Under what conditions would you ever consider paying $10,000 for a laptop?
I'd venture that the ASUS Rog Mothership, a 4.8KG laptop that functions as a replacement desktop machine, meets none of those. And yet, there's something adorable about being able to prop up a laptop-trying-to-be-a-desktop in places like the lounge room table, the balcony outdoors, and other places where you want to play games like The Witcher 3 or Hellblade at 4K, but a regular gaming laptop wouldn't be comfortable.
But wait, you might ask. How the hell is a 4.8KG laptop meant to be comfortable when a regular laptop isn't?
ASUS ROG Mothership
WHAT IS IT?
A 4.8kg laptop that's trying to replace your desktop PC.
I love that ASUS were insane enough to make this.
Who is the target audience for a $9,999 laptop that weighs 4.8kg? 4K gaming let down by a laggy panel.
ASUS ROG Mothership Specs
The ROG Mothership is specced out to be a replacement desktop, but not a replacement in the way that some manufacturers claim gaming laptops are a suitable alternative to gaming PCs. The Mothership is heavy. The entire chassis is flanked with huge cooling vents to combat throttling, the bane of all laptops.
The entire thing is a massive piece of aluminium, one that houses (at a minimum) a i9-9800HK CPU, 64GB of RAM (!), 3x 512GB NVMe PCIe SSDs running in RAID 0, a full RTX 2080 (not a cut-down version), a 17.3-inch 4K IPS 60Hz display (a 1080p 144Hz screen is available in other models overseas), and a keyboard that's entirely detachable. There's three USB 3.1 type-A ports, HDMI out, a couple of USB-C ports and a separate USB 3.1 port for charging.
Indeed, that's how I mostly used the Mothership: as a portable screen that I just plugged my mice and keyboard into. I sat out the front of the combined Kotaku/Pedestrian offices for about a week, effectively using the Mothership like a mini-desktop that also happened to run games like The Witcher 3 or Shadow of the Tomb Raider quite nicely.
It's also the kind of machine that drew a ton of looks. In typical ASUS fashion, the Mothership is heavy on the RGB. The whole thing looks a bit spaceship-esque, really. Oh, and just as important: the whole thing is powered by two 280W oldschool power bricks.
With the cooling and the GPU, it'd be hard for the Mothership not to deliver decent performance in games. What it's best at, however, is a bit different to what the hardware can pump out.
Fast-paced games like Overwatch and Fortnite, for instance, have no issues running at high frame rate. The Mothership happily clocked between 80 and 100fps during heavy firefights in ranked competitive matches, although the frame rate wasn't the issue. The 4K 60Hz panel made action incredibly sluggish, and made characters like Tracer (who are moving around at high speed all the time) pretty unbearable.
Games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and The Witcher 3 are another kettle of fish. Geralt trotting along Crookback Bog — one of the most brutal sections of the game — in 4K on High settings was humming along happily, with around 75-80fps in less intensively trafficked areas. The Mothership clocked a flat 60 fps in Shadow's automated benchmark on the Highest preset (although a few runs brought the average to just under 60fps), but knocking the settings down to High or Medium offers a bit more headroom.
Principally, I love the idea of the Mothership. I've always dreamt of being able to sit in the living room, open up a laptop and work through games like World of Warcraft or something more graphically intensive that wouldn't play that well on an ordinary thin and light laptop.
The Mothership can be treated like a portable screen in some ways. So this weird, unusual use case is actually doable. Hook up a controller so you're not having to hassle with a mouse and keyboard, detach the Mothership's screen and you're good to go.
You'd have to be exceedingly high to justify dropping $9,999 on that bizarre scenario. I like the detachability of it, and hopefully that's something that becomes a bit of a trend in laptops. Being able to just prop up the screen makes the Mothership - and other laptops! - fit nicely in some spaces that a laptop would ordinarily be a bit awkward.
But I'm stretching here. None of these things come even close to justifying the cost. Nothing can.
Laptops like the Mothership are never built to make sense. They're experiments, feats of engineering, dumb ideas researchers and technicians put together in a lab because everyone needs a creative outlet, and nobody is around to tell them no.
Except usually these things never make it past the concept stage. The Mothership is what you'd expect to see at a CES or a Computex: the kind of absurd, monstrous laptop that no company ever wants to actually sell. Who would buy this thing? Would you buy a $10,000 laptop? Would you buy a laptop in 2019 that weighs almost five kilos?
There are so many reasons to shoot this thing down, which is why I love that it got made at all. It's like Google Stadia in a way: a solution to a problem that nobody had. With the Mothership, ASUS has a laptop without a target market. Those keen on workstation-type laptops can buy cheaper Nvidia Studio offerings with RTX or Quadro cards. Gamers can get just as suitable performance in either a desktop or a laptop with a panel that's not only more suited for gaming, but brighter too. And those looking for a laptop to function as a laptop? The Mothership just makes no sense at all.
That's why I love it. On every conceivable level, the Mothership should not exist. And yet it does. I'd never recommend it. But I'll certainly respect the fact it was made at all.