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.
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.
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.
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|
|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.