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Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 (2024) review

 The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 on a desk, with its RGB lights lit up in blue.
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 on a desk, with its RGB lights lit up in blue.

A question as old as time: Does size matter? When it comes to making a laptop purchasing decision, size and form factor is often key to picking the right lappy for you. However, some buyers are content to throw portability out of the window in the name of top gaming performance, and a substantial screen on which to view it.

Which brings me to the laptop on which I write this review, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024. Given that this is nearly $4,000 worth of (somewhat) portable gaming power with a large screen to match, opening the box feels appropriately like a bit of an event, and even more so when you pull it from the protective shroud.

This thing is chonky with a capital CHONK, and more than its significant 6.83 pound heft it's reinforced with angular edges that gives it "hewn from the cliff face" vibes right from the off. Asus has managed to avoid a significant rear lip unlike the large protrusion found on the back of something like the MSI Titan GT77 HX, but as a result of those angular lines and large frame this laptop does feel thick and substantial, perhaps overly so.

But then, given the hardware inside that stridently unapologetic frame, I shouldn't really be surprised. My review model is specced near-as-makes-no-difference to the very top of what Asus will provide should you fork out all that cash, and comes complete with the latest Intel Core i9 Raptor Lake Refresh 14900HX CPU with 24 cores and 32 threads, 32GB of LPDDR5 5600, and an RTX 4090 with a 175W TDP. It's a heavyweight spec for a heavyweight-feeling machine, and one that you intuitively know is going to need to move some serious air to deliver the best performance.

ROG Strix Scar 18 specs

Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 in blue, on a desk
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 in blue, on a desk

CPU: Intel Core i9 14900HX
GPU: Nvidia RTX 4090
Memory: 32GB DDR5-5600
Storage: 2TB NVMe SSD
Screen size: 18-inch Mini-LED
Resolution: 2560 x 1600
Refresh rate: 240Hz
Peak luminance: 1100 nits
Battery: 90Whr
Dimensions: 39.9 x 29.4 x 2.31 ~ 3.08 cm
Weight: 3.1kg (6.83 lbs)
Price: $3,900 | £4,000

Inspecting the sides and the rear brings some signs of hope, as Asus has festooned the Strix Scar 18 with cooling vents out the wazoo. Big, significant vents, found modelled in translucent plastic on both sides and on a large strip at the back. This is part of what Asus calls its "Tri-Fan" cooling system, which along with the use of Conductonaut Extreme liquid metal as a thermal conduction solution on both the CPU and GPU is designed to keep the Scar 18 cool.

Opening the lid and booting up for the first time reveals the big Asus' party trick, and it comes in the form of an 18-inch 1600p 240Hz ROG Nebula Mini-LED display. It's an absolute corker of a panel, and impresses right from the off with superb colour depth and—reviewer cliché incoming—inky blacks.

The vivid colours, great viewing angles, and excellent pixel density is apparent to anyone first casting eyes upon it, and even caused some visitors to my home to exclaim out loud in approval when walking behind me. It's a sumptuous thing, and after spending some time playing all sorts of media across it, the screen stands up against some of the very best laptop displays I've had the fortune to cast my gaze across.

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The Mini-LED ROG Nebula display on the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18
The Mini-LED ROG Nebula display on the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18

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Another shot of the Mini-LED display, this time in darkness
Another shot of the Mini-LED display, this time in darkness

This, however, is a gaming laptop, not just a media machine, and a beastly specced one at that. Given that Raptor Lake refresh processor and 175W RTX 4090 the Strix Scar 18 should absolutely deliver the goods when gaming on that gorgeous display. So let's take a look at what all that high-end hardware is capable of when pushed.

When it comes to gaming performance the Strix Scar 18 puts on a solid showing, although on average tended to lag slightly behind the benchmark dominating MSI Titan. It's also worth pointing out that the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 did manage to outperform the new Scar 18 in many tests, likely down to the performance of its hugely powerful Ryzen 9 7945HX3D with AMD's special 3D V-cache sauce. The i9 14900HX here did well in the rendering tasks below, but in gaming terms it still managed to get beaten out by the advanced AMD CPU.

Still, the performance here does put the Scar 18 up as a contender for one of the fastest high-end laptops we've tested, even if it didn't dominate as one might have hoped. I did also experience the odd minimum frame rate blip that showed up repeatedly in some in game benchmarks, (for example, Horizon Zero Dawn at 1080p), but overall the big Asus did well enough that it certainly earns its credentials as a top-end machine.

In terms of rendering and productivity CPU tests the Core i9 14900HX performed very well, although again tended to lose out to that mighty AMD chip in the Scar 17. The Intel CPU often ran into its 100°C upper limits, and these results were obtained with the "Turbo" maximum performance setting enabled in the Asus Armoury Crate software, with the fans often reaching terrifyingly high speeds.

And let me tell you, it is loud. If you've never heard top-flight hardware pushing a modern laptop's fans to maximum and have yet to experience the effect, allow me to get descriptive.

You know a really good hand dryer, one you might get in a posh restaurant bathroom? The type where you dry your hands, make it back to your table, and comment "wow, the hand dryer in there is powerful" to your disinterested dining companion? 80% of that. It is hilariously loud. Distractingly loud. Hear it above your headphones, loud.

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The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop, resplendent in blue
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop, resplendent in blue

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The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18's underglowing light bar, lit up in blue
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18's underglowing light bar, lit up in blue

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The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18, closed on a wooden desk
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18, closed on a wooden desk

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A rear 3/4 view of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18
A rear 3/4 view of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18

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A reviewers fair hand holding the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 on it's size for a look at its massive dimensions
A reviewers fair hand holding the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 on it's size for a look at its massive dimensions

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The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 with its lid closed, showing off the huge amounts of RGB lighting
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 with its lid closed, showing off the huge amounts of RGB lighting

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The large rear vents of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18
The large rear vents of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18

Of course, in the interests of fairness I should point out that this sort of fan noise is far from unique to the Scar 18, and is unfortunately on a similar level to other RTX 4090 laptops we've tested. But that being said, it proves that despite those large vents, "Tri-Fan" cooling, liquid metal heat conduction and the thicker chassis design, this is yet another laptop cooling system that has to go hell for leather to keep those high-end components in line, and throwing the latest Raptor Lake mobile CPU into the mix has not helped matters in the slightest.

Backing the Asus software setting down to "Performance" helps some, as although it's still very loud under load it does make the experience more bearable. However, the figures do drop slightly in turn, and in this setting I managed an overall 3DMark TimeSpy Extreme score of 10,051, which I'd take all day long for the sake of my eardrums and closest relationships.

Something else to note here is the SSD performance in 3DMark's storage benchmark. I ran the tests repeatedly, but the figures could be very inconsistent (despite keeping an eye on drive usage for interfering background programs), and my most consistent top result was around 2147, which would put it below the SSD performance of the other laptops in our comparison. Given the minimum frame rate blips I experienced in some tests, I suspect the Raid 0 SSD configuration of the 2TB of NVMe storage used here may be to blame for the odd anomalous result.

In day-to-day usage especially the big Asus has some good things going for it. The keyboard is pleasing to use, with decent key travel and a full-size layout that I found easy to get used to and spacious to type on. It is worth noting, however, that much like the Scar 17 it still has a sharp edged lip on the front of the chassis that digs into your wrists.

I didn't find it particularly distracting, but others in my household commented on it within five minutes of typing, and it does feel like something that should have been thought through a little better in the design process.

Like the previous generation Scar, the chassis is still a fingerprint magnet, and I felt the urge to wipe down the inner wrist section on a regular basis to remove unsightly smudges, and the trackpad seemed to pick up and retain grease from even the slightest glance.

The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop, covered in smudges and fingerprints from light usage
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop, covered in smudges and fingerprints from light usage

Despite the Mini-LED addition, in many ways the Scar 18 feels slightly old-fashioned.

Then there's the RGB. For some, the big light bar on the bottom of the Scar 18, the light up logo on the back of the lid and all its many glowing key configurations are going to be a selling point, however, even as a fan of RGB lighting I found its default configuration a bit much. Thankfully this can be adjusted and customised to your heart's content in the Armoury Crate, and those of you with a penchant for making your laptop perform its own personal EDM show are well catered for here.

The speakers aren't great though, and sound a little empty and thin even by laptop standards. And the 720p webcam, on a laptop costing four big ones? Again, not unique complaints when talking about high-end lappys, unfortunately, but come on folks. We can do better.

Buy if...

✅ You're looking for an exceptional screen: The Scar 18 really does have a wonderful panel, and it displays everything from games to media at high speed and with gorgeous colours and black levels.

✅ You want a true desktop replacement: There's nothing subtle about this laptop, but if you're looking for a big display with big power to match, it's got you covered.

Don't buy if...

You don't like fan noise: There's no getting round it, the Scar 18 is loud at full pelt, although backing the performance down helps a bit.

❌ You're looking for subtle: Refined, portable, svelte? Look elsewhere. The Asus may be well built, but it's a tank of a machine.

❌ You want the absolute top end of performance: The Scar 18 is very very fast, it's true, but there are faster if raw performance is all you need.

So what to make of the Strix Scar 18 then? Well, the display is an absolute corker, and a huge selling point for a top-end laptop. Certainly, whether using that vivid panel for games, media-viewing, or just general productivity, it's a beautiful thing to look at and adds to the overall experience significantly. The build quality feels good, and even though it's a chunky slab of hardware I found that the overall feel was premium and reassuring, if a fair bit of an effort to move around.

Beyond that stellar screen, however, when stacked up against competition like the Lenovo Legion 9i—which also features a truly fabulous (albeit smaller) 16-inch Mini-LED display, or even the Scar 17 of previous years with its lesser screen but slightly better overall performance—I'm not sure the new Scar 18 really does enough to justify its significant expense.

The gaming performance is certainly good, but it still gets beaten out in several benchmarks by its competition, and while the i9 14900HX and RTX 4090 here puts on a good showing it doesn't exactly blow me away. It's very fast, there's no doubting that, but those figures do call into question whether it's worth putting up with that heavy-set frame and high price when there's no significant performance gain over its rivals beyond a sizeable and very pretty screen.

It may well be a serious slab of high-end hardware but despite the Mini-LED addition, in many ways the Scar 18 feels slightly old-fashioned. It's sheer heft, noise levels and aesthetic reminds me of a time I'd hoped had passed, where gaming laptops were unapologetically obtrusive, wild, and if I'm honest, a little clumsy.

It might have the performance to get close to some of the fastest laptops we've tested, but unless you're dead set on wanting that luscious 18-inch display, there are alternatives that do the job better.

It's a brute, but I'd prefer it trade some of those heavy-handed ways for a dose of much needed refinement.