New hardware is always exciting time, in this instance it was a chance to get hands on with the Asus Strix Scar II, well it had me happy, but after spending two weeks using the machine, did it leave me happy?
The answer is, kinda and I say that, because there are a great many things that it does amazingly well and then somethings, which I can’t understand or approve of. But before we get into that, let’s have a look at the tech that comes packed inside of each, because that is the reason you would be looking at getting a gaming laptop. The review unit that I was lucky enough to use came packed with a Intel core i7-8750H, which proved to be quite a resourceful CPU, alongside that it also had 16gb of ram, which ran at an impressive 2666MHz. The combination here, meant that the games that I threw at it, were able to run without issue, even trying to break it by rendering a video, whilst working in photoshop, did not prove to be an issue for it.
On the graphics side, the mode I had came packed with a NVIDIA GTX 1060, which until very recently, was one of the most power chipsets on the market and that, combined with the above specs, was able to handle Battlefield V in full HD, 60fps and everything up on high. In fact going back to play the game on my main PC, showed just how much better the laptop was at performing, even just the load times were better on the machine. Battlefield V was not the only game that benefited from running on the machine, DOOM also ran better and smoother, of course the game was no slouch on my PC, but it was just better on the laptop. In fact every game I threw at the laptop ran smoothly, I can't honestly think of any time it struggled with anything, even a known resource hog like Crysis 3 ran without issue.
Given that the laptop was able to play games better, the next test that I put it through was that o movie and music playback. For these tests I did things in multiple setups, whilst the laptop was connected to power and off, with headphones and without, outside and in, the goal was to see how it performed in a number of settings. What was surprising was how bright the screen was, when not running on battery and watching Incredibles 2 outside, even the darker moments of the movie, especially the opening scenes, were clear and there was no glare on the display, something that most screens suffer from when in natural light. Playing the same sequence of the movie inside, repeated the results, which in turn provided enough evidence to show that the screen was great quality.
Soundwise though, things got a little strange, playing Battlefield V without headphones was great, it was loud and chaotic, with the sounds coming through quite clearly, the movie not so much. When the action scenes were on, the audio was crisp and easy to hear, but when it got quiet, the sound quality lowered a fair bit. This is not the first device to do that, and I suspect it won’t be the last, but when you consider how great everything else is, this low range issue is quite annoying. Using headphones resulted in the same effect, if it was loud, it was easy to hear, quite not so much. Even music was not immune, throwing on Imagine Dragons or Queen, had some great moments, but those same bands, would be hard to hear if it was a quieter song.
Perhaps that is my presence on how I would like my audio to be and that’s fine, but there were two issues that really made it hard to enjoy the laptop. First up was the keyboard, it was spaced oddly, which resulted in a lot of mistakes when typing or playing games, now the spacing was not a huge thing, there is always a learning curve for anything new, but no matter how I tried, I could not get a grip on this one. The other issue though, was something that never felt right and it was noticeable the moment I picked up the device and that was the weight of it.
Yes, I get that it is a gaming laptop and as such has more powerful tech inside of it, but I have seen and enjoyed gaming laptops that are not as heavy, this one was a beast. Hefting it around, was not something I would want to do too much, if this was the only laptop I had, thankfully it is not, even a bag, which I have never had issues carrying lots of things in, gave me grief with the weight this laptop has behind it. Even leaving the device on my lap, resulted in being uncomfortable, its weight, whilst pretty evenly distributed, was still a lot more than normal and the effect was hard to ignore. One upside to the weight was that when on a desk, the laptop did not move, something lighter ones do a bit, so that was nice.
Perhaps the most interesting and strangest part though, is the overall case design, the case was finished off with a brushed aluminium look, but also had lines that helped provide a little depth and contouring to its shape. When closed though, there was a giant recess at the back of the unit, which in turn provided access to light indicators, for things like power and hard drive, it looked cool, but at the same time, when the screen was up, resulted in a giant gap between the screen and base.
Asus have built a real powerhouse of a machine with the Strix SCAR II, but it comes a at a cost and I don’t mean the retail price, though that is a little high as well. The weight is going to be a major turn off for many people and while finding the balance between power and weight can’t be easy, the balance here is just too off and it shows, the device is just too heavy to use as a main, but too good at what it does, to ignore it outright.