Reviews
ASUS Republic of Gamers
G20 Desktop Gaming PC

By Jorge Figueiredo - January 15th, 2015

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‎Building a decent gaming PC isn’t a big deal to us nerds; it’s just a matter of pulling together a set of parts, after all. However, not everyone is savvy in the ways of desktop construction, and even us nerds have to invest a fair amount of time shopping around for the best deals‎ on parts, so as to maximize the value of our money. Enter ASUS’ Republic of Gamers G20, a small form-factor PC that has been put together to simplify the process of acquiring a decent gaming PC. ASUS sent one to us to try out, and I found that it performed very well, though there are a few small items that need to be addressed.

When I first pulled the G20 out of the large box, I felt like I was peeling back layers of an alien spacecraft. The G20 is indeed a cool-looking and stylish unit, with interesting exterior patterns molded into the plastic surface, and some “hidden” ventilation for air ejection; but what is most impressive is its size. The unit measures approximately 34cm in height, 10.5cm in width (at the widest point) and 36cm deep, making it a great deal smaller than a mini-tower that I put together for Smallest Thumbs a while back. When I did a “walk-around” of the unit, though, it became clear how ASUS managed to make this unit so compact: they moved the power supply outside of the case. Indeed, after checking out the G20 desktop unit, I reached into the box once more to pull out the power brick unit – which is actually two different power adapters – meaning that you will require two spare electrical sockets to use it.

It’s not difficult to figure out the reasoning behind this decision; after all, there are a number of great advantages to ousting the power supply. First of all, the power supply is one of those necessities that dictates the minimum size of a case – when it’s an internal power supply. Also, moving the power supply to the outside of the case means that you don’t have to worry about powering a fan to cool it (as all sides are exposed to open air, and the unit is apart from the rest of the components). That being said, the disadvantage is that it takes up space outside of the unit and you’ll need to make sure that it is in a place that does have airflow. Also, the G20 has two of these bricks (one for the perpendicularly-mounted NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 graphics card and one for the rest of the PC), so you’ll need to ensure that you have enough room at your wall receptacle (or you’ll need a power bar with enough spare ports).

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Lots of ways to interface with this bad-ass.

The front of the unit features two USB 3.0 ports as well as a very slim DVD RW drive (tray) and 3.5mm headphone/microphone ports. Flipping the case around reveals a lot more interfaces. First of all, you’ll find an HDMI port located on the case itself for the Intel integrated graphics, and another one on the back of the NVIDIA graphics card (which vents out the back of the G20) next to the DisplayPort interface. There are 4 USB 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports, and 6 3.5mm ports to access the various channels of the integrated High Definition 7.1 Channel Audio. To complete this very useful array of connections, there is a 10/100/1000 RJ-45 port for Gig Ethernet speeds. Finally, out of site but not out of mind (within the case), integrated Wi-Fi (802.11AC), Bluetooth (4.0), and a wicked Solid-State Hybrid Drive that brings 1TB of HDD space and 8GB of Solid-State goodness to the table.

The power button, located on the front of the chassis, is integrated into the overall design – and once pressed, it reveals a great treat. I turned on the G20 and was treated to a light show; there are three different lighting zones that are fully customizable within Windows (8.1) once the machine boots up (which takes around 20 seconds). Outside of a few short bursts of a fan blast (which is actually relatively quiet), the machine makes barely any noise while active, venting only when required. This can be attributed to a special convection venting system within that keeps the CPU and other components cool. I paid some attention to this (how can you not when there’s no noise?) and noticed that the cooling mechanism kicked in when there was greater then normal activity (ie: gaming) – but that the system seemed to handle it well. Upon bootup, users are treated to some neat utilities to help manage system performance without having to fiddle with the BIOS, and there are a few ways to enhance audio using some neat software. The monitoring software placed a small translucent window in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, which was a little distracting – however, it is highly configurable and can also be turned off, which is nicer for those of us that don’t need to track stats constantly.

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The output is definitely pretty.

After some hiccups with Windows 8.1 updates (there were a few that needed to be done, and Windows 8.1 tends to throw a fit when you install so many at once), I ran through some photos using image software, and played a relatively demanding video file – all handled well with no skips and no shearing, which was nice. Surfing was equally easy, with no issues handling HD video streams from YouTube at all (using FireFox). However, folks that purchase this unit probably don’t really care as much about things other than gaming, so I installed Steam and Origin, so I could run some game tests. I tried a number of different titles, and the system handed each of them without issue. However, for the sake of a more thorough review, I spent a bit more time playing Battlefield 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, so as to get a decent comparison with my own system.

My normal desktop system is an i5-2500K CPU clocked at 3.3 GHz with 16 Gigs of Ram and a Radeon 6970 with 2 Gigs of DDR5 RAM. I can play Skyrim maxed out (no mods) and Battlefield 4 with almost everything on high (but sparing some AA). For the most part, everything runs very smoothly with minimal shearing and very few hiccups. However, the G20’s output to the television was beautiful. In fact, it was so beautiful that I forgot I was testing and ended up running around the test range in Battlefield 4 for quite a long time before I remembered where I was. I hopped online and found a server with a few people on it and enjoyed some multi-player goodness with no delays or issues whatsoever. Thanks to the HDMI connection, all of the graphical goodness popped right off the screen. Aside from being smooth, colours were well-represented and looked spectacular. I played a bit with the resolutions, and closer to the top end I noticed a little bit of finicky behaviour – but the GTX 760 is not all the way at the top end, so it’s understandable. Audio, for the record, was decent with headphones and with speakers – pretty much par with most on-board audio that I have heard.

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The monitoring software was designed by Tony Stark, apparently.

Sadly, as this was a loaner unit, I didn’t feel comfortable opening up the case. From what I can see (and from what I have read), it is not really the easiest access. There seems to be a few steps to go through just to access the innards. After checking out a few reports and looking at a number of different photos, I have determined that this is not the most gearhead-friendly unit. ASUS doesn’t really go out of its way to declare that the system is upgradeable, and I can’t really blame them. Having such a compact system is an advantage due to the space that it saves you – but it is a headache to swap out components because shrinking the unit means making some tough internal design choices (some components are in the way of other components, and so on). The G20 also has an ECO Energy mode, but it appears to be a dual-stage one, and based on the forums, you’ll need a display with an extra HDMI port. If I had this system on all the time, I would consider it – but it seems to be convoluted to configure.

It is important to note that there are a few different G20 units, each with a different configuration. At Future Shop, for instance, there is only one model available online that contains an Intel Core i5 processor. At Canada Computers, on the other hand, there are three different models available (Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 – each with a different level of NVIDIA Graphics capability to match their processing power) – and they vary in price. The model that Asus sent us to check out was the Core i7 model. The G20 also has a 2-Year Warranty, and the lowest model starts at around $789 (and tops out around $1,500, depending on where you’re shopping).

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A pain in the butt to work around. But hey, look! A face!

So, is the G20 worth the money? It depends what you’re looking for. Personally, I really dig the form factor, and I was impressed with the power, the load-out, and the cooling system that was packed inside that small frame. However, the frugal side of me knows that I could probably build something equally as powerful for less money – it just wouldn’t be as pretty (and I don’t really need all of the extra software bells and whistles – I can manage my own configuration just fine). The practical side of me also doesn’t particularly care for the inability to easily swap out parts, and I’m not sure how I feel about multiple electrical sockets being needed. That being said, if you’re not very savvy in the ways of desktop building, or if you really don’t feel like spinning your wheels looking for deals, the value of this system is decent. Plus, it’s a pretty cool conversation piece sitting in your entertainment area (you’ll just have to swap out the keyboard and mouse for something wireless so you can chill on your couch while you’re blowing the crap out of your frenemies.

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