Today we're looking at the Asus ROG Strix Scar II GL504GV, a gaming laptop with a long product name but some of the latest hardware, including GeForce RTX 2060 graphics. After we have already tested the RTX 2060 extensively, today we will focus on what the entire laptop package offers.
As with many other updated RTX laptops, the design of the Asus ROG Strix or most internal hardware has not been significantly changed. I used to test the 15-inch Scar II that came with either a GTX 1060 or a GTX 1070. Now you can buy an RTX 2060 or RTX 2070, but at different prices. Our test device is the GL504GV, which packs the RTX 2060 for $ 1,700.
Other hardware is largely unchanged from the previous generation. The same Intel Hexa-Core Core i7-8750H is used, 16 GB DDR4 memory and a 15.6-inch 1080p 144 Hz IPS display. The primary storage options have been expanded one level across the board. If the base model has a 128 GB SSD, that's now up to 256 GB and so on. Our test device and the main option from Newegg and Amazon come with a 512 GB PCIe SSD.
Apart from the lid made of brushed aluminum, the majority of the laptop is made of plastic, with the keyboard being provided with a soft-touch coating. This soft-touch area has a carbon fiber design, half of which is camo-printed. We would probably prefer it if the camouflage wasn't there, but Asus loves doing something like that.
Yes, there is also RGB. You get a stripe along the front edge of the laptop and the off-center Asus ROG logo on the lid, both of which can be controlled using Asus' aura software. The front RGB strip is directly connected to the backlight of the four-zone RGB keyboard. You don't get RGB per button here, but the basic four-zone effect is good enough. The keyboard has a slightly spongy tactile response, it's not as clicky as I would prefer, but the route is decent. You also get a number pad, and none of the buttons are cut off to take this into account. The trackpad is great, and we love the inclusion of two separate click buttons.
As with many gaming laptops these days, a slim bezel around the 15-inch display keeps the laptop's footprint quite compact, although there is still a large bezel under the screen. Unfortunately, Asus has probably chosen the worst webcam placement possible, offset and deep below the display if the webcam is of course a problem for you.
The chassis is a typical mid-range option: it's not a sleek and light system like the Asus Zephyrus, but it's not a bulky beast like the big Asus models. It's 26 mm thick and 5.3 lbs thick, so it's portable without falling into the thin category that comes at a higher price. The main limitation on portability is the smaller 62 Wh battery compared to almost 100 Wh that you get with systems like the Gigabyte Aero 15.
I / O is very solid. Three USB 3.1 Type A ports, two Gen 1 and one Gen 2 and one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C port (there is no Thunderbolt). You also get HDMI 2.0b, miniDisplayPort 1.2, Ethernet, an SD card slot and a 3.5 mm audio jack. The internal connectivity takes the form of an Intel 802.11ac 2×2 Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 5.0 combination solution.
Before we talk about performance, there are a few comments to make. The first relates to Asus' software suite, the Armory Crate. There are many standard materials, but the most important are the fan profiles: Windows, Silent, Balanced and Turbo as well as a manual mode. We used balanced mode for gaming tests because we couldn't find any difference in performance between this and Turbo. We used Turbo mode for productivity apps. While it is louder, it increases the CPU's performance limit, which resulted in a slight increase in performance for long workloads such as video coding.
And while turbo mode is nice, it's not nice to get a single 16 GB DIMM DDR4-2666 memory. This means that the laptop has a standard configuration with 16 GB only in one channel, which leads to a smaller memory bandwidth than with two-channel laptops and thus to lower performance. A DIMM slot remains free if you later want to upgrade to 32 GB, but this is at the expense of the ready-to-use performance.
We won't go into the Core i7-8750H too much because we've covered it a lot in other reviews. It's a popular six-core CPU used in most gaming laptops, and it's the option we would choose for productivity and gaming workloads without getting into crazy form factors.
The Asus ROG GL504GV roughly corresponds to the performance of a typical Core i7-8750H laptop. However, this is due to some notable differences that both favor and disadvantage the system. Because of the turbo fan mode, longer workloads tend to throttle less than the standard performance of the 8750H, so we see an advantage of up to 10 percent on longer multithreaded workloads like Handbrake. This laptop can endure higher clocks longer. On the other hand, this laptop gets worse marks in our memory-intensive benchmarks due to its single-channel memory. These include 7-Zip compression, MATLAB and Adobe Photoshop Iris Blur.
As usual, here is our comparison between the Core i7-8750H and the Quad-Core Core i7-7700HQ of the last generation. Due to higher clock speeds and more cores, we expect an advantage of over 50% for some multithreaded workloads and higher single-thread performance. You won't notice this kind of improvement on every workload, but if you're from an older quad-core system, the 8750H is a remarkable upgrade.
This is the table for those wondering whether to buy a larger 15-inch game system or a portable 13-inch ultrabook for their productivity tasks. In general, the 8750H smokes a 15 W CPU like the Core i7-8565U and in some cases delivers more than twice the performance. With the right GPU acceleration and for something like Premiere encoding, a gaming laptop is an order of magnitude faster.
When it comes to games, we've tested over a dozen games that describe the performance of the RTX 2060 in exactly that system. Check this in our RTX 2060 (laptop) GPU test. Note that we loaded the GL504GV with two-channel memory for this test, so it is a bit faster for this reason.
On average, the single-channel configuration of this GPU is 13 percent slower than the two-channel configuration. This is a major difference if you don't have the second memory. Some games like Dirt 4, Watch Dogs 2 and Wolfenstein II are hardly affected. Others like Prey, Assassins Creed Odyssey, and Resident Evil 2 see a 25% or more drop in performance because the limited memory bandwidth throttles these games. There is no doubt that the two-channel memory for games with 1080p is significantly better.
In terms of actual FPS impact, a game like Hitman 2 is about switching from an average of 70 FPS to 50 FPS with single-channel memory (!!!). In Assassin's Creed Odyssey, experience is reduced from 60 FPS to just 45 FPS. It is not a good loss of performance.
This also affects the margins between this RTX 2060 laptop and other GPUs. Compared to dual-channel and dual-channel, the RTX 2060 is on average 28% faster than a GTX 1060 with 6 GB. But this single-channel RTX 2060 laptop is only 12% faster compared to a two-channel GTX 1060 6 GB system and even slower in some games. Compared to a GTX 1070 with dual-channel RAM, it then loses by more than 20%.
Leaving this empty DIMM slot is a costly compromise to make it easier for owners to update their RAM in the future. We have to ask how many people actually open their system and throw in that extra stick. Surely the number is not high enough to justify the cutting performance for most others.
Ideally, this system should be equipped with two 8 GB sticks as standard, which leads to a significantly better performance of the RTX 2060.
If you buy the GL504GV and want to solve this problem, you'd want to spend $ 100 on a second 16GB DDR4-2666 SO DIMM stick. Not huge, but something you might want to consider.
If you look at the cooling solution used in the ROG Strix Scar II and use the balanced fan mode for games that delivers the performance seen so far, the cooler is quite loud under load and rises to almost 48 dBA in our tests. It also tends to ramp up and down a fair bit while playing. Sometimes the cooler is quieter than this number, but to be honest, the frequent changes are just as annoying as the constant running at 48 dBA.
However, the temperatures are very good, which indicates that the symmetrical mode may start the fan too high. In an extended Watch Dogs 2 session, we recorded only 73 degrees on the GPU and 83 degrees on the CPU, which is far below other laptops with similar noise performance. We assume that manual tuning of the fan would make a major contribution to compensating for temperatures and noise.
At the same time, the system was much quieter even when using the turbo fan profile under pure CPU workloads like Handbrake. A clock rate below 40 dBA is a good result. You should still use Turbo Mode to increase the performance limit, even if the fan speed isn't raised to a ridiculous level during CPU tasks. The fans really turn up while playing, so I don't recommend it.
We received a 512 GB Kingston M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD for storage. This is a medium-sized service provider that isn't as fast as some of the Samsung or Intel SSDs we've seen in other gaming laptops, but still fast enough to get a performance advantage over simple SATA SSDs. Internally, there is also a free 2.5-inch drive bay for more storage space.
The laptop's display is good. A decent 15.6-inch 1080p IPS with a refresh rate of 144 Hz, a peak brightness of up to 300 nits, which is acceptable for a gaming laptop, and a contrast ratio of about 1000: 1 in terms of color performance this is an sRGB display, so not a fancy wide color gamut, but not that you need it for games.
Our main concern was the wrong white point. Asus uses approximately 7500K instead of the correct 6500K, which gives the display a cooler, bluer tone. This leads to average DeltaEs between 3.0 and 4.0, which is not exact, but also not very inaccurate.
Put everything together
The Asus ROG Strix Scar II GL504GV is a fine laptop with a good design, a good trackpad and a good keyboard as well as a generous I / O. It is not excessively portable, it is not excessively bulky. It has a pretty good display, upgradeability options, and the internal hardware and performance are good too.
Our only main concern is the ready-to-use single-channel memory. This doesn't have much of an impact on productivity utilization, but saves ~ 10% of game performance. It can be fixed – a $ 100 memory inserted into the second slot gives you that performance back instantly – but we want it to be included by default.
In terms of value, the Asus ROG Strix Scar II is hard to recommend when you look at the gaming performance you get. However, this is not specific for this laptop, but for all RTX laptops currently on the market. At $ 1,700, the Scar II is significantly more expensive than GTX 1060 laptops with a similar CPU, display, memory, and other components that are commercially available today for around $ 1,100. In simple numbers, for 63% more cash, you get a system that is only 12% faster … or 28% faster if you add a second RAM stick.
It is also not competitive with outgoing GTX 1070 laptops. The predecessor of this system, the GL504GS, only costs $ 1,500 in certain stores, including Newegg. This gives you a very similar laptop that is faster for less money. Even if RTX laptops are only available for a limited time at startup, they don't offer much value.
Laptops prices will inevitably change in the coming months, so those who view this review in the future may face a completely different situation. At the moment, we are simply rejecting the idea that a new product does not outperform the last generation. We are honestly not sure who is responsible for setting these prices. Maybe Nvidia will just charge more for the RTX GPU, since every other RTX 2060 system has about the same price as the Scar II.
Aside from the discussion of values, Asus designed the Strix Scar II to be accessible and offer a decent 1080p gaming experience. You won't find much to set it apart from other generally good gaming laptops at this price, but it's still a good all-round package.