Jul 15, 2023
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023) gaming laptop review
This RTX 4090 gaming laptop leaves a serious mark New graphics card generations are a typical driving force behind gaming laptop refreshes, but CPUs can floor that pedal with just as heavy a boot. The
This RTX 4090 gaming laptop leaves a serious mark
New graphics card generations are a typical driving force behind gaming laptop refreshes, but CPUs can floor that pedal with just as heavy a boot. The result is often something like this latest Asus ROG Strix Scar 17, which wields not just a top-spec Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 but also one of AMD’s newest and most number-crunchy processors, the Ryzen 9 7945HX.
That’s a lot of newness, and even more of a specs list: 32 threads from the Ryzen, 16GB of VRAM, DLSS 3 support and so on. And yet, what’s most impressive about the Strix Scar 17 is not simply its immense power, but how balanced – sensible, even – the whole laptop feels like in use. A quality that seems almost impossible at first, given its clear status as a brashly high-end gaming notebook with all the RGB bells and aggressive styling whistles.
Part of this, I think, is the asking price. Three-and-a-bit grand is obviously a heap of cash, and more than you’d spend to recreate the Strix Scar 17’s specs with equivalent desktop parts. But it’s also short of the silly money that a lot of RTX 4090-based gaming laptops go for, and is even less than what you could spend on certain RTX 3080 Ti models from the previous generation. It is possible to be both expensive and reasonable, which the Strix Scar 17 arguably is, especially considering it also packs a 1TB NVMe SSD, 32GB of system memory, and a 17.3in display running at 240Hz.
This display is 'only' 2560x1440, though again, there’s a sense of pragmaticism here. As pretty as 4K gaming monitors can look when stretched out on a desk, it’s long been difficult to get truly excited about 4K laptops: they suck up battery juice faster than 1440p screens, and screen sizes are generally too small to fully appreciate the difference in pixel density. The Strix Scar 17 certainly looks as sharp as you’d like, with some excellent motion handling (helped along by an effective implementation of Nvidia G-Sync) to boot.
The IPS panel could maybe be a smidge brighter – I measured peak luminance at 347cd/m2, good enough to use in the sun but not quite elite-level. Then again, there’s nothing to nitpick about its colour reproduction. It covers 99.9% of the sRGB gamut, backed up with a good contrast ratio of 1112:1, so brighter hues pop without burning your eyes with oversaturation. Games therefore look brilliant, especially if they’re running fast enough to exploit that esports-grade refresh rate.
This is something else that’s always bothered me about some high-specced gaming laptops, as manufacturers have been happy to sell the speed of 144Hz-plus displays but often without the graphics and processing power that could actually make enough frames to keep up. It’s one thing to admire the smoothness of a mouse cursor at 165Hz but if your games are only pulling 60fps, it’s a wasted spec. Even if the Strix Scar 17 doesn’t entirely avoid this same contradiction, its hyperpotent GPU and CPU combo comes by far the closest to justifying a 240Hz refresh rate as I’ve ever seen on a laptop.
Here's how it ran our gaming benchmark regulars, all at 1440p (without upscaling) and on their maximum quality presets:
I’ve needled the desktop version of the RTX 4090 for its 1440p performance, but within the Strix Scar 17 it does feel truly next-gen. And this is all without DLSS, Nvidia’s class-leading upscaling tech that is absolutely viable at 2560x1440. Leaving DLSS on Auto mode allowed me to improve that Cyberpunk 2077 result from 72fps to 84fps, while simultaneously adding Ultra-quality ray tracing effects – so it both looked better and ran faster. DLSS also took much of the sting out of activating Ultra-quality ray tracing in Watch Dogs Legion, averaging 84fps with the upscaler on its sharpest Quality mode.
Like the desktop RTX 40 series, the mobile RTX 4090 also unlocks DLSS 3 for significantly better framerate boosts via AI frame generation. This yanked that improved 84fps average all the way up to 132fps, all other settings being equal. A near-doubling of the native, non-ray traced result. Quite the thing, that DLSS 3.
With its high-yet-not-outrageous pricing, the Strix Scar 17 should look appetizing to anyone after the absolute best of the best. The RTX 4090 sizes up particularly favourably to the highest ranking laptop GPU of the RTX 30 series, the RTX 3080 Ti. I had to rerun some tests at 1080p for a fair comparison with the Full HD, RTX 3080 Ti-equipped MSI Raider GE76, but these put the Strix Scar 17 ahead by 56% in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 47% in Total War: Three Kingdoms and a blistering 88% in Metro Exodus with ray tracing and DLSS in play. That tells us the RTX 4090 isn’t just faster; its Ada Lovelace architecture is, as Nvidia promised, better able to take advantage of these relatively new technologies.
Of course, it’s not jut the GPU doing the heavy lifting. The 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen 9 7945HX is evidently enough of a heavy hitter in games, though in an interesting reversal of Intel vs AMD war’s desktop front, it’s desktop multitasking where this chip establishes itself as one to beat. Not content with setting a new RPS single-core record in Cinebench R20 – 712, fending off the Raider GE76's 665 – it went on to score 12,355 in the multicore portion. That’s more than double the GE76's 5690, and a result so astronomical that we’ve only got one CPU in the books – the Intel Core i9-13900K – with a higher score. And that’s a luxury desktop processor, without the notebook-bound Ryzen 9 7945HX’s heat and efficiency concerns.
Speaking of which, the Strix Scar 17 is indeed a ten-story powerhouse, though it’s best used plugged in. I could only coax 58 minutes of battery life out of it while actually running games, which is plainly too few to do any serious on-the-go playing. This is low even by gaming laptop standards, and even the Steam Deck, with its teeny battery, tends to last for at least an hour and a half in the thirstiest games.
The Strix Scar 17’s true destiny, then, is to sit atop tables as a desktop replacement rather than a more portable sidearm. It does have the screen size for such a job, in fairness, and although this model is surprisingly thin for a container of such mighty internals, it is ultimately more comfortable to use on a desk than on one’s lap. It will suit right-handed mouse users especially, as Asus have wisely kept most of the ports to the rear and left side. Here, at least for nine tenths of the world, connecting cables and peripherals won’t get in the way of swooshing mouse movements. See? Sensible.
The side vents are also angled so that minimal hot air is blasted onto whichever your mouse hand is, a welcome divergence from designs that seem content to air-fry your thumbs. It’s an effective cooling system, too. Outside of a modestly warmed spacebar, the Strix Scar 17’s chassis never gets uncomfortably warm to the touch while running games, and while the resultant fan noise can distract an uncovered ear, it’s easily drowned out out with a headset.
Props to the SSD as well, which hit some appropriately zippy sequential read/write speeds of 5190MB/s and 3632MB/s respectively. It wasn’t so outstanding in AS SSD’s random tests, where it scored a 50MB/s read and 190MB/s write, though those are still reasonable enough results for a PCIe 4.0 drive.
In any case, most aspects of the Strix Scar 17 aim much, much higher. And they don’t miss either: the amount of raw power within that black plastic shell represents a distant leap for gaming laptops in general, and if it can be applied without melting anyone’s fingers or needing a cooling system the size of a burger van, then all the better.
Yes, it’s not just the Strix Scar 17 being comfortable to use or fairly priced that secures its success. It’s the fact that, with the possible exception of the battery, every individual part is in sync. There’s a high refresh rate, but GPU tech has caught up to the point where it finally makes sense to have one. That GPU is in turn enabled by a cracker of a CPU, which is in turn cooled in a way that doesn’t impede the tactile satisfaction of playing, which in turn is aided by... the high refresh rate.
Very little is out of place, or overdone, leaving the whole thing feeling balanced and considered in a way that the flashiest gaming laptops rarely are. I’ve tested a few of these big-money notebooks on RPS in the past two years, and out of all of them, the Strix Scar 17 is easily the best yet.
This review is based on a retail unit provided by Asus.CPU:RAM:GPU:Storage:Display:Ports:Dimensions:Weight:Price: