ASUS has been making in-roads into the South African market of late. Having released its updated range in the country a short while back, the team are continuing the momentum, which includes sponsoring a number of eSports teams, as well as events creating the buzz that is required locally. A few weeks ago I had the chance to review the latest unit from the TUF Gaming range, a rugged mid-range unit with great all-round performance. Prior to that, I reviewed the ASUS ROG Strix Scar II GL704, easily the most powerful gaming laptop I reviewed over the years. This time around, I received one of the units from the latest range, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar III. It may not be the highest specced unit in the most recent range, but the Scar III is brilliant across almost all categories.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar III Build and Design
While the Scar II range came packaged in a minimalist design, with ASUS focusing more performance and functionality than over the top creations. One of the biggest contributors to the gaming laptop design changes in recent years has been Nvidia’s Max-Q architecture, released in 2017. The design changes here allowed for light and slimmer units, which means that manufacturers no longer have to hide behind clunky designs to blanket its large internals. Compared to the Scar II range, the Scar III adds a tad bit more detail into the design, making it more unique in that sense.
Starting with the lid – it includes the standard ROG signature badge off to the right-hand side, fully equipped with the AURA RGB effects. The difference on the Scar III, however, is the brushed aluminium finish in gun-metal grey, with angled brush finishing (one vertical and the other diagonal). There’s a clear distinction between the lid and its rear, which also doubles as additional air intakes for cooling. These intakes are covered by a plastic grille with a ripple-like casing. This extra real estate on the rear provides further usefulness in that it allows for additional ports, housing the charge, USB Type-C, HDMI and Ethernet ports. Flanking the sides of these ports are two visibly large grilles, through which exhaust fans blows out its hot air. The lid itself is raised away from the body, with two hinges on the left and right-hand sides. The gap between the screen and body is quite significant, with an angled finished at the bottom.
Moving to the inside, you’ll notice the carbon-weave pattern on the frame, but also features the same contrasting finish as the outside on the lid. There’s technically no need for this, as most of it may go unnoticed, but it’s a nice touch matching the outside and inside design theme. Flipping the unit over you’ll notice that more than half of it serves as air intakes to keep the unit running cool. These intakes are shaped into a ROG logo as well. The unit includes four rubberised feet, each of which are positioned on the corners.
As with almost the entire ASUS gaming range, ROG or TUF, the unit includes an impressive lighting system with its AURA RGB lights. At times, the lights can be somewhat distracting, but thankfully they’re all customisable, right down to turning them off completely when required. ASUS has included an additional element to the lighting on the Scar III, with lighting extending across the skirting (along the front and sides). Add the correct lighting here, and the unit will seem like its floating atop your desk.
In terms of the specifics, the Scar III measures 360x275x24.9mm and weighs 2.57KG. This makes the Scar III a tad smaller in terms of its frame (slimmer too) and about 400g lighter as well. The left-hand side sports x3 USB 3.0 ports, a 3.5mm mic-in and outputs. The right-hand side doesn’t feature any ports, but does include the new Keystone drive – more on that later.
Unlike some of the previous designs, the Scar III screams “gaming laptop.” ASUS has gone back to its roots somewhat on the Scar III, offering a solid build and design alongside contrasting finishing touches, while rounding it off with an over-elaborate lighting display. Thankfully, this can be turned down or completely off, at least making a tad more subtle if you’d like. Then again, why would you buy an ASUS laptop if you’re not prepared for the show?
ASUS ROG Strix Scar III Keyboard and Touchpad
The Scar III offers island-style keys, which make typing accurate and fast. The spacing of the keys is also great, as ASUS has removed the numeric keypad to create more real estate for the more important keys. I can’t accurately speak for the key travel of the keys, but it feels good at your fingertips with a solid-enough click when depressed (somewhere between the silence of rubberised keys and the clunk of the mechanical keyboards). The spacebar isn’t symmetrical, as it matches the angled finished off the underside of the screen. Again, I like the thought of the continuation of a certain theme in terms of the design, although in this instance, I’m not sure what the shape is supposed to represent.
I mentioned previously that ASUS had removed the numeric keypad to create more space, but that wasn’t the complete story. There is a unique way to still have the usefulness of the numeric keypad in the form of the “NumPad,” which activates the touchpad to double up as the digital keypad, visualising each of the numbers in a red outline. To turn on this feature, you simply have to press and hold the top right-hand side corner of the touchpad, otherwise known as the “NumLk” sensor. To turn it off again, repeat the process.
ASUS has gone one step further with its keyboard lighting, allowing users to customise the lighting for each individual key. This is a first across the ASUS line-up. One of the notable changes to the keyboard is the removal of the transparent WASD keys, which stood out on previous ASUS units. I didn’t like this aspect of the design and would’ve have preferred it to be distinguished by means of lighting rather than the transparent look. Thanks to the customisation of each key, you can now make those changes.
The keyboard includes quite a number of shortcut keys, from the ROG Armoury Crate key to two power control keys – one which can simply be pressed with the other needing you to depress the Function key first. I don’t understand why we’d require two power shortcuts, but they’re there, and in close proximity too. In any event, the shortcut keys mean that you’re never too far from making any changes to the laptop on the fly. And I love this.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar III Screen and Display
The Scar III has similar specs to that of its predecessors. This includes a 15.6″ FHD screen, which has a 1920x1080px resolution display. The big upgrade comes in the form of the 240Hz, 3ms refresh rate, IPS panel with 100% sRGB. The screen has a matte finish, which is my preference, as glossy panels tend to reflect too much light. This means that the Scar III is fully usable in some of the most well-lit environments. But while this is a huge plus, the screen suffers when it comes to its contrast ratio, measuring around 970:1, which is lower than your average panel.
Thanks to the sRGB gamut, however, colour reproduction is quite good, measuring around 94%. The colours are accurate and crisp, making it quite enjoyable to play games, as well as edit graphics and the likes. With its 240Hz panel, the refresh rate is the best seen on a laptop. This adds to the gaming experience, which looks really fluid.
Again, similar to the previous units, the Scar III has a relatively thin bezel around the screen, especially the bottom. That said, compared to many other modern laptop screens the bezels are quite large, although not distracting.
Performance and Battery Life
As with the Scar II unit, the Scar III packs in quite a lot when it comes to specifications. While it may not be the highest spec unit in the new range, it still packs a punch. The unit received for review includes an Intel Core i7-9750 2.6GHz CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, as well as an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 (8GB GDDR6) GPU. It has been paired with a 512GB Intel 660p PCIe SSD with Windows 10 Home 64-bit installed.
Although the Scar III unit I received isn’t the top level within its range, the results were still very impressive, second only to the Scar II unit reviewed previously, which had some of the best specifications I’ve tested to date. But, the Scar III range, as proved by this mid-level unit from within its range, is that it isn’t all about throwing the most powerful hardware at the user. The ecosystem around the hardware adds a lot into the overall experience, allowing users to gain more from the unit in terms of gaming, the power balance, the battery consumption (discussed below) and customisation. These are all factors that aren’t properly measured by benchmark tests, which are usually limited to CPU, GPU and storage, sometimes in isolation.
In terms of gaming performance, the Scar III delivers on all fronts, allowing gamers to enjoy high frames per second. The average for most games on default settings is well above the magical mark of 30fps even on the 1080p resolution. That said, with the 240Hz screen, I wasn’t able to reach these rates anywhere above 150fps, even when dropping the resolution and graphics settings. Switching to benchmark tests, the unit was able to reach an average of 220fps across the different tests. Most of the real-world gaming fps are limited by their specific coding, even though the potential to reach rates above 200fps is there, with the screen been more than capable of handling it as well.
If there is a tiny blip on the Scar III, it’s that the fans run a tad loud at times without being able to cool the unit down sufficiently. It’s not to say the unit overheats, far from it, but the noticeable hot air that’s blowing on your lap during gaming at times.
The Scar III has a 66WHr Li-po battery with a 230W power adapter, most likely the same as sported on the Scar II range. Thanks to the new hardware, however, which includes the latest-generation Intel CPU and NVIDIA Optimus GPU, the power consumption is quite a lot better. As stated within the Scar II review, the battery lasted around 90 minutes on battery, which isn’t a sufficiently long time for portable gaming. On the Scar III, things have improved somewhat, pushing the benchmark closer to 180 minutes, almost double as it was previously. There are many tweaks included in the software, specifically the Armoury Crate, which allows users to customise their optimal battery consumption.
As mentioned throughout the review, there are a few elements of what makes the Scar III perform that comes down to its tie-in software. While there are quite a lot of shortcuts on the keyboard, it’s the ROG Armoury Crate application that makes even those shortcuts meaningful. One of the main shortcuts is for the power optimisation, set between low, medium and high, which also affects the fan speeds, an audible difference when switched. The settings can be fine-tuned at quite impressive levels. This also includes, as mentioned earlier, each of the keys and how they light up. As previous units, users can link the Armoury Crate to their smartphone, allowing them to make changes on the fly, even while mid-game.
A noticeable new feature on the Scar III series is the addition of the Keystone. The Keystone support is a type of physical drive, which can be added to the right-hand side of the unit to copy over your customised settings from laptop to laptop. This is quite a useful feature, but is more future proof than anything really essential for modern laptops. The trouble here is that the Keystone is a proprietary drive, limited to the Scar III and Hero III laptops, which makes it very difficult to even test. So nice thing here is that when you eventually decide to upgrade the laptop in the future, you needn’t worry about struggling to setup all your preferences again from scratch.
Another benefit of the Keystone is the support for an encrypted “Shadow Drive.” So, if you need additional security for your system drive, etc. then users can encrypt sensitive files, blocking them from being accessed when the Keystone isn’t attached. The challenge here is getting into the habit of carrying the Keystone drive with you when the laptop is not in use, while also worrying about losing it when out and about.
ASUS has really changed the landscape of the gaming laptop and not simply by throwing hardware and specifications at the cause. While some of the additions remain novel, such as the Keystone, it paves the way for better gaming experiences going forward. That said, in terms of its hardware, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar III is still a brilliant device with high-end specifications. The additional light show also adds to the overall experience, along with numerous other customisations, right down to the level of each individual key.
Depending on your chosen specification, which varies between CPU, RAM, GPU and SSD, the price ranges between R24,999 all the way up to R74,999 for the highest possible spec.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar III
The ASUS ROG Strix Scar III takes the mantle from the Scar II gaming range, pushing the boundaries just a tad further, creating the ultimate in gaming performance with a user experience to match.
- All-round performance
- 240Hz screen support
- Almost fully customisable experience
- NVMe support
- Numerous variants to suit your budget
- Noisier fans under load
- No card reader
- Ease of Learning 0%
- Ease of Use 0%
- Enjoyment 0%
- Design 0%
- Performance 0%
- Value for Money 0%