If you’re looking for the absolute most powerful gaming hardware out there … well, you do not want the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15. You want a desktop or laptop that weighs seven pounds, requires several power stones and is basically one desk. But if you still want something you can realistically carry with you, the Strix is about as powerful as it gets.
We have reviewed a number of Asus laptops this year that are members of the ROG Zephyrus game line – powerful yet portable and attractive. You would buy a Zephyrus if you want decent game results but also want a work machine that you can take with you to the office or class. The Strix line avoids the latter role. These are gaming laptops. They’re just for games. They are not cheap, they are not subtle and they hold nothing back.
This is where the Strix Scar 15 stands out. Every aspect is designed with the gaming enthusiast in mind, and there are a number of unique features for these customers. Of course, they also come with some trade-offs – and people who may need to use their machine for tasks besides gaming should consider other options.
The Strix Scar 15 starts at $ 2,199.99 at the Asus store. The base model comes with a Core i7-10875H, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super, 1 GB SSD storage and a 240Hz screen. The model we are looking at today is a significant step from the top: it costs $ 2,799.99 and is powered by Intel’s eight cores Core i9-10980HP and an RTX 2070 Super, which is combined with 32 GB of RAM, 2 TB of storage and a 1920 x 1080 300Hz screen (3ms response time). 10980HP is a workhorse – it is one of the most powerful mobile chips on the market – and 300Hz is the fastest screen you can get on a 15-inch laptop.
If you clicked on this review, you are probably most curious about the frame rate that this laptop sets up. Suffice it to say: they are good.
On CS: GO at maximum settings, the Strix Scar averaged 248 fps. Thanks to this model’s 300Hz screen, the chips do not only do 248fps; you actually see 248 fps. You will see a frame rate difference between this system and an identical one with a 240Hz screen, albeit a small one. (But for people who play a lot of esports and first-person shooters, a small difference can make a difference.)
Overall, CS: GO was a smooth experience. The scar dropped to just under 100 frames per second as I ran through a thick river of dust.
Not all titles can take full advantage of the 300Hz screen, unless you plan to bump down the quality settings. Strix set up 67 frames per second Shadow of the Tomb Raiderhighest settings with beam tracking on Ultra. On Red Dead Redemption II (one of the most demanding games out there) turned up to Ultra, Scar averaging 54fps. Both games were quite playable at these settings without stuttering or slowing down. These results are on par with the MSI GE66 Raider (which set up 50 fps on Red Dead and 70 fps on Grave looters) and beat the smaller Zephyrus G14 by a significant margin.
It’s worth noting that while I let the Scar rip in Turbo mode (the highest power profile available), the 10980HP became quite hot throughout my gaming session, spent some time in the mid 90’s and even hit 99 degrees Celsius a few times. When I switched to the regular performance profile, the processor spent more time in the mid 80’s high, and I only saw 1-2 fps difference as a result. So if you are worried about frying your hardware, you will not miss much if you stay in the Performance profile.
Move on to other portable items. Aside from its chips, what sets the Strix Scar 15 apart as a laptop game is the design. It has a customizable RGB keyboard per key, a luminous logo on the lid and a bright LED strip around the three front sides. A glowing strip may seem disgusting, but this one is actually more subdued than strips you may have seen on gaming rigs like MSI’s GE66 Raider. It wraps around the underside of the tire, so you do not see it fully; the effect is less good looking players than GE66 Raider and more good looking nightclub. (You can, of course, turn off all RGB stuff. But what’s the point?)
Another cool thing is the tire design, which is printed with what Asus calls “Cybertext.” Basically, Republic of Gamers is written everywhere in an urban-chic font. It’s subtle and far from distracting, but it gives the whole product a subtle sci-fi atmosphere.
Speaking of the keyboard deck: the palm rest is coated with a unique “soft color”. It’s much softer than your typical palm rest (you can feel the difference when you touch the rest of the chassis) and it’s quite nice to put your hands on.
Asus keyboards are often among my favorites, and the Strix Scars keyboard is no exception. I love writing this. I feel my fingers fly when I use it. There is a satisfactory click with very little resistance. And I especially appreciate the convenient line of keyboard shortcuts at the top, which include volume controls, a microphone mute, one that changes the performance profile, and another button that displays Armory Crate (the Asus app where you can adjust various settings and features).
If you would rather connect your own peripherals, you have a good port selection at your disposal. There are three USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports and an audio jack on the left side, while the back holds a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port (which supports DisplayPort, but not PD charging), the charging port, a LAN RJ- 45 and an HDMI 2.0. That’s all you need but there’s an obvious omission: Thunderbolt. Lots of people may not care about this, but it’s a port I’m disappointed not to see on a $ 2,799 laptop.
On the right side is a Keystone II reader. A Keystone II is a physical key that allows you to save personal settings. You can also use it to access a private storage space, which Asus refers to as a “shadow disk”. This can be encrypted if you have Windows 10 Pro. (Only this model comes with that operating system. You will need to upgrade from Windows 10 Home if you purchase the base configuration.)
Keystone II is a nice idea considering how many settings and profiles there are to keep track of on Strix. In the ROG app GameVisual you can choose between color presets for different types of games (FPS mode improves brightness and contrast, RPG mode prioritizes vibrant colors, etc.). In Aura Creator, you can customize keyboard colors and animations. In GameFirst VI, you can prioritize bandwidth between the programs you run; there are presets such as Gaming First, Live Streaming First and Multimedia First.
One more thing I like: the speakers. Music sounded good, with a nice surround quality. Strix does not replace a good external speaker and percussion was a bit thin. But the song was pretty clear and at maximum volume I never heard distortion. The laptop fans get quite loud during games, but I had no problem hearing the sound of my games over them. (You can also switch to the Silent profile if the whining bothers you.)
There are many good things on Strix that you can see. But there are also trade-offs. Most of them are not super relevant for gaming (and thus forgiving on a laptop like Strix), but they are worth remembering anyway.
For one: there is no webcam. It’s not a deal-breaker – streamers will use their own equipment anyway – but it’s a big minus for anyone who would otherwise use Strix for a casual work meeting or virtual gathering with friends.
I also have a couple of problems with the trackpad. It has discrete clickers, which require a little more glitter to press than integrated buttons. I like these specific clickers more than most, but they are still easy to miss and I sometimes found that I hit the chassis when I tried to click. Overall, I found it less responsive and less accurate than I would like it to be. Sometimes I thought I clicked when I was not and accidentally made myself drag things everywhere.
The touchpad also has a nice function where it can be turned into an LED number key if you press an integrated NumLock button in the upper right corner – but I hit this button with my palm while typing and accidentally activated several times Numped . Unlike Asus ZenBooks which also has this feature, you can not navigate with the touchpad while Numpad is up, so I have to keep interrupting my workflow to disable it. (You can disable the touch pad itself with F10, but there is no easy way to disable NumPad without disabling the touch pad.)
The biggest drawback, however, is the battery life. I took an average of two hours and 28 minutes of sustained multitasking and office work with Strix on the Battery Saver profile with the screen around 200 nit brightness. (With all the battery-saving features turned off and a slightly heavier load, I was as low as an hour.) Strix is a laptop game, so I did not expect hours upon hours of juice. Still, many competitors do better: the MSI GE66 Raider (also powered by an LED strip and RGB keyboard) did so through four hours of the same workload.
Battery games are possible, but not great. Red Dead ran mostly in high teens and low 20s. I got an hour and 15 minutes of play against a charge, but I started to stutter when Strix was down to 60 percent (about half an hour in) and the game became impossible to play at 10 percent. If you plan to carry the scar somewhere, you need to take the massive 280W adapter with you and spend some time charging the device. (It took 45 minutes to charge up to 60% with very light Chrome usage.)
Taken together, these nitpicks emphasize Asus’ priority with Scar. It’s not a laptop designed to act as a travel companion or driver from home – do not buy it to be your primary computer.
But that does not mean that Scar is not good at what it should be good at, which is games. Its results are on par with the best 15-inch rigs on the market, and it offers useful customization software with a unique colorful design to boot. If you need the best frame rates and the fastest screen, the Strix Scar 15 is a good buy.
Photos by Monica Chin / The Verge