on many rainy days, OEM prebuilt rigs like the GT51CH are an attractive option.
Being a desktop, there’s some amount of tailoring that Asus would let you do upon buying the unit. The cost of the tower can be anywhere from ~$3000-$5000. Maxed out, it’s actually quite pricey. I blame the GPU and the Kaby Lake Core i7.
- Core i7 7700K (Kaby Lake) w/ Closed loop cooler
- Anywhere from 8GB-64GB of RAM at 2400-2800mhz
- 1x GTX 1070 / 1x GTX 1080 AND 500W PSU OR
2x GTX 1070 (preconfigured SLI) / 2x GTX 1080 (preconfgured SLI) AND 700 PSU
- Realtek ALC1150 Sound Card w/ Asus Drivers
- Intel Wireless AC8260 (BT + Wifi AC combo)
- Intel I219V Ethernet
- 1-3TB regular HDD
- 128GB-512GB SSD
Asus has told me they’re not going to put 1080Tis in this one. They want to wait for whatever the Titan-X’s successor is.
Plenty of internal expansion space
Pretty much maxed out even at its least configuration
No front panel expansion at all
Heavy. And I thought HP built the heaviest desktops...
Folks who want a heavy duty gaming rig - just add monitor, mouse and keyboard
Anyone with a small PC table. No, I’m serious, look at it.