The gaming laptop market has grown and changed dramatically over the past few years: machines have become more powerful and expensive while also getting sleeker and slimmer. The latest Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 gleefully pushes back against this trend for maturity. It’s unashamedly a gaming laptop, with all of the gregarious design you’d expect, and it locks and loads some of the laptop world’s most powerful hardware, too.
Graphical grunt comes from the GeForce RTX 3080 with 6,144 CUDA cores and 16GB of memory, and we’re always pleased to see an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX – in previous tests, it’s been the most powerful laptop processor money can buy. Elsewhere, the Asus serves up a 360Hz display and loads of RGB LEDs.
This kind of gaming hardware doesn’t come cheap, though – the ROG Strix model we tested costs a whopping $2,999. And when you’re packing this sort of power inside a notebook, there are plenty of other considerations, too, like thermal performance and battery life.
Features and Design
The first thing you’ll notice about the ROG Strix Scar is the abundance of RGB LEDs. As with previous models, the front edge has a six-zone band of lighting, and the keyboard has per-key RGB backlighting. New for this year is a two-zone light that sits on the underside of the display. It’s one of the most surprising RGB LED installations we’ve seen on a gaming laptop, and it helps the Asus stand out.
Elsewhere, the Scar continues the extravagance. One side of the lid has a chrome-effect logo with more RGB LEDs, and the other has a dotted pattern that spells out ROG if you view it from the right angle. A large swathe of the base uses translucent plastic so that you can see the blurred circuit boards and metal beneath. A panel of that same plastic covers one end of the hinge, and Asus includes a couple of replacement panels in chrome and black plastic.
The Asus looks like a classic gaming laptop, but in other areas, the Scar also adheres to that familiar blueprint – for better and for worse.
Positively, it’s got slim screen bezels and a reasonable amount of internal access. Use a Phillips screwdriver to remove the base, and you’ll find two M.2 connectors and two memory slots, although your configuration will affect how much is vacant.
Negatively, the Scar weighs about 6 pounds and is 27.5mm thick, so it’s a big bruiser of a machine – rival 17.3″ notebooks are usually slimmer. The metal around the keyboard is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, too. Build quality is a bit inconsistent: the display is robust, but there’s movement in the keyboard deck, and it’s pretty easy to flex the base from underneath. The Asus is strong enough to withstand frequent travel in a backpack and life around the house, but it’s not flawless.
The range of features can be a bit mixed, too. On the left-hand side, you’ve got two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports and a headphone jack, and on the rear, it’s got another full-size USB connector alongside a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port that supports DisplayPort and 100W of power delivery. There’s an HDMI 2.0b output here, too, but that version of the connector doesn’t support 8K outputs.
That’s it for connectivity, though – the Scar doesn’t have a webcam, a card reader, or a fingerprint reader, and there are no faster USB ports. The Scar’s AMD chipset also means no support for Thunderbolt. Asus’ website says that this laptop includes an external 1080p webcam, but our sample didn’t have one and retail sites don’t list them.
The only feature on the right-hand side of the system is the Asus Keystone II slot. It’s a notch that holds a small RFID device called a Keystone. When plugged in, the Keystone can activate personalized settings, launch a customized set of applications or settings, or trigger an encrypted storage drive. It’s a bit of a gimmick.
This year’s Scar has a new keyboard. It’s one of the few laptops with opto-mechanical switches, and the buttons have a decent 1.9mm of travel and a 0.2ms response time with zero debounce delay. The layout is decent, with extra buttons for altering the speaker volume and fan speeds, and opening the Asus Armoury Crate app, and it’s got full-size cursor keys and a number pad. The only quibble is that the number pad is shorter, which means there are no dedicated PgUp, PgDn, Home, or Delete buttons.
The keyboard is excellent: incredibly fast, with a clicky, bouncy feel. These buttons quicker and sturdier than any you’ll find on a chiclet unit, and this is one of the best keyboards you’ll find on any gaming notebook at the moment.
The keyboard is louder, too, so a conventional chiclet keyboard will be better if you prefer a device with a softer feel beneath the fingers.
The trackpad is large and smooth, but anyone serious about gaming should connect a proper mouse instead. The buttons have moderate speed, but their clicking action is slower and spongier than a decent mouse. The pad is on the machine’s left, so it’s too easy to accidentally trigger while using the keyboard.
Sitting above the keyboard is the stunning 17.3″ display. The model we’ve reviewed uses a 1080p IPS panel with a 360Hz refresh rate, adaptive sync, and a 3ms response time. That’s the sort of specification that will tackle any gaming scenario.
True to form, the Scar’s panel scythed through any task, with butter-smooth gaming in fast-paced esports titles and high-quality single-player experiences.
It has impressive quality levels. The brightness level of 319cd/m2 combines with a black point of 0.24cd/m2 to serve up a contrast ratio of 1,329:1, which is rock-solid for an IPS panel – it means you’re getting impressive depth and nuance without oversaturated colors.
The Asus display also has a fantastic Delta E of 1.25 and a color temperature of 6,476K. They’re both superb, and they ensure that colors display accurately. The screen is consistent, too: uniformity tests illustrated that the panel only lost around 5% of its backlight strength in most sectors, so images won’t be distorted. The Scar’s panel rendered 97.6% of the sRGB gamut at 102.1% volume, so it’ll render almost every shade you need without oversaturation.
The display only has minor issues. Its brightness level is good enough for indoor play but isn’t high enough to handle outdoor gaming or work. It also can’t render the Adobe RGB or DCI-P3 gamuts, so HDR gaming and certain color-sensitive workloads aren’t viable here.
The speakers are superb, with impressive bass, mid-range clarity, and high-end tones that are vibrant without being tinny. There’s good balance and depth from the pairs of 4W speakers and 2W tweeters, and this audio kit is easily good enough for gaming and media – and far better than most laptop audio hardware.
This machine’s RTX 3080 uses the usual 6,144 CUDA cores and the fantastic Ampere architecture, and Asus has deployed the beefier version of the card with 16GB of GDDR6 memory that runs at 14 Gbps. We covered this GPU in better detail in our review, but in addition to all the generational upgrades we’ve discussed, you will want to know Asus is running the RTX 3080 in this laptop at power consumption levels between 115W and 130W, with Dynamic Boost 2.0 delivering the latter. Those are hefty figures, although the RTX 3080 laptop core can theoretically peak at 165W.
The high-end graphics hardware sits alongside an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX. It’s a stunning laptop chip sporting an 8-core/16-thread design and Zen 3 architecture, and it has theoretical base and boost speeds of 3.3GHz and 4.6GHz.
The specification rounds out with 32GB of dual-channel 3,200MHz DDR4 and a RAID 0 array that uses two 1TB Samsung PM981 SSDs. You get 1.84TB of formatted space alongside superb read and write speeds of 6,964 MB/s and 5,650 MB/s, which is excellent for content-creation and quick loading times – but RAID 0 means no data redundancy.
Connectivity comes from dual-band 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.1, and Gigabit Ethernet. It’s disappointing that there’s no 2.5Gbps or 10Gbps Ethernet on this machine. This specification is the same as the Asus Zephyrus Duo GX551 that we reviewed in February. Asus clearly doesn’t want to mess too much with a good thing.
The Scar’s RTX 3080 is impressive. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla it averaged 76.3 fps, and it hammered through Far Cry New Dawn at 94.9 fps. In Red Dead Redemption 2 it averaged 93.9 fps, and in Shadow of the Tomb Raider it scored a superb 111.5 fps and then hit 85.9 fps with ray tracing activated. In Rainbow Six Siege at medium settings and 1080p the GPU delivered an average of 235 fps.
|Game Benchmarked||1080p Ultra settings |
(min / average FPS)
|Far Cry New Dawn||72.4 / 94.9|
|GTA V||81.9 / 116.8|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider||77.1 / 111.5|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||61.3 / 93.9|
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla||53.6 / 76.3|
|Borderlands 3||62.6 / 92.3|
Those are tremendous results, meaning at 1080p this laptop will play anything, including ray-traced titles. There’s enough power to play tough single-player games at framerates beyond 60 fps consistently. We recorded frame rates faster than 60fps when we ramped these games to their most challenging graphics settings, too, so you’ve got loads of future headroom.
The RTX 3080 can also handle esports games at the frame rates required by the 360Hz display, especially if you’re willing to drop some of the eye candy. If you want to output to VR headsets and 4K screens, this laptop can tackle that, too, but you may have to drop GPU settings a little to ensure consistently smooth performance.
Unsurprisingly, there’s little between this Asus and the dual-screen machine we reviewed earlier in the year: the Scar is a little quicker, no doubt thanks to driver updates and software improvements. The RTX 3080 in our in-depth review was marginally faster than this laptop, but the MSI machine in that article ran its RTX 3080 at TDPs between 135W and 155W. And, finally, don’t expect the laptop RTX 3080 to match the desktop card – the laptop GPU is around 25% slower on average.
All of the scores we’ve mentioned so far used the Asus’ Performance Mode power setting, which is the machine’s default option. As with most Asus gaming notebooks, you’ve also got Windows, Silent, and Turbo options to deploy.
In Performance Mode, the GPU runs at around 1,400 MHz. Activating Turbo Mode increases that speed to around 1,500 MHz when gaming. In real-world terms, that tiny speed boost doesn’t translate to much extra performance – the laptop was a couple of frames faster in a couple of games, but that’s it. The Windows option dropped the GPU speed to just below 1,400 MHz, which reduced speeds by a couple of frames.
The most interesting option is Silent Mode, which sees the GPU peak at around 1,100 MHz during gameplay. And while the Asus isn’t perfectly quiet, it does make hardly any noise – it’s extremely quiet. Impressively, across our gaming tests in Silent Mode the Asus ran at a smooth 60 fps, which means you can play single-player games at a rock-solid framerate with hardly any noise. For slick, well-balanced gameplay, this is an excellent choice.
When running games in Performance Mode, the Scar’s produced 45db of fan noise. That’s not awful – no louder than other gaming notebooks, a little quieter than the GX551, and soft enough that the speakers or a headset will drown it out. In Turbo Mode the noise level rose to an irritating 58db. Speakers or a headset will still take care of that, but it’s a hefty increase for a relatively small frame rate boost. We liked how the Asus behaved in Silent Mode: its peak noise level of 32db when gaming is barely audible.
We got no issues with GPU temperatures, either – in the most demanding benchmarks, the graphics core peaked at 85 degrees, which is manageable.
The processor of choice here is great for content-creation, creative work, and multi-tasking. It’s brilliant in single-threaded tasks, too, and consistently outpaces Intel’s silicon while offering a small lead over more affordable laptops with the Ryzen 7 5800H.
The 5900HX in the Asus wasn’t quite as quick as the chip in the XMG laptop that we used in our CPU review. In Cinebench R20’s single- and multi-core tests, the Asus returned results of 559 and 4,824 – both are marginally behind that CPU and a little ahead of the 5800H. It was a little slower than the reviewed CPU in Blender with an overall result of four minutes and nineteen seconds, and in the 7-Zip compression and decompression tests it delivered speeds of 48.72MB/s and 689.02MB/s, with both results a few megabytes behind the XMG.
In PCMark 10’s application test, the Asus scored 14,055, which was marginally better than the reviewed 5900X and 5800H, but the Scar’s Essentials score of 10,412 was slower than both, albeit by a slim distance. In the high-end Matlab R2020 benchmark the Scar scored 1.31. That’s a little behind the XMG-based 5900HX and on par with the 5800H.
This may not be the best implementation of the Ryzen 9 5900HX, but it’s still a great chip, and it still beats anything that Intel can offer until we’ve been able to test the firm’s new 11th-gen performance CPUs.
Clock speeds explain the slight performance disparity. In the Scar’s default Performance Mode, the CPU peaked at 4.5GHz in single-threaded tasks and 4.2GHz in multi-core benchmarks, with the former figure a little slower than the CPU’s theoretical speed. Activating Turbo Mode saw the Asus draw level with our 5900HX in multi-core tests, but didn’t make much difference to single-core performance.
Silent Mode saw the CPU peak 2.8GHz, which does impact performance – its Cinebench result dropped to 4,049. But if you’re handling everyday workloads, that’s enough. The Windows option acted as a halfway house between the Silent and Performance Modes, with the CPU peaking at 4GHz.
When running work benchmarks in Performance Mode, the Scar’s sound level of 39db is decent and easily manageable, and it was quiet in Silent Mode. In Turbo Mode and when running work benchmarks, the Asus ramped up to around 55db, which is extremely loud. And, in Turbo Mode, the CPU’s temperature peaked at a toasty 95°C.
With CPU temperatures kept below 90°C and the noise levels more manageable in every other performance option, the Turbo Mode isn’t really worth it. As with our gaming tests, it delivers a tiny benefit alongside loads of extra noise and heat.
Happily, the Asus’ exterior remained pretty cool no matter the benchmarks or the performance option. The base panel and the area above the keyboard only warmed up a little, and only a tiny bit of warm air vented from the sides. On the outside, it’s a better bill of health than most gaming laptops.
And, as usual, don’t expect much battery life from this gaming notebook. When you’re gaming, no matter what you do with the performance modes and the brightness level, you’re not going to get more than 90 minutes from this machine – and GPU performance is restricted when using the battery.
If you push the hardware while working, the Asus lasts for under three hours. At best, we got between 6 and 7 hours of longevity from this laptop, but that was when the machine tackled low-end tasks, like web browsing and running Office tools.
The Asus we’ve reviewed is the top-end model. Happily, more affordable specifications are also available. The $2,199 version of this system drops down to an RTX 3070 and halves the SSD size, and uses a display with a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution and a 165Hz refresh rate, so it’s crisper. There’s a $2,699 machine, too, that pairs the 1440p screen with an RTX 3080. All of these use the Ryzen 9 5900HX.
You can also get a machine with the 1440p display and RTX 3080 or 3060 inside a 15.6″ body starting at $1,599 if you’d like something smaller. Just search for the G533 rather than the G733.
Who Is It For?
It feels like lots of the game laptops you can buy right now are almost ashamed of themselves – they try to cram high-end hardware inside designs that look more suited to the boardroom.
This latest Asus ROG Strix Scar 17″ isn’t like that. This machine embraces its gaming origins, with loads of RGB LEDs and logos, and it backs up the bold design with impressive performance in key areas.
The RTX 3080 will handle any gaming task at 1080p: it’s got the grunt for top, ray-traced single-player games alongside that smart Silent Mode that targets 60fps performance, and it’ll run any esports title at appropriate speeds. The AMD processor doesn’t quite perform at top speed, but it’s still exceptionally quick and can take on tough content-creation tasks.
The display makes games look fantastic, the speakers are great, the opto-mechanical keyboard is snappy and robust, and the RAID array is quick. The Asus is a decent thermal performer, too – there are occasional instances where it’s notably loud or hot, but those are rare. For the most part, the G733 is cooler and quieter than its predecessors and other laptops in its class.
Of course, there are certain areas where this gaming laptop – like many others – falters. Battery life isn’t great, but gaming laptops never have much to offer in that department. The Asus misses out on features like a webcam, card reader, and fingerprint reader. The screen can’t display HDR or Adobe RGB content, the trackpad is just average, and the Asus is reasonably sturdy, but thick and heavy, too. And, of course, this high-end machine does not come cheap.
The issues and compromises mean that the Asus won’t suit everyone, especially if you need a machine for work as well as play. But if you want a large notebook that absolutely nails gaming, then the latest ROG Strix Scar 17 fits the bill – it’s bold, fast, and powerful.