The Scar 15 isn’t quite the esports machine it aims to be, but turns in solid all around performance
- Manufacturer: ASUS ROG
- Model: Strix Scar 15 G533QS (2021)
- Part number: G533QS-HQ132T
- Price when reviewed: £2,699
- Supplied by: ASUS
The ROG Strix Scar 15 is ASUS’s premium esports focussed gaming notebook. In the specification we received, it comes with top of the line components, including a blisteringly fast Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU and GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. Of the notebooks we’ve tested so far, only the ROG Zephyrus Duo SE has managed to outperform it, though as it shares almost identical components, the difference is negligible.
All this performance doesn’t come cheap; The Strix Scar 15 in this spec, with the 165 Hz 1440p display and 2TB Raid0 SSD array, will set you back £2,700. When you weigh up the quality of the components and excellent features, it’s a reasonable price to pay. Every part of the Scar 15 is best-in-class, like the beautiful display, the incredible optical-mechanical keyboard, the crisp and well-rounded audio, and of course the remarkable gaming prowess.
Design and build
If you like RGB, you’re going to love the Scar 15. The keyboard has full per-key addressable lighting, that can be configured with ASUS’s Aura Sync software to synchronise with the LED light bar that wraps around the leading edge of the notebook, the additional light-bar that sits under the right side of the display, and any compatible ASUS Aura Sync peripherals you own.
Fully lit up, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. The lighting casts a pleasant glow around the Scar 15, without being too distracting when you’re deep into the clutch stages of your favourite game. Like the Zephyrus Duo SE, the key lights don’t bleed around the edges, with just the letters and icons lit up. I like the aesthetic of this, although, in a pitch dark room it can be slightly tricky to spot the edges of each key.
Aside from the lighting, there is an illuminated (and synced) ROG logo on the lid and a few other design flourishes. A diagonal slash runs across the keyboard tray, with a translucent panel allowing a muted look at the insides of the notebook. Admittedly there’s not much to see under there, but it’s a nice touch. The only downside is that the power/charging indicator lights are under here, and they look large, fuzzy and a bit distracting.
ASUS has shipped the Scar 15 with three interchangeable shoulder caps, and you can even 3D print your own. They can be swapped out in seconds thanks to the magnetic attachment, allowing you to easily personalise your notebook.
An oft-overlooked area, the underside also has some appealing design touches.
The build quality meets the typical ASUS Rog level of quality. Panels all fit tightly together, the display hinge is sturdy yet still possible to open single-handed, and the metal-topped lid is solid, with only the slightest amount of flex. The keyboard tray is also very rigid, with a minimal amount of flex under pressure. Top marks as usual for the build.
Internals and upgrades
Opening the notebook up is a simple process; simply remove the eleven phillips screws from the base, finishing with the pop-screw in the lower right corner, and the cover pops right off. You need to be careful when removing the bottom cover as there are a couple of thin ribbon cables connecting the light bar. Once inside you have easy access to the key components, which should make cleaning out any eventual dust build-up a doddle.
As is standard with notebooks, there’s not a whole lot you can upgrade. Both RAM So-DIMMs can be replaced, giving you up to 64 GB memory, and the M.2 NVMe SSDs can be swapped out. 32 GB of RAM is ample for a gaming machine, though, and the excellent SSDs are already rapid. Unless you need more than the 2 TB storage already included, you shouldn’t need to change anything for many years, if at all.
Keyboard and trackpad
I thought I had experienced the best that laptop keyboards had to offer, but the ROG Strix Scar 15 has raised the bar. ASUS has fitted a magnificent optical-mechanical keyboard into the Scar 15, and it is far better than any other notebook I’ve tried.
Travel distance is a relatively large 1.9mm. It’s incredibly responsive and accurate, and each keypress is accompanied by a subtle but satisfying click.
As you can see in the images, it’s a tenkeyless layout, but benefits from the addition of hotkeys across the top and right side of the keyboard. The top hotkeys include volume control, mic mute, fan speed/performance mode and Armoury Crate shortcuts, while across the right are a set of useful media control keys.
If you use notebooks a lot, you’ll be familiar with using Fn key shortcuts to control the various features of the notebook. It only took me a few minutes to adapt to the combos required for things like Home, End, Page Up/Down, and in general, it’s a very sensibly laid out keyboard. The most important keys for gaming are easy to hit consistently, too, and I appreciated the full-size directional arrows rather than the half-height keys found in many of ASUS’s other notebooks.
The enormous trackpad is silky smooth and has edge-to-edge responsiveness. The under-surface mouse buttons are clunky, but no more so than on almost every trackpad I’ve used. With the Scar 15 being a premium esports notebook, it’s pretty much a given that you will be using a decent mouse anyway. For those times when you aren’t using a mouse, it’s a very competent trackpad for the majority of light use and media consumption it’s likely to be used for.
Connectivity and I/O ports
There’s a decent selection of ports on offer, with the most ungainly ones like the ethernet, power and HDMI ports tucked away at the rear to assist with cable management. The USB-C connection at the rear is a Gen2 port, allowing 10 Gbit/s transfer speeds, supporting up to 100W PD charging and DisplayPort 1.4 over USB-C. This allows you to connect two additional displays for productivity, multi-screen gaming or managing your stream chat.
At the rear of the Scar 15 are a gigabit RJ-45 ethernet port, HDMI 2.0b (max [email protected]), USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A and the power connector.
On the left side are a pair of USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, and a 3.5mm combi-jack for headsets or headphones.
Networking is handled by either the ethernet connection or the Intel WiFi 6 AX201 (802.11ax) network card. We didn’t have a WiFi 6 capable router to test it with, however, we found the range to be excellent, reaching every room and providing a stable connection through thick walls. Speed drop-off was significant in rooms adjacent to the router, but it was still sufficient for streaming video. For gaming, we’d recommend making sure you are as close to the router as possible.
Finally, dual-band Bluetooth 5.1 is included, which provided a solid connection to my headsets, wireless keyboard and game controllers.
You’ll be pleased to know that the sound quality is very good. The Scar 15 has two 4W speakers located at the front on the underside of the notebook that handle the mid-range and low end audio, and at the rear of the keyboard tray are an additional pair of forward-firing 2W tweeters.
The resulting audio has a pleasing depth. Bass notes are clear and warm, without any bloat or loss of clarity during intense sounds like explosions, balanced well with the rich mid-range frequencies. At the higher end, gunfire and voices are crisp and detailed without any of the harshness usually associated with smaller speakers.
Peak volume is very good, well-able to overcome the noise from the fans while gaming, and even able to fill a mid-sized room with music should you not have an audio system to hand. I’ve always been indifferent when it comes to notebook speakers, as they usually fail to deliver anywhere near good sound, but I’ve been highly impressed with what ASUS has achieved.
The only negative I can attribute to the Scar 15 is that although the sound is spacious, positional audio cues are hard to pinpoint due to how close together the speakers are. For competitive gaming where you need accurate positioning, headphones are always going to be a better choice, but for single-player gaming or media consumption these speakers are ideal.
I’m a huge fan of the displays on ASUS’s 2021 range of notebooks, and the gorgeous 15.6” 165 Hz 1440p panel fitted in the Scar 15 is easily my favourite.
Gamers have been requesting decent high-refresh 1440p displays in laptops for years, and now they are here, it’s definitely been worth the wait. The Scar 15’s display exhibited no detectable artefacts or overshoot, and almost zero perceptible motion blur, making it ideal for competitive gaming.
The display covers 98% DCI-P3, 100% sRGB, and 85% AdobeRGB, producing a wide gamut of colours that are bright, rich and vibrant. Uniformity across the display is excellent, with only minor variances occurring at the corners of the display, and an overall average Delta E of just 0.8, which is superb. Paired with a peak brightness of 390 cd/m² it makes for an amazing viewing experience.
Contrast is as expected for an IPS display, measuring 1035:1, which is decent. Black levels were only average, but there is still plenty of detail in dark scenes, and the display doesn’t have the grey tinge often attributed to IPS displays.
Viewing angles are very good, with the image clearly visible from sharp angles, and I was impressed with how well the display retains colour vibrancy and contrast when viewed off-centre.
For serious competitive players, you may benefit more from the 300Hz 1080p or ludicrous 360Hz 1080p display over the 1440p display here, but if you use your notebook as an all in one gaming and media device it’s wonderful.
If you are up to date with your gaming hardware knowledge, it should come as no surprise that the gaming performance of the ROG Strix Scar 15 is exceptional. In the configuration we have for testing, the 1440p 165 Hz display is a perfect match for the potent CPU and GPU pairing. At native resolution, almost everything runs above 60 fps; If you prefer high frame rates for competitive games, it shouldn’t take much tweaking of the settings to reach the 165 fps maximum of the display.
The RTX 3080 is far superior to the 20 series GPUs it replaces, enabling stronger frame rates in ray-traced games, especially with DLSS 2.0. With a GPU TGP of 115W (130W with Dynamic Boost), this version of the RTX 3080 sits roughly in the middle of the 80W-150W potential range. In practical use, the Strix Scar 15 utilises the majority of the 130W available when gaming, only really being restricted when the CPU is under heavy load, which is uncommon when gaming.
Resizeable BAR support has also been added to the Strix Scar 15 via an automatic BIOS update; only a few games properly support it so far, but they do see a notable improvement. In a nutshell, Resizeable BAR allows the CPU to send data to the GPU much faster, resulting in faster frame rates.
AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HX is a productivity and gaming powerhouse. The phrase “desktop replacement” has been bandied around for years, but it’s a reality with the new Ryzen CPUs. The Strix Scar 15 outperformed an overclocked desktop i9-10900K with bespoke cooling, which is hugely impressive. Whether it’s squeezing out extra frames in games, multitasking to the Nth degree or running intensive editing software, the Scar 15 has you covered. Plug in a mouse and keyboard (or your peripherals of choice) and a big display and you have a legitimate desktop replacement, with the added advantage of portability.
In comparison to the Zephrus Duo SE, I was surprised to find that performance was in some cases up to 20% lower on the Scar 15 at 1080p on some games. This performance deficit is even more apparent in high-fps games like CS:GO and Fortnite, with the Scar 15 underperforming by a large margin. When connected to an external 4k display, the results were more even, with the Scar 15 edging ahead on some games, though still falling behind on esports titles again. Considering they have the same RAM, GPU and CPU, I expected parity in the results. This appears to be down to the implementation of Optimus on the Scar 15, whereas the Duo SE utilises a MUX switch removing the bottleneck.
After carrying out some research, it seems that connecting to an external display via USB-C to DisplayPort allows the display to connect directly to the discrete GPU and tap into the full potential (HDMI still routes the signal through the iGPU). Unfortunately we didn’t have the necessary cables to test this. It’s a minor blemish against an otherwise stellar performance, as it’s a very impressive gaming notebook, but it is disappointing that the Scar 15 only reaches its full potential in this way.
All benchmark tests were carried out with fan control set to Turbo in the ROG Armoury Crate software (Performance mode is slightly quieter in terms of fan noise, but sees frame rates a few FPS lower on most games). In-game settings use the Ultra preset (or equivalent) where available. If DLSS was available, it was set to performance mode. (If an RTX game comfortably runs above refresh rates you are happy with, we recommend switching DLSS to Quality, as it makes a noticeable difference to image clarity.)
Gaming performance comparisons
We’ve listed a range of computers with varied GPUs for comparison, including the almost identically configured ROG Zephyrus Duo SE. This should give you an idea of how it compares against a range of processors and system configurations. We find these comparisons useful for consumers looking for not only the best overall performance but the best value, too.
|Laptop/PC||ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo SE||ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15||ASUS ROG Strix G15||Acer Predator Triton 500||ASUS TUF Dash F15|
|Model||GX551QS (2021)||G533QS||G516QR||PT515-52||FX516PR (2021)|
|Processor||R9 5900HX||R9 5900HX||R7 5800H||i7-10875H @ 2.31GHz||i7-11370H|
|GPU||RTX 3080 16Gb||RTX 3080 16GB||RTX 3070 8GB||RTX 2080 Super MaxQ 8Gb||RTX 3070 8Gb|
|GPU TGP/TDP||115W/130W Dynamic Boost||115W/130W Dynamic Boost||115W/130W Dynamic Boost||80W/85W Dynamic Boost|
|Ram||32GB DDR4-3200 (16+16)||32GB DDR4-3200 (16+16)||16GB DDR4-3200||32GB DDR4-3200 (16+16)||16GB DDR4-3200 (8+8)|
|SSD||2 x 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD||2 x 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD||1TB M.2||1Tb M.2 NVMe SSD||512GB M.2 NVMe SSD|
|Display||2160p 120Hz Pantone||1440p 165Hz Pantone||1080p 300Hz IPS||1080p 300Hz G-Sync||1080p 144Hz|
System Benchmark Results
- CineBench – CPU (Single)(cb)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 236 cb
- CineBench – CPU (Multi)(cb)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 2064 cb
- CineBench – GPU (OpenGL)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 150.39 fps
- CineBench – CPU (Single)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 564
- CineBench – CPU (Multi)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 5269
- CineBench – CPU (Single)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 1464
- CineBench – CPU (Multi)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 13568
3DMark – Time Spy (DX12)
- Time Spy Score – 11125
- Gaming Score – 11440
- CPU Score – 9626
3DMark – Fire Strike (DX11)
- Fire Strike Score – 23835
- Graphics Score – 26593
- Physics Score – 25494
- Combined Score – 12709
- PCMark 10 – 7175
- Essentials – 10383
- App Start-up – 15198
- Video Conferencing – 7891
- Web Browsing – 9336
- Productivity – 9744
- Spreadsheets – 11205
- Writing – 8474
- Content Creation – 9909
- Photo Editing – 16185
- Rendering and Visualisation – 11699
- Video Editing – 5139
Bright Memory Infinite RTX Benchmark
Very High – DLSS Setting: Quality
- 1080p: 70 fps
- 1440p: 44 fps
- 2160p: 21 fps
High – DLSS Setting: Performance
- 1080p: 107 fps
- 1440p: 72 fps
- 2160p: 37 fps
- Gaming – 140% UFO
- Desktop – 100% UFO
- Workstation – 144% UFO
- CPU – Gaming – 96.40%
- Graphics – 145%
- Boot Drive – 423%
The 2TB of PCIe 3.0 storage is ample for most users and runs at incredibly high speeds. Sequential read and write speeds of 7100 MB/s and 5047 MB/s respectively are close to the pinnacle of what is currently available. It’s next-level performance, which translates into much lower loading times in games, superb system responsiveness and rapid boot times.
The following are the results recorded in CrystalDiskMark, with figures measured in MB/s
|SEQ1M Q8T1 Read||7100.84|
|SEQ1M Q8T1 Write||5047.25|
|SEQ1M Q1T1 Read||3334.43|
|SEQ1M Q1T1 Write||4311.06|
|RND4K Q321T1 Read||343.73|
|RND4K Q321T1 Write||606.71|
|RND4K Q1T1 Read||61.81|
|RND4K Q1T1 Write||207.57|
ASUS has fitted a very competent cooling system in the Strix Scar 15. Even under our most strenuous tests, the temperatures were very well managed, with very little in the way of thermal throttling.
- Under full system load (GPU, CPU and Memory fully utilised) the CPU averaged just 83℃ running at 3.6 GHz and the GPU stable at 78℃.
- During our CPU exclusive tests, the temperature stabilised at 80℃ with a clock speed of 4.4 GHz.
- In our prolonged gaming test, the CPU averaged 82℃ with the GPU maxing out at 78℃.
This is an excellent result, allowing the Scar 15 to make full use of its components while still ensuring that the longevity of the components isn’t being compromised.
For light use such as watching videos or browsing the internet, silent mode enables the Scar 15 to switch off the fans completely. I found they do spin up occasionally if temperatures start creeping up, but for the most part they are indeed silent.
ASUS has optimised the Turbo mode preset to balance cooling performance with reduced fan noise, however, you can push the Scar 15 further by switching to manual mode, overclocking it further and customising the fan speeds. We managed to reduce the temperatures by a few degrees this way, though this was at the expense of significantly louder fan noise. Using manual settings does come with a pop-up warning, and proceeding may void your warranty should anything go wrong with the system as a result of pushing the overclock too far. Unless you are experienced and confident, it’s best avoided.
Surface temperatures remain well-managed. The highest build-up of heat is at the rear sides of the keyboard tray, however, it never becomes so warm that it is uncomfortable. The vented heat from the sides of the notebook is reasonable, so it’s best to avoid leaving your chocolatey snacks alongside them.
The ROG Strix Scar 15 has an improved and capacious 90Wh battery that has good longevity, even when feeding the power hungry QHD display. Watching 1080p video played back from an external hard drive, we got around 8 hours of battery life. For standard productivity and browsing, we used PCMark 10 running on a loop, and averaged around 5-6 hours on a full charge. Gaming, as expected, takes a greater toll on the battery, and we managed to squeeze out just over an hour of gaming before reaching for the charger.
On battery power, the system switches to 60fps automatically, which helps the battery life, and can also be switched into iGPU mode, that prevents applications from using the discrete GPU, prolonging battery life further.
Using the included and relatively compact 240W power adapter, the battery fast-charges up to 50%, then slows down, taking around 1h45m to fully recharge. ASUS’s battery life prolonging settings are also present, allowing you to charge up to 60%, 80% or 100%, depending on whether you will mostly be using your notebook plugged in.
The Strix Scar 15 supports USB-C charging at up to 100W. A USB-C charger is not included but should be available in stores soon.
The Strix Scar 15 performs well at its native resolution, capable of making the most of the 165Hz on offer, and games look incredible thanks to the sharp and vivid display. It can’t quite match the almost identically specced Zephyrus Duo SE at higher frame rates because of the lack of MUX switch, but it still looks and plays brilliantly. The optical mechanical keys are also a welcome addition, easily giving the Scar 15 the best notebook gaming keyboard we have tested.
As an all-around system, it’s hard to fault the Scar 15. It has an excellent CPU that can outperform desktop PCs in productivity tasks, the display is accurate enough for colour critical work, gaming performance is great, and the components are powerful enough to last you for many years to come. The only real downside is the aforementioned underperformance due to Nvidia Optimus, though this can be negated by connecting to an external display via USB-C to DP.
If the Scar 15 is out of your price range, you can pick up the ASUS ROG Strix G15 for £1,699, which has only slightly lower average frame rates, a great display and offers a fantastic price to performance ratio. There are also ROG Strix Scar 15 variants with an RTX 3070 and Ryzen 7 5800H processors, starting from around £2,000, or if you want a bigger display, the Scar 17 has the same core components as the Scar 15.