Asus ROG Strix Scar 2 GL504 (2019) review: Robust gaming laptop that will play everything
Asus has established itself as an esteemed player in the world of gaming laptops. The ROG series has given us gamers some of the most powerful laptops money can buy and some of them even come with mind-boggling RGB LED lighting and eye-popping designs. Every year Asus updates its line-up with the latest hardware in the market and for 2019, it has done the same. With the latest generation Intel Core processors and Nvidia's RTX series graphics cards inside it, the Strix Scar 2 GL504 is one of the new laptops from the company. And boy, can it play!
A few weeks ago, I got my hands on the GX701 Zephyrus S and was highly impressed with what the big 17-inch laptop could do. However, it fell short on practicality -- It's too big. And very expensive. The GL504 Scar 2 seems like a more practical option for most gamers. Priced at Rs 1,64,990, it is the most affordable model in Asus line-up with the Nvidia RTX graphics cards. With this context, I picked the GL504 Scar 2 for this review. So is it indeed the most practical of the Asus gaming laptops this year? Read on.
Asus GL504: The Good Bits
Whether it's a sub-Rs 30,000 notebook or an ultra powerful gaming laptop, Asus kind of takes care of the design. The GL504 is no exception. At first glance, the laptop sports an eye-catching design, especially with the lid that sports a dual-gradient brushed aluminium finish. As usual, there's a ROG logo that glows in RGB colours.
Open the lid and you will be hit in the face with one of the most aggressive designs you will ever see on a gaming laptop. There's a full-size keyboard with a dedicated Numpad and specially positioned arrow keys. The keyboard is RGB backlit. The trackpad is big enough for daily use and has an easy reach. A fake carbon fibre finish with camouflage graphics and the angular heat vents make the deck distinguishable from other gaming laptops. Some may like this design while others won't. The display has thin bezels on three sides, with bottom holding a chunky bezel that also houses a webcam.
There's an RGB LED strip that runs almost the entire length of the front -- this makes for some pretty cool lighting effects in darker ambience.
The GL504 doesn't compromise when it comes to connectivity options. It offers:
1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (Type-C)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen1
1 x USB 3.1 Gen2
1 x mDP 1.2
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x RJ-45 Jack
1 x 2-in-1 card reader
1 x 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack
1 x Kensington lock
The GL504 sports a 15.6-inch IPS LCD display that can render at a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. The display supports fairly good dynamic range with decent contrasts -- not the best colours you would see but good enough for most gamers. The viewing angles are wide and an anti-glare coating makes sure you are seeing more of the content instead of your reflection. The 144Hz refresh rate with a response time of 3ms makes for smoother movie or gaming experiences.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, the GL504 is part of the new fortified ROG series of laptops with updated internals from 2019. Inside there's an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 8750H CPU clocked at 2.20GHz -- this is the only processor the 2019 ROG laptops come with. The variant that I was testing had the NVIDIA Geforce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB of GDDR6 memory. There is 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a storage combo of 256GB NVMe SSD as well as a 1TB HDD.
The GL504 had no trouble with all the games I tried on it. I tried a few modern titles from Steam such as F1 2018, Watch Dogs 2, Just Cause 4 and PUBG. For all these games, I chose to stick to the highest possible settings. The RTX 2060 isn't the most capable GPU but it can deliver decent frame rates of close to 60 fps with maxed out settings. Dial down the settings and the fps count goes up. For example, in F1 2018, I saw the RTX 2080 Max-Q render the smog and dust particles on the racetracks quite realistically -- the stuff that the RTX 2060 wasn't very good at. While the GPU's party-piece is ray tracing, I didn't have any games to test ray tracing performance. That said, the RTX 2060 does a better job than the GTX 1060 in rendering post-processing effects in games.
The GL504 also has impressive thermal performance. With the dual fan cooling system, the big vents and the plastic chassis, the laptop never heated up uncomfortably. I was able to play games for close to an hour without the keyboard emitting heat.
Practicality: Gaming laptops aren't the most practical computers to live with on a daily basis. However, the GL504 is as easy to live with as conventional laptops from a few years ago. It is heavy at 2.4Kgs but remember that this is less than the weight of what 15-inch laptops used to weigh around a couple of years ago. Also, the weight distribution in this laptop is even, making it easy to carry around. The keyboard, though, isn't the most ideal tool to write -- the chiclet keys are very comfortable but the jazzy graphics and the glittering RGB lighting is highly distracting. The trackpad is satisfyingly responsive.
The GL504 comes with most frequently used ports one needs and hence, you wouldn't have to carry around additional dongles.
When it comes to battery life, the GL504 manages to deliver close more than five hours of battery life with normal computing stuff such as typing documents, web browsing and streaming movies. For playing games, it is advisable to plug it in the nearest socket as power is limited in the unplugged mode.
For audio, there's a pair of two 3.5W speakers and they are fairly good. The audio output is loud and the quality is balanced, although not as good as on the Zephyrus S models.
Asus GL504: The Bad Bits
The GL504 has only one major issue in my opinion -- the over-the-top RGB decoration, especially for the keyboard. While it makes the GL504 look and feel special, there's too much of bling that may put off gamers. Maybe Asus can do less of the razzmatazz and go for a minimalist look similar to what Dell is doing with its Alienware series.
Conclusion: Should you buy it?
The Asus GL504 checks all the right boxes that are required for a good gaming laptop. The performance is similar to what you expect from a laptop of this calibre. On top of that, the design and build scores high with gamers, except for the wild RGB lighting on the keyboard. The battery life is also fairly good for a gaming laptop and you won't require to plug in external speakers to get optimum audio performance in games. If these are all that matters to you in a gaming laptop, the GL504 makes a good case for itself at Rs 1,64,990.