We’ve only just reviewed (and been blown away by) Aussie independent laptop manufacturer Pioneer and it’s monstrous DreamBook Power X370 RTX which had a full complement of top-tier tech. Now, here’s Asus’ rival flagship, the ROG Strix SCAR 18. For the past two years, its predecessors have reached the top of our Best Laptop list. It’s got its work cut here. Can it be our new Number 1? Here’s our Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 review…
Table of Contents
|Screen||18-inch, matte, 240Hz, 2,560 x 1,600, IPS display|
|Processor||4.0-5.6GHz Intel Core i9-13980HX CPU|
|Memory||32GB DDR5-4800 RAM|
|Graphics||16GB Nvidia RTX 4090 GPU|
|Hard drive||1TB PCIe NVMe|
2 x Thunderbolt 4
1 x 2.5GbE network port
2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x 3.5mm audio
|Speakers||2 × Tweeters|
2 x Woofers
|Dimensions||399 x 294 x 231mm|
Features, Ergonomics and Design
If you asked a sophisticated, hardcore gamer to draw their ultimate gaming laptop, they might just come up with something like the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18. On the one hand, it’s an all-black monolithic, imposing beast that can fit into any environment. On the other, it’s dripping in RGB where the backside, front (and partially the sides) have configurable, translucent light strips, the lid’s logo is RGB and the keyboard has per-key backlighting. We’ve not been impressed with the plasticy inserts that ‘adorn ‘decorate’ the back corner in the past, but it’s far more discreet this time. It looks awesome. And it strides ahead of the DreamBook in these aesthetic regards.
Opening it up reveals the new, 18-inch, 16:10, matte, ‘Nebula’ screen. Nebula is Asus’ new brand which is supposed to be a one-stop-shop for telling you that a screen is bright, has a high resolution, high colour accuracy, is fast for gaming and has low Blue Light and anti-flicker technology. It certainly can display a bright, crisp and clear Windows Desktop.
Colours are vibrant and it offers good contrast with details remaining present in both bright and dark areas. Colour gradients can get a bit banded, though, and monochromatic gradients can get a bit messy, but we’ve seen worse elsewhere. Creators will like that it can display 100 per cent of the difficult DCI-P3 colour gamut.
The 240Hz refresh rate keeps fast-moving objects looking silky smooth and the pixel response time is fast enough to avoid any significant smearing. Meanwhile, G-sync compatibility ensures that images don’t tear when gaming. It’s a very good screen and an excellent gaming laptop screen.
Above the display is an HD webcam. That might be a bit disappointing on a flagship laptop, but ROG didn’t even bother with webcams until recently – even during Covid lockdowns! This will please streamers and those who need to web-conference for work. The webcam offers decent performance in low light, without things getting too grainy. The array microphones do a good job of cancelling out background noise.
The keyboard is excellent. The touch-type keys are very comfortable and accurate to type upon (and use for gaming) for long periods. There are plenty of dedicated function keys, full-sized arrow keys plus a very usable number pad. The per-key, RGB backlighting is highly configurable and looks great.
The trackpad is large and accurate and the buttons have a well-balanced actuation pressure.
Meanwhile, the twin, two-Watt dual tweeter-woofers provide excellent audio thanks to good volume, top-to-bottom fidelity and some punchy bass.
Related: Best laptop November 2023
Related: Best Business Laptop
Related: Best Gaming Laptops
Related: Best Portable Laptop
Related: The Coolest Laptops ever
Related: Acer Black Friday Laptop Sale
Related: MSI Black Friday Laptop Sale
At the end of the day, it’s got much more to offer ergonomically than the Dreambook… the RGB, design details and the speakers help the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 win this round comfortably. The Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 is great to interact with.
Inside the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 is Intel’s very best, desktop-PC-grade, Core i9-13980HX processor which operates between a very high 4.0-5.6GHz range and utilises 8 Performance cores, 16 Efficiency cores and 32 logical processor threads. It’s flanked by 32GB of DDR5-4800 RAM and two 1TB hard drives operating in a fast, striped RAID 0 array for speed.
In the general-computing PCMark 10 test, it scored a best ever, 9,232 – two per cent faster than the Pioneer(!) In the Cinebench rendering tests it scored 5,094 in R15 and 31,933 in R23. Those scores are 6.5 per cent and 16 per cent faster than the Pioneer respectively. All hail the new processor king!
Like the Pioneer, 3D performance comes via a top-tier Nvidia GeForce GTX 4090 GPU with a massive, 16GB, dollop of GDDR6 RAM. The Pioneer previously decimated all that came before it, so we were keen to see how the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 compared. Tl;dr – The Pioneer redefined speed in our benchmarks, so it’s no great shame that the similarly specified Asus is just a smidge behind as to not make much difference.
In the difficult, 3DMark ray-tracing tests the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 scored 5,506 (average 55.1fps) in Speed Way and 13,489 (average 62.5fps) in Port Royal. These are just 1fps behind the Pioneer but over 20fps ahead of last-generation 3080 Ti-wielding laptops. Wow!
In the 3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike Extreme tests, which ape current AAA-gaming titles, the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 scored 20,616 (average 131.4fps) and 24,204 (average 112fps) respectively. Again, these were just behind the Pioneer but around 40fps (plus) ahead of 3080 Ti laptops(!)
In the 3DMark Night Raid test, which looks at proficiency when playing casual and competitive games, the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 scored a best ever 84,273 which represents an average of 966fps! We expect to see the 1,000fps barrier broken soon.
Finally, in our tricky CS:GO test, which stresses all elements of a computer’s system, it averaged 503fps which sank to 96fps in the 1% Low test (the slowest one per cent of frames, when smoke grenades are going off). That’s somewhat behind the Pioneer (550fps and 111fps) and a more in-keeping with 3080 Ti-sporting rivals.
Ultimately, it might not end up in first place for 3D performance but, it’s a close second and still a long way ahead of the pack.
The improved cooling system is worth noting. There’s significant room for overclocking, if that’s your thing. It never got particularly hot and although it could generate a robust whoosh when under load, most of the time the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 was impressively quiet.
Inside, there’s Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2. Basically, the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 has the best of everything.
The Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 is built very solidly, but a thin, 18-inch lid can only protect a screen so much, even with its strong hinges. It flexes minimally when a twisting force is applied, but it can’t change the laws of physics: it should survive a life of lugging to LANs, but give the lid a little more love.
For such an imposing beast, we’re actually impressed that Asus has kept the weight down to 3.08KG. The 17-inch Pioneer was almost half-a-kilo more. On top of this, Asus has managed to keep the power brick thin (unlike many rivals) and it ‘only’ adds an extra 818g to the total – we’ve seen almost double that.
Meanwhile, the 90Whr battery ran our PCMark 10 Modern Office test for an impressive 9 hours and 40 minutes. That’s more than a day out of the office… but you’ll need to turn off all the lights and ramp-up the power-saving features to achieve that.
Price and availability
The Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 is available now for a price of $7,500 (currently $6,700). This makes it one of the most expensive laptops – ever – but it’s also in-line with what we’d expect the highest-performing laptop we’ve ever tested to cost. There’s certainly better valuer to be had elsewhere, but if you want the very best, you’ve got to pay a premium for it.
Alternatives to the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18
Few people can justify $7,500 on a gaming laptop and many others will want something somewhat more portable than an 18-inch monster like this. Fortunately, despite the recency of many latest-gen laptops’ launches, there are already some great alternatives available:
Pioneer DreamBook Power X370 RTX 4090 – The processor might not be as powerful and the ergonomics aren’t as good, but the 17-inch Pioneer Dreambook offers comparable performance for more-than $1,100 less!
Lenovo Legion 5i Pro – Lenovo’s high-end gaming laptop is smaller at 16 inches but still packs one heck of a punch. It’s powerful, great to interact with, can be disguised in an office if needed and costs almost $3,000 less.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 – This ROG sibling is only two inches smaller but it’s still crazy powerful and currently costs a whole three thousand dollars less! The Matrix display on the lid means it arguably looks even more awesome than the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18.
MSI Pulse 17 – The first laptop we saw with Intel’s latest processor and Nvidia’s latest GPU is still a solid budget gaming laptop. It costs almost $4,000 less but is still a capable performer for those who want decent, portable, gaming power.
Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 SE – If your heart is set on a SCAR but you can’t afford the new one, why not get the Special Edition version of the old one? You’ll save almost two grand and get some nice additional design flourishes too.
It’s been an epic battle between the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 and the Pioneer Dreambook, but the ROG wins on points largely thanks to significantly better ergonomics and superior 2D processor performance. The Pioneer can still take great pride in having a marginally superior 3D performance score and a lower price point, though. That’s how close it came.
Still, this is High Performance Laptops and the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 is the highest-performing laptop. It will take a lot to dethrone it, even with a Titan and a Legion waiting in the wings. For now, at least, it’s our new, Number 1 Best Laptop.
Superlative 2D performance
Excellent 3D performance
Not very portable
Asus ROG STRIX SCAR 18 Scores
It might be expensive, but the Asus ROG STRIX SCAR 18 is worth it thanks to superlative 2D and 3D performance plus excellent ergonomics. Indeed, Asus’ flagship gaming laptop is the best high-performing laptop you can buy right now.