ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18 Review – A gaming beast

The ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18

When it comes to next-gen mobile games, there's almost always one brand that stands out. ASUS has delivered user experiences and an active community with year-over-year improvements with some of its biggest releases. This was reflected in its sales growth in the professional and gaming sectors of the laptop market. Last week, the brand launched its latest mobile gaming flagship, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18.

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The ROG Strix Scar 18 has already attracted a lot of attention. The buzz was confirmed during the official launch last week, with its next-generation hardware and all-new features. All of this set the bar higher than its predecessor, the ROG Strix SCAR 17, which I wrote about last year. But, there still remains the question of testing in real conditions, as well as comparison with the previous unit.

Construction and design

Unboxing the ROG Strix Scar 18 was very different from the experience in previous reviews. The packaging opens by sliding, unlike opening the classic lid. There is also a graphic element on the packaging, a comic strip with superhero characters in black and white.

Right out of the box, the design is familiar. Although the finish is much more matte, we still find the classic diagonal lines of the ASUS brand. This diagonal line contains the ROG logo, repeated many times. Then, to complete the lid design, there is the usual ROG logo, quite large with LED lighting. Overall, the lid is quite weak by design standards. However, this is how I prefer it.

Moving on to the rest of the frame, the most notable inclusion is the large vents. With its new internal cooling system, much more air circulates through the unit. There are two smaller vents on the back of the sides, behind the ports. They are used to exhaust hot air, while the air intakes are placed below, where the three fans are located which draw in cooler air.

The air intakes below also have a designer approach, with the grille surrounding the fans bearing ROG text. Therefore, the design is bolder under the laptop than on the lid, which is an interesting choice.

Another design change is the semi-translucent approach to the keyboard area. So you can see some of the internals around the motherboard. It’s a nice touch for enthusiasts, but also serves a dual purpose. While allowing users to see some of the internal circuitry, its matte finish also helps prevent fingerprints. However, if one or two stains appear, they are easily camouflaged by the design.

In the end, the design clearly stands out from previous units. It adds a little more sparkle without adding too many over-the-top design elements. Less is more. And the team really managed to do it.

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Screen and display

Another of the changes on the ROG Strix Scar 18 lies in its name. While the Strix Scar 17 had a 17.3-inch screen, the Scar 18 ups the ante with its 18-inch panel. The device is equipped with the new ROG Nebula Display panel, codenamed NE180QDM-NZ2. This is an IPS panel that supports a 240Hz refresh rate but does not have OLED capabilities.

Additionally, it's not quite a 4K panel, with the screen having a resolution of 2,560×1,600px. While there may be some debate over the naming convention at this resolution, the most preferred would probably be 2K.

It's not quite a matte finish but definitely not shiny. This intermediate state also offers anti-glare support, as well as excellent color balance. This means it has a DCI-P3 rating of 100%. Additionally, it is also Pantone certified, which is a great thing for all enthusiasts.

Finally, it also supports Dolby Vision HDR, which offers enhanced lighting effects to enhance both gaming and video watching.

Despite its larger screen, it doesn't feel that bulky compared to the previous Strix line of laptops. With a smaller bezel and its 16:10 format, it limits the dimensions of the device as much as possible.

Overall, the screen is impressive, and with its refresh rate, it makes gaming even more immersive.

ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18 Specifications

As a next-generation gaming laptop, the ROG Strix Scar 18 is equipped with the latest and greatest. First of all, it has the latest Intel chipset with the 13th generation Intel Core i9-13980HX 2.20 GHz processor. With a total of 24 cores and a maximum turbo performance of 5.60 GHz, there is a lot of performance to be squeezed out of this processor. It is associated with 32 GB RAM, divided into two 16 GB modules.

While the processor gets some attention, it's slightly overshadowed by the recently announced NVIDIA GeForce RTX 40 Series GPU. The Scar 18 is equipped with the new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 laptop GPU, which adds a level of gaming performance potential not seen in many laptops before it.

It also offers excellent performance thanks to its storage options. It is equipped with a 2TB m.2 2280 SSD. After some research, I discovered that the code for this configuration is the Samsung 980 Pro SSD, which consists of two 1TB modules in RAID 0.

Although I was expecting Windows 11 Pro, the unit I tested featured the Home edition. For most users, there won't be much difference overall, but if you're all about security, the lack of BitLocker and WIP may be a talking point.

Overall, there is a lot to write about on the specs. This is an impressive lineup of hardware that will make any video game enthusiast smile.

Performance and battery life

When it comes to performance, the ROG Strix Scar 18 is unmatched. There were no tasks or operations that gave me trouble, as it passed all conventional load tests without a hitch. Sometimes it didn't even register 50% of the CPU capacity, which only peaked during benchmark testing.

It's not a flawless performance, however. With the unit fresh from the factory, there were a few bugs to squash, which mainly consisted of a few firmware updates as well as some system tweaking using the Armory Crate software.

After all the tweaks and updates, the full test performed much better overall. This was especially true for battery life. Considering the type of device, the configurations are almost endless when it comes to power or battery saving modes.

At typical settings, battery life lasts approximately four to five hours on a normal charge. This includes medium brightness, Wi-Fi, navigation and some videos. However, thanks to support for NVIDIA Optimus on the power-hungry 40 series, you can disconnect the GPU completely to save even more battery. By switching to this mode, you can gain an extra hour or two of battery life to extend the periods between charges. This is especially useful during load shedding, when you don't want to play games often and drain the battery.

That said, when you push a hardcore battery game all the way, the average duration was just under two hours. There were times when I got close to the three hour mark, but, generally speaking, two hours was the norm. And that's not bad considering 2K, 240Hz gaming on Ultra, using the 175W GPU.

On top of that, the audio is also quite unique. I don't often talk about the audio capabilities of laptops, with most having reasonable or average sound quality. With the ROG Strix Scar 18, however, the sound is much more balanced and full. It's rich and doesn't differ too much from a typical freestanding speaker setup. There are also four speakers, which gives a passive surround sound effect through the different channels. I really enjoyed playing on the laptop, even without needing to connect it to my audio system.

Next generation games

ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18

While the overall performance is a breeze for this device, there is still the gaming aspect to consider. This is potentially what 90% of the use cases would be for purchasing such a beast of a gaming laptop.

As noted, the ROG Strix Scar 18 is equipped with the new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 Laptop GPU. Although this is the highest variant of the mobile GPU chipsets, the specifications, and even the chip itself, are more in line with the desktop RTX 4080. That said, this is the most powerful version of the 4090 GPU for laptops, with 175W and overclocking support.

While testing a few AAA titles, I pushed each of them to their maximum graphics capabilities. Starting at 1080p resolution, it was a joy to experience, with smooth graphics and almost no lag. With the exception of a few frame rate drops, most titles maintained a consistent 140FPS+. For games like GTA V, the average was just below the 150FPS mark. However, for titles such as DotA 2 and other MMORPGs, the average has increased to around 190FPS. In between, there are other games like Spider-Man and Witcher 3, and even the new Wild Hearts.

When switching to the maximum native resolution, FPS dropped by 10-20%. At the resolution of 2560×1600 pixels, games are still above the 100 FPS+ threshold, which is excellent overall. It wasn't quite the 240FPS required to maximize the screen refresh rate, but it was pretty decent across the board. You can reduce some of the game's ray tracing capabilities to reach 240FPS+, but there's not much point in doing that, to be honest.

There's still plenty of room for performance gains on this front, both through NVIDIA driver updates and ASUS ROG firmware patches. The level of gaming performance will definitely improve over time, which is a great prospect for any potential buyer.

Is it worth buying the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18?

To say that the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18 is a beast is an understatement. Rather, it is a beast on steroids, raw and untamed. It is capable of accomplishing any task with great power, and it performs its task with ease. Its gaming performance also immerses you in another world.

ASUS South Africa has confirmed that limited quantities will be introduced into the country initially. Considering its R79,999 price tag, that’s understandable. However, if you are willing to build your own rig with similar hardware, you will definitely be able to save around 20-30% on costs. But, when you factor in its built-in 240Hz display, along with its extreme portability and ability to support an additional two hours of gaming during power outages, the price starts to match expectations.

The ROG Strix Scar 18 is a great gaming laptop. While there are a few other competing laptops in this space, there aren't many other options available in South Africa. With a lot more potential to unlock, this device can only get better with time, even though it's already one of the best gaming laptops I've reviewed.

Review

PROS

  • A modern and minimalist design
  • LED lighting show
  • Next generation hardware
  • Immersive audio
  • Exceptional gaming performance
  • Bright and bold IPS panel with 240Hz support

CONS

  • A high price
  • Requires some adjustments for best results
  • Battery life could be better

Detailed review

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