The new ASUS ROG Strix Scar II GL504GS is a laptop with an unabashed gaming-focused aesthetic. While laptops like the Gigabyte Aero 15X and Razer Blade favor a more subdued look, minimalism has gone out of the window with the Scar II.
For starters, the area surrounding the keyboard sports a faux carbon fiber finish. This is complemented by a dark camouflage pattern, because hey, clearly all gamers like things associated with guns and the military, right? Actually, no, and I still fail to see why anyone who is not a 12-year-old would want a laptop with a large camo print that bifurcates the entire keyboard. It's not garish, so we'll let this slide.
That aside, the good news is that the matte coating on the palm rests resists fingerprints quite well, so you won’t have to worry too much about keeping it clean. Build quality also feels super solid, despite the mostly plastic build. The laptop is built like a tank, and there’s no flex to the lid or keyboard, which feels very reassuring.
The laptop lid also features a brushed metal finish that is reminiscent of what you see on the ROG Zephyrus GX501. This looks really good, and there’s a large glowing ROG logo with an attractive mirror finish on the lid as well.
You’ll find more brushed metal on the bottom bezel of the laptop, which as it turns out, is super thick. I like the slim bezels on the other sides of the screen as it really helps create a more immersive feel when you’re gaming, but it seems like ASUS simply took whatever bezel it shaved off and put it at the bottom.
The bottom bezel and the ROG logo that’s plastered on it are huge to the point of looking silly, and you definitely don’t need that much space to fit a webcam down there. As it turns out, the webcam is located in one of the worst possible locations. It sits at the bottom right, which means you’ll have to put up with awkward camera angles and difficulties in getting a centered shot when video chatting.
Having said that, the screen on the Scar II is fortunately excellent. It boasts 100 per cent coverage of the sRGB color space, and ASUS claims it’s also the first to have a 144Hz IPS-type panel with a 3ms response time. The screen has a peak brightness of 300 nits, and I’d say it is noticeably brighter than the screens on the Razer Blade and Gigabyte Aero 15X.
Colors also appeared accurate and vivid, and I have no complaints about this particular screen. It’s not even a problem that there’s no support for G-Sync, because the 144Hz refresh rate ensures that all the on-screen action is super smooth anyway.
The trackpad is a Windows Precision Touchpad, and it feels precise and accurate and supports all of Windows 10’s gestures. The difference between a precision touchpad and one that uses third-party drivers is pretty huge, and I’m always happy to see the former in use.
The dual side-firing speakers are another bright spot on the Scar II. When I first put on some music, I was surprised by how loud and clear they sounded. There’s a definite emphasis on the low-end though, which is good news if you really want to feel the rumble of explosions in your games and movies.
The keyboard feels good as well, and the 1.8mm travel distance is pretty good for a laptop. The Scar II is thicker than the Max-Q laptops I reviewed recently, and the least I’d expect from this is a better typing experience. This is one of the better laptop keyboards I’ve come across, and it’s a pleasure to type on. In addition, there are dedicated keys for volume adjustment, muting the microphone, and launching the ROG Gaming Center above the keyboard.
The WASD key cluster also features transparent keycaps, which is what singles out the laptop as one targeted at FPS gamers. In comparison, the ROG Hero II has the QWER keys highlighted. Another nice touch is the asymmetrical space bar, which is slightly wider on its left side. This makes it easier to hit the key with your fingers centered around the WASD key cluster, and I really like this attention to detail.
The only thing that’s missing is per-key RGB backlighting, and you’re limited to just four independent lighting zones.
There’s plenty of ports available, including two USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A ports, one USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C port, and a single USB 2.0 connector. There’s no Thunderbolt 3 support for the USB-C port unfortunately, but the laptop comes with one Mini DisplayPort 1.2 and one HDMI 2.0 output. There’s also an SD card reader on the right, and I’m glad that this hasn’t been omitted.
The Wi-Fi module is an Intel Wireless-AC 9560, which supports a maximum throughput of up to 1.73Gbps, and there’s a dedicated Ethernet jack on the left.
ASUS has also done a good job of keeping the Scar II running cool. While the area above the keyboard can get quite toasty, the palm rests remain quite cool throughout, which is what’s really important. Air is drawn in through vents at the bottom and expelled through the back and right side, and the fans do get quite audible, even in the default “Balanced” mode. There’s also an “Overboost” mode if you want additional cooling, but that ramps up noise levels considerably.