[Review] Beastly Performance, Upgraded Aesthetics: The ROG Strix Scar 17 G733 (2021)
Since CPUs and GPUs tend to have different refresh cycles, it's rare that we get to see a truly new-gen laptop with all the latest tech available at any given time. This time, the stars have finally aligned, and thus we'll get to experience AMD's latest 5000 series CPU and NVIDIA's RTX 30 series graphics within the same machine.
The ROG Strix Scar 17 G733 is truly a top-of-the-line laptop, featuring AMD's Cezanne-H R9-5900HX chip alongside powerful RTX 3080 graphics.
This year's iteration of the Scar 17 features a 5% smaller footprint, making it ever so slightly more portable, and it features slimmer bezels that accommodates an 85% screen-to-body ratio.
The lid features ROG's signature asymmetrical slash design, this time updated with laser etched dots that resemble "a backdrop of city lights at night."
On the hinge, you'll find customisable armour caps - there are a total of 3 included with the package, including the default Rubber Grey pre-affixed to the chassis, along with Translucent Black and Spangle Silver in the box. If you desire further customisation, you may 3D print your own custom ones, which are a nice touch.
The edges of the laptop feature wraparound RGB lighting, as does the bottom of the lid, which lights the deck up in a soft glow when open.
While the lid is made of metal, the deck and bottom of the chassis are made of plastic. The bottom features rough plastic - which is pretty aesthetically designed, I might add - while the deck features what ROG calls "soft-touch plastic". In my experience, what usually constitutes "soft-touch" is the kind of slightly rubbery texture that melts off over time in our Malaysian climate, but this plastic is quite the contrary. It's smooth to the touch for sure, but seems pretty solid and melt-proof to me.
Overall it feels really nice and premium despite it being plastic. Those who are fans of the translucent GameBoy outer shell will be delighted to find that the deck now features the same cloudy texture that gives you a sly peek at its innards. While I like the semi-opaque finish, I was annoyed by how murky-looking the status LEDs are.
Ports and features
While some people may disagree, I personally believe the right side of a laptop should be devoid of ports (except perhaps an unobtrusive SD card reader) so that nothing gets in the way of your mouse hand, especially on gaming laptops where you'll be much more animated than usual (sorry lefties).
And so I was delighted to find that the Strix Scar 17 had exactly 0 ports on the right-hand side, with most of them relegated to the back plus two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports and a headphone jack on the left.
The ports on the back include another USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, a USB 3.2 Type-C port with DisplayPort 1.4 and USB Power Delivery support, a HDMI 2.0b port, as well as the Ethernet and charging ports.
While the port selection is pretty adequate, I would have liked to have an SD Card reader instead of the updated Keystone II which feels rather gimmicky. I mean don't get me wrong, I love the new design, but to be frank I don't see myself using it much for fear of losing such a small piece of plastic. (For those unfamiliar with the ROG Keystone, it functions like a physical key that allows you to store certain settings as well as unlock a hidden Shadow Drive when plugged into the laptop.)
Also notably absent is a webcam, which I find a grievous oversight considering how much work- / learn-from-home situations tend to require them. There's also no biometric security, the absence of which I find strange on such a high-end laptop, considering how some ROG laptops have incorporated it into the power button.
I was glad to find that the lid can be opened easily with a single hand. It didn't have much flex to it either if you tried to bend it with your hands.
The unit I received boasts a 17.3" 300Hz 3ms IPS-level FHD panel with Adaptive Sync, which is super smooth for gaming, but I'm more interested in the 165Hz 1440p option, which I personally feel is a better balance point between resolution and refresh rate - after all, who would make full use of the 300Hz refresh rate apart from hardcore esports athletes? However, I'm not complaining, because it looks and feels fantastic while gaming.
There was no visible backlight bleed and the 300-nit display was adequately bright at maximum levels. For those who do creative work, it has 72% NTSC, 100% sRGB, and 75.35% Adobe RGB coverage.
One thing to note is that it will default to 60Hz if you're on battery, so if you want to eke out maximum performance, remember to keep it plugged in.
Keyboard and Audio
Ah, the keyboard. The Strix Scar 17's opt0-mechanical keyboard is going to be a hate it or love thing. My first reaction was 'ick, what is this?' because my expectations were set from my last encounter with the Aorus 15G, which boasts a full mechanical keyboard. While this has the same tactile feeling you'd expect from mechanical keyboard, it felt extremely strange upon first touch as the travel distance is much shallower than the 15G's.
The keys are as shallow as your usual laptop keys, but with a pleasantly clicky feeling and sound. The short actuation distance and resistance did take some time getting used to, but I started enjoying it and even preferring it over rubber dome keys after a while.
However, I could imagine that some people will still opt for the quietness of rubber dome keys over the tactility and clickiness of these keys. Either way, it's best to try it out in person if you're seriously planning to make a purchase.
One thing to note is that the 5 shortcut keys at the top are still rubber dome keys. In any case, the keyboard layout is a definite winner for me, as it features both a numpad as well as a full-sized arrow key island. Sure, you do give up the dedicated home key cluster, but depending on your personal typing habits and usage, this may be a pro or con for you.
The hexagonal power button is by itself on the top right, and sadly doesn't feature a fingerprint reader.
At the bottom, the touchpad is large and super smooth to boot. While you'll most like be using a mouse most of the time, it's nice to know that your fallback option works great as well.
In terms of audio, the 2 downfiring speakers do a decent job - while you shouldn't expect heavy bass any time soon, it's definitely more than adequate for casual listening. The laptop is also quieter than other high-performance laptops, so it's still possible to use speakers even while gaming, although it would be better to use a headset to discern accurate footsteps, conversations, and whatnot.
In terms of specs, the Strix Scar 7 boasts an AMD Cezanne-H R9-5900HX processor with liquid metal, and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 (115W) graphics. While the RTX 3080 in this laptop is a lower power version compared to last generation's 150W RTX 2080, performance is still a step up despite the lower power draw. This contributes to a slimmer form factor and longer battery life as well, so I would say it's a good choice overall.
Apart from that, our model comes with 32GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM (2x 16GB) and 2TB of high-performance SSD storage. If you want need to upgrade the ram, there's space for up to 64GB.
As expected from the cream of the crop in terms of specs, the Strix Scar 17 breezed through everything we threw at it, even at max settings. If you have the bucks to spare and don't want to worry about performance at all, this beast is the one for you.
As for the SSDs, the speeds are crazy fast, which is what you expect when paying top dollar.
The battery has been bumped up to 90Wh for that extra lasting power, and I can say it did pretty well, lasting around 8 hours at 60% brightness for casual browsing and video watching on silent, and around an hour of gaming on performance mode - which is pretty impressive considering the kind of performance it's outputting.
It comes with a smaller 240W power brick, and it supports USB-C charging up to 100W if you don't want to lug the larger charger around. There isn't one included though, so you'll have to purchase or use your own. Do note that you can't use turbo with a 100W charger though, so you'll still want to have the 240W charger if you want to do some serious gaming (and make use of the 300Hz refresh rate - it defaults back to 60Hz while on battery).
You can choose from 4 profiles in total - silent, performance, turbo, custom; the latter allows you to tweak the settings manually.
As for cooling, surface temperatures were pleasantly cool even while gaming, especially at the palm area. The WASD area as well as above the keyboard did get pretty warm, but still very tolerable overall, which again, is pretty impressive. In terms of noise, the fans do ramp up under performance, but are still less noisy than most of its peers.
On the temperature is under 60°C on silent mode and when not under load, 0db technology ensures that the fans switch off completely, ensuring absolute silence.
ROG has managed pack the new Strix Scar 17 to the brim with powerful latest-gen components while further shrinking down the form factor. The aesthetics have also been given a subtle makeover, and maintains its overall gamer aesthetic without being too overbearing.
For this amount of power, the laptop still maintains a relatively thin 3cm thickness and a weight of 3kg. While it's a far cry from being a thin-and-light, it's still a great feat packing all that power and cooling into something that's substantially smaller than some of its peers that weigh up to a whopping 5kg.
This particular configuration also comes with a great array of freebies, including an ROG backpack, ROG Delta headset, and ROG Chakram Core mouse. If you're looking for a top-tier powerhouse and have RM13,499 to spare, the ROG Strix Scar 17 is definitely a great choice. If your budget is considerably smaller, we'll be reviewing the more (relatively) more affordable ROG Strix G17 soon, so stay tuned!
For more information, head on over to the official product page here.