I've tested a bunch of gaming laptops this year. Most of them have been alright, and done their job reasonably well. The ASUS ROG Strix Scar II is one of the first where I've sat back and thought, "Shit, that's better than I thought."
On the surface, the ASUS GL504 — more fully known as the ROG Strix SCAR II — seems like your run-of-the-mill sub $3000 gaming laptop. For somewhere between $2500 and $2700 (depending on retailer) you're getting largely the nuts and bolts you'd expect: an i7-8750H CPU, which we've seen in other gaming laptops this year, 32GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM, an 8GB GTX 1070 (not the Max-Q version, though), and a 144hz 1080p screen. (If you're happy to go with a 256GB main drive and a GTX 1060, you can pick up the SCAR II for $2249.)
ASUS ROG Strix Scar II Gaming Laptop
WHAT IS IT?
ASUS's esports-focused gaming laptop, but with more power than something that's just dedicated for Overwatch or CS:GO.
Nvidia GTX 1070 8GB (not Max-Q)
32GB DDR4 2666Mhz
500GB Samsung NVMe PCIe SSD, 1TB secondary drive
15.6" 144Hz 1080p IPS screen, 72% NTSC colour gamut coverage, 3ms response time
2x 3.5W speakers, 3.5mm audio jack
1x USB-C, 2x USB 3.1 first-gen, 1x USB 3.1 second-gen, ethernet
230W power adapter
361mm x 262mm x 26.1mm (w/d/h)
The ROG Strix comes with Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac wireless, although a machine like this is best served with a wired connection whenever possible.
And that's because, for the most part, the Strix Scar II wants to be a desktop replacement. While it's not a GTX 1080 or the thinner Max-Q versions of Nvidia's offerings, the Scar II outpaced the HP by OMEN laptop we tested earlier this year.
Let's go through the numbers. For reference, all tests were run using the 399.24 Nvidia drivers.
It's worth making some caveats here, for clarity. For one, the Warhammer 2 benchmark was run using the Skaven fight, which tends to be more intensive than the standard battle (and more useful than the campaign benchmark).
On Ultra, the Scar II dropped to the mid-30s in the heaviest moments. So while the average frame rate was just a touch over the ideal mark — 60fps — I'd strongly recommend running on High or Medium. Games of Warhammer 2 can get rather enormous with huge stacks of armies, and having a good buffer is super useful.
Shadow of War's benchmark is a little more synthetic, but the results were outstanding nonetheless. Monolith has optimised the hell out of the game since launch, anyway, but the Scar II should have no problems here.
The game also highlights the stark difference between the Scar II and the Omen 15 we tested earlier this year. The Omen 15 hit an average of 106.6fps and 81.5fps in Shadow of War on the medium and high settings, 20-25fps less than the Scar II.
That wasn't a bad laptop, either! The Scar II doesn't have a 4K-enabled model, but it's a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Omen 15 (which retails for $2800 from HP direct, or $3000 if you're buying from JB Hi-Fi).
And while the Scar II doesn't have some of the design niceties, it's a reasonably good laptop to use. The chiclet keyboard has decent travel — it has a faux mechanical feel to it, which is nice to type on — and the touchpad was relatively responsive. Razer's touchpads are still better, and it's certainly no Surface Laptop or Macbook-level design, but it's more than functional.
The Laptop does come preloaded with ASUS's software suite, which includes the ROG Gaming Centre. It's a monitoring app, overclocking tool, RGB controls and shortcut manager all in one. There's some neat utility in there, although for the most part regular gamers will usually just go straight to Steam/Battle.net/Origin/GOG for the games.
The Scar II still has plenty of healthy competition, although it depends on your needs. The MSI GS65 only has a GTX 1060, but it's only 1.88kg and noticeably slimmer. If it's the GTX 1070 you need, Gigabyte's P56XT ships with a 4K display and a 2TB secondary drive for around $2700. The Acer Predator has a similar storage profile too, although it's on the older i7-7700HQ CPU and 2400Mhz RAM — but it'll only set you back $2300, which might be the right price.
So there's a few options. And ASUS's own Zephyrus line of gaming laptops — similar specs, but with a slight premium because they're thinner — are in the mix too. But for what you're getting, you could definitely do worse than the Scar II. It's decently priced, and the performance is pretty reasonable.