In this article we’ve gathered our impressions on the updated 2018 model of the Asus ROG Strix SCAR Edition GL703GS. That’s a mouthful, in Asus’s “good” tradition, but this laptop is definitely interesting as a powerful 17-inch gaming machine with the latest hardware features and a fairly compact and light form-factor.
In fact it weighs just a little over 6.2 pounds and is less than an inch thick, despite packing a 17-inch display. It doesn’t get a bezeles design, like some of the modern 15-inchers do, but the edges around the screen are still fairly compact and overall this laptop is surprisingly portable for its category.
Despite that, Asus crammed the latest and greatest inside, namely a Coffee Lake Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics, hybrid storage, a FHD IPS panel with 144 Hz refresh rate and GSync, as well as a 76 Wh battery. Other configurations are also available, but our test unit is the higher specked version of the SCAR Edition, with a selling price of $1899 at the time of the article.
Read on to find out how the ROG Strix GL703GS feels and performs in actual use, so you’ll know what to expect if interested in buying one of these.
Specs as reviewed
|Asus ROG Strix SCAR Edition GL703GS|
|Screen||17.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, 144 Hz, IPS, GSync non-touch, matte|
|Processor||Intel Kaby Lake Core i7-8750H CPU|
|Vide0||Intel HD 630 + Nvidia GT 1070 8GB|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 (2x DIMMs)|
|Storage||256 GB SSD (M.2 PCIe) + 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD (2.5″)|
|Connectivity||Gigabit LAN, Wireless AC (Intel AC 9560) , Bluetooth 4.1|
|Ports||4x USB-A 3.1, 1x USB-C, HDMI 2.0, mDP 1.2, LAN, SD card reader, mic/headphone, Kensington Lock|
|Battery||76 Wh, 230 W charger|
|Size||411 mm or 16.2” (w) x 274 mm or 10.8” (d) x 24 mm or 0.94” (h)|
|Weight||6.2 lbs (2.82 kg) + 1.54 lbs (.7 kg) for the charger|
|Extras||4-zone RGB backlit keyboard, webcam|
Asus also offers a 15-inch version of this laptop, the ROG Strix GL503VS, with a similar 144 Hz GSync screen and GTX 1070 graphics, but smaller and lighter. You can find all about it in our detailed review.
Design and first look
On the outside the 2018 version of the GL703 series hasn’t changed from the 2017 models.
The design lines are fairly simple for a gaming laptop, with a Gunmetal Gray color scheme. Plastic is used for the inner deck, with a carbon-fiber like finishing. It’s not as soft as on the Dell XPS, but it feels nice and should age well and fend off scratches. The edges, bottom and bezels around the display are made from rougher plastic, while the outer lid gets a brushed aluminum cover.
There’s also a big ROG logo on the hood, but it’s just chromed, not backlit, and all the other branding elements are fairly subtle, although plastered all around the keyboard. There are no lights on the interior, aside from the status LEDs and the always lit Power button, which are rather inconveniently placed on top of the keyboard, but at least they are dim and you’ll learn to ignore them when watching a movie in a dark room.
On top of the keyboard you’ll also notice a pretty hefty air-intake grill, as this laptop sucks air from both the top and the bottom and expels it through the grills on the back edge. We’ll talk about the cooling system and its performance in a further section.
As far as the build quality goes, the GL703GS gets a plastic inner chassis, but it feels solid on the desk, with very little flex in the keyboard deck or the arm-rest. The lid is strongly built as well, so you shouldn’t concern yourself much over carrying this computer in your backpack all the time, it should handle daily hassle just fine.
Two sturdy hinges attach the screen to the laptop’s main body and they’re just the right amount of softness and stiffness, as they allow to lift the screen with a single hand, but at the same time hold it as set-up. The display only goes back to about 145 degrees though, which is alright for desk use, but can be limiting in other situations.
The GL703GS ticks some other practically aspects as well. It has a low profile and blunt edges and corners that won’t bite into your wrists when typing, it also gets a spacious palm-rest and the rubber feet on the bottom keep it well anchored on a desk. Down here you’ll also notice there’s a hardware quick-access bay, but no speaker cuts, as the speakers fire through the grills on the lateral edges.
As far as the IO goes, there’s almost nothing missing on this laptop, with 4x full size USB A slots, one USB-C port, mDP 1.2 and HDMI 2.0 for video output, a LAN connector, a headphone/mic jack and Kensington Lock, as well as a card-reader. There’s no Thunderbolt 3 though, which I believe Asus should have included on this 2018 update.
All in all I like what Asus did with the ROG Strix GL703GS. It doesn’t use exquisite materials or finishings, but is made well, feels nice in daily use, looks simple enough and at the same time gets enough proprietary design accents to make it stand out from the competition, and checks all the right boxes when it comes to practicality. On top of all these, the GL703 is also fairly thin and light for a 17-incher, which are highly important quirks for those of you who carry your computer around everyday.
Keyboard and trackpad
This laptop types well, but if you’re coming from ultraportables with short key travel, you’ll need some time to get used to its feedback and the fact that you have to press certain keys a little firmer to actuate properly. This caused me a fair bit of errors in the beginning, but after typing several thousands of words on it, I can conclude that I really like this keyboard and it’s a solid option for both typists and for gaming.
The layout is pretty standard for recent Asus ROG laptops, with a proper sized main deck of keys, but a cramped NumPad section and narrow directional keys, which are rather tough to accept on a gaming computer. There are also some separated multimedia keys, and the Power Button is not part of the keyboard, as with other layouts.
The keys have an 18 mm drop and a nice soft finishing, with a slightly concave shape, so feel great to the touch. They actuate quickly and offer springy feedback, but like I said above, need a bit more force to click than the shallower and softer keys on my Dell XPS 13, for instance, despite the fact that they integrate some sort of over-stroke technology meant to register clicks without a complete press (Asus calls them fast-actuating keys). That’s not something I’m complaining of, it’s just something I personally had to adapt to. If you’re coming from older laptops you’ll probably get used to this keyboard much easier.
The keyboard is also backlit, with RGB LEDs split in 4 different zones that can be controlled from the preinstalled AURA software. They can’t be controlled individually though, like on some of this laptop’s rivals.
Those of you interested in gaming will also appreciate that the keyboard gets n-key rollover and the keys are supposedly guaranteed for 20 million presses, twice the norm of a standard laptop keyboard.
As far as the trackpad goes, it’s fairly well sized and placed beneath the Space key. It’s not a clickpad, but a regular trackpad with dedicated physical click buttons, and I’m a big fan of these implementations. The click buttons are smooth and quiet, although they do feel a bit rough to the touch.
The actual trackpad is made by Elan, has a smooth plastic surface and Precision drivers, so it works pretty much flawlessly with swipes, gestures and taps.
The Asus ROG GL703 gets a 17.3-inch display with a matte finishing and an IPS panel with a 144 Hz refresh rate and GSync. Corroborated with the advertised 3 ms response time (probably GTG), this is perfect for fast-action games and gaming in general. It’s hard to put this in words, but gaming on a fast screen with GSync is a completely different experience, much smoother and more fluent, and you’ll probably become addicted once you sample it for a while.
This panel is not just fast though, it’s also pretty good overall, with above average brightness, colors and contrast, as you can see below:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO329D (B173HAN03.2);
- Coverage: 97% sRGB, 72% NTSC, 75% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 275 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 710:1
- White point: 6800 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.39 cd/m2;
- Average DeltaE: 1.10 uncalibrated, 0.85 calibrated.
You’ll want to use our calibrated color profile to address the slight White Point and gray levels imbalances, albeit this panel is fairly well calibrated out of the box.
As far as the resolution and color coverage go, there are better options out there for those of you interested in professional work, but for gaming and everyday use this panel works perfectly fine. It’s also fairly uniform in color and brightness, there’s no noticeable light bleeding around the edges, and although the maximum brightness is only average, that shouldn’t be a problem on a computer that will probably spend most of its life indoors.
Hardware and performance
As I mentioned in the beginning, our test unit is the higher-tier configuration of the ROG Strix SCAR Edition GL703GS, with the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, Nvidia GTX 1070 8GB graphics and dual storage, with a PCIe SSD and a spinning HDD.
You can get this in stores with GTX 1060 graphics as well, but keep in mind the GPU is not upgradeable. The RAM and storage are though, and in order to get to them you just have to remove the quick-access plastic bay on the back, hold in place by a single screw. Just one of the RAM slots is easily accessible, but that shouldn’t be a problem, as the available configurations should come with this slot unoccupied.
In order to get to the other slot, the cooling system or the wireless chip you’ll have to unscrew the entire bottom. Keep in mind you first have to remove the HDD and there’s also one more screw near the RAM slot, alongside all the other screws on the back panel. It’s a fairly simple task, just make sure to get all the screws and remember where each came from, as they’re of different sizes.
When it comes to the performance, this laptop can of course easily handle everyday activities like browsing and movies and so on.
You’ll probably buy this for demanding applications and games though.
The CPU performs admirably in most cases, but like expected from a six-core implementation inside a thin platform, it can’t maintain maximum Turbo Core speeds with prolonged full loads. We ran Cinebench in a loop and were able to get results above 1050 points for the first two runs, with the CPU’s TDP initially jumping to 75W and then stabilizing at around 40W once the package reaches temperatures of above 95C. As the CPU heats up, the next runs returned scores between 950 and 1000 points, as the speeds dropped quicker. Check out the picture below for more details.
I also ran a standard set of tests and benchmarks, and the results are available below.
- 3DMark 11: P17811 (Physics – 12805, Graphics – 20741);
- 3DMark 13: Sky Driver –32849, Fire Strike – 13498, Time Spy – 5408;
- 3DMark 13 – Graphics: Sky Driver – 52810, Fire Strike – 15092, Time Spy – 5448;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 5256;
- PCMark 108: 4635;
- PassMark: 6309 (CPU – 14011, 3D Graphics – NA);
- Geekbench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 4138, Multi-core: 22129;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 5059, Multi-core: 21439;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 76.17 fps, CPU 12.11 pts, CPU Single Core 1.93 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 117.28 fps, CPU 1065 cb, CPU Single Core 169 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 198.48 fps, Pass 2 – 61.75 fps.
The I proceeded an undervolted the CPU with Throttlestop. I only went to -120 mV, and the i7-8750H performed flawlessly at this level, so there’s probably room to undervolt it even more. Still, this setting should get you enough. With the CPU undervolted, Cinebench R15 returned scores of around 1200 points for the first two runs, and then settled for scores of around 1050 to 1100 points. The CPU runs at a lower TDP of 65W with the undervolting, and as a result builds heat slowly and is capable of running at high frequencies for a longer period of time.
Undervolting has a slight impact on other benchmarks as well, especially on those that emphasize on the CPU’s multi-threaded capabilities, but also a small effect in games, allowing the CPU to run at more consistent Turbo frequencies than it does by default.
- 3DMark 13 Fire Strike: Physics – 16711 (vs 15525 default), Graphics – 14878;
- Geekbench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 5034, Multi-core: 22113;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 118.70 fps, CPU 1198 cb, CPU Single Core 169 cb;
When it comes to the gaming performance we should also talk about the fact that the fans inside this laptop get three speed settings: Silent, Balanced and Overboost.
With the default CPU settings (no undervolting) and the Balanced fan profile, the CPU reaches temperatures of around 90 C in games, while the GPU settles at around 82 C. This translates in an average fan-noise of around 51-52 dB at head level, which is loud, but not unreasonable for this kind of computer. Switching to Overboost causes the fans to spin much faster and much louder (56-57 dB at head level).
On Overboost the CPU runs at higher Wattage and thus higher Turbo frequencies, with fluctuations, while the GPU runs at 2-5% higher clocks as well and stabilizes at just about 77-78 C. In other words the Overboost setting improves on the laptop’s performance, but at the same time makes the computer pretty much unusable without headphones.
I was also curious on the impact of undervolting the CPU on the gaming performance.
While keeping the laptop on the Balanced mode, which makes living with it more bearable, the CPU runs at slightly higher Turbo clocks and 1-2 C lower temperatures then it does out of the box, with no impact on the GPU’s behavior. On Overboost the CPU runs consistently at 4.0 GHz, its maximum Turbo Clock speeed, while averaging temperatures of 85 C, and the GPU settles at about 74-75 C, but with no increase in performance, which is normal since we only undervolted the CPU and did not mingle with the graphics in any way. Even so, the fact that the CPU runs cooler also has an impact on the GPU’s temperatures, as the cooling solution uses some shared heatpipes, as you’ll see in the next section.
Moving on, if you’re curious how the ROG GL703GS performs in games, here’s what we got with the default settings and the Balanced fan mode. Don’t forget this also comes with GSync, which means it offers a solid and fluent experience for FHD gaming with maximum details in most titles, with few exceptions that will require you to trim down the settings.
|Shadow of Mordor||145 fps|
|Grid Autosport||131 fps|
|Tomb Raider||131 fps|
|Bioshock Infinite||137 fps|
|FarCry 4||92 fps|
|Total War: Attila||49 fps|
It’a also worth mentioning that these results improve by 2-5% when using the Overboost fan setting and undervolting the CPU.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
There are 3 fans inside this laptop and a complex system of heat-pipes, as you can see in the picture below. The two larger CPU and GPU fans spin independently of each other, and they’re 12v fans with thin fins and dust-exhaust channels, similar to those we’ve previously seen on the Asus TUF FX504 series.
As I mentioned earlier, the fans get three profiles: Silent, Balanced and Overboost. We measured the temperatures in daily use and gaming while using the Balanced profile.
With daily use both the CPU and GPU fans spin most of the time, but at low speeds that translate in noise levels of about 37-38 dB at head level, enough to be heard in a quiet room, but easy to cover by the speakers and surrounding noise in a normal environment. I didn’t notice any significant change when switching to the Silent mode, although in this case the GPU fan would occasionally switch off, but without a noticeable drop in the perceived noise.
With games the fans spin faster and average around 51-52 dB at head level on the Balanced mode, and 56-57 dB on the Overboost mode. The Overboost mode impact performance to a small degree, as explained above, but I’d reckon the people coexisting with you in the same room while paying games won’t like your extremely noisy computer much.
On the other hand, the GL703GS runs fairly cool with demanding loads and games, considering it’s build and the hardware inside.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing FarCry 4 for 30 minutes
There’s Gigabit Lan, Wireless AC and Bluetooth on the ROG GL703GS. We’ve mostly used it on wireless and the newer generation 802.11ac 2×2 Wave 2 Intel Cannon Lake 9560 implementation performed well with daily use and in our tests, both near and further away from the router. However, I had to switch to the 2.4 GHz connection when using the laptop farther than 40 feet from my router, as it dropped on 5 GHz, something that rarely happened on other notebooks.
This laptop gets a set of stereo speakers firing through some small cuts on the sides. They’re averagely loud at about 81-82 dB max volume at head level, but the sound coming out of them is clean and fairly rich. You can also adjust it in the included Sonic Studio application.
I’ll also mention the camera placed on top of the screen, flanked by microphones. It’s nothing to brag about, but has a wide viewing angle and takes good enough shots in a well lit room.
There’s a 76 Wh battery on the Asus ROG GL703GS, which is fair-sized for a 17-incher these days. But there’s also GSync on this computer, which means the Nvidia chip is active all the time, so don’t expect much in terms of battery life.
Here’s what we got, with the screen’s brightness set at 30%, which is roughly 120 nits, what we consider good enough for indoor use.
- 23 W (~3 h 20 min of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 26 W (~3 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 21.5 W (~3 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 28 W (~2 h 40 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 37 W (~2 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 50 W (~1 h 30 min of use) – gaming on battery, High Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
The laptop comes with a fairly compact 230 W power brick (the same size as the 120W brick on the TUF FX504 and FX505, but slightly thicker and heavier at 1.5 lbs/ 0.7 kg) and a full charge takes around 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Price and availability
The Asus ROG Strix SCAR Edition GL703GS is available in stores around the world as of late April 2018.
You’ll find it in a few different configurations, but the ones that makes the most sense buying includes the Core i7-8750HQ processor, 16 GB of RAM, the GTX 1070 graphics, a 256 GB PCIe SSD and a 1 TB HDD for mass storage, for $1899 at the time of this article. The same configurations goes for around 2000 EUR in Europe.
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices at the time you’re reading the post.
Update: It’s worth adding that Asus bundles the laptop with an ROG backpack, mouse and gaming headset in some regions, which can be one more reason to get this laptop for some of you.
There’s very little not to like about the ROG Strix GL703GS. Some design decisions are perhaps arguable, but the lines are pretty clean and I doubt many will look past this laptop for aesthetic reasons. The keyboard on the other hand could be an antagonizing factor, as the feedback needs some time to get used to, the layout isn’t perfect and there’s no ability to individually control each key’s back-lightning, like one some of the competitors.
Battery life might also weigh heavy in your decision, as this laptop can only offer about 2-3 hours of daily use, since it gets GSync and the GTX graphics are active all the time. But on the other hand this is primarily a gaming machine, and GSync greatly enhances the overall experience so I’d expect gamers would rather get this over having longer battery life.
So when we get to draw the line, if you’re after a fairly compact 17-inch gaming laptop, this notebook should absolutely be on your list. It offers the 144 Hz screen with GSync and performs really well, despite its thinner profile, nearly flawlessly if you undervolt the CPU and put the fans on Overboost. You’ll definitely have to use headphones to cover their noise though, or you can keep them on Balanced and accept a very minor drop in performance that should minimally impact your experience.
As far as competition goes, there aren’t many similar notebooks out there, but the Asus TUF Gaming FX705, MSI Stealth Pro GS73, Gigabyte Auros x7, Clevo PA71ES-G and especially the MSI Raider GE73 could be alternatives worth a look, each with their own shares of strong points and quirks.
That wraps up our review of the Asus ROG Strix SCAR Edition GL703GS. Get in touch if the comments section if you have any feedback, anything to add or any questions that we can help with.