Paging Dr. Funkenstein, the Mothership has arrived. And it is just as pleasantly outlandish as when I first set eyes upon it. Essentially, the Asus ROG Mothership is a mini all-in-one gaming PC, stretching the very definition of the word "laptop." All the venting and components reside in the display portion of the system, leaving the detachable keyboard to lower like an intergalactic gangplank.
Weird looks aside, the inside of the Mothership is all gaming laptop, offering a powerful overclockable Intel Core i9 processor with an Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU. Throw in 64GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage and a beautiful display with a 3-millisecond response time and what was once an oddity quickly becomes a very compelling rig -- provided you can shell out $5,499.
Overall, the Mothership is an intriguing, yet expensive, peek into the potential future and one of the best gaming laptops you can buy.
Asus ROG Mothership price and availability
The Asus Mothership isn't the most expensive laptop I've reviewed, not by a long shot. However, $5,499 is nothing to sneeze at for a base model. Still, my review unit came stacked with a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i9-9800HK processor with 64GB of VRAM, four 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configuration, an Intel UHD 630 Graphics GPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU and a 1920 x 1080 display with a 144Hz refresh rate.
For $6,499, you can upgrade the display to a 4K, 60Hz panel.
Asus ROG Mothership design: Which way is up?
I've seen some funky-looking laptops in my time, but the Mothership might just take the cake. Made of black brushed aluminum, emblazoned with a massive backlit Republic of Gamers (ROG) emblem toward the bottom of the lid, the hybrid is undeniably an Asus. The top of the lid is dedicated to venting with the numerous medium-size slots configured into a geometric pattern that truly looks alien. If you peer closely enough, it looks as if lettering is etched into the frame, like some secret code that will unlock the universe.
Although it's rather counterintuitive, I'm referring to the portion of the Mothership that houses the display as the lid. It's so heavy, that I wouldn't fault you for assuming it's the undercarriage of the system. The bottom of the system is significantly lighter than the main portion atf 2.6 pounds, compared with the 8-pound top. It, too, has a huge backlit ROG logo, located in the top-right corner where you'd expect an exterior logo to reside. I got a few laughs making my colleagues figure out the right way to open the Mothership. No one got it right.
Typically, when you open a laptop, you lift up the lightest part of the system to reveal the inside. Not with the Mothership. You'll want to stand the hybrid up so the kickstand supporting the actual lid will deploy. From there, you gently lower the front panel down, which reveals the keyboard and another large ROG logo occupying the top of the keyboard deck.
With the keyboard attached to the display, the 16.1 x 12.6 x 1.2-inch Mothership weighs a backache-inducing 10.6 pounds. It's a substantial weight to lug on the subway, but it can be done if you're bag and back are up to the task. It's only slightly heavier than the MSI GT76 Titan (15.6 x 12.9 x 1.3~1.7 inches), which weighs 9.9 pounds. The Alienware Area-51m (16.1 x 15.9 x 1.1~1.7 inches) is the lightweight of the bunch at 8.5 pounds.
Asus ROG Mothership ports
You won't find a single port along the sides of the keyboard deck. You'll discover a single USB Type-C port in the hinge of the keyboard once you detach it from the display portion of Mothership (more on that later).
Instead, all the pertinent ports and buttons reside along the sides of the display.
For instance, there's a USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 port on the right with a HDMI 2.0 port and a USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, which also serves as a DisplayPort 1.4 input.
You also have an SD card reader, the two power jacks needed to power the system and the power button. On the system's left sits a trio of USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet and jacks for a headset and mic.
Asus ROG Mothership display
The Mothership's 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 panel isn't overly saturated and delivers warm, realistic color. When I watched the Miss Virginia trailer, I couldn't take my eyes off Uzo Aduba's massive fro, coiffed into a gravity-defying ebony semi-pompadour. The sun cascaded down on her left, highlighting solitary curls. Details were clear enough that I could see the subtle square pattern in her rose-pink suit.
When I played Borderlands 3, the panel did a great job of with color. My favorite scene was Lilith's entrance, as the drab, dirty setting of the Children of the Vault propaganda center was suddenly alight in a billowing cloud of red-orange fire. The cloud gave way to the Crimson Raider leader's trim form, her telltale blue Siren glowing bright with power. The 144Hz refresh rate and 3-millisecond response time made for incredibly smooth action, even as I was shooting and vaulting over obstacles and sliding into cover.
But if you want to get every bit of color out of the panel, give the GameVisual utility a try. The software allows you to change the overall color temperature of the display, offering eight presets (Default, Racing, Scenery, RTS/RPG, FPS Cinema, Eye Care and Vivid).
The Mothership's panel reproduced 102% of the sRGB gamut, beating our 100% recommended minimum. The Area-51m was more vivid at 118%, but neither system could surpass the 147% premium average. Meanwhile, the Titan delivered a color cavalcade at 157%.
Averaging 286 nits, the Mothership's display is pretty bright, outshining the Area-51m's 271 nits. The Titan, however, delivered a sparkling 376 nits and was the only one to beat the 318-nit category average.
Asus ROG Mothership audio
I love the Mothership's speakers. Since the system is built like an all-in-one, its four 4 watt speakers were aimed directly at my face, pumping out tunage that filled our small test lab with warm, invigorating sound. Listening to "True Kinda Love" from the Steven Universe the Movie Soundtrack, I was blown away at how good Estelle's buttery alto sounded. The snares were crisp, and the strings were easily distinguishable from the keyboard chords, thanks to the spacious soundstage.
It was way too easy for me to get lost in the nonstop mayhem of Borderlands 3, especially with such great audio. My first encounter with the COV bandits was a symphony of bullets, screams and explosions. Every gun had a distinct sound and weight, so a shotgun, pistol and submachine gun each had their own audio signature. Even better, blowing up an electric barrel yielded the satisfying crackle of electricity jumping into enemy bodies.
The speakers are at their best when the keyboard is detached, allowing the audio to reach your ears unabated. When the keyboard is attached, highs can get distorted, which can be remedied by turning down the volume. You can also try toggling between the five presets in the Sonic Studio 3 software (Music, Movies, Gaming, Communications, Off). While I used the Music preset for the majority of my review, Gaming does add a small hint of surround sound that's good for gaming.
Asus ROG Mothership keyboard and touchpad
The Mothership's keyboard is a fun little quandary. When you're preparing to use the laptop, it doesn't open so much as it unfurls. When it's magnetically attached to the primary portion of the hybrid, the keyboard sits on an 10-degree incline to make up for the lack of a palm rest. And it works for the most part, provided the surface you've rested the Mothership on is long enough to support your wrists.
When the keyboard is detached, you can either lie it flat or fold the top beneath it to make a lap-friendly device. It's an elegant solution that allowed me to rest the top-heavy portion of the detachable on my living room table while I typed and scrolled from the plushy comfort of my couch. The keyboard is paired with the Mothership via 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for wireless use, or you can connect via a USB Type-C cable.
Whichever way I used the keyboard, I enjoyed the overall typing experience. The island-style keys are nice and big with good spacing. And they're firm with bouncy feedback. Attaching the keyboard to rest of the Mothership, I hit 75 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test. Using the keyboard wirelessly landed me at 70 wpm, which is my usual rate.
In case you're playing a game that needs a number pad, or you just need a quicker way to crunch some numbers, the 3 x 2.4-inch touchpad can transform into a digital number entry system with the touch of a button. When engaged, a red backlit pad lights up that allows for swift data entry or fragging, whichever you prefer.
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Hitting the button a second time disables the number pad, returning it to a regular touchpad. The touchpad is a bit small, but I didn't experience any difficulties using multitouch gestures such as pinch-zoom, two-finger scroll or three-finger tap. And I appreciate that Asus gave me a pair of discrete mouse buttons to work with, instead of making me push awkwardly on corners. Both buttons are firm with a snappy click.
Asus ROG Mothership Aura Sync
No self-respecting mothership would be seen without a flashy light show. The same goes for this Mothership. To make sure it's putting its best backlit foot forward, the company preinstalled its Aura Sync software. Comprised of eight effects (Static, Strobing, Starry Night, Dark, Breathing, Color Cycle, Rainbow and Music), you can deck out the hybrid in a manner befitting an over-the-top gaming system.
I'm a fan of the Music preset, which glows according to what genre you set it to (Hip-Hop, Rock, Party, Funk, Sleep, Romance, Jazz and Standard). So when I set it to Funk and listened to Bruno Mars' "Perm," I got different color lights to correspond to the guitar, vocals and drums.
As fun as that is (and it is fun as hell), I really enjoyed programming my own light show, which can be a bit tedious, it's rewarding in its own right.
Asus ROG Mothership gaming, graphics and VR
Asus isn't pulling any punches with the Mothership. The hybrid system has a full Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM, which means that it packs a serious wallop when it comes to gaming, serving up high frame rates on the most graphically taxing games. The system also has an integrated Intel UHD 630 Graphics GPU, for when you're not saving the world.
I stormed the Sun Smasher base in Borderlands 3 to prevent the bandits from handling over a powerful artifact to the enemy. Lobbing a grenade into the approaching crowd thinned out the herd, sending a few flying into the air. I landed a few critical shots on a Psycho before landing the killing blow from a double-bladed gauntlet, turning my foe to a puddle of bloody goo at 100 frames per second at 1920 x 1080 on Ultra. Lowering the settings to High, yielded a frame rate of 119 fps.
The convertible kept pace with the competing systems, scoring 86 on the Rise of the Tomb Raider test (Very High, 1080p), beating the MSI Titan's (RTX 2080) 68 fps and the 65-fps premium gaming laptop average. However, it wasn't a match for the Area-51m, which put up a score of 92 fps. On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the Mothership hit 91 fps, sailing past the Titan's 79 fps and the 64-fps average.
When we switched over to Hitman, the Mothership dropped 135 fps, topping the Titan's 113 fps and the 107-fps category average. But the Area-51m scored higher at 143 fps.
The Mothership edged out the competition during the Grand Theft Auto V test with 108 fps. That was enough to hold off the 105 fps reached by the Area-51m and the Titan as well as the category average of 79 fps.
During Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the Mothership hit 129 fps, beating the 96-fps average and the Titan's 110 fps. It wasn't enough, however, to topping the Area-51m, which achieved 132 fps.
In case you were thinking about trying out the Oculus Rift S or the new HTC Vive Cosmos, the Mothership is more than capable of handling all your VR needs. The laptop hybrid maxed out the SteamVR performance test, matching the Area-51m, the Titan and the average.
Asus ROG Mothership performance
If you are ever called to do actual work, the Mothership and its 2.4-GHz Intel Core i9-9850HK processor with 64GB of RAM have your back. And if that's not enough multitasking, number-crunching power for you, the CPU is overclockable. At its base clock speed, the laptop easily handled an episode of Raising Dion on Netflix despite having 29 additional tabs open in Google Chrome. It even kept plugging when I started running Borderlands 3 in the background.
On the Geekbench 4.1 synthetic overall performance test, the Mothership achieved 34,879, surpassing the 24,742 premium gaming laptop average. The Area-51m and the Titan with their desktop Core i9-9900K processor hit 32,591 and 32,167, respectively.
The Mothership took only 5 minutes and 50 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p. It coasted past the 9:20 average as well as the 5:51 and the 6:00 put up by the Titan and Area-51m, respectively.
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Running the File Transfer Test, the Mothership's quad of 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configuration duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 4 seconds. That's a transfer rate of 1,272.5 megabytes per second, which was just enough to edge out the 1,272.3MBps produced by the Area-51m's dual 1TB NVMe PCIe SSDs. The Titan and its 2TB NVMe PCIe SSD reigned supreme with a score of 1,454.1MBps.
Asus ROG Mothership battery life
The Mothership might not last a full work day, but it managed to thoroughly outpace its rivals. With the keyboard attached, the Mothership lasted 4 hours and 41 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits). Minus the keyboard, the Mothership's time rose to 5:09. Both times are longer than the 3:09 premium gaming laptop average as well as the times generated by Titan (3:45) and the Area-51m (2:36).
Asus ROG Mothership heat
There's no denying that the Mothership is interesting to look at, but the hybrid's funky form is also functional, keeping the system's components cool during taxing activities. Traditional laptops often encounter cooling issues since the majority of their vents are on the bottom. Placing everything on the back and the top of the system allows for better airflow.
In addition to improved airflow, Asus outfitted the Mothership with two fans and eight heat pipes (four on the CPU and four on the GPU) to help keep things cool. And if that wasn't enough, the company is using Thermal Grizzly Liquid Metal, a thermal compound that is supposed to keep the CPU cooler up to 35 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius). Asus also has its software in place to help balance performance, cooling and power consumption.
So what that all that mean? Essentially, you've got a system that runs cooler than your typical gaming laptop. And all the hot air that would normally be directed at your crotch area is pointed upward and away from any pertinent body parts. As far as performance, it means that if you're interested in overclocking either the CPU or GPU, each can run at those unfettered speeds without worrying too much about thermal throttling.
I played around Pandora in Borderlands 3, generally being a thorn in the Calypso twins sides for 15 minutes. As soon as the game kicked in, so did the fans and, man, are they loud. Luckily, the Mothership's speakers are loud enough to drown it out. Once my time was up, I measured the touchpad, center of the keyboard and the top of the Mothership and saw temperatures of 81, 85 and 111 degrees, respectively. The Mothership runs a lot cooler than its closest competitors.
After giving the Mothership some time to cool down, I reran the test, this time watching Jackie Aina apply drugstore makeup on YouTube at full-screen for 15 minutes. The touchpad stayed at 81 degrees while the middle registered 82 degrees. The top and the rear of the Mothership measured 92 degrees, which is below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
"All the better to see you with my dear." The Mothership's 1920 x 1080 webcam serves up bright, accurate color with relatively clean details. The test shots that I took accurately captured my skin tone.
But I was really impressed with how good the turquoise unicorn in the background looked. While it wasn't sharp enough to pink up the sparkles in its purple hair, the color and details the shooter did capture were commendable.
Software and warranty
The Mothership comes bearing gifts of branded apps and utilities and the not-so-necessary bloatware. On the branded front, you have MyAsus for system diagnostics, a must-have to keep your system in tiptop shape. Gamer-centric software includes GameFirst V, which controls network bandwidth so you can make sure that your games get priority.
But the lion's share of your Asus-branded apps can be found in Armoury Crate. In addition to GameVisual and Sonic Studio, you'll get Hyperfan, which allows you to control fan speed. There's also Panel Overdrive, so you can take advantage of that 3ms refresh rate. Armory Crate also has links to download Asus Game Plus and GPU Tweak lI, if you want to try your hand at overclocking.
Nvidia GeForce Experience, which offers its own suite of apps designed to further enhance your playing experience, is preinstalled.
Thankfully, the bloat is pretty light on the Mothership, as no one really needs Asphalt: Street Storm, Candy Crush Saga or Gardenscapes. McAfee Personal Security is more useful, but not by much.
The Asus ROG Mothership ships with a one-year international warranty and a 30-day zero bright dot guarantee. See how Asus fared in our annual special reports: Tech Support Showdown, Best and Worst Brands and Best and Worst Gaming Brands.
Is a laptop? Is it a desktop? Honestly, it's a little bit of both with the answer lying closer to a detachable all-in-one. I can't deny the method behind Asus' madness. Placing the hybrid in a standing position and moving the vents from the bottom to the top make for a cooler system, which lends itself to better performance. I mean, who's going to say no to their overclockable CPU and GPU operating at peak performance? Not this reviewer.
Though the $5,499 price hurts my soul and scares my bank account, with its Core i9 CPU, Nvidia RTX 2080, 64GB of RAM and 2TB of lightning-fast storage, the Mothership stands toe-to-toe with its traditionally designed rivals and surpasses them in several areas. For the money, I would have like a brighter, more vivid screen like on the MSI GT76 Titan, or the ability to upgrade a component or two like the Alienware Area-51m.
Overall, for well-heeled gamers looking for a desktop replacement that can squeeze out just about every bit of performance possible and stay (and look) relatively cool doing it, the Mothership is the system for you.
Credit: Laptop Mag