Asus ROG Strix Scar III review — Be prepared
Republic of Gamers is a brand that is synonymous with the best of the best in gaming hardware. The new Asus ROG Strix Scar III Gaming laptop embodies everything that ROG brand stands for. Fast, powerful and ready to take on invading alien forces. The Scar III unapologetically screams ‘Badass Gamer’.
A rainbow of colours pulses from it, especially the big, bold light strip that flows all around its front and sides. It would look perfect in the Delorean from 80’s hit Sci-Fi flick, Back to the future.
And I love it.
A 9th Gen Intel processor paired with Nvidia RTX and a whiplash-inducing 240Hz refresh display makes this one of the most potent gaming laptops money can buy.
Have I finally found the perfect gaming laptop?
Asus ROG Strix Scar III Gaming Laptop Review
Let’s start with raw specs.
The Scar III comes packs a 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H processor with a base clock of 2.6Ghz and an overclock of 4Ghz. This is paired with 16GB of DDR4 system memory and a generous 1TB M.2 NVMe Solid State Drive. In practice, this makes for a wickedly fast Windows 10 experience.
Opening and closing apps is snappy and boot up times are absurdly fast. In a run of Geekbench, the Scar III scored a healthy 1111 and 5743 in single and multi CPU tests respectively. Cinebench R20 scored 2590 which was faster than the Acer Predator Orion desktop we recently reviewed. Nice!
For graphics, Asus has paired the excellent Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with a 15-inch FullHD(1920×1080) display that has a 240Hz refresh rate and 3ms response. The RTX 2070 sports 8Gb of DDR6 memory and can handle ray-tracing. A run of 3DMark 11 TimeSpy in Directx 12 got us a respectable score of 7289.
When it comes to the games, the Scar III delivers solid performance across the board; easily driving most games above the 1080p60 threshold. The SSD drive gives the performance that extra boost with games loading really fast. I was constantly amazed at the difference it took Metro Exodus to load on this machine when compared to my Xbox One X.
As you can see from the performance graph, only Assassins Creed Odyssey ran under our desired 60FPS at 1080p ultra settings. Turning things down a notch to high settings (gasp) puts the Scar III comfortably above the 60FPS while still looking really gorgeous.
Turning on ray-tracing and DLSS puts a strain on the RTX 2070; achieving 52FPS in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and 66FPS in Metro Exodus. I should point out that the panel on the Scar III isn’t OLED or even HDR capable. You won’t really notice the difference in visuals when ray-tracing is active so you’re better off without it. That said, this is an IPS-level panel rated at 100% sRGB so the colour accuracy is good and it’s suitably bright with good viewing angles.
But the star here is undeniably the superfast 240Hz refresh and 3ms response time. Even though I wasn’t able to get any of my games to run near that even after dropping settings to medium, it’s certainly possible with some games. CS:GO reached highs of 250FPS in brief moments. While I’m still not convinced that most gamers will ever need such high framerates, the Scar III can certainly handle it.
Calm, cool and collected
The Scar III performs excellently without getting overly loud or uncomfortably hot. Asus has done a great job with the cooling on this laptop. Usually, gaming laptops get really hot around the area where the GPU sits, often a section of the keyboard.
With Asus’ new 3D flow zone design that uses dual fans with 83 blades; hot air is politely shoved out the back of the laptop, away from the user and system. Even after several hours of back to back benchmarking, the Scar III remained cool and never throttled performance.
Fan noise is also pretty decent here. There are four main fan profiles to use; Silent, Windows, Performance and Turbo which can be cycled with a touch of a button. If you really want to max out this baby, you’ll want to use the Turbo mode which can get very loud.
Designed for the players
I have to give it to Asus on the overall design of the ROG gaming laptops. While it isn’t as sexy as its more premium sibling the Asus Zephyrus GX701, the Scar III certainly charms. It’s fairly slim at 2.49cm thick and weighs 2.57Kg. The signature ASUS ROG brushed metal finish returns and is still a favourite. The ROG logo on the lid lights up like a beacon drawing attention.
Opening the lid is easy due to its solidly constructed book-style hinge. There’s no flexing, wobble or drift from the position you put it in. The sturdy curved hinges hold the screen firmly in place and rotate into the chassis; think of giant ring binders. The 15.6-inch FullHD display has an odd symmetry thanks to a large lower bezel but ultra-slim sides and top.
On the inside, Asus ROG signature carbon fibre look covers the chassis. This houses what is undoubtedly one of the best laptop keyboards I’ve ever used. The Scar III keycaps are large with curved caps and have a wonderful amount of travel that makes every keystroke feel deeply satisfying. My fancy MacBook Pro ‘butterfly keyboard’ that feels like absolute trash after using the Scar III for the past two weeks.
Furthermore, the keys are rated for up to 20 million clicks. A fast actuation and N-key rollover mean your button presses are fast, accurate and combination key presses for certain games will not be lost. If you do a lot of typing, you’ll love the Scar III — I know I did. Additionally, each key is backlit and the colours can be customized using the bundled Armoury Crate software. You can use any of the preset colour profiles or create your own.
Above the keyboard are four hotkeys that give you quick access to volume controls, fan profiles and Armoury crate. You’ll appreciate having those handy so you don’t have to alt-tab out of your games to change profiles or adjust the volume.
When innovation goes wrong
Beneath the keyboard is arguably the worst thing about the Scar III — its touchpad. As a touchpad, it’s not terrible in itself. The problem lies with its most innovative feature — the embedded numpad. A long press on the top right corner transforms the touchpad into a digital number pad. With the red number keys active, you can’t scroll or move the cursor.
The problem is that it is too easy to accidentally activate; you’ll all too frequently lose control of your cursor. I can’t tell you how many times this happened while scrolling webpages or when navigating a Word document.
It was so frustrating that I tried to deactivate the feature entirely. Alas, I couldn’t find how to do so even on the Asus support website. At the very least, a setting to increase the duration before the numpad activates would solve this.
Compounding the problem is the small physical size of the trackpad; there isn’t enough room for your hands to move around the pad which makes hitting that hotspot even easier. The surface material of the touchpad is a tad rough and its scrolling response is poor; I got wrist strain from scrolling webpages. Not even changing the scroll settings in Windows helped.
It’s a poor trackpad that pales in comparison to the likes of the Razer Blade 15 and Asus needs to do much better here.
Do you even port, bro?
But for that one glaring annoyance, the Scar III gets literally everything else right. Like the connectivity options. There’s a boatload of the latest generation of connection ports that will please gamers, streamers and content creators alike. The left side of the Scar III has three USB 3.2 ports and an audio jack.
Move around to the back and you get a blazing fast Gen 2, USB 3.2 Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 for powering an external monitor at speeds way above 4K 60Hz. Next to that is an HDMI 2.0 for more traditional video output to a TV or monitor. Rounding that off is a Gigabit Ethernet port for cable users. You’ve also got Intel 802.11ac (2×2) Gigabit Wi-Fi support Rangeboost technology and Bluetooth 5.0 for your wireless peripherals.
For audio, Asus has always impressed with the quality of laptop speakers and the trend continues here. The Scar III sounds larger than life thanks to two 4W bottom-firing speakers with Asus SmartAMP tech that makes sound fuller and bassier. From the heart attack-inducing bootup sound to hip-hop music, the content sounds rich and punchy that will leave you impressed.
Battery life on the Scar III is par for the course with all mainstream gaming laptops; negligible. The Scar III generally lasts 2.5-3 hours per charge and half that if you game on it. I’m yet to test a gaming laptop that warrants more than a cursory note on battery life and the Scar III doesn’t buck the trend.
Keys to my Bimmer.
One unique thing to the Strix line is the Keystone – a tiny magnetic NFC key that allows you to save a custom system profile for the Scar III. When you plug it in, the Scar III automatically adjusts the fan, keyboard and Aura Sync lighting profile that is associated with it.
This basically allows you to take your custom profile to any compatible Scar III laptop and immediately get it up and running in your custom configuration without fiddling with any software. Seems like a handy feature for esports athletes; especially those who belong to a team that provides the hardware at different locations.
To create a custom profile, you will first need to use the Armoury Crate software hub bundled with every ROG machine. Here you can adjust fan profiles, overclocks and of course the plethora of Aura Sync lighting profiles. There are a few other sub-apps here too, like the GameFirst V, Sonic Studio and GameVisual that allow you to tweak gaming-specific attributes of the Scar III’s performance.
But that’s not the only dark magic the Scar III has up its sleeve. There is also a Shadow Drive which is basically a hidden partition of about 300Mb that you can unhide by plugging in the Keystone. It’s a cool feature for stashing your private files from prying eyes especially if it’s a shared machine.
Should you buy? Is the Pope Catholic?
A resounding yes. The Asus ROG Strix Scar III is the third iteration of a laser-focused gaming laptop that has almost no compromises. Performance is beyond reproach and it’s matched with a very well built package that is attractive, portable and cool under load. Add on that delicious keyboard, infinitely customizable Aura Sync lighting and the handy Keystone, there’s nothing really missing here.
Yes, the touch/ numpad is an innovative feature that falls flat on its face but you’ll likely be using an external mouse anyway. Plus, the Scar III does so much else well that I can overlook this and I do hope Asus improves this trackpad
Add to that a variety of configurations of the Scar III to choose from. The unit we tested retails for about $3000 but if you choose a config with a GeForce 1660ti and a 500GB SSD, you’ll likely save over $500 making this an exceptional buy. Either way, this is a great gaming laptop that you shouldn’t pass up.
The Asus Strix Scar III was provided to PowerUp! by Asus Australia for the purpose of this review.
Asus ROG Strix Scar III Review
Product Name: Asus ROG Strix Scar III G531
Product Description: Gaming laptop with Nvidia RTX and 240 Hz refresh display
Built for gamers and certainly looks the part
Touchpad/ numpad is a cool trick gone horrible wrong
Excellent performance in gaming and productivity
One of the best laptop keyboards money can buy
1440p display at 144Hz would be better