Sunday, April 14, 2024

Asus ROG Strix Scar X3D review: AMD’s new chip is a game-changer

Asus, just a few weeks ago, announced the new Ryzen 9 7945HX3D, a chip with 16 cores, 32 threads, boost clock up to 5.4GHz, 55W-plus TDP, and a whopping 144MB of total cache. The company claimed it would be the “world’s fastest mobile gaming processor.” This processor, AMD insisted, would deliver an unparalleled gaming experience.

Well, I’ve now got the processor in hand. It’s located in Asus’ ROG Strix Scar X3D, a gigantic 17-inch laptop bedecked with RGB. And folks, I am seeing some absolutely ridiculous numbers from this thing. This Scar is eating Intel for lunch. It is so far out of the league of any other gaming laptop I’ve ever reviewed.

Now, this device (which also includes 32GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, an Nvidia RTX 4090 GPU, and a 240Hz QHD screen) is $3,699.99. Like many of the world’s top gaming laptops, it’s a luxury purchase. For quite a few shoppers, this will be one of those products that is more of a statement than a viable buy. And the statement, in this case, is one we all kind of assumed was true the second that AMD announced this chip: Intel is in danger.

The numbers

This is, without a doubt, the best gaming performance you can get on today’s laptop market. These numbers are a good deal higher than I’ve ever seen. The X3D is beating MSI’s Titan GT77 HX, a more expensive RTX 4090 machine with Intel’s flagship Core i9-13980HX, by as much as 20 percent on the titles tested here. That’s a level of performance difference that you might expect to see from a GPU upgrade, not from merely the CPU alone.

Needless to say, this is the laptop you want to be on if you’re interested in gaming at QHD resolution. If you’re able to pay for it, you’re basically paying to never have to worry about settings, resolutions, or frame rates on most modern games.

That Counter-Strike: Global Offensive number, by the way, is not a typo. It’s not something that will matter on this 240Hz display, but it is such a hilariously higher frame rate than I’ve seen any gaming laptop put up on any game ever that I just had to include it here.

Recognize that Asus font?

One of the primary reasons these numbers are so huge is AMD’s 3D V-Cache. The X3D chip is the first mobile processor to feature this technology, and it actually has more cache than AMD’s desktop X3D lineup currently does.

Cache, for the uninitiated, is high-speed memory that lives on the CPU. It can be accessed very quickly. I like to think of it as the CPU’s pocket; if something the chip needs is stored in its cache, it doesn’t need to go digging around for it over in the system’s RAM. But cache is also like a pocket in that it can’t hold very much. It’s measured in megabytes in these sorts of devices, where memory is measured in gigabytes.

3D V-Cache allows AMD to stack more cache onto the CPU. This can make a big difference for gaming laptops because games in particular require CPUs to process data very quickly. Cache does not make as big of a difference in office work and other kinds of productivity tasks, which goes to emphasize that the X3D is not something you should be buying to use in an office. Like the rest of the Strix line, it is as “gaming laptop” as gaming laptops get. It is for games and only games. (It is over six pounds, after all, and almost a full inch thick. I carried it to and from the office in a backpack, and my back did not thank me for it.)

The Strix Scar uses Asus’ ROG Intelligent Cooling system, which is a motley crew of Conductonaut Extreme thermal paste, a vapor chamber that covers 43.3 percent of the motherboard, 84-blade fans, four heatsinks, 0.1mm fins, and anti-dust tunnels. Everyone did a phenomenal job (and the giant chassis certainly helps). Throughout my gaming, the CPU stayed very comfortably in the mid-80s (Celsius) with only very occasional spikes upward. I never felt any kind of heat in the keyboard. Of course, this is in an oversize laptop with lots of room for all of this cooling apparatus — we’ll have to see how easy it is to cool the new X3D chip in smaller 15-inch gaming laptops, whenever those arrive.

You will be able to hear the fans at work if you use the Turbo cooling profile (which, of course, I did — come on now). Considering that they’re cooling some of the beefiest laptop components on the market right now, I would say that’s not unexpected. Fortunately, the Silent profile is there for you if you’d prefer a more serene gaming experience.

A few ports, and a lot of vents.

Other things I like

This giant screen. I hate having to carry 17-inch laptops around, but boy do I love looking at a 17-inch screen. It does have 2560 x 1440 resolution which is — yes — the dreaded 16:9 aspect ratio, but that doesn’t super matter on a screen this massive.

The panel covers 100 percent of the sRGB gamut, 87 percent of Adobe RGB, and 99 percent of P3. It’s brighter than average for a gaming laptop, maxing out at 368 nits in testing.

Ultimately, the games look good — and there’s a dizzying array of color profiles for you to choose from in Asus’ Armoury Crate software.

All the ports you need. Giant laptops have lots of room for ports. You get two USB-A on the left. The back crams in two USB-C, an HDMI, an ethernet, and a power port. I kind of hate having to reach around and plug things into the rear, but I begrudgingly accept that it is a versatile place for them to be. The X3D also supports 2.5G LAN and Wi-Fi 6E. The two USB-C both support G-Sync, and one supports 100W power delivery.

I do think it’d be nice to have some ports on the right side. I imagine some people might want to stick a mouse in there or have a monitor that’s hard to move or something.

I would type on this keyboard all day. I know I say this all the time about ROG gaming rigs, but this is seriously one of the best keyboards I’ve tested this year. The keys have a comfortable texture and their shape seems to fit my fingers perfectly. They have an incredibly satisfying bounce. They’re very quiet. There’s a numpad on the right side, and I’ve been going out of my way to find occasions to use it because the keys are so smooth and comfortable to press.

Of course, no Strix would be complete without per-key RGB lighting. the X3D’s is classy and fairly even. In combination with a not-at-all-subtle lightstrip that runs along the bottom, the keyboard ensures a colorful environment. If that’s what you’re into.

As usual, the stylish ROG logo is everywhere.

Things I don’t like quite as much

The webcam is bad. It’s a grainy 720p affair. I mean, the last Strix I reviewed didn’t have a webcam at all, so I’m glad to see that we’re making progress. But still. $3699.99. 720p. In 2023.

There’s all the connectivity you could want

Battery life… well. This is no Zephyrus. I got three and a half hours of general (non-gaming) office use from this device before it died. (This was done on Silent mode, medium brightness, Battery Saver on.) This is where MSI’s Titan GT77 has a slight advantage, as that laptop has bigger battery than the X3D does; I saw about an hour and a half more usage time out of the MSI. That said, if you’re buying one of these enormous six-pound computers and are basing your decision on battery life, I think you need to like, go for a swim or something to clear your head.

The good news is that the X3D did deliver a solid 54 minutes of battery gaming (Red Dead Redemption 2). The game was so playable, with nary a stutter, for the whole duration that I was actually startled when it abruptly went black. The included 330W charger also juiced the X3D fairly quickly, reaching 60 percent in just 37 minutes.

This thing is really big and heavy, in case that wasn’t clear from everything about it.

AMD did it. It brought 3D V-Cache to the mobile space, and it made the Strix Scar X3D a blisteringly powerful laptop that blows the competition out of the water.

For those who have $3,700 on hand, the calculus should be pretty simple: Buy the X3D if frame rates are your sole priority and you want the best of the best. The minute you start to care about other stuff (namely battery life, portability, or any semblance of webcam quality), you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

Personally, I’m more interested in what the X3D represents to the gaming laptop space. When testing this, I was reminded of the time when I was testing the ROG Zephyrus G14 back in 2020. I remember checking those numbers again and again. AMD had shattered our understanding of what a gaming laptop could do. And I think they may have just done that again.


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