Asus ROG Strix Scar II (GL704GM) Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Mesmerizing design; Colorful 144Hz panel; Punchy keyboard; Solid graphics and performance

The Cons

Audio could be better; Bottom-bezel webcam; Below-average battery life

Verdict

The ROG Strix Scar II packs a gorgeous 17-inch panel, strong performance and a comfortable keyboard into a dazzling design.

Asus' bestows yet another elegantly designed system upon the world with the ROG Strix Scar II (GL704GM). For $1,899 (starting at $1,699), the Scar II gets you a strong 8th Gen Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU that can power through demanding games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider at max settings.

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Aside from its roaring power, the Scar II features a colorful 17.3-inch panel that runs at a smooth 144Hz and a meaty keyboard with solid RGB lighting. The audio could be better for a gaming machine at this price, but overall, the Strix Scar II is a strong contender in the 17-inch gaming laptop arena.

Design

The Strix Scar II's contrasting brushed-aluminum hood is so damn tantalizing that I couldn't help but sit in a corner and call it "my precious." The lid is accompanied by a glossy ROG logo that emits RGB lighting when turned on and a sleek cutout near the hinge that reveals LED indicators. The vent grills in the back also have a sharp copper color.

As soon as I opened the laptop, the light bar and the keyboard blasted rainbows of color at me. Between the mesmerizing carbon-fiber stitching and the badass brown camo, I was in love with the inside of the laptop as much as the out. Even the bezels are superthin, but at the cost of the webcam's placement on the bottom bezel.

At 6.3 pounds and 15.7 x 10.7 x 1 inches, the Strix Scar II is average size compared with its competitors, but still relatively thin for a 17-inch laptop. The Dell G7 15 (6.3 pounds, 0.9 inches) is the thinnest, while the Acer Predator Helios 300 Special Edition (5.5 pounds, 1.1 inches) and its 17-inch counterpart, Acer Predator Helios 300 (6.6 pounds, 1.1 inches), are the thickest of the four.

Ports

The Strix Scar II has a ton of ports to accommodate your streaming and gaming needs.

The left side features the power jack, an RJ45 port, a Mini DisplayPort 1.4, an HDMI 2.0 port, three USB 3.1 ports and a headphone jack.

On the right lies a Kensington lock slot, one USB 3.1 port, one USB 3.1 Type-C port and an SD card reader.

Display

The Strix Scar II's 17.3-inch, 144Hz, 1080p panel is sharp, colorful and bright, despite turning in mixed results in our lab tests. Additionally, it offers a 3-millisecond response time.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I hid behind a truck as its taillights burned a bright, ominous red, illuminating Lara and revealing the pounds of mud on her peach-colored flesh. The image was so creepy and vivid that I thought I was about to go hunt the Predator. The panel was sharp enough for me to spot a rugged laptop across the enemy camp, which made me verbally mouth, "Is that a Dell?" The splashing puddles and movements of Lara's hair looked silky smooth as I rushed in to find out.

The Strix Scar II's 17.3-inch, 144Hz, 1080p panel is sharp, colorful and bright.

In the trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, I clearly saw every layer and strand of hair in Rami Malek's wig. In the same scene, his bright-red jacket and baby-blue tank top radiated in the wood-paneled office space. When the band was on stage at a small venue, I spotted details on people's faces in the dark crowd, though the band members looked washed out. It was then that I realized the color brightness was higher to accommodate for the dim display.

The Strix Scar II's panel covered 114 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which slips past the 111 percent mainstream-gaming-laptop average. It also took down the Dell G7 15 (62 percent) and Helios 300 SE (113), while the 17-inch Helios 300 nailed 139 percent.

MORE: Highest Resolution Screens

Despite not being a drastic issue in real-world testing, the Strix Scar II's display (261 nits) is dim on paper compared with the 294-nit category average. It still beat the Dell G7 15 (232 nits), but got overwhelmed by the Helios twins -- 312 nits for the Special Edition and 373 nits for the 17-inch.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Behind the stylish, techy font and transparent WASD keys lies three solid RGB lighting zones on the Strix Scar II's island-style keyboard. The keys felt active and punchy as I tap-danced all over them with my fingers.

I nailed 76 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is faster than my typical 66-wpm average. The keys travel at a decent 1.4 millimeters and require 71 grams of actuation force, which isn't far from our comfort zones (1.5 to 2.0 mm of travel and a minimum of 60 g of force).

The 4.1 x 2.2-inch touchpad offers smooth cursor control as well as two discrete buttons that are satisfying to press. However, the left and right click actually go too far down, causing my thumb to hit the base of the chassis. It did respond well to Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tab switching.

Audio

The Strix Scar II's speakers lacked treble, but they were still loud enough to fill my room with Bump of Chicken's "Hello, World!" The opening vocals were solid, but when the drums kicked in I could barely make out the tambourine. At the chorus, I couldn't distinguish between the tracks aside from the vocals and the lead guitar. I thought I was going deaf, but when I tested the same song on my own speaker, I was able to make out each drum beat and note from the bass guitar.

MORE: Buying Headphones in: Pros and Cons of Every Type

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I tossed a bottle at a guard's head and heard him scream in agonizing pain, and while that was hilarious, it sounded a little muffled despite me being right above him. I noticed that Lara and the enemies sounded somewhat muted in general, and the bass-heavy sounds, like helicopter blades, overwhelmed everything. Despite that, when I blasted an oncoming enemy with an assault rifle, the bullets sounded so heavy that I felt my ears tingle.

Unfortunately, there's no audio-equalizer app to help fix the Scar II's sound issues.

Gaming, Graphics and VR

Whether I was turning enemies into cyclopes with my bow and arrow, or skewering them with my handy pickaxe, the Strix Scar II's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU (6GB of VRAM) powered through Shadow of the Tomb Raider on Highest settings at 1080p for a smooth 34 frames per second.

On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark on Very High settings at 1080p, the Strix Scar II hit 38 fps, climbing over the 34-fps mainstream gaming laptop average but lagging slightly behind competitors. The Dell G7 15's GTX 1060 Max Q averaged 35 fps, and the Helios 300 SE's GTX 1060 matched the Scar II, at 38 fps. The 17-inch Helios 300's GTX 1060 soared past the others at a zippy 59 fps.

Whether I was turning enemies into cyclopes with my bow and arrow or skewering them with my handy pickaxe, the Strix Scar II powered through Shadow of the Tomb Raider at a smooth 34 frames per second.

The Strix Scar II came out on top on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), netting 73 fps and getting over the 66-fps category average. The Dell G7 15 (63 fps), the 17-inch Helios 300 (66 fps) and the Helios 300 SE (72 fps) all fell behind.

On the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (Very High, 1080p), the Strix Scar II got 51 fps, which sailed past the 45-fps category average, the Dell G7 15 (45 fps) and matched the Helios 300 SE (51 fps). The 17-inch Helios 300 pushed out a much higher 73 fps.

MORE: The Best Gaming Laptops

Clean off the dust of your VR headset -- the Strix Scar II hit a solid 7.4 out of 11 on the SteamVR performance test, which beats the 6.1 category average and the Dell G7 15's 6.3. The Helios 300 SE and the 17-inch Helios 300 got a little further, at 7.9 and 7.7, respectively.

Performance

The Strix Scar II is armed to the teeth with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 32GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD. It shrugged off the 40 Google Chrome tabs, five 1080p YouTube videos and three Windows 10 bloatware games that I threw at it.

On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Strix Scar II scored 18,618, narrowly beating the 18,451 mainstream gaming average. The Dell G7 15 (19,516) and the Helios 300 SE (19,428) did much better with their Core i7-8750H CPUs, but the 17-inch Helios 300 (13,972) lagged behind with its 7th Gen Core i7-7700HQ processor.

The Strix Scar II completed our Excel test (matching 65,000 names and addresses) in a short 0:46, which surpasses the 0:49 category average but not the Dell G7 15 (0:41) or the Helios 300 SE (0:45).

On the Handbrake benchmark, the Strix Scar II took the longest to transcode a 4K video to 1080p at 11 minutes and 37 seconds, missing the 11:29 category average. The Dell G7 15 and the Helios 300 SE completed the test in 10:40 and 10:30, respectively.

The Strix Scar II took a speedy 10 seconds to copy 4.97GB of data for a rate of 508 megabytes per second, sailing past the 287 MBps category average and trumping the competition. The Dell G7 15 scored a measly 102 MBps, while the Helios 300 SE (363.5) and the 17-inch Helios 300 (318.1) made the average but lost to the Scar II.

Battery Life

Like many gaming laptops, the Strix Scar II's battery didn't last very long. After continuously surfing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the Scar II's battery lasted 3 hours and 37 minutes, which is just under the 4:03 mainstream-gaming-laptop average. The Helios 300 SE didn't do much better at 3 hours, but the Dell G7 15 registered an impressive 5:39.

Webcam

Even if the Scar II's webcam was on the top bezel, it still wouldn't make up for how blotchy and grainy the images are. My hair looked like it was photoshopped on my head.

Surprisingly, however, it captured the red and blue on my Spider-Man PS4 box incredibly well. And though the light in the room was blaring right above me, it didn't wash out my face in the image whatsoever.

Heat

The Strix Scar II bends heat to its will like a wizard. After playing 15 minutes of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the underside hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit, which is closer to our 95-degree comfort threshold than most gaming laptops. The center of the keyboard measured 83 degrees and the touchpad registered 76 degrees. The hottest it got was 107 degrees, near the center of the hinge on the underside.

Our normal heat test yielded very similar results. After streaming a 15-minute HD video, the underside, center of the keyboard and touchpad hit 103, 96 and 80 degrees, respectively.

Software and Warranty

Asus packs a few useful gaming utilities into the Scar II, including the Armoury Crate, GameVisual and GameFirst V. The Armoury Crate monitors the CPU, GPU, RAM and fans, which are customizable with created profiles.

The app also lets you free up RAM and customize RGB lighting through presets like Strobing, Breathing and Rainbow. GameVisual provides color optimization for the display with presets like Vivid, Scenery and Cinema. Meanwhile, GameFirst V monitors bandwidth use for multiple things like file transferring, streaming and gaming.

But does it have Windows 10 bloatware? Why, yes, the Strix Scar II includes Dragon Mania Legends, Candy Crush Saga and its irrelevant twin brother, Candy Crush Soda Saga, among other usual Windows bloat.

MORE: PS4 Games: Our Staff Favorites

The Strix Scar II comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how Asus performed on our Tech Support Showdown, Best and Worst Brands listing and Best and Worst Gaming Brand ranking.

Configurations

The Strix Scar II that I tested comes with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 32GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD and an Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU. Asus doesn't actually sell this model, but you can get it from EXcaliberPC on Amazon for $1,899. You can even outfit the laptop with more storage, up to a 2TB Samsung 970 EVO SSD and 1TB HDD, which costs $2,525.

However, Asus sells only one model of the 17-inch Scar, which costs $1,699 and has 16GB of RAM instead of 32GB.

Bottom Line

The Asus ROG Strix Scar II is a glamorous piece of hardware that fits a gorgeous 144Hz, 17-inch panel in a relatively thin chassis. With its 8th Gen Core i7 and Nvidia GTX 1060 under the hood of a tactile RGB keyboard, this machine will easily let you tear through your favorite games on max settings. You should, however, come prepared with your own headphones and dedicated webcam because the Scar II just can't deliver regarding sound and camera quality.

If you're interested in saving a few bucks, the Helios 300 Special Edition costs only $1,399 and offers the same CPU and GPU but with a much brighter display. However, you'll be hard- pressed to find a 17-inch laptop this thin and practically bezel-free at this reasonable of a price.

Credit: Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Core i7-8750H processor
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
RAM 32GB
RAM Upgradable to 16GB
Hard Drive Size 256GB SSD
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type PCIe NVMe SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size 1TB
Secondary Hard Drive Speed 5,400
Secondary Hard Drive Type HDD
Display Size 17.3
Highest Available Resolution 1920 x 1080
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Video Memory 6 GB
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4.1 x 2.2-inch
Ports (excluding USB) RJ-45
Ports (excluding USB) Mini DisplayPort
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone/Mic
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.1 Gen 2
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI 2.0
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.1 Gen 1
Ports (excluding USB) DC-in
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt/mini DisplayPort
Ports (excluding USB) SD card slot
USB Ports 5
Warranty/Support One-year limited warranty
Size 15.7 x 10.7 x 1 inches
Weight 6.28 pounds
Company Website https://store.asus.com
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