The ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE Special Edition is the most powerful gaming laptop that ASUS has ever made! At first glance, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE looks just like a regular Scar 17 from the outside, right down to the crazy levels of RGB lighting, so you just know the performance is going to be epic. There are some subtle design changes like the UV reactive coating on the lid. The SE actually comes with this UV light, so you can see it, and I mean, it looks kind of cool, but who is out there shining this little torch on their laptop to flex instead of actually using it?
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17
- CPU : Intel core i9 12950HX (16C/24T)
- GPU : NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti 170-175w
- MEMORY : 32GB DDR5 4800 (2*16GB)
- HDD : 2TB NVME M.2 SSD
- SCREEN : 17.3″ 1080P 360Hz
- BATTERY : 4 Cell 90WH
What really makes the special edition version special is that it goes up to Intel’s new 16-core 12950HX CPU with Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Ti graphics, so some seriously impressive specs for a gaming laptop. With these top-end specs, it might just give MSI’s Titan GT77 a run for its money, and I did recently crown that as the most powerful gaming laptop ever, so let’s find out if it already gets beaten.
The Scar uses Thermal Grizzly’s new conductonaut extreme liquid metal on both the CPU and GPU with a vapor chamber cooler. We’ll put thermals to the test soon, but ASUS claims this can cool it by up to 15 degrees Celsius more than the standard thermal paste.
Design & Build Quality
Like other Scar laptops from ASUS, the lid is metal with a matte black finish, while the interior is black plastic with a translucent triangular area on the top right, so you can sort of see through it. A black finish means fingerprints are easy to spot, but it’s easy to clean with a microfiber cloth. The Scar comes with these three removable plastic pieces that they call armor plates, and you can swap which one is installed on the corner of the laptop to get a different look.
You can also download the files for 3D printing your own for even more customization. The lid has a little bit sticking out in the middle, which makes it easy to open. The screen doesn’t go back quite as far as most other laptops, but the 122-degree angle felt like enough for viewing when normally sitting in front of it at a desk. The hinge motion feels nice and smooth, but even with the lid open this much, it will start to slowly droop down until it closes itself. I haven’t had a laptop lid do this from this height, which tells me the hinges could probably be tighter.
That’s probably not going to be a major issue by itself. However, I also noticed that the screen wobbled a bit while typing, which demonstrates hinges that may be too loose. There’s only minor flex to the metal lid, normal stuff. The keyboard area was fairly solid, too, again only a little flex which is good considering the plastic interior.
Size & Weight
The laptop weighs around 2.9kg or 6.4lb, but this increases up to 4kg or 8.8lb with the 330-watt charger, so on the heavier side. It’s a little too big for me personally, but I prefer the portability of a smaller 15-inch design. The 17-inch version will be required if you really want to go up to that 16-core CPU or, of course, if you just like having a larger screen.
The Scar has a MUX switch, so we can disable Optimus to get a speed boost in games at the expense of worse battery life. Unfortunately, there’s no Advanced Optimus, so you have to reboot to swap. There’s no G-Sync, but you can use adaptive sync to remove screen tearing with Optimus enabled and the integrated graphics active.
Camera & Microphone
Other ASUS laptops were updated to include a camera this year, but for whatever reason, the Scar misses out and still doesn’t have one. Although there’s no camera, it does still have microphones.
Keyboard & RGB lightning
The chiclet keyboard has per-key RGB backlighting, but unfortunately, the F keys along the top aren’t lit up. The main function icon is, but we can’t see the labels like F1 or F2 in the dark. Keyboard brightness can be adjusted between 3 levels or turned off with the function plus F2 and F3 shortcut keys, affecting all RGB lighting on the machine. The Aura key right next to those on F4 can change between 5 lighting effects, but the Aura Creator software is the way to go if you want to customize the lighting in further detail.
The ROG logo on the lid also lights up, along with this bar below half of the screen, which gives a subtle under glow effect, and of course, there’s the light bar that wraps around the front and some of the left and right sides. Back to the keyboard, unlike the smaller Scar 15, there’s room for a Numpad. The keys felt nice enough to type with. I liked it and didn’t have any problems using it.
The keyboard area was warmer than most laptops I’ve tested when sitting there idle doing nothing. Most laptops are in the low 30s. It gets cooler with the stress tests running because the fans are more active now. Performance mode was also running fairly cool, at least on the exterior, because the Nvidia graphics were thermal throttling in this test. Turbo mode was very cool. The WASD and Numpad areas were cold to the touch.
Although the ASUS website lists a 17.3-inch 1440p 240Hz option, mine came with a 1080p 360Hz screen. Honestly, 1440p is a much better choice for most people of this size. At 1080p, I can see the pixels on 17-inch screens, and 360Hz will only be useful for competitive eSports players. The brightness gets above 300 nits at a maximum which is what I want as a minimum, so it’s bright enough for indoor use but not amazing.
The Armory Crate software lets you disable or enable panel overdrive, which affects screen response time. With overdrive off, we’re looking at a 5.6ms average grey-to-grey screen response time. For transitions to occur within the refresh window, we’re after 2.77ms on a 360Hz panel. Overdrive is enabled by default, which lowers the response time to around 4ms, so still not quite ideal, and overdrive does also add a little overshoot and undershoot to the transitions.
It’s a decent result compared to other gaming laptops. Not the slowest 360Hz screen I’ve tested, but there have been faster ones too. Again, expect different results with the 1440p 240Hz panel, which is what I’d recommend to most people. The total system latency is the amount of time between a mouse click and when a gunshot fire appears on the screen in CS: GO, and the Scar 17 SE is the fastest laptop we’ve ever tested in this regard. So again, great for esports. There was a little backlight bleed, but this will vary between laptops and panels.
The touchpad was smooth, fairly large, and generally worked well; however, the right side felt a little loose, but that could just be my unit.
Ports & Keystone
The left side only has a couple of USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports and a 3.5mm audio combo jack, while the right just has space for a keystone. The keystone is an NFC chip inside this red plastic key, and it connects to the laptop with magnets. You can set the laptop to lock when you remove it or have it load custom settings when you insert it. You can even use it to unlock a hidden encrypted drive, so you can store private stuff. The rest of the ports are on the back. From left to right, we’ve got 2 USB Type-C ports.
The one on the left is Thunderbolt 4, while the right is USB 3.2 Gen 2. Next, there’s HDMI 2.1, 2.5-gigabit ethernet facing the preferred way, so you don’t have to lift up the machine to unplug the power input on the right. Only the Type-C port on the right can be used to charge the laptop with up to 100 watts, the one that doesn’t have Thunderbolt support. Both Type-C ports have DisplayPort support and can run an external screen, but if you have Optimus enabled, then the Thunderbolt port will connect to the Intel integrated graphics. If you turn Optimus off and reboot, it instead connects directly to the Nvidia graphics, so it’s good to go for VR.
The other Type-C port and HDMI always connect directly to the Nvidia graphics no matter what. The HDMI port could run a 4K external screen at 4K 120Hz 8-Bit with G-Sync, so variable refresh rate support. We found a strange problem when you run a game on an external screen over HDMI with Optimus disabled. For some reason, the game performance was just garbage. You have to turn Optimus on for it to work fine. But it shouldn’t matter because the HDMI port connects directly to the Nvidia GPU with Optimus on or off. But for some reason, you need to have Optimus on for it to actually work properly. I’m guessing this is some kind of Nvidia bug because we have also come across this with both Alienware and MSI laptops. It’s not just ASUS.
Inside & Internals
There are 11 Phillips head screws to remove to get inside. The four down the front are shorter than the rest, but the one down the front right doesn’t come out of the panel. I found it fairly easy to pry open with these tools. I’ll leave a link to them below the video if you want an easier time opening your laptop. Unfortunately, like other Scar designs from ASUS, there are still ribbon cables connecting the bottom panel to the motherboard for the RGB light bar, so be careful when removing it.
If you just pull off the bottom panel without properly disconnecting it, you can break the header off the motherboard, which means no more RGB, and we definitely wouldn’t want that. Inside, we’ve got the battery down the front, two memory slots just above in the middle, two PCIe Gen 4 M.2 storage slots to the left, and a removable Wi-Fi 6E card close by.
SSD Speed & Wi-Fi
The speeds from the installed 2TB SSD were excellent. The Wi-Fi performance was quite good, one of the faster results out of all laptops that I’ve tested. Intel’s AX211 is one of the better options currently available.
The upgradeability score is the same as this year’s Scar 15. Half a point was removed from the ease of access section due to the annoying ribbon cable design.
Speakers & Latencymon
As is usually the case with the Scar series, the speakers sound great for a gaming laptop. There’s some bass, they still sound fairly clear at higher volume levels, and the palm rest vibrations weren’t too bad. The latencymon results were looking pretty bad though. Speaking of sounds, it plays this one by default on boot. It’s quite loud, but you can disable it in the Armory Crate software or BIOS.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE Battery Life
A 4-Cell 90Wh battery powers the Scar, and although ASUS has some nice options to help make the battery last longer, it still didn’t last too long. The first is the panel power saver, which is enabled by default. This will lower the screen’s refresh rate to 60Hz and turn off the overdrive mode when you unplug the charger. It automatically reverses this when you plug back in, and this is why the screen briefly flashes black as it changes. If Optimus is enabled, you’ve also got the option of enabling Eco mode.
This basically disables the Nvidia graphics and only uses the integrated graphics to further increase battery life. And you can also set it to automatically apply when you unplug the charger. I found Eco mode to last about 20 minutes less than not using it. I have to assume this comes down to a margin of error or that something else was otherwise running in the background during that test because the top result would run entirely on the integrated graphics too.
Otherwise, running with Optimus off didn’t last as long because the Nvidia discrete graphics simply use more power. It’s not doing very well compared to other laptops, only lasting a bit over 4 hours. This wasn’t too unexpected, given the powerful specs of the machine. Based on this data, if you’re really after battery life, you’ll instead want to look at an AMD model, as those just objectively last longer.
Thermals & Software Modes
Let’s check out thermals next. The vapor chamber cooler covers the whole back section with two fans, but only for the 3080 Ti configuration. The 3070 Ti version has standard heat pipes. As mentioned, both the CPU and GPU have liquid metal applied. There are holes on the bottom panel for air intake, and the air gets exhausted out of both sides and out the back.
The Armory Crate software lets us change between different performance modes. We’ve got silent, performance, turbo, and manual mode from lowest to highest. Manual is the only one that gives us customization. We can change the fan curve for the CPU or GPU, adjust power limits, and optionally lower the thermal throttle limit for the GPU if you’re paranoid about the heat. Both Turbo and manual modes apply the same overclock to the GPU, though manual mode gives us the option to customize it.
Temperatures / Clock Speed / TDP
The internal temperatures were on the warmer side when sitting idle, but this isn’t a problem. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU stress tests which aim to represent a worst-case full load scenario. Higher performance modes generally mean higher temperatures; however, manual mode with the fans maxed out was cooler than turbo mode, and then the cooling pad I tested with, linked below the video, was able to lower temperatures by about 7 degrees Celsius.
Nvidia graphics thermal throttle at 87 degrees Celsius by default, and this was being hit in performance and turbo modes, but you could lower this in Armory Crate. Just expect lower performance. These are the clock speeds for the same tests just shown. The silent mode was ahead of the performance mode in terms of CPU speed, but that’s because the performance mode appears to prioritize GPU speed. Turbo mode was quite a step up, and the manual mode was slightly better. There wasn’t thermal throttling in manual mode with the fans maxed out, so adding the cooling pad doesn’t boost performance. It just lowers temps.
The RTX 3080 Ti could max out at 170 watts in turbo and manual modes, impressive stuff. It can boost up to 175 watts with Nvidia’s dynamic boost in a GPU-only workload, but to only lose 5 watts with the CPU also loaded up is a good result. For a brief comparison, MSI’s Titan GT77 could run with the same GPU power in this test, but it could also push the CPU to 75 watts, though it is a larger machine. These are still impressive results from the slightly smaller Scar.
Game Performance in Different Modes
Here’s how an actual game performs using the different performance modes. Remember, silent mode gets higher CPU speeds than performance, but lower GPU speeds, which is why it’s quite a bit behind. Turbo and manual modes performed essentially the same.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE Gaming Comparison – 1080p & 1440p
Now let’s find out how well the Scar 17 SE performs in games and see how it compares against other laptops! Cyberpunk 2077 was tested the same on all laptops, and I’ve got the Scar 17 SE shown by the red highlight. It’s not quite able to match MSI’s Titan GT77 here, but it’s extremely close, and the difference isn’t one you’ll notice when playing.
They’re even closer together at the higher 1440p resolution, but again this isn’t going to be a difference that you’d even notice in practice.
The Scar was a little behind a couple of MSI’s maxed-out laptops in control at 1080p, but we’re talking about a few FPS differences. This machine is still delivering excellent performance. It’s still one of the best at the higher 1440p resolution too. We had to test this with an external screen as our laptop came with that 1080p screen.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested with the game’s benchmark, and interestingly the Scar was now at the top. I’m not sure why the GT77 was behind here, but honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s just some issue with this game, as I’ve found it to be a little less consistent than the previous two titles. It’s not quite in first place at 1440p, but again, like the other games, it’s very close, with only a 3 FPS or so difference.
Cinebench CPU Performance (On & Off Battery)
The CPU power limits can go far higher when the GPU isn’t used. Turbo and manual modes were reaching CPU thermal throttling in this test which is why I’ve listed rough power limit ranges, but I mean, that’s fair enough; 140 plus watts in a CPU workload in a laptop is crazy stuff. The high power levels result in the highest Cinebench score compared to any other laptop we’ve ever tested. The single core score is only 4% higher with the Scar, but it’s also the first time I’ve seen a laptop crack 2000 points, good stuff.
The Scar is scoring 14% higher compared to MSI’s Titan GT77 in the multi-core, the only other machine I’ve had with Intel’s new HX CPU. Now the Titan could score above 24,000 if we just do a single run with no time limit, so this result implies that the Scar is throttling less in this test. Perhaps its new fancy liquid metal is better than MSI’s phase change stuff. According to Intel’s spec sheet, the 12900HX and 12950HX are identical regarding cores, threads, cache, boost clock speeds, and max power limits.
The 50 version in the Scar just offers extra features like ECC memory and other enterprise features. This means the Scar is winning due to better cooling or silicon lottery luck. Performance drops back when we unplug the charger and instead run purely off battery power. The Scar is still ahead of MSI’s Titan, but other eight-core Ryzen laptops are now able to reach higher single and multi-core scores, as AMD machines generally seem to be more power efficient.
I forgot to record manual mode with the fans at full speed, but it was even cooler, seriously impressive considering the CPU at 65 watts and GPU at 170 watts, though it does get loud, too. Let’s have a listen. It could be silent at idle, but the fans occasionally turned on, which is why there were two results, though they were still quiet.
Silent and performance modes were still relatively quiet compared to most other laptops, even under full load. Turbo mode was similar to most gaming laptops I test in their highest performance mode, but max fans in manual mode take things to the next level. You’d want to be wearing headphones.
BIOS & Undervolting
The BIOS is fairly basic like most other ASUS gaming laptops. However, with the unlocked HX processor, we’ve got the option to set a CPU undervolt between 0 and 80 millivolts. I was expecting to see more options here for overclocking, but I couldn’t see anything, so you’d have to handle that through software like Intel XTU. MSI’s Titan gives you way more customization here.
Linux support was tested with an Ubuntu 22.04 live CD. By default, the keyboard, touchpad, speakers, ethernet, and Wi-Fi all worked. The keyboard shortcuts to change key brightness, screen brightness, and volume all worked, but the Aura key didn’t. It was stuck with just red lighting.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE vs MSI Titan GT77
That said, the performance from the Scar did surprise me. It’s a little smaller compared to MSI’s Titan, yet it came ahead in many workloads. Not all of them, but it was pretty close in most of them. To be fair, the Titan lets you install twice as much memory and M.2 drives with PCIe Gen 5 support; extra space would be needed for that.
Regarding gaming, it could go either way, but other CPU tasks like Cinebench did better with the Scar. Technically speaking, the GT77 should be more powerful with CPU plus GPU work, as it has higher power limits, but the benchmarks speak for themselves. There’s more to life than raw power anyway. As mentioned, the Titan offers more upgradeability, while the Scar has about the same upgradeability as most gaming laptops.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE Issues & Problems
The ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE is a nice gaming laptop, but with some strange quirks like the loose touchpad, lid hinges feeling a bit weak, and of course, the annoying ribbon cables design inside. I mean, yeah, ok, the light bar does look kind of cool. But Lenovo and MSI have front light bars, and they don’t need that ribbon cable design, so surely ASUS can manage something like that too.
If you go for this laptop, just do yourself a favor and go for the screen that has 1440p 240Hz rather than 1080p 360Hz like I’ve got here. That’ll just be a much better option for most people. If you’re still here, you’re clearly interested in bigger, more powerful gaming laptops, so check out my full review of MSI’s Titan GT77 next time.
Pricing & Availability
Normally we’d take a look at pricing at this point, but I can’t find the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE for sale anywhere just yet, so check the links below the video for updates as stores get them in over time. It was based on what it’s offering, though, and considering that MSI’s Titan GT77 was over $4000 USD. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was also around the $4000 USD price point. So then, is it worth buying? Decide it for you.