In India, we currently have a good selection of gaming laptops with Nvidia's latest GeForce RTX GPUs. We just recently tested our first laptop with a GeForce RTX 2060 — the Dell G7 15 7590 — and it's now time to take a look at another one from Asus, called the ROG Strix Scar II (GL504GV).
Compared to the Dell G7 15, Asus has taken the flashy route for the GL504GV, dressing it up with plenty of RGB LEDs. What really makes this laptop interesting is that has pretty much the exact same core specifications as Dell's offering, but at a slightly higher price.
It's time to see whether you're paying this premium for just the light show, or whether Asus has done more in order to justify the higher price.
One look at this laptop and it's very obvious what its intended purpose is. Asus hasn't held back in letting everyone know that this is a gaming laptop. The lid has a very nice dual-tone brushed aluminium finish with a giant backlit ROG logo and the ‘Republic of Gamers' moniker at the bottom. The lid also has a cutout at the bottom, which lets you see the status LEDs when it's closed.
There are LEDs for power, battery status, hard disk activity, and airplane mode. The lid is sturdy, there's barely any flex, and it offers good protection for the display. We didn't notice any pixel warping even when applying pressure on it. The edges are chamfered but they do feel a little sharp to the touch.
The laptop is fairly heavy at 2.4kg but its dimensions are quite compact thanks to the narrow bezels around the display. It's relatively thick at 26.1mm, but despite this, we were able to comfortably carry it around in a messenger bag.
You get a decent selection of ports spread across both sides of the laptop. There are a total of three USB Type-A ports (two USB 3.1 Gen. 1, one USB 3.1 Gen. 2), a USB Type-C port (USB 3.1 Gen. 2), a Mini-DisplayPort 1.2 connector, full-sized HDMI 2.0b, Gigabit LAN, a multi-format card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo socket.
The ports are well spaced and easy to get to. There are several vents all around the laptop as well. There's one on the right side, one above the keyboard area, a couple at the back, and a few more on the bottom.
The keyboard area has a carbon fibre pattern as well as a camouflage pattern overlapping the top right half of the laptop. It's not the most tasteful design in our books, but some might like it. In our opinion, the carbon fibre pattern alone should have been enough.
You get a full-sized chiclet keyboard with a number pad. The keys are mildly sculpted and the 1.8mm of travel is comfortable for typing. The keys don't require much effort to press and aren't noisy. The WASD keys are transparent, so they shine brighter when gaming in the dark.
Apart from the standard set of keys, you also get a few shortcut keys for volume control and muting the microphone, and a ROG button for launching the Asus Armoury Crate application. The power button is isolated in the top right corner, while the direction keys are properly sized. We also like the extra lip given to the spacebar, which makes it easier to hit with your thumb when gaming.
In terms of lighting, the keyboard supports 4-zone RGB backlighting and there's even a RGB strip on the front of the laptop which can be customised.
The trackpad is decently sized and you get individual trackpad buttons, which is what every serious gaming laptop ought to have.
Finally, we come to the display, which is a 15.6-inch, full-HD IPS panel with a 3ms response time and a 144Hz refresh rate. Just like the Dell G7 15 we tested, the Asus ROG Strix Scar II also has very slim bezels on three of its four sides. However, Asus has placed the webcam in a very awkward position, off-centre to the right of the border below the screen.
Now, we poked some fun at Dell when it did this with the XPS 13 a couple of years ago, but this is even more ridiculous. You can adjust the lid to fix the ‘nose-cam' perspective to some extent, but there's no way to avoid the side-angle view that you get. Asus should have at least placed it in the centre, at the bottom, in place of its logo, which would have been somewhat more acceptable.
Overall, this laptop is built well and feels extremely sturdy. It's slightly on the thicker side but that doesn't hamper portability too much. There aren't any quick-access hatches on the bottom to get to the RAM or storage.
In the box, the ROG Strix Scar II ships with a 230W power adapter and some warranty information.
The ROG Strix Scar II is available with either an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 or an RTX 2070, and the GL504GV variant that we have for review comes with the former. The rest of the components are common across both models, except for the boot SSD, which is a PCIe NVME 256GB unit on this variant and 512GB on the RTX 2070 one.
The CPU is an Intel Core i7-8750H hexa-core chip with multi-threading, and you get 16GB of DDR4 RAM (2666MHz) running in dual-channel mode, with the SSD as mentioned as well as a 1TB FireCuda SSHD. There's also Wi-Fi 802.11ac with 2x2 MIMO antennas and Bluetooth 5.
There are a few things worth noting about Asus's choice of components and configuration. There are two 8GB sticks instead of a single 16GB stick. Running RAM in dual-channel mode effectively doubles theoretical bandwidth, which is noticeable in synthetic benchmarks although its effect in real world performance may vary.
Next, is the SSD, which uses the faster PCIe interface and not SATA, which should make a difference in app responsiveness and read/ write speeds. Finally, Asus has gone with a Seagate FireCuda hybrid mechanical hard drive instead of a regular one. This type of hard drive contains a small amount of flash memory which acts as a cache to speed up read/write operations.
Windows 10 comes preinstalled, along with the usual apps from the Windows Store and trial versions of McAfee LiveSafe and Office 365. The main Asus application is called Armoury Crate, and is the central dashboard for monitoring the CPU and GPU, adjusting the RGB lighting, and accessing additional Asus apps. The interface is designed well and it's easy to navigate through. The home screen shows you the laptop's current power state (by default, it's on ‘Turbo' when plugged in and ‘Silent' when on battery power), the CPU and GPU load, and fan speed.
The System sub-menu lets you force-close running apps when you start a game, choose from a bunch of lighting presets, and update the firmware. Next up is the Aura sub-menu, which lets you sync lighting effects across all the zones on laptop and also with any compatible accessories such as a gaming mouse or headset, which support the company's Aura Sync feature.
The next tab lets you install additional Asus apps if you want, such as GPU Tweak II for overclocking, Game Visual for changing the display colour profile, Sonic Studio for tweaking the speaker sound, and Sonic Radar which gives you a visual cue of which direction in-game sound is coming from, such as gunfire. Other apps include system utilities and some for live streaming your gaming sessions.
We found a few bugs with the Armoury Crate software on our review unit. For instance, we weren't able to customise keyboard lighting. Every time we tried to do it, the app would simply crash. We tried restarting the laptop and updating the program, but to no avail. We also didn't like the placement of the toggle switches to turn off lighting for the ROG logo on the lid and the LED strip in the front. They are buried within the app and are not easy to find.
Asus also has an Android and iOS app which can connect to the laptop through Bluetooth and let you access some features of Armoury Crate such as monitoring system resources.
Expectedly, the Asus ROG Strix Scar II had no trouble handling ordinary Windows 10 tasks. Booting is quick, apps also start up quickly, and multitasking is handled very well. On battery power, the laptop automatically forces the refresh rate of the display to 60Hz in order to save power.
You can manually toggle between Asus' ‘Silent' and ‘Balanced' power profiles by hitting the Fn+F5 key combination but we noticed that in ‘Balanced' mode, the chosen Windows power profile is still ‘High Performance' and not ‘Balanced.'
The laptop runs cool and quiet when you're not gaming or doing anything CPU-intensive. When plugged in and with the ‘Turbo' power profile, the fans are audible but they aren't excessively loud. When gaming, we noticed a few times that the fans got a little noisy for brief intervals but there wasn't a constant drone. Asus says that the cooling system features anti-dust tunnels, which automatically gets rid of accumulated dust inside the laptop.
The display offers good sharpness and colour reproduction. Brightness is very good and the matte finish of the panel helps reducing glare and reflections. High-resolution videos look good and the stereo speakers offer good accompaniment in games and movies. The speakers get loud and have decent bass, and vocals are crisp without any noticeable distortion even at full volume.
Performance is pretty solid too. We put the GL504GV through our series of regular tests and were quite happy with how it performed. In PCMark 10, we got a score of 5,219 points, while in 3DMark Fire Strike, we got 14,668 points. Real-world tests fared well too. Compressing a 3.2GB folder of assorted files took about 2 minutes and 37 seconds, while Blender took 7 minutes 10 seconds to finish rendering the BMW benchmark 3D model.
The SSD's performance is also very good, and we got sequential read and write bandwidth of 1.5GB/s and 446MB/s respectively in SiSoft Sandra 2018's file system benchmark, and random read and write bandwidth of 1.5GB/s and 433MB/s respectively.
The ROG Strix Scar II does a very good job in games, and one of the reasons for this, besides having a fast SSD, is the overclocked RTX 2060. The base clock is set at 1,110MHz as opposed to the default 960Mhz, and the boost clock is also increased to 1,335Mhz from the default 1,200Mhz. The memory clock speed is left unchanged at 1,750Mhz. These factors explain why most of the benchmarks and frame rates in games were generally higher than what we got on the Dell G7 15 laptop.
In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's built-in benchmark, we averaged 45.6fps using the Ultra preset, with DX12 enabled and 2x MSAA. In FarCry 5, we averaged an impressive 81fps at the Ultra graphics preset. Even Assassin's Creed: Origins averaged a good 65fps with the eye candy maxed out.
Switching to some of the newer titles that support features such as ray tracing and DLSS, the laptop was able to hold its own in most of them. We've talked about what these features add to the following titles, which you can read about in our Dell G7 15 review. You can also check out our deep dive into Nvidia's Turing architecture and how ray tracing and DLSS actually work.
In the Metro: Exodus benchmark, we averaged 34.8fps with the Extreme preset, but all the RTX features disabled. After setting ray tracing to ‘High' and with DLSS turned on, the frame rate got a boost to 46.4fps. In Shadow of The Tomb Raider, we managed to hit an average of 71fps at the ‘Highest' quality setting with the RTX features turned off. With ray traced shadows set to the ‘Ultra' quality preset, the frame rate tanked quite a bit to 32fps.
However, enabling DLSS helped slightly as we saw it recover to around 36fps. Finally, in Battlefield V, we averaged a playable 40-50fps with ray tracing on and DLSS off. With the latter enabled, textures did appear a little soft but the boost in frame rate made up for it. In the same battle scene, we managed to get upwards of 60fps.
Battery life is one area in which this laptop falls flat. In our Battery Eater Pro benchmark, the laptop ran for just 58 minutes, which is very poor. With actual usage, even in the ‘Power Saver' mode, the best we could achieve was a little over two hours. We're guessing that switching all the LEDs off would give users a bit more mileage, but we doubt that would change much.
On the surface, the Asus ROG Strix Scar II (GL504GV) is very similar to the Dell G7 15 7590, which we recently tested. Asus's new laptop shares a lot in terms of specifications, but adds RGB lighting and has a higher price tag. For that extra bit of money, you do get a faster SSD, a better mechanical drive, and an overclocked GPU. The laptop also generally runs a lot cooler and quieter, which is something we really liked. The RGB lighting is cool but if you're not a fan, you can turn it off.
On the downside, the webcam placement is terrible, which makes it practically unusable. Battery life is also very poor.
If you're planning on using a gaming laptop for work too, then the Dell G7 15 7590 is a better option. However, if you want an all-out gaming machine and would rarely use it on the go, then spending a bit more for the Asus ROG Strix Scar II will get you better gaming performance and a more attention-grabbing design.