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Asus ROG Strix GL504 Scar II review: The Scar II has a great screen, but an ugly paint job

With a slim-bezel, 144Hz display and Nvidia 1070 GPU, this is a feature-packed 15-inch laptop, even if it's not a looker.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

To mangle a quote from Justice Potter Stewart, I may not always be able to define what makes a good laptop keyboard, but I know it when I see it. The chunky, clicky keyboard is a highlight of this 15-inch gaming laptop, which mixes a handful of premium features with an otherwise pedestrian design.


Asus ROG Strix GL504 Scar II

The Good

Excellent performance from a strong CPU-GPU combo. The better-than-most 144Hz screen has a slim bezel, giving it a modern feel.

The Bad

The boxy camo-covered body doesn't look particularly interesting. The backlit keyboard lacks individual key lighting. Battery life isn't great, even for a gaming laptop.

The Bottom Line

The Asus Strix Scar II has great performance and a high refresh rate screen with a thin bezel. But it still looks like it was designed in a dorm room.

If you go shopping for this particular model, pay close attention and make sure you're looking for the proper name. This has the unwieldy moniker Asus ROG Strix GL504 Scar II.

Asus offers a dizzying array of gaming laptops with different combinations of names: ROG (Republic of Gamers), Strix, Zephyrus, Scar, Hero, FX and so on. Most are available in numerous configurations. It usually takes some digging into specs to figure out exactly how one differs from another. The Scar II falls solidly in the middle of the pack, adding some high-end features, but inside a bulky, generic body.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The screen doesn't get past 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, and is missing extras like Nvidia G-Sync support, but it's a 144Hz display, meaning it has a higher refresh rate than most laptop screens. That could be important to competitive esports gamers, who need low latency and fast refresh rates. Just as interesting, the bezel around the display is pleasingly thin -- a rare accomplishment for a gaming laptop.

Aside from that, the boxy chassis is a bit of a yawn. There's a subtle camouflage pattern that doesn't really pop enough. At first glance, some people told me the laptop just looked dirty. The customizable keyboard backlighting (which also includes a light-up logo on the back of the lid and a small light bar right in front of the touchpad) gets the job done, but it only has four keyboard lighting zones, rather than per-key lighting. The all-important WASD keys, often used in PC gaming, are transparent plastic. It's a little visual pop I liked, even if it's rather gamer-y.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Intel Core i7-8750H, Nvidia GeForce 1070 version tested here is $1,999, while dropping the GPU to the Nvidia 1060 gets you down to $1,699. Asus prices and configurations vary widely around the world, but comparable models run around £1,499 or AU$2,999. 

Asus ROG Strix Scar II

Price as reviewed $1,999
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 pixels
CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.TK
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)

Made for gaming

Despite not being knocked out by the overall design of the Scar II, using it to play games was an excellent experience. The system matched or beat out several other laptops with Nvidia 1070 or 1070 Max-Q GPUs in some tests, and handily beat a couple of examples with Nvidia 1060 GPUs. Moving up to a full 1080 GPU was the only way to show up the Scar II.

In anecdotal gaming, running recent games from Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire to Vampyr, the system ran smoothly at full 1080p resolution and high-to-ultra detail settings. Still, the system fans did kick in during gaming, and they get pretty loud. Asus says the cooling system includes "antidust tunnels" which blow dust away using faster fans.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Does anyone really leave their gaming laptop unplugged for too long? I know I usually don't. In this case, that's a good thing, as the Scar II ran for only 3 hours, 7 minutes in our streaming-video battery-drain test. A handful of gaming laptops can top 5 or 6 hours on this test (see the chart below), but doing any kind of unplugged gaming will drop battery life significantly.

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See all photos

Plenty to unpack

There's a lot going on with the Scar II. It has an excellent CPU-GPU combo and strong performance. The slim screen bezels and 144Hz refresh rate make for superb display specs. A handful of design touches, like the transparent WASD keys, add some visual interest. But the rest of the design is boxy and generic, with the needle tipping too far into "gamer" territory, especially its silly camo paint job.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For $2,000, it's fair to expect more zing. If you're specifically looking for an Nvidia 1070 gaming laptop, those can found for a few hundred dollars less. Or you might like something especially sharp-looking, like the new 15-inch Razer Blade, which can be had for a little less (for the Nvidia 1060 version) or a bit more (for the 1070 version). Keep in mind, however, those include just a 256GB SSD, not the 256GB SSD-1TB hybrid HDD combo included here.   

Cinebench R15 CPU (Multicore)

Origin PC Eon17X 1,439Asus ROG Strix Scar II 1,237Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 1,135Razer Blade (2018) 926Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 746Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 510
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 4 (Multicore)

Origin PC Eon17X 25,576Asus ROG Strix Scar II 21,588Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 20,442Razer Blade (2018) 18,015Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 14,060Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 10,611
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video-playback battery-drain test

Razer Blade (2018) 473Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 362Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 236Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 225Asus ROG Strix Scar II 187Origin PC Eon17X 147
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Origin PC Eon17X 5,330Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 4,054Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 3,954Asus ROG Strix Scar II 3,938Razer Blade (2018) 3,431Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 1,871
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Deus Ex gaming test

Origin PC Eon17X 103.6Alienware 15 R3 (2017) 82.1Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) 79.2Asus ROG Strix Scar II 76.7Razer Blade (2018) 72.2Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) 50.2
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Asus ROG Strix Scar II Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD
Razer Blade (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD
Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD
Alienware 15 R3 (2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Dell Inspiron 15 7577 Gaming (late 2017) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD
Origin PC Eon17X Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (OC) 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-8700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2800MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; (2) 250GB SSD RAID 0

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Asus ROG Strix GL504 Scar II

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 8Battery 6