After spending time with the full-size Scar 17 in the last weeks, I was eager to give the smaller 2021 ROG Scar 15 G533 a try as well, and see how Asus managed to implement the same kind of powerful hardware (a Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and an RTX 3080 GPU) in a 15-inch chassis.
This article gathers my in-depth thoughts on the Scar 15, which I’ve been testing extensively for the last couple of days.
In many ways, this is a more compact variant of the Scar 17, with a simplified keyboard, but pretty much the same construction lines, IO, specs, and features.
My test model also gets the 165 Hz QHD display, the major novelty for this generation of gaming laptops, and an option I’m gladly willing to pay extra for. You’ll find out why from the detailed review down below.
For what is worth, Asus have released a couple of software updates in the last few days, which impact this laptop’s performance and thermal behavior. We’re still going through our tests, so if you have any questions or feedback, please get in touch in the comments section at the end.
Specs as reviewed – ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 15 G533QS 2021
||2021 ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 15 G533QS
||15.6-inch, 16:9, non-touch, matte, Chi Mei CMN152A panel
QHD 2560 x 1444 px IPS, 165 Hz with 100% DCI-P3, with AdaptiveSync
FHD 300/360 Hz panels also available
||AMD Cezanne, Ryzen 9 5900HX, 8C/16T
||AMD Radeon Vega + Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop 16GB (115W, up to 130W with D Boost, GeForce 461.40 drivers)
||32 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (2x DIMMs, up to 64 GB)
||2 TB NVMe SSD in RAID0 (2x M.2 PCI x4 slots)
||WiFi 6 (Intel AX201) 2×2 with Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
||3x USB-A 3.2 gen1, 1x USB-C gen2 with video, data and charging, HDMI 2.0b, LAN, headphone&mic
||240 W power adapter, USB-C charging up to 100W
||354 mm or 13.94” (w) x 259 mm or 10.2 (d) x 27.2 mm or 1.07” (h)
||2.5 kg (5.5 lbs), .73 kg (1.6 lbs) power brick and cables, EU version
||mechanical per-key RGB backlit keyboard with NumPad, quad speakers, no included webcam, Keystone
This is the most powerful Scar 15 configuration available over here, paired with the interesting QHD 165 Hz screen, which makes a lot of sense on an RTX 3080 configuration. FHD 300/360 Hz display options are also available, as well as lower-tier graphics on more affordable models, RTX 3070 and 3060 GPUs at 115W + 15W Dynamic Boost.
Design and construction
The 2021 Scar 15 is more compact than the previous generation, which you can easily tell from the very narrow bezels around the screen. It still gets a hefty chin underneath, which pushes the screen upwards, as well as a hump behind the display, which hides part of the IO and the thermal module.
Overall, though, this is as compact as a TUF Dash notebook, as you can tell from this picture down below, but slightly thicker and heavier. I’m starting the review with this part because I think it’s one of the major reasons why you’ll want to go with this Scar 15 over the full-size Scar 17. I’ve also added some comparison pictures in the following gallery.
Size aside, these two ROG Scars are very similar in design and construction. Both the main chassis and the lid are sturdily made and barely budge even when abused, matte metal is used for the exterior, and smooth plastic for the inside, with a translucent top-left part that lets the components shine through. Not a big fan of this material, as it smudges very easily.
I am, however, glad this 15-inch Scar no longer gets those pesky white status LEDs under the screen that we get on the 17-inch model. Scarp that, the pesky status LEDs are still there under the screen, but for some reason just didn’t work on my unit (probably a defect?). There’s also still an unnecessary light in the power button, annoying when watching movies at night.
The Scar 15 also inherits the RGB elements from its larger kin, with lightbars around the front and sides, just under the screen, and in the ROG logo on the lid. Bu default, these are tied to the keyboard’s illumination, but can be individually edited in the Aura Creator software, part of the Armory Crate control app.
As far as practicality goes, this checks many of the right boxes, but not all. On one hand, I appreciate the solid build and the fact that you can easily grab and lift-up the screen with a single hand, as well as the good grip on a desk and the fact that the front lip and corners are blunted and friendly on the wrists.
On the other, the screen only leans back to about 140-degrees, not all the way flat, there are no biometrics or camera on this laptop, and the gimmicky KeyStone is still placed on the right edge. I fail to see the practical reason for this KeyStone and would much prefer having an SD card-reader there instead.
The IO is pretty good here, though. Most of the ports are placed on the back, the PSU, HDMI, USB-C, and a USB-A, with extra two USB-As and an audio jack on the left. There’s only HDMI 2.0b on this, as the port is hooked into the Vega iGPU that doesn’t support HDMI 2.1, and the USB-C port includes data, charging, and DP, but is not Thunderbolt 4 compatible.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Scar 15 gets the same type of keyboard as the Scar 17, with optical-mechanical switches, as well as a larger clickpad than on the previous generation, with baked-in NumLock functionality. That’s because there’s no longer a NumPad section on this 15-inch model, unlike on the 17-incher.
The layout is standard for the most part, but the right side is rather weird. Asus squeezed in the arrows next to the left Shift key, which I’d reckon will bother some of you that actively use that key. They also put a column of media keys at the very right, and I would have much preferred if those were designated for Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn. Instead, these functions are secondaries of the arrow keys. Up to you if this is a problem or not, but I guess you can remap them with a third-party app if you must.
These keys use optical-mechanical switches, except for the five multimedia keys in the top-left part, which are still rubber domes. Mechanical laptop keys feel weird and different than what you’ve used before, at least at first, with a clicky and bouncy response and tighter feedback than the regular rubber dome implementations, so they need time to get used to.
I’ve experienced mechanical laptop keyboards in a couple of different laptops in the past, and I feel that they’re not for everyone. I can’t really get used to their feedback and clickiness, even if I use a mechanical PC keyboard as my main typer these days, and overall I tend to prefer good rubber dome keys on a laptop instead. You might feel different about it, though, so I’d definitely suggest giving this a try, especially if the noise aspect is not a concern to you. Could be in some office or school environments.
On to that new clickpad, it’s glass and much larger than before, but no longer offers those quiet physical click buttons. Instead, physical clicks are fairly clunky now and the surface rattles with firmer taps. Overall though, this proved to be fast, reliable, and accurate during my time with the laptop, and a fair experience as long as I remembered to tap it gently.
There’s also NumLk functionality added to the clickpad, which can be activated by pressing on the NumLk area in the top-left corner of the surface.
As for biometrics, there are still none on this 2021 ROG Strix SCAR 15.
Asus offer a couple of different screen options for this 2021 ROG Scar 15, all 15.6-inches in diagonal, 16:9, matte, and non-touch:
- FHD 300 Hz 3ms with 300+ nits of brightness and 100% sRGB colors;
- FHD 360 Hz 3ms with 300+ nits of brightness and 100% sRGB colors;
- QHD 165 Hz 3ms with ~400 nits of brightness and 100% DCI-P3 colors.
We have the latter on our test unit, which is pretty much what top gaming laptops have been missing for years: QHD resolution with excellent colors and good refresh/response for games, as well as Active Sync support. This is perfectly suited for everyday use and color-accurate work, more affordable and efficient than the 4K options previously available on 15-inch laptops, as well as a better gaming panel.
As for the 165 Hz refresh rate and ~10 ms GtG response times, those are more than enough for everyday gaming and AAA titles for the average gamer. Nonetheless, if you feel that you would benefit from an even faster screen for competitive gaming, then you’re free to go with one of the FHD screen options instead.
Here’s what we got in our tests of this QHD panel, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: Chi Mei CMN152A (N156KME-GNA);
- Coverage: 99.8% sRGB, 85.5% AdobeRGB, 97.8% DCI-P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.02;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 379.42 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 18.35 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1127:1;
- White point: 6700 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.33 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
- Response: 10 ms GTG (via NBC).
It’s really hard to fault this panel in any way, but perhaps the blacks at high brightness levels could be darker, which would also result in an increase in contrast.
Color uniformity isn’t perfect on our sample either, with slight DeltaE variations in some of the corners. I haven’t noticed light bleeding, though.
Finally, I should mention that this is only a 16:9 display, so you might want to know how it compares against the 16:10 QHD+ panels available in some of the Lenovo laptops this year. We’ll see, I haven’t tested those yet, but as far as I can tell this has one significant advantage on its side: wider gamut color support. Up to you what you prefer between a larger workspace or richer colors.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced configuration of the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15, code name G533QS, built on an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX 8C/16T processor, 32 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz memory in dual channel, 2 TB of SSD RAID storage, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 3080 dGPU with 16 GB of vRAM and the AMD Vega iGPU integrated within the AMD processor.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit was sent over by Asus and is a retail model identical to the ones you can get in stores, running on the software available as of early-February 2021 (BIOS 310, Armoury Crate 126.96.36.199, GeForce 461.40 drivers).
Spec-wise, this 2021 ASUS ROG Scar 15 is built on the latest AMD and Nvidia hardware as of early 2021. The Ryzen 9 5900HX is the top mobile-processor in AMD’s Cezanne Ryzen 5000 platform, with 8C/16T, clock speeds of up to 4.6 GHz, and a designed TDP of 45W. However, Asus offers a couple of power profiles in the Armoury Crate that allows you to juggle with the power-envelope, thermals, and noise levels based on your needs.
As for the GPU, Asus top the 2021 Scar 17 series at an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 running at 115W, so a beefier Max-Q variant, already overclocked out of the box on the Turbo profile. The system can push this to up to 130W in supported apps and games with Dynamic Boost 2.0, a technology that shifts up to 15W of power from the CPU to the GPU when required. Resizable BAR Support will also be available on this gaming laptop in a soon to be released update, impacting a couple of games.
For the RAM and storage options, the laptop comes with two accessible memory DIMMs and two M.2 SSD slots. Our unit shipped with 32 GB of RAM in dual-channel and two fast SSDs in RAID 0. We haven’t noticed any thermal or performance losses with sustained file transfers.
Getting inside to the components is fairly easy, you just have to pop-up the back panel, hold in place by a couple of Philips screws. Make sure you’re using the right screwdriver head, those front screws are fragile, and you could risk damaging them and not be able to open the laptop. Also, be careful when you lift up the bottom panel, it’s attached to the mainboard by two ribbons that power the LED strips on the front. Pulling too hard might cause those to disconnect, in which case you’ll need to reconnect them.
Inside you’ll see that Asus bumped the battery to 90W and ditched one of the M.2 slots as a result, leaving just two. Everything is packed up tightly together on this smaller 15-inch model, unlike on the Scar 17.
Specs aside, Asus offers four power profiles for the ROG Scar 15 G533QS:
- Silent – quite fan-noise and limited CPU/GPU speeds and power;
- Performance – balanced profile with stock CPU/GPU settings, averagely noise fans – GPU runs at 115W and stock clocks;
- Turbo – High-Performance profile with increased CPU power allocation, faster-spinning fans, and overclocked GPU (115-130W, +100 MHz Core/+120 MHz Memory).
- Manual – gives the ability to custom tweak the CPU power and GPU power/clocks, plus create manual fan profiles based on temperature limits.
Turbo/Manual are only available with the laptop plugged-in and are meant for gaming and other demanding loads. Performance is a jack-of-all-trades, while Silent is made for video and daily light-use.
As a novelty for this year, the Scar 15 completely shuts off the two fans while running on the Silent profile, as long as the CPU/GPU stay under 60 degrees C. You can also power the laptop through USB-C, in which case you can use this on the Performance mode without depleting the battery, but except a performance toll in demanding combined loads.
Here’s what to expect in terms of performance and temperatures with everyday multitasking, browsing, and video.
On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 test for 15+ times in a loop, with 1-2 seconds delay between each run.
The Ryzen 9 processor stabilizes at 75+W of sustained power on the Turbo setting, which translates in frequencies of 4+ GHz, temperatures of 95+ C, scores of ~2200 points, and the fans spinning at about 46-48 dB at head-level. We’re not seeing any performance degradation on any sort of throttling for the entire duration of the test.
Switching over to the Performance profile translates in the CPU running at 65W and temperatures in the mid-80s for the first few loops, with the fans spinning quieter, at 37-38 dB at head-level. After a while, the system decides to gradually limit the CPU’s power to around 45 W, which causes a slight drop in performance, but also allows the CPU to run cooler, in the mid-70s degrees Celsius.
On Silent, the processor runs at 54W for a few loops, with barely audible fans (sub 35 dB), but high temperatures of 90+ C. It returns scores of 2000+ points, higher than on the Performance profile, and roughly 10% beneath those registered on Turbo. Eventually, it drops towards 45W and temperatures in the low-80s, with scores of around 1950+ points, 12% below the Turbo profile. These are still excellent for a quiet machine.
Finally, the CPU power stabilizes at ~45 W on battery, on the Performance profile, with still excellent scores of 1900+ points. Details below.
These results differ from our tests on the Scar 17, probably thanks to the driver updates released in the meantime, which improve the performance on Silent. However, it’s important to notice that the CPU runs at even higher temperatures on the Turbo profile, in the 95+ C, corroborated with faster spinning fans. These might be due to a variation in CPU quality between the two, but mostly because of the shorter heatpipes that are paired to the CPU on this smaller Scar 15 design. So you can expect the CPU to run overall hotter in demanding loads on this 15-inch model, compared to the 17-inch variant.
To put these findings in perspective, here’s how the Ryzen 9 5900HX fares in this test against a couple of other AMD and Intel 8C/16T current processors:
- 1-2% faster than the 5900HX in the larger ROG Scar 17, most likely due to driver updates;
- ~3-6% faster than the Ryzen 7 5800H in the Asus TUF Gaming A15;
- ~20% faster than the Ryzen 7 4800H in the 2020 TUF A15, and 12% than the same processor in the Lenovo Legion 5;
- ~15-20% faster than the Core i9-10980HK undervolted in the Asus ROG Scar 15;
- 25+% faster the Core i7-10875H in the Gigabyte Aorus 17G.
We then went ahead and further verified our findings with the longer Cinebench R23 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95, on the Turbo profile. The CPU stabilizes at 75+ W in Turbo on Cinebench R23, and fluctuates in Prime95, between 54 and 75W.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it just fine.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on the stock Turbo profile in Armoury Crate.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 23725 (Graphics – 26485, Physics – 25438, Combined – 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 (not properly supported);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7355;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 19649;
- Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 46.94 average fps;
- PassMark 10: Rating: 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 run): CPU 2203 cb, CPU Single Core 235 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 5215 cb, CPU Single Core 570 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 13267 cb, CPU Single Core 1451 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 27.28 s.
These results are mostly on par with the same configuration of the ROG Scar 17, with the odd exception of 3DMark: Fire Strike, which means you should not expect a drop in performance when going with this more compact model.
We haven’t tested the i9+RTX 2080 Super 115W variant of the 2020 Scar 15 for a fair comparison, but we did test that configuration in the 2020 Zephyrus Duo. For what is worth, this 2021 Scar 15 ends up about 15-25% faster in single-core and multi-threaded CPU loads, and about 15-20% faster in GPU loads. The difference in real-life applications and games is smaller, though, as you’ll see in a bit.
We also ran some tests on the Silent profile, if you’re interested in running demanding loads at low noise levels (<39 dB or less).
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20327 (Graphics – 21950, Physics – 22459, Combined – 11980);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5431;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9065 (Graphics – 9140, CPU – 8664);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4599;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 16368;
- Handbrake 1.3.3 (4K to 1080p encode): 42.60 average fps;
- PassMark 10: Rating: 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-Core: 1469, Multi-core: 7636;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1805 cb, CPU Single Core 232 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 4081 cb, CPU Single Core 555 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 9372 cb, CPU Single Core 1432 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 33.41 s.
We’re still looking at excellent results, with barely any decrease in single-core tests, but a 15-20% toll in the multi-threaded CPU tests. The GPU also ends up being limited in the longer combined tests, which we’ll further illustrate once we get to the gaming section below.
Finally, we also ran some Workstation related loads on this Ryzen 9 configuration, on the Turbo and Silent profiles:
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 3m 11s (Turbo), 4m 4s (Silent);
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 34s (CUDA), 15s (Optix);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 8m 14s (Turbo), 11m 43s (Silent);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 2m 05s (CUDA), 53s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs 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 newer SPECviewperf 2020 test:
- SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 136.91 (Turbo);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Catia: 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 on par with the Scar 17 implementation of the same hardware platform, as well as a step-up from the 2020 models, especially in those loads that can benefit from the CPUs improved multi-threaded abilities and the GPUs extra power and amount of memory, such as 3DSMax, Medical or Studioworks.
With these out of the way, let’s look at some games. We ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the stock Turbo, Performance, and Silent profiles, on both FHD (internal screen) and QHD (internal screen and external monitor) resolutions. Whisper Mode is enabled in GeForce Experience on the Silent mode, and I’ll explain why further down. Here’s what we got:
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
+ RTX 3080 Laptop 115+W
||FHD Silent (WM)
||QHD Turbo external
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|129 fps (82 fps – 1% low)
||122 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||103 fps (74 fps – 1% low)
||122 fps (67 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|73 fps (59 fps – 1% low)
||68 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||32 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
||48 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||50 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
(DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
|118 fps (72 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||115 fps (67 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
|113 fps (85 fps – 1% low)
||111 fps (83 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (60 fps – 1% low)
||102 fps (83 fps – 1% low)
||107 fps (85 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|82 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
||77 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||51 fps (26 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||62 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
(DX 11, Ultra Preset)
|198 fps (140 fps – 1% low)
||193 fps (138 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (60 fps – 1% low)
||148 fps (108 fps – 1% low)
||159 fps (114 fps – 1% low)
|Red Dead Redemption 2
(DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)
|104 fps (80 fps – 1% low)
||102 fps (77 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (54 fps – 1% low)
||84 fps (64 fps – 1% low)
||88 fps (64 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)
|112 fps (60 fps – 1% low)
||106 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (55 fps – 1% low)
||96 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||118 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
|103 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||103 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||89 fps (45 fps – 1% low)
||99 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
(Vulkan, Ultra Preset)
|102 fps (88 fps – 1% low)
||100 fps (84 fps – 1% low)
||62 fps (54 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (57 fps – 1% low)
||67 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)
|124 fps (96 fps – 1% low)
||119 fps (90 fps – 1% low)
||53 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
||94 fps (75 fps – 1% low)
||98 fps (77 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.
Those above are rasterization only tests, and here are some results for RTX titles.
|Ryzen 9 5900HX + RTX 3080 Laptop 115+W
||FHD Silent (WM)
||QHD Turbo external
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX ON, DLSS OFF)
|89 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||87 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||67 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
||76 fps -(59 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset + RTX, DLSS Quality)
|62 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
||59 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||25 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||49 fps (43 fps – 1% low)
||49 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA, RTX Ultra)
|78 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||76 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||59 fps (29 fps – 1% low)
||61 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
||62 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
Vs 2020-gen hardware
I’ll once more refer back to our review of the ROG Zephyrus Duo GX551 (i9-10980HK + RTX 2080 Super 90+W) for a perspective of gaming improvements between the two hardware generations, on the highest-tier configurations. The 2021 Scar 15 ends up winning in the RTX titles by a fair margin, as well as in some of the more GPU heavy games such as Witcher 3. It also wins when it comes to running games at QHD resolution, with the Zephyrus DUO trailing it by about 5-18%.
I’ll try to make some pretty graphs for you to better tell the differences, but for now, you’ll find the raw data in this article and in the GX551 review.
When it comes to FHD gaming, though, the two models trade blows. The 2021 Scar still wins in Shadow of Mordor or Witcher 3, ties in Red Dead Redemption 2, but loses in FarCry 5, Strange Brigade, or Shadow of the Tomb Raider. So what’s the catch? Of course, early drivers might have a saying in this, but there’s something else to keep in mind here.
On the Zephyrus Duo GX551, Asus implemented a MUX Switch that allowed the dGPU to hook straight into the internal display. On the Scar 15 2021, the signal is routed through the Vega iGPU with Optimus, and as explained in our follow-up Scar 17 article, that takes a toll on the gaming performance in some titles, such as SOTTR, and especially in fast-paced eSports titles. The only way to circumvent this aspect is to play games on an external monitor connected via the USB-C port (though DP), and not through HDMI, as that’s also hooked into the iGPU.
The impact of Optimus is smaller once you raised up the resolution to QHD, but is still there, at up to 10% in SOTTR and Battlefield V, and 2-5% in other titles. This is just something you’ll have to accept if you decide on one of these 2021 Scar 15 models.
For what is worth, the 2020 Scar 15 did not get the MUX switch either, so when comparing the two Scar 15 model years, the 2021 ends-up on top across the line. I don’t have the exact numbers for a proper comparison, though, since I’ve only tested the RTX 2070 Super configuration of the 2020 Scar 15. I will try to get my hands on a 2021 RTX 3070 Scar 15, I’m curious how those two fare against each other.
vs 2021 Scar 17
I’m seeing almost no difference between the 2021 Scar 15 and 17 configurations, with the exception of Red Dead Redemption 2, where the Scar 15 ended up ~10% faster. Keep in mind we’ve only tested the Scar 17 with an early BIOS versions (308), and not the same BIOS 310 used for the Scar 15 tests, so that probably explains some of the differences.
The results are on par with the benchmarks scores as well, and overall I wouldn’t expect any significant performance difference between the two 2021 Scar sizes, given that they share the same hardware specs and almost the exact same thermal design, with only slightly longer heatpipes on the CPU side in the larger Scar 17, which would allow slightly lower CPU temperatures on that variant in demanding CPU loads.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Battlefield V, and Witcher 3 on the various profiles.
I’ll start with the same excel print included for the Scar 17, with CPU/GPU temperatures in a couple of different titles, at various power profiles, and with the laptop sitting on a desk or pushed-up in order to allow for better air-intakes into the fans.
We’ve used Whisper Mode 2.0 for the Silent profile, which pretty much caps the GPU in order to return 60 fps in all the tested titles. This results in consistent performance, excellent CPU/GPU temperatures, and quiet fans, at sub 39 dB at head-level. Perhaps it would be nice to be able to raise that 60 fps cap higher in some titles, but that’s not an option right now and probably won’t, since the limit comes through Whisper Mode in the GeForce Experience app.
Deactivating WM leads to inconsistent results between the tested titles right now, and much higher temperatures. Something to further look up once the drivers mature, but for now, I’d keep WM on.
Switching over to the Performance profile bumps the CPU and GPU power and clocks. The GPU runs at stock clocks and roughly 115W of power in this mode, with the fans spinning quietly, at between 41-44 dB at head-level between eh tested titles. All these translate in fairly high temperatures. But there’s a pattern we’re noticing on this laptop. Some titles, such as FarCry 5 or Battlefield V, do not divert power from the CPU to the GPU through Dynamic Boost 2.0, and as a result, the CPU ends p running in the mid-90s in these games, but the GPU runs at comfortable temperatures under 80C.
The other titles that support Dyn Boost on this Performance mode divert the power onto the GPU, and in this case, the GPU ends up running rather toasty, in the low to mid-80s C, while the CPU ends up in the 70s or 80s.
That means you can play games on the Performance profile with this latest BIOS profile, but you’ll still end-up with fairly high temperatures on at least one of the components. Up to you to accept this if you’re looking for slightly quieter fans. As far as the performance goes, we’re only looking t a 2-10% drop from the Turbo profile, so that should not be a decisive factor in your decision.
Switching over to Turbo bumps up the fans to 44-45 dB at head-level in most titles, but with some exceptions in those titles that do not properly support Dynamic Boost 2.0 at this point (or simply require more CPU power).
That means that in FarCry 5 or Battlefield 5 the fans ramp up to as high as 48 dB in some instances, in order to tame the Ryzen 9 CPU. It still ends-up averaging at ~95 C in FarCry 5, and high-80s in Battlefield V.
The CPU also runs hot in Red Dead Redemption, at 90+ C as well, and in this case, it is paired with a GPU at 82-84 C. Ouch. Cyberpunk 2077 or Witcher 3 average better-balanced temperatures, though, with the GPU still a bit higher than I’d want, in the 80+ C. In fact, the GPU ends up averaging 80+ C in all the tested titles on the Turbo profile.
Lifting up the laptop from the desk in order to increase the airflow into the fans helps a bit on this laptop, lowering both the CPU and GPU temperatures by 1-3 degrees between the different titles. A cooling pad underneath should help even more.
I still find the Turbo profile a bit noise-limited, designed to keep the fans under 45 dB in most titles, which leads to those high internal temperatures. And here’s where the Manual mode comes in and saved the day. I’ve used the same profile tested on the Scar 17:
- CPU 50% >60C, 75% >77C, 85%> 82C, 90%> 90C;
- GPU 50% >60C, 75% >77C, 85%> 82C, 90%> 90C.
This helps in most titles, and ramps the fans to around 47-48 Db on the 85% speed level. Check out the logs below, with the laptop sitting on a desk.
And when you lift up the back.
Pushing them to 100% is also possible, but the noise goes to 50-52 dB at that level.
I should add that this Manual profile is not ideal for some titles, and you should fine-tune the 75 to 85 C interval for better results. As it is, there’s a noticeable difference between the 75% and 85% speeds, which is noticeable in terms of overall noise and in terms of internal temperatures, as illustrated by the logs.
The Manual profile allows to further overclock the GPU, but don’t expect much past the default settings, and make sure to test for consistency and crashes if you end up pursuing this road.
Finally, the following logs show you what to expect in terms of gaming temperatures when hooking up the laptop to an external monitor. These three logs are with the laptop sitting on a desk and the lid opened up.
And this is with the lid closed and the laptop prompted up in a vertical stand. That GPU averaging 85C with the laptop closed is a problem for titles that properly support Dynamic Boost 2.0, and I expect the CPU to run toasty as well in titles that don’t, so overall this model is not ideal for vertical-stand use, as the system needs to draw air from both the bottom and the top for optimal results.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
ASUS have slightly updated the thermal design of this 2021 Scar 15. It’s identical to the one on the Scar 17, just with shorter heatpipes on the CPU side, due to the smaller footprint of the 15-inch chassis. We’re looking at the same updated fan-blade design meant to increase airflow and reduce resonance, as well as what looks like a passive dedicated heatpipe for the VRMs, which doesn’t connect to a radiator.
Asus also mentioned they’ve put higher-quality VRMs on this series, as well as liquid metal on the AMD CPU. Regular thermal paste is still used for the GPU.
Plus, compared to the previous Scar 15 generation, the 2021 model uses an open back design, with unobstructed air intakes on top of the two fans. The small rubber feet still tend to choke these intakes, though, and that’s why lifting up the back of the laptop helps lower the internal temperatures.
As explained above, either the CPU, the GPU, or both run at fairly high temperatures on this laptop while playing games on the default power profiles, but the fans stay fairly quiet, at 41+ dB on the Performance mode and 44+ dB on the Turbo mode. Ramping them up in Manual is the solution for cooler internals, but ends up with nosier fans. You’ll pretty much have to play with the Manual settings in order to create the best profile for your requirements.
At the same time, this Scar 15 runs completely quiet with daily multitasking and light use, on the Silent profile, as the fans get the ability to completely switch off in this case.
External case temperatures are fairly good as well, even with demanding loads. The WASD and arrows regions stay within high-30s to low-40s on both the Performance and Turbo modes, but the top-art of the interior, around the components, passes 50 degrees C, and closes on 60s on Performance. paired with the high internal temperatures, I’d stay away from running games on the Performance profile right now, and stick with Turbo on a tweaked Manual fan profile.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Silent profile, fans at 0 dB
*Gaming – Silent – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Silent profile, fans at 38-39 dB
*Gaming – Performance – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 41-44 dB
*Gaming – Turbo, on desk – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 44-49 dB
For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 through an Intel AX201 chip on this unit, as well as still only Gigabit Lan. Our sample performed well on WiFi both near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between.
The audio has been updated from the previous generation Scar 15, with this 2020 model now getting two mains speakers on the bottom, and two extra tweeters firing through cuts under the screen, between those hinges.
The quality is pretty good for laptop speakers. Don’t expect much bass, but overall you should be fine watching movies or running games on these speakers. They also push up to about 82-84 dB at head-level, with some vibrations or distortions at higher volumes.
Finally, the camera… well, there still isn’t any, and that FHD external webcam that Asus are bundling in some parts of the world with their higher-tier ROG laptops is not included here.
There’s a 90Wh battery inside all the 2021 ROG Scar models, both the 15 and 17-inch options, a welcomed upgrade from the 66 Wh in the previous generations.
Here’s what we got on our review unit in terms of battery life, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 12 W (~6-8 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11.5 W (~8+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11 W (~8+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14 W (~5-6 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 80 W (~1+ h of use) – Gaming – Witcher 3, Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.
These are some solid runtimes, even with a QHD display, but shorter than what we got on the Scar 17 with a FHD screen, especially with video streaming. The higher-resolution display takes an expected toll here.
Nonetheless, the system automatically switches the screen to 60Hz while on battery and on the iGPU, and the AMD platform prooves efficient with lightweight loads. There’s also an iGPU/dGPU toggle in Armoury Crate that you can use to completely shut off the Nvidia card while unplugged, making sure no rogue program running in the background would wake it up and eat into your battery life.
This ROG Scar 15 G533QS configuration comes with a 240W power-brick, smaller and lighter than the 280W variant on the previous model. The battery fills up in about 2 hours, with fast-charging for the first half an hour, and USB-C charging is supported, up to 100W. The USB-C charger is not included, but Asus claim they will have it widely available in stores this year.
Price and availability
The 2021 Asus ROG Scar 15 is listed in some areas of the world at the time of this article.
The Ryzen 9 + RTX 3080 + 165 Hz screen variant tested here, with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage, is listed for $2699 in the US and ~3000 EUR in Germany.
Lower tier models based on RTX 3070/3060 GPUs start at under $2000, while a mid-range model with a Ryzen 7 5800H processor, RTX 3070 GPU, and the 165 Hz is listed at $2199 on the Asus webstore.
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region at the time you’re reading this article.
With its smaller and lighter format, I feel that the ROG Scar 15 is a more versatile performance laptop than its larger 17-inch kin with this generation, when you can get pretty much the same specs and features on both, and when the Scar 17 no longer holds the advantage of a more powerful GPU, as it did before. That’s why this ends-up scoring a 4.5/5 and a recommendation in our tests, despite its quirks and particularities that might still make you look elsewhere in the end.
Asus cleaned up the design and materials from the previous generation, and updated the hardware to what people have been waiting for: a full-power Ryzen 9 processor, RTX 3000 graphics, a 90Wh battery, and interesting FHD/QHD screen options. For me, the QHD 165 Hz display option is the absolute choice here, even if it comes at a premium over the FHD panels, both because of the sharper resolution and richer colors, but also because this laptop is just better designed for QHD gaming.
That’s because there’s no MUX switch or Advanced Optimus on the 2021 Scar series, and the internal display is hooked up to the components through the Vega iGPU, which as explained in this article, takes a toll on the gaming performance, especially at FHD resolution and with high-framerate titles. As a result, CS:Go or Fornite at 360+ fps might not happen on this laptop, due to this design particularity. Instead, AAA modern titles such as Red Dead Redemption or even the buggy Cyberpunk 2077 look amazing on the QHD panel with 100% DCI-P3 colors. Which BTW, also make this panel well suited for professionals, for creators and graphics artist that require color accuracy for their work, and in fact for everyone else looking for a good quality screen.
Back to the gaming experience, the CPU/GPU inside the Scar 15 run fairly toasty, with differences between titles based on whether they support Dynamic Boost 2.0 or not. The fans are set to keep noise levels at bay, which leads to those temperatures, and you can further tweak things out in the Manual profile included with Armory Crate. Just don’t expect this laptop to run booth cool and quiet at the same time with games, it cannot.
Performance and gaming aside, the Scar 15 is an excellent everyday laptop, quiet, cool and long-running, despite the beefy specs. It does lack some of the practicality you might expect these days, such as a camera, a card reader, or any sort of biometrics, and it does tend to smudge easily, especially on the inside. Oh, and Asus put a clicky keyboard with optical-mechanical switches on this generation, which might not be for everyone and will surely attract unwanted attention in quiet environments.
All these make the Scar 15 is a quirky performance notebook, but as long as you understand and accept its particularities, this might be just right for you. Not sure if I’d go with the RTX 3080 model at this point though, I feel there’s probably better value in the mid-range Ryzen 7 model with RTX 3070 graphics and the QHD screen, available for $2200 in the US and around 2500 EUR over here. Haven’t tested it yet, though, but looking forward to giving it a spin and see how it fares against this top RTX 3080 model.
Anyway, this wraps-up our review of the 2021 Asus ROG Strix SCAR 15 G533QS model, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback about it. Let’s talk in the comments section below.
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