(Pocket-lint) - We're seeing a growing trend of the big boys in the gaming laptop arena smashing out machines with more and more power and insane numbers to match. Whether it's clamouring over who can create the thinnest machine or one with the highest refresh-rate screen, there's always something new.
That's no bad thing for gamers though, as it means there's plenty of choice and some super machines to help get your game on. PC gamers often demand the very best, so why not have it fast, powerful and portable?
That's the aim of the game with the Asus ROG Strix Scar III, which not only boasts a snazzy design, but some bonkers specs that include (at the top-end) a Core i9 processor, Nvidia RTX 2070 graphic card and a 240Hz refresh screen.
But does the ROG Scar 3 live up to its hefty asking price? We've been gaming, working, surfing and more to find out.
Bleeding edge power with a premium design
- Up to Intel Core i9-9880H
- Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU
- M.2 NVMe PCIE 3.0 SSD - up to 1TB
- Up to 32GB DDR4 2666Mhz SDRAM
- 1 x Type C USB3.1 (DP capable), 3 x Type A USB3.1, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack, 1 x RJ45 Ethernet port
At first glance, it's easy to dismiss the ROG Strix Scar III as being a bit over-the-top and, well, a little bit lairy. Turned off, it looks like just another high-end Asus laptop, with a brushed gunmetal grey finish, carbon-accented keyboard surround and fancy cooling fins peeking out from the edges. But turn it on and you're greeted by more RGB lighting than your heart could possibly desire.
There's an RGB LED strip wrapped around the underside rim of the frame on this laptop, which leaves your desk bathed in a glorious multi-colour glow that reminds us somewhat of the first Fast and the Furious films. Add to that an RGB logo on the lid and a backlit keyboard and you've certainly got something bright that catches the eye.
The Scar III is more than just a fancy looking slab of tech though. It's also a real powerhouse of a gaming machine. Under that shiny hood lies some serious potential. The top-spec machine boasts a high-end Intel Core i9-9880H, an Nvidia RTX 2070 GPU, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe SSD. The result of which is some impressive gaming performance.
You'll need all that power if you want to get the most out of the setup, as the Scar III also sports a 240Hz refresh screen with a 3ms response time. You need some seriously high frame-rates to put that to good use.
Essentially, this is a laptop that's designed for serious PC gamers and eSports enthusiasts. But it's equally pleasing to anyone who just wants to run recent games on Ultra settings with ray tracing turned on.
Uber fast visuals and ray tracing capabilities
- 15.6-inch Full HD 1080p IPS panel
- 81.5 per cent screen-to-body ratio
- 240Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, 100% sRGB
- GameVisual colour display
- 3DMark benchmark scores: Sky Diver, Fire Strike, Time Spy, Timespy Extreme, Port Royal, DLSS
The Scar III we've had our hands on sports the 15.6-inch, 1080p, 240Hz IPS panel. There is a 144Hz 17-inch version if you prefer something a little bigger, but we actually found this 15-inch model felt big enough - with an 81.5 per cent screen-to-body ratio, it somehow feels bigger than it actually is.
The screen is pleasing though. Having that 240Hz screen lets you get the most out of the high-frame rates, but it's also vibrant, colourful and customisable too. However, we did find it could feel a little on the dim side for standard Windows use and it couldn't really hold up outside in bright sunshine, but for gaming it's really superb.
We tried out a number of games to see how the performance held up. We played Kingdom Come: Deliverance and Crysis to give it a punishing, gamed to our heart's content, and ran benchmarks to see how it performed compared to other laptop rigs.
For gamers who want super-high frame-rates for lightning response times, the real test is for 'pro' games like CS:Go. On the highest settings, it ran around 190-200fps. On medium settings, we were getting closer to the max refresh rate. Impressive stuff.
Of course, more taxing games don't fare as well. Maxed out, Shadow of the Tomb Raider got around 58fps - but that's with ray tracing on. Other games managed between 60-100fps, depending on the game and settings.
One thing we did quickly notice though: the Scar III essentially needs to be played with the fans set to turbo if you want the best possible experience. There are settings for 'balanced' and 'quiet' fan speeds, but if we used them on anything other than a casual game, the performance would hit a lacklustre wall at one point or another. Frame rates would drop off and a jagged experience ensued. This is, of course, part of the problem with thin gaming laptops and compact machines with loads of power - incredible cooling is essential.
These fans are loud on turbo/performance mode and the noise soon becomes obnoxious. We noted that a mic didn't pick it up much when chatting to friends on Discord, but it did become bothersome when playing. Of course, donning a gaming headset can make a difference here, but it does spoil the fun somewhat.
The Scar III also includes both HDMI and DisplayPort outputs (via USB-C), meaning you can pair it with a larger screen and either multi-screen or simply game on something larger. You can't get the same frame-rates if you go big of course - on a 3440 x 1440 monitor we'd see around 30fps less than we would playing the same game on the laptop itself.
We also found issues with multi-tasking this way. If you try outputting to a larger screen and recording via OBS or Nvidia ShadowPlay you'll notice a quite painful drop in frame-rate performance. We were surprised by this issue considering the power under the ROG's hood.
Generally speaking, the Strix Scar III is a joy to use. The screen looks fantastic and games run smoothly. We also like the screen on this laptop for the same reason we like the one on the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531: the on-the-fly visual customisation.
This laptop comes with the Armoury Crate software, which includes the ability to switch between various visual presets to adjust the look of the screen. There's FPS, racing, RTS, vivid and more. Our favourite for daily use is 'EyeCare', which takes the edge off the screen for working and browsing and eases pressure on weary eyes.
Software, sound highlights and battery life
- Armoury Crate software with an accompanying smartphone app
- Adjustable fan speed, RGB lighting and system monitoring
- Audio and visual enhancement settings
The Armoury Crate software also lets you do other things. Think of it as the command centre used to tweak the device to your pleasure. You can adjust RGB lighting, change fan speed, monitor the performance of the system and more.
As if that wasn't enough, there's also an accompanying smartphone app for Android and iPhone devices that allows you to control the laptop remotely. From there you can adjust the screen, tweak the fans or check on the component load. You cannot adjust the lighting, which seems like an oversight, but a minor one.
Armoury Crate also gives you access to other software like Sonic Radar, Sonic Studio and Game First. These let you change the sound setup of the machine and do clever things like optimise for performance or get a visual representation of the sound in the game - showing you where threats might be, for example.
It's all the customisation options in this software that allows you to tweak the Scar III to perform just the way you want it. But things don't need to get complicated. Even on default settings, you can just load a game, press the fan button to up performance and get stuck in.
As you'd expect from a machine of this calibre, you have to be plugged in if you want the best gaming experience. But when you aren't gaming the Scar III is no slouch either. It's much quieter under normal use in Windows for a start. It also lasts around four hours on a single charge before it needs a juice boost (well, with that RGB lighting turned off).
The speakers on Scar III are reasonably pleasing for the most part. They're satisfactory for streaming Netflix shows, watching YouTube or just getting through the day with Spotify. They aren't quite enough to drown out the fans on max tilt though.
A comfortable keyboard with cool accents
- Compact keyboard layout
- Quiet and comfortable membrane style keyboard
- RGB backlit keyboard, full N-Key rollover, Overstroke tech
As a 15.6-inch laptop, the Scar III has a compact keyboard layout. We found the thin enter key design to be a frustration, but otherwise it's a comfortable and capable keyboard for whatever task.
A highlight is that the trackpad that doubles as a numpad. If you press the top right of the trackpad, it switches to numpad mode, with red numbers shining at you. This isn't tactile, of course, but does mean you can quickly enter digits into spreadsheets with ease. We've seen this logic before on several other Asus laptops. It made more sense on the Zephyrus S where the trackpad was side slung, but it's still useful here too.
For gaming, we found the keyboard on this laptop to be more than capable and accurate. It's also subtly backlit, so not over-the-top. Brightness can be adjusted in the settings and on the fly by pressing the function buttons and arrow keys on the keyboard. You can also change between the colour patterns/sequences this way too.
Included with the Scar III is a port for Keystones - these are physical NFC keys that allow you to calibrate your preferred settings and then automatically activate them when you plug the key in. These keystones can also be used to unlock a 'shadow drive' which will no doubt make you feel like some sort of elite hacker. We honestly feel these dongles are a bit gimmicky, but they do make a satisfying jingle sound when you plug them in.
The ROG Scar III could be called over-the-top - especially for its mass of RGB lighting - but this machine is a gaming powerhouse with super-smooth 240Hz screen and heaps of power to boot.
The top-end specification gets you a real beast that's capable of hitting high frame-rates for great results. There's also enough power for recording gaming sessions, video editing and more. Especially with the Core i9 processor and 32GB of RAM.
It's a shame the fans are so loud and the enter key irks, but otherwise there's little to fault this gaming laptop.
We thoroughly approve of the premium feel of this machine too. It has a high-quality heft to it, a solid build aesthetic, and all the power to back it up. The price might make most people recoil in horror, but if you have the cash to splash why not go all out? As a whole package the Scar III is really quite something.
Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX531
A fantastic addition to the Asus ROG laptop line-up that packs an RTX GPU and 144Hz screen, along with preferable style for our tastes.
Razer Blade 15 (2019)
Another thin but fully capable gaming laptop tha wouldn't stand out in the office. The Blade 15 might be more subtle than the ROG in terms of looks if that's what you're after. Think of it as a gaming sleeper.
Acer Predator Triton 500
If you're looking for a thin and powerful gaming laptop then the Acer Predator Triton 500 is well worth considering too. It has some really neat features, good quality speakers and some serious gaming power under the hood. A high-end spec, 144Hz screen and cool accented keyboard are the main highlights, though it hasn't got nearly as much RGB as the Scar III.