It seems as though, after stagnating for a few years, the interest in gaming laptops of all shapes and sizes has been renewed. We recently reviewed MSI's Titan and shortly before that, Razer brought back its Pro model after fans had been screaming for an update for a long period of time. How was this interest renewed then? One could argue that it's now possible for manufacturers to make the machines so slim and lightweight that a 17.3-inch laptop no longer feels like a brick in one's backpack.
This is surely the case for Asus' latest laptop Scar III, which weighs in at just 2.58 kilos. While lightweight, it doesn't feel like Asus has sacrificed horsepower or build quality, to get the machine down to that weight.
Let's start with the exterior. The machine has the elegant name: Asus ROG Strix Scar III rolls off the tongue, that's for sure. It's one of Asus' more extravagant offerings for the discerning gamer. Not only is it one of the only laptops sporting a 240Hz display, but across the board, pretty much all the features are turned up with the Strix III. Many will probably buy the machine for its glorious monitor, certainly, but can it compete with the Titan or the Blade Pro?
The Scar III is built with the same old ROG principles in mind. The very top of the chassis is made of aluminium and has the same pseudo-industrial design. It feels sturdy, but it's not exactly visually pleasing, and the distractingly large ROG logo that pulsates in red while in use doesn't exactly help it on that front either. While the base of the chassis is adorned with carbon fibre, the rest of the machine is made of plastic, and as a result, it doesn't feel as sturdy as it could have. It's not badly designed by any means, but measured against the Blade Pro it appears a little cheap and it's certainly not. Overall, like other ROG models, the Scar III is over-designed to the max. From the strange plastic folds on the back of the chassis to the notches in the deck where you can insert your personal "Keystone" (more on that later). The point is that the Scar III doesn't look great. The build quality is solid and the machine is impressively light, but it's not subtle nor pleasing to look at. However, Asus has placed the ports on the back, which is lovely.
That said, the battery life of the 66Wh battery left us with somewhat mixed feelings. We recorded about an hour and a half of battery life with Turbo turned on, and about four hours of mixed use. Is that a great battery life? No, but at the same time, it's not much worse than its competitors.
Unfortunately, the bad news continues from there, because the Scar III doesn't just look a bit off, it doesn't have a particularly responsive or tactile keyboard or an accurate trackpad either. Of course, we can't deduct too many points on the basis of a trackpad being sub-par on such a hefty gaming laptop as the average buyer would probably use a separate mouse for it anyway, but it's an integral aspect of a very expensive machine.
That said, the monitor of the Strix III is hugely impressive. The laptop we tested was equipped with a 240Hz 1920x1080 display, which Asus labels as "IPS type". It's essentially a very bright TN panel. In addition to a distractingly ugly "chin", the screen edge is 5.26 millimetres thick, which means the laptop has a screen-to-body ratio of 81.5% - not bad. Not only that, the response time is a mere 3ms, making it one of the fastest portable panels we've ever tried. Admittedly, the screen doesn't quite hit 300 NITS, but it's arguably among the most dynamic and fluid displays we've tested on a laptop. The colours displayed are vibrant and the machine we received had a slightly cooler calibration. Of course, the entire display is geared towards being responsive rather than accurate, but during our testing period, we were quite impressed with how Asus has balanced it.
And then on to the technical performance. Our machine arrived in the following setup:
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2070 // 8GB GDDR6 VRAM
RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz SDRAM
Hard drive: 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIE 3.0q
It's possible to upgrade to an i9-9880H processor and to increase the RAM to 32GB, and as is always the case with Asus ROG models, it's possible to switch between different profiles to kick the machine's various fans into action via the Armory Crate software suite. For example, Asus' Turbo Mode causes a boost in cooling speed, CPU clock rate as well as kicks the graphics card up an additional 100MHz. Mild overclocking notwithstanding, we never saw temperatures rise above 89 degrees on the CPU or 79 degrees on the GPU. However, it idles at around 42-45 degrees, which may be too hot for some.
And thus our test results are in play, and these were done with the laptop in Turbo Mode, and thus easier overclocking of the GPU as a result:
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
That's a fine score, we'd say, but the 240Hz panel is the star of the show when testing esports titles, where response time is crucial to the quality of the experience:
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Rainbow Six: Siege
Apart from these, we landed at an 18.710 in Fire Strike, 7257 in TimeSpy, and 4245 in Port Royal.
The model we tested will set you back about £19,00 which actually comes with 32GB RAM instead of the 16 that our test unit sported. In fact, it seems as though the price is reasonable for what you get. The battery life is underwhelming but expected and the design isn't exactly a subtle, sleek masterpiece, but the test results and the panel hold the Strix III up high despite its flaws. Asus has designed the Scar III for one specific task, that task being gaming, and the experience it offers is flawless in that key respect. We just wish it was a better all-rounder because Asus has the ability to nail such a laptop.