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Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 (2024) review: "an iterative update that doesn't quite top the performance charts"

 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 lid closed on a wooden table.
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 lid closed on a wooden table.

Last year's Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 wowed us in testing, posting some blitzing benchmark results while packing a massive 18-inch form factor to truly take over the desktop. 2024's iteration sits a little differently. The newer model has seen few upgrades, the biggest being the addition of Asus's Nebula HDR Mini LED display up top. Minor alterations include Intel's newer 14th generation i9 processor and some design switch ups, but overall this is an iteration on last year's model. With some performance dips it might not be the best buy for those chasing framerates, but that screen could still sway anyone upgrading to 18-inches this year.

I took the 2024 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 out for a spin, using the machine exclusively for one week and then alongside the new Zephyrus G14 for another, to see exactly where the latest beast sits among the best gaming laptops on the market.

Design

Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 lid with RGB on
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 lid with RGB on

Much has been left unchanged from the original 18-inch Strix, but there are a few hints that this is a new iteration. You're still getting the all-black metal lid and translucent plastic body all with a softer matte finish, as well as the RGB front and rear panels.

The rear of the lid still carries that RGB ROG eye logo, which isn't too egregious in its aesthetic overall, especially if you keep those LEDs on low. A diagonal stripe across the back of the lid repeats 'Republic of Gamers' rather than stamping the same logo as it did in the original model, which makes for a cleaner, bolder design overall. Of course, there's still ample grill space, with more ridged diagonal cuts to the fan portion on both the inside and outside of the main hinge.

The 2024 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 takes this design language a step further, bleeding those sharp lines into the main deck as well. Whereas the previous model kept its translucent plastic free from additional iconography, Asus seems to have thrown everything it's got at this base plate. A mix of dots, lines, rectangles and letters are splattered across the top right of the main plate - and it does nothing for the visible internals inside.

Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 keyboard on a wooden desk
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 keyboard on a wooden desk

As I found in my review of the previous model, I'm not a fan of this aesthetic. The translucent plastic feels cheap against a backdrop of super durable all-metal designs like that of the Razer Blade 18, especially when it drips over to the sides of the machine in an even more transparent form. This time around the effect is even messier. Yes, these smaller details are soft, they're not going to cause a distraction, but with more and more gaming laptops moving towards a 'less is more' approach to their aesthetics this feels like a step back in time.

That 18-inch form factor remains here as well, with the 2024 Strix Scar 18 packing the same dimensions as the previous model. These kinds of machines are rarely built to be slim, but the Scar does have size in its favor here. The 39.9 x 29.4 x 2.3cm footprint and 3.1kg weight won't beat last year's Blade 18 in its relatively skinny form factor (39.9 x 27.5 x 2.1cm) but they both share the same weight. Plus, the Alienware M18 from 2023 is bulkier at 41 x 31.9 x 2.5cm and weighing 4.23kg.

Features

A selection of last year's Asus gaming laptops were treated to a new Mini LED 'Nebula HDR' display, though the Strix 18 wasn't one of them. This year that's all changed. I'm a massive fan of this screen, and have been since I first laid eyes on it atop the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16, and I always considered it a little strange that brands were dropping the qualities of their displays on these bigger, more expensive, beasts. Asus bucked that trend this year with a full 2,304 dimming zones in its Mini LED panel. The result is a particularly crisp picture with super bright HDR shining through and excellent motion handling. All that thrown up on 18-inches of screen made for the best gaming laptop viewing experience I've had so far.

Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop screen open on a black table
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop screen open on a black table

I was also impressed by the keyboard here. I'm naturally a fan of a laptop keyboard with more tension underneath each keypress than your typical chiclet deck has to offer, so the slightly increased resistance and additional spring underhand here was welcome. Like the former model, everything remains well spaced for the most part, even if the arrow keys are awkwardly wedged half between the main deck and half into the number pad. There's still just a little extra space around these keys, though, which made them easily navigable during gameplay. You're getting a full sized keyboard here, with number pad and function row, as well as five additional macro keys placed in the top right. By default these are dedicated media controls, but they can easily be reassigned in Asus's Armory Crate software.

The trackpad was a pleasant surprise. I generally only use these scrollers for quick navigation through settings when I'm not fully set up for a gaming session, but the smooth feel and tactile press felt far more responsive than other pads I've used.

Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 side showing transparent plastic and ports on a wooden table
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 side showing transparent plastic and ports on a wooden table

Most 18-inch gaming laptops are looking to act as a full desktop replacement, and that means providing you with all the ports you could need in one go. For the most part, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 achieves this goal - you're getting two USB-As for your mouse and keyboard, a USB-C for an additional accessory or hooking up to a dock (as well as a Thunderbolt 4), and a 2.5G LAN connection as well. That's all well and good for a casual everyday setup, but if you're adding macro pads, gaming headsets, PC steering wheels, or joysticks to your experience you'll need something a little more prepared. The Alienware M18, for example, doubles your USB-A and Thunderbolt 4 selection compared to Asus.

And I really would recommend adding a headset to this setup. The speakers included on the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 are bafflingly poor. This is a near $4,000 gaming laptop, and it sometimes sounds like a tablet. Dialogue was often completely buried in my own testing, and music felt flat and almost suppressed by the system's low power. Of course, you don't spend this much on a gaming laptop for the sound experience, but if you're going to be chilling with movies or music it's well worth noting.

I'll mention that 720p webcam out of due diligence. For some reason we're still in a world where $4,000 doesn't buy you a camera from the last five years - but this bizarre problem isn't isolated to the Scar 18 by any means.

Performance

The 2024 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 hasn't made too many moves under the hood. There aren't any new mobile graphics cards to take advantage of right now, and Intel's gaming-focused Raptor Lake Refresh 14th generation range of processors is itself a minor iterative upgrade over last year's 13th generation. With the same RTX 4080 or, in the case of our testing, RTX 4090 GPUs running the show, things aren't going to be drastically different here.

On average, benchmark results are 8% down over last year's Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 at Performance Mode power settings, but it's still beating the Blade 18 by nearly 18%. Like for like performance puts the new Scar 18 3% behind the Alienware M18 R1, though - where the previous generation was just edging ahead of Dell's monster. That's not a great look for the 2024 iteration and while these numbers are still incredibly high, it looks like the new generation has grown complacent where its predecessor shot for the stars.

Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 3D Mark
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 3D Mark

There were no thermal concerns during these benchmark tests, aside from the traditionally noisy fans, and results were consistent across multiple runs after regular reset and update processes. That's not to diminish the real power of this machine - after all, these are scores that smaller gaming laptops can only dream of. You're never going to be left in the dark here, this is a completely future-proofed rig that still manages to post numbers that would have had us laughing just a few years ago.

In-game benchmarks tell a similar story. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is rock solid at over 200fps in 1080p, only slightly dropping below that threshold in native 1600p resolution. These scores beat last year's model, with the exception of the High / 1080p benchmark which performed particularly well on the previous generation. It also trounces both the Alienware M18 R1 and Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 at these QHD+ resolutions as well.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024

Total War: Three Kingdoms is more stressful on a system, but the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 still managed to hold on. Machines tend to drop off their 1080p heights pretty quickly once you get to QHD numbers here, but like last year the 2024 model holds the line, beating the Razer Blade 18 and Strix Scar 16. Performance mirrors that of the 2023 model pretty closely, just edging out ahead at the very top of QHD Ultra settings.

Total War Three Kingdoms Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024
Total War Three Kingdoms Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024

Unfortunately I don't have data for Returnal, Rainbow Six Extraction, or Hitman 3 across the Razer Blade 18 or Asus ROG Strix Scar 16. However, comparing the 2024 model's performance against that of the previous generation and the M18 R1 reveals an interesting improvement in QHD performance. While Returnal doesn't natively benchmark at the 1600p these machines run at, that High 1440p performance exceeds Ultra 1080p numbers in the case of the 2024 model. However, both models lag behind the Alienware M18 R1 in this 1440p performance still.

Returnal Asus ROG Strix Scar 18
Returnal Asus ROG Strix Scar 18

Rainbow Six Extraction is our go-to for low pressure first person shooter framerates, and the 2024 Scar 18 is miles ahead of the Alienware M18 here. That performance was still ever so slightly behind last year's version, but I did notice some evening out in QHD+ numbers here again.

Rainbow Six Extraction Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024
Rainbow Six Extraction Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024

Hitman 3 can humble a gaming laptop, especially when we get to QHD+ Ultra settings. Numbers here are pretty close, though - with 1080p performance only slightly nudging ahead of higher resolutions. Everything is far closer here, you're more likely to get similar framerates at the top end of QHD settings as you would in FHD from this model compared to both the previous generation and the Alienware M18 R1.

Hitman 3 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024
Hitman 3 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 2024

Should you buy the 2024 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18?

Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop open on a black table
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 gaming laptop open on a black table

The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 remains an absolute powerhouse, even if some performance indicators are lagging behind last year's release. This is a premium gaming laptop, though, and if you're not fussed about that Mini LED display it's well worth checking out the 2023 model for some additional savings. That's going to be a serious sacrifice if you do plan on using your laptop's built in display, though. The Nebula HDR panel on here is a sight to behold - but whether it's enough to carry this iteration through to the setups of gamers willing to invest this much cash remains to be seen.

How we tested the 2024 Asus ROG Strix Scar 18

I used the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 for all daily work and play over the course of one week, while testing alongside the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 for another week. In that time I tested with the laptop docked to a QHD+ external display for a little of the time, but primarily using the machine on a desk for both gameplay and work. I stress tested across Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Total War: Three Kingdoms, Returnal, Rainbow Six Extraction, and Hitman 3, as well as using industry benchmarks from 3D Mark, PCMark 10, and Cinebench. I also tested across We Happy Few and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey in that time as well. For more information on how we test gaming laptops, check out the full GamesRadar+ Hardware Policy.

If you're between brands, check out the best Alienware laptops or the best Razer laptops. Or, if you're after something a little cheaper take a look at the latest gaming laptop deals on the shelves.