During CES 2023, Intel announced their latest 13th gen mobile processors. Other than the H, P and U variants, they also showed us the top of the line HX series for i9, i7 and i5 models. At the same time, NVIDIA also releases the RTX 40 series laptop graphics card. That means this generation of gaming laptops will receive both CPU and GPU upgrades at the same time.
What we have here in the studio today is the ROG Strix SCAR 18 gaming laptop. This is ROG’s flagship gaming laptop, equipping the Intel Core i9-13980HX CPU and RTX 4090 Laptop GPU. Let’s find out what this laptop is capable of.
ROG Strix SCAR 18 & SCAR 16 Series
Right now, ROG Malaysia is selling both SCAR 18 and SCAR 16 models. The SCAR 18 we have here packs the flagship components such as the i9-13980HX and RTX 4090. Meanwhile, the SCAR 16 will share the same CPU but with RTX 4080 instead. They are priced at RM18,999 and RM13,999 respectively.
In terms of design, ROG has made some refinements to the outlook of the SCAR series.
The lid is way cleaner now after they remove the ROG graffiti. Maybe I’m too old for that.
Opening the lid reveals the brand-new 18-inch 16:10 aspect ratio display. The bezels are reasonably thin and finally, the use of a 16:10 aspect ratio reduces the bottom bezel thickness. ROG call this the Nebula display. The Nebula badge is like a quality control and specification standard that ROG has set to meet the minimum requirement of a gamer.
ROG has included 4 display profiles in the Armoury Crate – Native, sRGB, DCI-P3 and Display-P3. We have tested the screen in Native colour mode and the colourimeter has reported an excellent result of 99% sRGB colour coverage and 97% DCI-P3 coverage. Mind you that this is only the native colour mode.
At the top of the bezel is a reverse notch that houses a 720p webcam and it also helps with opening and closing the lid.
ROG also tone down the overall design. The keyboard zone will still get the slanted ROG logo line design but not as flashy as before which half of the panel transparent. What is missing this generation is the termination of the ROG Keystone feature. Remember that little NFC tag that attaches to a special slot at the side of the keyboard and enables some features such as triggering a special gaming profile, accessing encrypted shadow drive or locking windows when removed. On paper, the feature sounds great but there are quite a few issues such as losing the keystone way too easily due to the weak magnet, which also means losing access to the shadow drive due to its encrypted nature of it. Then my biggest complaint is still the fact that it is not compatible with Windows Hello. You can lock the PC but cannot use it to log in to windows.
At the bottom of the chassis, just like the last generation, ROG is incorporating the overall slanted line design to the rubber feet as well. Good looking and practical.
Of course, there is never enough RGB for ROG Strix. Apart from the light-up ROG logo on the lid and per-key RGB keyboard, the front RGB strip has been improved so that it no longer hinders the process of opening the bottom lid and the craziest upgrade is the additional RGB strip at the back of the laptop.
The vent takes up the entire row and the semi-transparent panel also acts as the RGB light diffuser that paints light at the wall or showers RGB and hot air to those who are sitting in front of you. Yes, my friends, ROG has placed a LOOOOONG heatsink at the back and improved the cooling capabilities of this laptop. More about cooling later.
The removable armour cap is still around and you can 3D print it yourself just like the last generation. However, for some reason, the page where you’re supposed to download the template file is not loading. ROG please look into it.
Since the rear compartment has been taken up by the exhaust vent, all the IO ports have been moved to the left and right sides.
On the left is:
- DC barrel charging port
- 2.5Gb ethernet port
- HDMI 2.1
- Thunderbolt 4
- USB 3.2 Gen2 type-c with DisplayPort 1.4 output, this port also supports 100W USB PD charging
- 3.5mm combo audio jack
On the right:
- 2 x 10Gb USB 3 type-A port
Now enough of the laptop and take a look at the performance. First of all, a bit of a disclaimer. While our review unit has 32GB RAM, the official Malaysian unit will have 64GB RAM. In this test, I will be comparing the SCAR 18 with the previous generation SCAR 17 SE to see how much improvement.
Starting with the synthetic benchmark, Cinebench shows the 13th gen slaughtered the 12th gen i9. Intel also increases their lead in single-core performance with the new Core i9.
The RTX 40 series also smokes the 30 series as seen on the 3DMark time spy benchmark. This is the first time I encounter a laptop GPU that is capable of reaching almost 20k score.
When it comes to gaming, this is where things get interesting. Comparing it with the RTX 3080 Ti, the RTX 4090 laptop is consistently getting 30% or higher frame rates. Easily getting over 100 fps in triple-A titles such as Control and Cyberpunk 2077. You can check out our gaming test video:
And then, the RTX 40 series also supports DLSS 3 frame generation technology.
As seen in this graph, Cyberpunk 2077 with RT and DLSS is running at an average of 74 fps, which is quite decent for a demanding game. What if we turn on the Frame Generation feature? boom! 114 fps on average. Honestly, I can’t tell the quality difference whether if you have this feature turned on or off. What I can tell immediately is the smoothness during gameplay. If you hate DLSS, hate the first generation, it was wonky and jittery, but not the newer generation.
ROG has upgraded the cooling and accommodated an extra-long heatsink and there are now 3 fans inside the chassis. Both CPU and GPU are using liquid metal thermal compounds to increase cooling efficiency.
During gaming, we can observe the temperature hovering around 90c for the CPU and 80c for the GPU. The fan noise is still tolerable and there are different fan profiles available in the ASUS Armoury Crate software.
The RAM and SSDs are user-upgradable.
Due to the power-hungry high-performance components, don’t expect the 90-Wh battery can last long. In Optimus mode (with deactivated GPU), Silent profile, and with the brightness lowered to 25%, you can get roughly 5 hours plus of usage. However, if you decide to play a game on battery, you will need to endure the lower performance and only get about 1 hour of game time.
ROG did not disappoint with their latest ROG Strix SCAR 18. This series is getting more mature by the day and the existing features are being fine-tuned to offer a better user experience. The industry is moving into the 16 and 18-inch display as the manufacturers are picking up the 16:10 aspect ratio as a norm. The Nebula display is gorgeous and it is something that I would recommend especially for gaming creators.
The combination of the 13th generation Intel Core processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 40 series graphics card breeze through whatever workload you can throw at it. The third-generation DLSS and Frame Generation is mind-blowing and makes more sense for gaming laptops that generally has smaller than 20-inch display.
While the official retail price of RM18,999 might sound ridiculous to those faint-hearted, however, if you were to compare it with other brands, you might find this is one of the reasonably-priced options. Well, at least for the Malaysian market whereby ROG is usually being competitive.
Where to buy? (Affiliate links)