After spending some time with the big Scar 17 over the past few weeks, I also wanted to try out the small ROG Scar 15 G533 2021 and see how Asus managed to cram the same powerful hardware (Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and RTX 3080 GPU) into a 15-inch chassis.
This article summarizes my in-depth reflections on the Scar 15, which I have been testing intensively over the past few days.
In many ways, this is a smaller version of the Scar 17, with a simplified keyboard but virtually the same design lines, IO, specifications and features.
My tester is also equipped with a 165Hz QHD display, a major innovation for this generation of gaming laptops and an option I’m happy to pay extra for. Find out why in the following detailed review.
In recent days, Asus has released several software updates that affect the performance and thermal behavior of this notebook. We are still in the testing phase, so if you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comments section at the end.
Specifications according to review – ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 15 G533QS 2021
|2021 ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 15 G533QS|
|show||15.6-inch, 16:9, matte, Chi Mei panel CMN152AQHD
2560 x 1444 px IPS, 165Hz with 100% DCI-P3, with AdaptiveSyncFHD
|Processor||AMD Cezanne, Ryzen 9 5900HX, 8C/16T|
|Video||AMD Radeon Vega + Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop 16 GB (115 W, up to 130 W with D Boost, GeForce 461.40 driver)|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (2x DIMMs, up to 64 GB)|
|Storage||2 TB NVMe SSDs in RAID0 (2 M.2 PCI x4 slots)|
|Link||WiFi 6 (Intel AX201) 2×2 with Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8168/8111)|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.2 gen1, 1x USB-C gen2 with video, data and charging, HDMI 2.0b, LAN, headset&Microphone|
|Battery||240W power supply, USB-C charging up to 100W|
|Size||354 mm (W) x 259 mm (D) x 27.2 mm (H)|
|Weight||2.5 kg (5.5 lb), 0.73 kg (1.6 lb) bricks and electric cables, EU version|
|By the way,||One-touch mechanical keypad, backlit RGB and NumPad, four speakers, no webcam, Keystone|
This is the most powerful Scar-15 configuration available here, combined with an interesting 165Hz QHD display that makes a lot of sense in an RTX 3080 configuration. FHD 300/360Hz display options are also available, as is low-end graphics power on the cheapest models, the RTX 3070 and 3060 GPUs with 115W + 15W Dynamic Boost.
Design and construction
The 2021 Scar 15 is more compact than the previous generation, which is easy to see by the very narrow bezel around the screen. There is still a large chin underneath that pushes the screen up, as well as a hump behind the screen that hides part of the IO and thermal module.
Overall, however, it is just as compact as a TUF dashboard laptop, as you can see in this photo below, but slightly thicker and heavier. I’ll start the review with this part because I think it’s one of the main reasons you’ll prefer the Scar 15 over the full-size Scar 17. I’ve also included some comparison photos in the gallery below.
Size aside, the two ROG Scars are very similar in design and construction. Both the main frame and the lid are solidly constructed and hardly move, even with heavy use. The frame is made of brushed metal, smooth plastic on the inside, and a translucent left side on the top that allows the shine of the components to come through. I’m not a big fan of this material, as it spreads very easily.
I am glad, however, that this 15-inch Scar does not have those annoying white status LEDs under the screen that we do have on the 17-inch model. However, there is still an unnecessary light in the power button, which is annoying if you are watching movies at night.
The Scar 15 also inherits RGB elements from its larger siblings, with lights on the front and sides, just below the screen, and in the ROG logo on the lid. These are linked to the keyboard lights by default, but can be customized in the Aura Creator software, part of the Armory Crate Control application.
In terms of practicality, many, but not all, of the straight edges are tested here. On the one hand, I appreciate the sturdy construction and the fact that the screen can be easily grasped and lifted with one hand.
On the other hand, the screen only tilts 140 degrees, is not completely flat, there are no biometrics or cameras on this laptop, and the KeyStone gadget is always on the right edge. I see no practical reason for this KeyStone and would prefer an SD card reader.
But IOs aren’t bad here. Most ports are on the back, power, HDMI, USB-C and USB-A, with two more USB-A and an audio jack on the left. There’s only HDMI 2.0b, because the port is connected to the Vega iGPU, which doesn’t support HDMI 2.1, and the USB-C port holds data, charging and DP, but is not compatible with Thunderbolt 4.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Scar 15 has the same type of keyboard as the Scar 17, with opto-mechanical switches, and a larger NumLock keyboard than the previous generation. That’s because this 15-inch model no longer has a NumPad area, unlike the 17-inch model.
The layout is mostly standard, but the right side is a bit odd. Asus has blocked out the arrows next to the left shift key, which will probably bother some of you who actively use this key. They have also placed a column of media keys on the right side, and I would have preferred to see those assigned to Home, End, PgUp and PgDn. These functions are rather secondary to the arrow keys. It is up to you to decide if this is a problem or not, but I think you can get them from a third-party application if necessary.
These keys use opto-mechanical switches, except for the five multimedia keys in the upper left corner, which are still rubber domes. The mechanical keys on the laptop are strange and different from the ones you’ve used before, at least at first, with a harder click and bounce and feedback than the traditional rubber domes, so it takes time to get used to them.
I have tested mechanical keyboards in various laptops in the past, and I don’t think they are for everyone. I just can’t get used to their responses and clicks, even though I use a PC mechanical keyboard as my main typing device these days, and generally prefer the nice rubber keys on a laptop. But maybe you feel differently, so I recommend you try it, especially if you don’t mind the noise. Maybe in an office or a school somewhere.
The new ClickPad is crystal clear and much larger than before, but it no longer offers the silent physical click buttons. Instead, the physical clicks are now rather clunky, and the surface clicks when you type harder. Overall, it has proven to be fast, reliable and accurate while I was using the laptop.
In addition, the NumLk feature has been added to the click bar, which can be activated by clicking on the NumLk area in the upper left corner of the interface.
As for biometrics, the 2021 ROG Strix SCAR 15 doesn’t have one yet.
Asus offers several screen options for the ROG Scar 15 2021, all 15.6″ diagonal, 16:9, matte and non-touch :
- FHD 300Hz 3ms with over 300 nits brightness and 100% sRGB colors;
- FHD 360Hz 3ms with brightness of over 300 nits and 100% sRGB colors;
- QHD 165Hz 3ms with ~400 nits brightness and 100% DCI-P3 colors.
We got the latter in the revision unit, and that’s pretty much what the best gaming laptops have been missing for years: QHD resolution with excellent color reproduction and good lighting/reaction while gaming, as well as Active Sync support. It’s perfect for everyday use and for working with accurate color, more affordable and efficient than the 4K options previously available on 15-inch laptops, and a better gaming panel.
GtG’s 165 Hz refresh rate and ~10 ms response time are more than adequate for casual gaming and AAA for the average player. However, if you want an even faster display for competitive gaming, you can choose one of the FHD display options.
This is what we got during our testing of this QHD panel with the X-Rite i1 Display Pro matrix:
- Group ID: Chi Mei CMN152A (N156KME-GNA) ;
- Coverage: 99.8% sRGB, 85.5% AdobeRGB, 97.8% DCI-P3 ;
- Measured gamma: 2.02 ;
- Maximum luminance at the center of the screen: 379.42 cd/m2 per power supply ;
- Minimum brightness at the center of the screen: 18.35 cd/m2 at mains ;
- Contrast at maximum brightness: 1127:1 ;
- White point: 6700 K ;
- Black at maximum brightness: 0.33 cd/m2 ;
- Answer: 10 ms GTG (via NBC).
It is very difficult to attribute a fault to this panel, but perhaps the blacks could be darker at high brightness, which would also result in greater contrast.
The color uniformity is also not perfect in our sample, with slight deviations from DeltaE in some corners. However, I did not notice any slight bleeding.
Finally, I should mention that this is only a 16:9 screen. You may want to see how it compares to the 16:10 QHD+ panels available in some Lenovo laptops this year. We’ll see, I haven’t tested it yet, but as far as I know, it has one major advantage in itself: support for a wider color gamut. It’s up to you what you prefer: more workspace or more saturated colors.
Equipment and performance
Our test model is a high-end configuration of the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15, codenamed G533QS, equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX 8C/16T processor, 32GB dual-channel 3200 MHz DDR4 memory, 2 TB SSD RAID array and dual graphics: Nvidia RTX 3080 dGPU with 16GB vRAM and AMD Vega iGPU integrated with the AMD processor.
Before proceeding, please note that our revision unit was provided by Asus and is a retail model identical to the one available in stores, with software available from early February 2021 (BIOS 310, Armoury Crate 18.104.22.168, GeForce 461.40 drivers).
Specifically, this ASUS ROG Scar 15 2021 is based on the latest AMD and Nvidia hardware as of early 2021. The Ryzen 9 5900HX is the first mobile processor on AMD’s Cezanne Ryzen 5000 platform with 8C/16T, a clock speed up to 4.6GHz and 45W TDP. However, Asus offers a few power profiles in the reservation box that allow you to juggle power envelope, temperature and noise level to meet your needs.
On the GPU side, Asus has taken the lead in the 2021 Scar 17 series with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, which runs at 115 watts. So the most powerful Max-Q variant is already overclocked in the Turbo profile. The system can boost the power of supported applications and games by up to 130 W thanks to Dynamic Boost 2.0, a technology that allows the CPU to switch from CPU to GPU power by up to 15 W when needed. Support for customizable bars will also be available on this gaming notebook in an upcoming update that will affect certain games.
For working memory, the notebook has two DIMMs and two M.2 SSD slots. Our device is equipped with 32 GB of dual-channel RAM and two fast SSDs in RAID 0. We found no heat loss or performance degradation during long file transfers.
Accessing the components is quite easy, just open the back panel to which a pair of Phillips head screws are attached. Be sure to use the correct head of the screwdriver. The front screws are fragile and you may damage them and not be able to open the notebook. Also, be careful when lifting the bottom panel. It is attached to the motherboard by two straps that power the LED strips on the front panel. If you pull too hard, they may come loose and you will have to reconnect them.
Inside, you’ll notice that Asus has increased the battery capacity to 90 watts and, as a result, removed one of the M.2 slots, leaving only two. Everything is tightly packed on this small 15-inch model, unlike the Scar 17.
Asus offers four power supply profiles for the ROG Scar 15 G533QS :
- Quiet – fairly powerful fan and limited CPU and GPU speed and performance;
- Performance – balanced profile with standard CPU/GPU settings, moderately noisy fans – GPUs run at 115W and standard clock speeds ;
- Turbo – High performance profile with improved CPU power distribution, faster fans and overclocked GPU (115-130W, +100MHz core/+120MHz memory).
- Manual – allows you to adjust CPU and GPU/clock performance and manually create fan profiles based on temperature limits.
The Turbo/Manual feature is only available when the notebook is plugged in and is designed for gaming and other demanding tasks. Performance is up to the task, while quiet laptops are designed for video and everyday light use.
New this year, the Scar 15’s Silent profile completely shuts down both fans as long as the CPU/GPU stays below 60 degrees Celsius. You can also power the laptop via USB-C. In this case, you can use it in performance mode without draining the battery, but with the exception of the power provided during complex combined workloads.
This is what you can expect in terms of performance and temperature for daily multitasking, browsing and video.
For more demanding workloads, we first test CPU performance by running the Cinebench R15 test 15 or more times per cycle, with a 1 to 2 second delay between each run.
The Ryzen 9 processor stabilizes at a continuous power of 75+W on the Turbo setting, which equates to 4+GHz, temperatures of 95+ C, scores of ~2200 points, and fan speeds at the high of about 46-48dB. No performance degradation due to throttling was observed throughout the test.
The shift to the performance profile means that the processor is running at 65W and the temperature is in the mid-80s for the first few cycles, with the fans running quieter at 37-38 dB. After a while, the system decides to gradually reduce the processor’s power to about 45W, resulting in a slight drop in performance, but still keeping the processor at a lower temperature, in the mid-70s Celsius.
On Silent, the processor runs a few cycles at 54W, with barely audible fans (up to 35dB), but with high temperatures of 90+ C. It produces a score of over 2000 points, which is higher than the power profile and about 10% lower than Turbo. It eventually drops to 45W and temperatures in the 80’s, with scores around 1950+ points, 12% lower than the Turbo profile. It’s still good for quiet machines.
Finally, CPU performance stabilizes at ~45W on battery power, depending on the power profile, with an index 1900+ always being excellent. Details below.
These results differ from our tests on Skara 17, which is likely due to driver updates released in the interim that improve performance on Silent. However, it is important to note that the CPU reaches even higher temperatures at 95+ C in the Turbo profile, as evidenced by the faster spinning fans. This could be due to differences in CPU quality between the two, but mostly due to the shorter heat pipes connected to the CPU in this smaller Scar 15 design. Thus, it can be expected that the CPU will generally get warmer under a high load on this 15-inch model than on the 17-inch variant.
To put these results in perspective, here is how the Ryzen 9 5900HX compares to a few other current AMD and Intel 8C/16T processors in this review :
- 1 to 2% faster than the 5900HX in the large ROG Scar 17, which is most likely due to a driver update ;
- ~3-6% faster than Ryzen 7 5800H in the Asus TUF Gaming A15;
- ~20% faster than the Ryzen 7 4800H in the TUF A15 2020, and 12% faster than the same CPU in the Legion Lenovo 5 ;
- ~15-20% faster than the powered Core i9-10980HK in the Asus ROG Scar 15 ;
- 25+% faster than the Core i7-10875H in the Gigabyte Aorus 17G.
We then verified our results with a longer Cinebench R23 run test and the dreaded Prime 95 with a Turbo profile. In Cinebench R23, the processor stabilizes at 75+W in Turbo, while in Prime 95 it fluctuates between 54 and 75W.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this laptop. The 3DMark stress test runs the same test 20 times per cycle, looking for performance variations and degradation over time, and this machine passed it perfectly.
We then conducted all tests and comparative analysis with the profile of the original turbo in Armoury Crate.
- 3DMark 13 – Shot: 23725 (Graphics – 26485, Physics – 25438, Combination – 12605) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 6958 ;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 11060 (Graphics – 11331, CPU – 9745) ;
- AIDA64 memory test: write: 40361 MB/s, read: 47468 MB/s, latency: 92.0 ns (incorrectly supported) ;
- Superposition of motors – 1080p Extreme: 7355 ;
- Uniengine Overlay – 1080p Wednesday: 19649 ;
- Manual brake 1.3.3 (encoding 4K to 1080p): average of 46.94 fps ;
- PassMark 10: Score: 5228 (CPU Mark: 24433, 3D Graphics Mark: 14607, Disk Mark: 31006) ;
- PCMark 10: 7077 (Essentials – 10697, Productivity – 9315, Digital content creation – 9653) ;
- GeekBench 5.33.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1465, Multi-Core: 8067 ;
- CineBench R15 (best performance): CPU 2203kb, Single Core 235kb ;
- CineBench R20 (beste kilometerstand): 5215 cc, 570 cc single-core processor ;
- CineBench R23 (best performance): CPU 13267kb, Single Core 1451kb ;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 27.28 sec.
These results are about the same as for a similar configuration of the ROG Scar-17, with the exception of 3DMark: Fire Strike, which means we shouldn’t expect a decline in performance on this more compact model.
We did not test the i9+RTX 2080 Super 115W variant of the 2020 Scar 15 for comparison, but we did test this configuration in the 2020 Zephyrus Duo. The 2020 Scar 15 2021 is 15-25% faster with single-core, multi-threaded CPUs and 15-20% faster with GPUs. However, the difference between real-world applications and games is smaller, as you will see later.
We have also conducted tests with the Silent Profile if you want to use high loads at low noise levels (<39dB or less).
- 3DMark 13 – Shot: 20327 (Graphics – 21950, Physics – 22459, Combined – 11980) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5431 ;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9065 (Graphics – 9140, CPU – 8664) ;
- Superposition of motors – 1080p Extreme: 4599 ;
- Uniengine Overlay – 1080p Wednesday: 16368 ;
- Manual brake 1.3.3 (4K encoding at 1080p): 42.60 fps average ;
- PassMark 10: Score: 3427 (CPU Mark: 21067, 3D Graphics Mark: 6313, Disk Mark: 30145) ;
- PCMark 10: 6896 (Essentials – 10459, Productivity – 9809, Digital content creation – 8498) ;
- GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single kernel: 1469, multiple kernels: 7636 ;
- CineBench R15 (best performance): CPU 1805kb, Single Core 232kb ;
- CineBench R20 (beste prestaties): 4081kb processor, 555kb single-core processor;
- CineBench R23 (best performance): Processor 9372kb, Single Core 1432kb ;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 33.41 s.
We still see excellent results, with little or no degradation in single core tests, but in multi-wire tests the card drops by 15-20%. The GPU is also limited in the longer combo tests, which we will discuss in more detail in the games section below.
Finally, we also ran some workstation-related loads in this Ryzen 9 configuration, in the Turbo and Silent profiles :
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Autostage – CPU Computing: 3m 11s (Turbo), 4m 4s (Silencer) ;
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Auto Scene – GPU Computing: 34s (CUDA), 15s (Optix) ;
- Blender 2.90 – Cool Scene – CPU: 8m 14s (Turbo), 11m 43s (Silent) ;
- Blender 2.90 – Cool Scene – GPU Computing: 2m 05s (CUDA), 53s (Optix) ;
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPU + GPU score: – ;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 207.47 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 156.22 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 181.24 (Turbo)
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 26.25 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 233.28 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 68.02 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 130.78 (Turbo)
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 21.25 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 98.13 (Turbo).
And the new SPECviewperf 2020 test:
- SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 136.91 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Cathia: 66.52 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Creo: 85.08 (Turbo)
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Energy: 26.33 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Maya: 246.74 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Medical: 32.01 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SNX: 21.07 (Turbo) ;
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SW: 176.66 (Turbo).
These results are again consistent with the implementation of Scar 17 on the same hardware platform and are also a step forward compared to the 2020 models, especially for workloads that can benefit from the enhanced capabilities of the multi-threaded CPU and the additional capacity and performance of the GPU memory, such as 3DSMax, Medical or Studioworks.
On that note, let’s see some games. We ran some DX11, DX12 and Vulkan games with the default Turbo, Performance and Silent profiles in both FHD (internal display) and QHD (internal display and external display) resolution. The “Whisper” mode is enabled in the “Silent” mode in the GeForce Experience, and I explain why it works below. Here’s what we have:
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX +
RTX 3080 Laptop 115+W
|FHD Turbo||FHD performance||FHD Mute (WM)||QHD Turbo||QHD Turbo External|
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|129 fps (82 fps – 1% low)||122 frames per second (76 frames per second – 1% drop)||60 frames per second (56 frames per second or 1% less)||103 frames per second (74 frames per second – 1% drop)||122 frames per second (67 frames per second – 1% drop)|
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|73 frames per second (59 frames per second – 1% drop)||68 frames per second (56 frames per second is 1% less)||32 frames per second (24 frames per second is 1% too much)||48 frames per second (38 frames per second is 1% too much)||50 frames per second (41 frames per second – 1% drop)|
(DX 11, best preset)
|118 frames per second (72 frames per second – 1% drop)||– –||60 frames per second (58 frames per second, or 1% less)||115 frames per second (67 frames per second – 1% drop)||– –|
|Far Cry 5
(DX 11, Ultra Front Setting, SMAA)
|113 fps (85 fps or 1% less)||111 fps (83 fps – 1% low)||60 frames per second (60 frames per second is 1% less)||102 frames per second (83 frames per second – 1% drop)||107 frames per second (85 frames per second or 1% less)|
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX AUS)
|82 frames per second (41 frames per second – 1% drop)||77 frames per second (38 frames per second – 1% drop)||51 frames per second (26 frames per second – 1% drop)||65 frames per second (36 frames per second is 1% less)||62 frames per second (34 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
(DX 11, Ultra Preset)
|198 frames per second (140 frames per second or 1%)||193 frames per second (138 frames per second – 1% drop)||60 frames per second (60 frames per second is 1% less)||148 frames per second (108 frames per second or 1% less)||159 frames per second (114 frames per second, or 1% less)|
|Red Dead Redemption 2
(DX 12, ultra-optimized, TAA)
|104 frames per second (80 frames per second is 1% less)||102 frames per second (77 frames per second – 1% drop)||60 frames per second (54 frames per second – 1% drop)||84 frames per second (64 frames per second is 1% less)||88 frames per second (64 frames per second or 1% less)|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider
(DX 12, high preset, FXAA)
|112 frames per second (60 frames per second is 1% less)||106 frames per second (58 frames per second – 1% drop)||60 frames per second (55 frames per second is 1% less)||96 frames per second (48 frames per second is 1% too much)||118 frames per second (56 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider
(DX 12, high preset, TAA)
|103 frames per second (52 frames per second – 1% drop)||103 frames per second (51 frames per second – 1% drop)||60 frames per second (58 frames per second, or 1% less)||89 frames per second (45 frames per second – 1% drop)||99 images per second (56 images per second – 1% drop)|
|The Strange Brigade
(Vulcan, Ultra Preset)
|102 frames per second (88 frames per second is 1% less)||100 frames per second (84 frames per second – 1% reduction)||62 frames per second (54 frames per second – 1% drop)||65 frames per second (57 frames per second or 1% less)||67 frames per second (56 frames per second or 1% less)|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra preset, haircut set to 4)
|124 frames per second (96 frames per second is 1% less)||119 fps (90 fps is a low of 1%)||53 frames per second (41 frames per second – 1% drop)||94 frames per second (75 frames per second, or 1% less)||98 frames per second (77 frames per second – 1% drop)|
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – opname met de Fraps teller/in game FPS in campaign mode ;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider Games – Registered with reference utilities enabled ;
- Red Dead Redemption 2’s optimized profile is based on these parameters.
These are just the screening tests, and here are some results for RTX games.
|Ryzen 9 5900HX + RTX 3080 Notebook 115+W||FHD Turbo||FHD performance||FHD Mute (WM)||QHD Turbo||QHD Turbo External|
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX ON, DLSS OFF)
|89 frames per second (56 frames per second – 1% drop)||87 frames per second (62 frames per second – 1% drop)||60 fps (52 fps – 1% low)||67 frames per second (51 frames per second – 1% drop)||76 fps -(59 fps – 1% low)|
(DX 12, Ultra Preset + RTX, DLSS quality)
|62 frames per second (51 frames per second – 1% drop)||59 frames per second (48 frames per second is 1% less)||25 frames per second (18 frames per second is 1% less)||49 frames per second (43 frames per second – 1% drop)||49 frames per second (41 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider
(DX 12, highest preset, TAA, RTX Ultra)
|78 frames per second (32 frames per second – 1% drop)||76 frames per second (31 frames per second – 1% drop)||59 frames per second (29 frames per second or 1% less)||61 frames per second (30 frames per second is 1% less)||62 frames per second (28 frames per second – 1% drop)|
2020 generation equipment
I’m going to reread our review of the ROG Zephyrus Duo GX551 (i9-10980HK + RTX 2080 Super 90+W) to get a perspective on gameplay improvements between the two generations of hardware in high-level configurations. The Scar 15 2021 ultimately wins RTX games by a small margin, as well as some heavier GPU games like Witcher 3. It also wins games at QHD resolution, with the Zephyrus DUO trailing by about 5-18%.
I will try to make nice graphs for better differentiation, but for now you can find the raw data in this article and in the GX551 magazine.
When it comes to FHD gaming, however, both models are at full throttle. Scar 2021 still wins in Shadow of Mordor or The Witcher 3, is tied in Red Dead Redemption 2, but loses in FarCry 5, Strange Brigade, or Shadow of the Undertaker. So, what’s the catch? Sure, the first drivers can make sense, but there’s something else to consider.
On the Zephyrus Duo GX551, Asus implemented a MUX switch that allows the dGPU to connect directly to the internal display. On the Scar 15 2021 platform, the signal is redirected through the Vega iGPU using Optimus, and as explained in our follow-up article on the Scar 17, this affects the performance of some games like SOTTR and especially fast eSports games. The only way around this problem is to play on an external monitor connected via USB-C (via DP) rather than an HDMI, since it is also connected to the iGPU.
The Optimus effect decreases after increasing the resolution in QHD, but it is still 10% in SOTTR and Battlefield V and 2-5% in other games. Just accept it if you choose one of these 2021 Scar 15 models.
In fact, the 2020 Scar 15 did not get a MUX switch either, so if you compare the two Scar 15 model years, the 2021 has exactly the maximum. I don’t have exact numbers for a correct comparison, because I only tested the RTX 2070 Super 2020 Scar 15 configuration. I will try to get my hands on the 2021 RTX 3070 Scar 15, I am curious to see how the two behave in relation to each other.
v. 2021 Scar 17
I see almost no difference between the 2021 Scar 15 and 17 configurations, except for Red Dead Redemption 2, where the Scar 15 was ~10% faster. Note that we only tested the Scar 17 with an earlier version of the BIOS (308) and not the BIOS 310 that the Scar 15 was tested with, which probably explains some of the differences.
The results are also in line with the baseline estimates and, overall, I would not expect a significant difference in performance between the two sizes of the Scar 2021, as they have the same hardware specifications and nearly identical thermal design, with slightly longer heat pipes on the CPU side in the larger Scar 17, which would lower the CPU temperature slightly under high CPU loads in this variant.
Journals for games
The HWinfo logs below show CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Battlefield V and Witcher 3 in different profiles.
I start with the same Excel printout as for the Scar 17, with CPU/GPU times in different titles, with different power supply profiles, and with the laptop resting on a table or sliding backwards to ensure better airflow for the fans.
With the Whisper 2.0 mode, we used a Silent profile that extensively covers the GPU and delivers 60 frames per second in all games tested. The result is consistent performance, excellent CPU/GPU temperatures and quiet fans of less than 39dB at the head end.” It would be nice to increase this limit to 60 fps in some titles, but this is not an option at this time and it probably won’t work because the limit goes through the “Whisper” mode in the GeForce Experience application.
Deactivating MW leads to inconsistent results between newly tested titles and significantly higher temperatures. Something to investigate further when the drivers are more mature, but for now I would leave WM on.
Switching to the performance profile limits the power and clock speeds of the CPU and GPU. In this mode, the GPU operates at standard clock speeds and about 115 W of power, with the fans running quietly with a headroom of 41-44 dB between each title tested. This all happens at fairly high temperatures. But there is a pattern we notice with this laptop. Some games, such as FarCry 5 or Battlefield V, do not redirect CPU power to the GPU via Dynamic Boost 2.0, so these games run at a CPU temperature of mid-90, but the GPU runs at a comfortable temperature of less than 80C.
Other titles that support Dyn Boost in this mode redirect power to the GPU. In this case, the GPU is in the low to mid 80°C range, while the CPU is in the 70 to 80°C range.
This means you can play with the performance profile with the latest BIOS profile, but you will still get fairly high temperatures on at least one component. You can support this if you are looking for quieter fans. In terms of performance, we are only 2-10% below the turbo profile, so this should not be the deciding factor in your decision.
Switching to turbo in most games will raise the fans to 44-45 dB at head height, with some exceptions in games that do not support Dynamic Boost 2.0 well (or just need more CPU power).
This means that in FarCry 5 or Battlefield 5 the fans sometimes go up to 48dB to tame the Ryzen 9 processor. After all, it’s still averaging ~95C in FarCry 5 and it’s in the 80’s in Battlefield V.
In addition, in Red Dead Redemption mode, the CPU heats up to 90+ C, then the GPU is at 82-84 C. Ouch. In Cyberpunk 2077 or Witcher 3, the temperatures are more balanced on average, the GPU is still a bit higher than I would like at 80+ C. In fact, the GPU averages 80+ C in all titles tested in the turbo profile.
Lifting the laptop off the table to increase airflow to the fans helps a bit by lowering CPU and GPU temperatures by 1 to 3 degrees between scales. A cooling mat under the laptop would help even more.
I still find the Turbo profile a bit noisy, designed to keep the fans below 45dB in most titles, resulting in such high internal temperatures. And that’s where Manual mode comes in to save the day. I used the same profile as on the Scar 17:
- CPU 50% >60C, 75% >77C, 85%> 82C, 90%> 90C ;
- GPU 50% >60C, 75% >77C, 85%> 82C, 90%> 90C.
This helps most tracks and brings the fans down to about 47-48dB at 85% speed. Check out the logs below, the notebook is on the table.
And speaking of the back end.
A 100% increase is also possible, but the noise level then reaches 50-52 dB.
I should add that this manual profile is not ideal for some tracks and you should set the range from 75 to 85 C for best results. In fact, there is a noticeable difference between 75% and 85% speed, both in terms of overall sound and internal temperatures, as evidenced by the logs.
You can still overclock the GPU with the manual profile, but don’t expect much from the default settings and be aware of consistency and crash issues if you decide to go this route.
Finally, the following logs show what to expect in terms of play temperature when the laptop is connected to an external monitor. In these three logs, the laptop is on a table with the lid open.
This is done with the cover closed and the laptop turned on in an upright position. The average GPU temperature of 85°C with the laptop cover closed is a problem for games that support Dynamic Boost 2.0 well, and I expect the CPU to perform just as well in games where it does not. Overall, then, this model is not ideal for use in a vertical rack, as the system will need to draw air from below and above for optimal results.
Noise, heat, communication, speakers and more.
ASUS has slightly modified the thermal design of this Scar 2021. It is identical to the Scar 17, but with shorter heatsinks on the CPU side, at the expense of the smaller 15-inch chassis size. We see the same updated fan blade design, which should increase airflow and reduce resonance, as well as what looks like a passive heat pipe specifically for the VRM that is not connected to the heat sink.
Asus also noted that better MVRs are installed in this series, as well as liquid metal for the AMD CPU. Conventional thermal paste is still used for the GPU.
Additionally, compared to the previous generation Scar 15, the 2021 model has an open back with unobstructed air intakes above both fans. The small rubber feet stifle these air intakes, and lifting the back of the notebook helps to lower internal temperatures.
As described above, this notebook’s CPU and/or GPU run at fairly high temperatures when playing games with standard power profiles, but the fans remain fairly quiet: 41+ dB in Performance mode and 44+ dB in Turbo mode. Scaling in Manual mode is a solution for internal cooling systems, but allows for more powerful fans. You will have to play with the manual settings to create the profile that best suits your needs.
At the same time, the Scar 15 is completely silent during daily multitasking and runs somewhat on the Silent profile, as the fans are completely turned off on demand.
Exterior body temperatures are also quite good, even under a heavy load. The WASD and Arrow zones stay between 30 and 40 degrees in Performance and Turbo modes, but the top of the interior, around the components, exceeds 50 degrees and closes at 60 degrees in Performance mode. Because of the high internal temperatures, I would not play with the performance profile at this time and stick with Turbo with the optimized manual fan profile.
*Daily use – Netflix streaming in EDGE for 30 minutes, silent profile, fan at 0dB*Games – Silent – playing part of
Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, silent profile, fans at 38-39dB*Games –
Performance – playing part of Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 41-44dB*Games –
Turbo, on the table – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 44-49dB*Games – Turbo, on the table – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 44-49dB
For network connectivity, Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 are available on this device via the Intel AX201 chip, and so far only Gigabit Lan. Our test device showed good WiFi performance both near the router and at a distance of more than 30 meters with obstacles in between.
The sound has been updated from the previous generation Scar 15. The 2020 model has two speakers on the bottom and two additional tweeters pulled through slots under the screen between the hinges.
The quality is good enough for laptop speakers. Don’t expect a lot of bass, but overall you should be able to watch movies or play games with these speakers without any problems. They also raise the level to about 82-84 dB at head height, with some vibration or distortion at high volumes.
I mean, the camera… Well, it’s still not there, and the external FHD webcam that Asus installs with its high-end ROG laptops in some parts of the world is not here either.
All 2021 ROG Scar models, 15 and 17 inches, are equipped with a 90Wh battery, compared to 66Wh for previous generations.
This is what we got on our test device in terms of battery life, with the screen brightness set to about 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 12 W (~6-8 hours of use) – Google Drive text editing, silent mode, screen set to 60%, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 11.5 W (~8+ hours of operation) – Full screen 1080p video on Youtube in Edge mode, silent mode, screen set to 60%, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 11 W (~8+ hours of use) – Netflix full screen mode in Edge, silent mode, screen set to 60%, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 14 W (~5-6 hours of operation) – Display in edge mode, balanced mode, 60% display, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 80W (~1+ hour usage) – Games – Witcher 3, performance mode, 60% screen, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.
That’s a pretty solid runtime, even with a QHD screen, but shorter than the Scar 17 with an FHD screen, especially when streaming video. The higher resolution screen is worth the extra cost expected here.
However, the system automatically switches the display to 60 Hz when the battery and iGPU are used, and the AMD platform can handle light loads effectively. There is also an iGPU/dGPU switch in the armory that can be used to completely disable the Nvidia card when the power is turned off to ensure that no unauthorized programs running in the background wake up the card and drain the battery.
This ROG Scar 15 G533QS configuration comes with a 240W block, smaller and lighter than the 280W version of the previous model. The battery is full in about 2 hours, with a quick charge during the first half hour, and a USB-C charge of up to 100W. A USB-C charger is not included, but Asus says it will be available in stores later this year.
Prices and availability
At the time of writing, the Asus ROG Scar 15 2021 is listed in some parts of the world.
The Ryzen 9 + RTX 3080 + 165Hz display variant tested here, with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage, costs $2,699 in the US and ~3,000 EUR in Germany.
Lower-end models based on the RTX 3070/3060 GPUs start at less than $2,000, while mid-range models with a Ryzen 7 5800H processor, RTX 3070 GPU and 165Hz are available for $2,199 in the Asus Online Store.
Follow this link for the latest configurations and prices in your area at the time you read this article.
With its smaller and lighter form factor, I think the ROG Scar 15 is a more versatile and powerful notebook than its larger 17-inch brother of this generation, even though you get roughly the same specs and features on both and the Scar 17 no longer has the benefit of a more powerful GPU like it used to. Despite the quirks and features that might make you look elsewhere, this model received a 4.5/5 rating and recommendation in our review.
Asus has polished up the design and materials of the previous generation and updated the hardware to meet what people have been waiting for: a powerful Ryzen 9 processor, RTX 3000 graphics, 90Wh battery power and interesting FHD/QHD display options. For me, the 165Hz QHD display is the absolute choice, even though it costs more than FHD panels, both because of the sharper resolution and richer colors, and because this laptop is just better designed for QHD gaming.
Indeed, the 2021 Scar series does not have a MUX switch or Advanced Optimus and the internal display is connected to the components via the Vega iGPU, which, as explained in this article, affects gaming performance, especially at FHD resolutions and in games with high image quality. As a result of this design feature, CS:Go or Fornite may not work at more than 360 frames per second on this notebook. Instead, modern AAA games like Red Dead Redemption or even the imperfect Cyberpunk 2077 look great on a QHD panel with 100% DCI-P3 colors. This makes this panel an ideal tool for professionals, creative people and graphic designers who need color precision for their work, and basically anyone looking for a good quality display.
Returning to the gaming experience, the Scar 15’s CPU/GPU is quite fast, and the differences between games depend on whether Dynamic Boost 2.0 is supported or not. The fans are set to maintain the noise level you get at these temperatures, and you can further adjust them in the manual profile included with the armory case. But don’t expect this laptop to be both cool and quiet while playing, it can’t.
Performance and gaming aside, the Scar 15 is a great everyday laptop, quiet, cool and durable despite its rugged features. It doesn’t have the practical features you’d expect these days, like a camera, card reader or biometrics, and it’s a bit cluttered, especially indoors. Oh, and Asus has included an opto-mechanical switch keyboard in this generation, which may not be everyone’s taste and will certainly attract unwanted attention in quiet environments.
All of this makes the Scar 15 a quirky laptop, but as long as you understand and accept its features, it could be exactly what you need. I’m not sure I’ll go for the RTX 3080 model at this point, but I think the mid-range Ryzen 7 with RTX 3080 graphics and QHD screen, which sells for $2,200 in the U.S. and about $2,500 here, offers a better price. Although I haven’t tested it yet, I’m curious to see how it works and how it compares to this high-end RTX 3080.
Anyway, with this study we conclude our review of the 2021 Asus ROG Strix SCAR 15 G533QS, and I would love to hear your opinions and feedback on it. We will discuss this further in the comments.
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Andrew Girbea, editor of Ultrabookreview.com. I’ve been involved in mobile computing since the 2000s, and here on the site you’ll find mostly reviews and detailed tutorials written by me.
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