ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 17 Review: Maxed Out Performance On A Gaming Laptop
The ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 is an extremely easy to explain gaming laptop. This new 2020 model exists for the sole purpose of pushing as many frames per second as is possible in a standard 17-inch laptop form factor. The Scar 17 is all about the performance. And if that’s what you buy it for, you aren’t going to be disappointed.
So as this is a performance-focused beast of a 17-inch laptop, let’s start there. The model I’ve been using for review costs £2,999 and is equipped with an Intel i7-10875H processor, 32GB of high-speed DDR4 RAM, and an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super. Not an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q. The ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 comes rocking a full size, full fat, Nvidia RTX 2080 Super. And it’s glorious. With any laptop running this desktop-grade hardware the biggest worry is always cooling. There’s no use putting a full RTX 2080 Super into your laptop if you can’t cool it properly. If you do that you’ll just get a ridiculously loud, thermally throttled, lump of metal that’s so hot it’s impossible to touch. That’s something you’d think big companies would refuse to sell, but in the past it has happened. Well, luckily, the cooling on the Scar 17 is nothing short of miraculous. In all my time gaming I never saw the temperatures go any higher than 90 degrees C and never saw the clock speeds throttle. Long story short, there is no game that this laptop will not run comfortably at 60 frames per second at 1080p. And most games you’ll be running at much higher than that. Which is great, because the screen refreshes at 300Hz.
And let’s talk about that screen. As a gaming experience, it’s absolutely stunning. 300Hz is a lot, and paired with any other graphics card it doesn’t really make much sense, but with a 2080 Super running esports titles, it makes all the sense in the world. Playing Counter-Strike at 300+ frames per second on a 300Hz monitor is an experience I wish everyone reading this article could have, and if you’re lucky enough to have experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That level of smoothness while gaming on esports games is genuinely a game-changer. I can, without a doubt, play better on games like Counter-Strike and Valorant on a 300Hz display than I can on a 60Hz display. Because everything updates so much faster and more smoothly, I find my reactions match that and become faster and more smooth. The display itself is also great to just look at. It’s an IPS panel with accurate colours and it gets impressively bright.
The laptop itself looks great. It’s very much a gaming laptop. The frame of the laptop itself is a two-tone black and grey colour, but that’s not what you’ll be looking at. There is RGB literally everywhere. There’s a light strip running around the bottom of the device which can cycle through any RGB colours you’d like, the keyboard lights up with per-key RGB, and the ASUS ROG logo on the back can also cycle through any RGB colours you want. I know I shouldn’t love it so much, but I do. In a dark room, the light from the laptop really does look brilliant. If I was going to take it anywhere I would probably turn those down a bit, or off completely, but I don’t think that will ever be much of an issue, because for a laptop the Scar 17 isn’t particularly portable.
17-inch laptops never are very portable to be fair, so it is to be expected. But this particular 17-inch laptop really isn’t very portable. It’s extremely heavy and extremely big. It’s just been planted on my desk for the entire time that I’ve had it, and if I were to get one myself that is where it would stay. But if you do need to unplug it and take it on the go the battery life isn’t bad at all… for a gaming laptop. About 5 and a half hours of general everyday use, which is better than I was expecting, but still not great.
You can move it about if you need to, but I personally wouldn’t want to heave it around on a train or a plane if I didn’t have to. Actually using the laptop is fantastic though, and because of its size it lends itself very nicely to gaming at a desk with a mouse and keyboard. The keyboard is brilliant. The keys have a lovely amount of travel, the layout is excellent, and it feels very good to type and game on. And I’m never going to say no to per-key RGB. The trackpad is fine. I prefer trackpads you can click all-over to this type where the two buttons are at the bottom, and in this case I would recommend using an actual mouse. But if you do need to use the trackpad it’s serviceable. The good news is if you need to plug in a mouse you have plenty of ports to choose from!
I/O is good on the Scar 17, but not perfect. There are three USB 3.1 ports, one USB-C port, a headphone jack, an HDMI port, and an ethernet port. There’s also this odd little ASUS Keystone port on the side which you can plug an ASUS keystone (sold separately) into and take your lighting and gaming profiles on the go. The reason I say good but not perfect is because the USB-C port on the back isn’t a thunderbolt port. This isn’t a deal-breaker but it would have been nice to have on such an expensive device. And while we’re on the subject of omissions, this is yet another £2,999 ASUS laptop that doesn’t have a webcam. I get that some gamers probably don’t need one, but surely for that price ASUS could have put even a crappy little 720p webcam on there. It would have been nice to have one, especially with all the Zoom calls going on in the world at the moment. The speakers are surprisingly good, they get very loud and are very clear, but if most of the time you use this laptop is spent gaming you won’t be using them. And now I’ll move on to my main complaint about the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17.
It is extremely loud. Like extremely loud. When gaming it gets so loud I was struggling to hear myself think, let alone listen to what was coming out of the speakers. So, naturally, every time I used it I had a pair of headphones on. But the loudness wasn’t reserved just for gaming though. I found that, at seemingly random times, the fans would just spin up to cool the components of the PC and get very loud. This has to be the downside of putting such insanely powerful components in your relatively thin and light laptop, it needs a lot of fan power to cool them. I haven’t used the version with the RTX 2070 Super, but I imagine the issue wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad with that model.
Another thing that’s worth talking about is the price. This isn’t a complaint, I understand that hardware this powerful crammed into a laptop form factor is always going to be expensive, but regardless of that any laptop this powerful is never a great value proposition. You can buy a laptop that runs games almost as well at 1080p for about £1,500 less, and unless you have a silly amount of money to spend that’s what I recommend you do. It also may be wise to wait a little while before pulling the trigger on any new gaming PC when Nvidia have just announced their brand new RTX 30xx series of graphics cards.
So, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 is a performance first machine, and on that front it doesn’t disappoint. I had no issue playing any AAA game on its desktop-grade RTX 2080 Super and high-end Intel i7, and was blown away by the experience of playing esports titles at 300 frames per second on a 300Hz panel. The slight issues I have with the Scar 17 are the practicality trade-offs that come with a device so hell-bent on pumping out the highest fps counts it possibly can. It’s extraordinarily loud, so much so that I would feel embarrassed sitting in public with it when the fans are on full blast. But that’s not much of a problem anyway, as the other issue I had was the bulk and lack of portability. Despite those small flaws I have almost always loved using this device. There may be better looking, more practical, better value gaming laptops out there, but none of them can run the latest games as well as this.