ASUS had a grand appearance at Computex two months ago, mainly because the ROG Phone stole the show. But that wasn’t the only hero product the Taiwanese brand had up its sleeve.
The ROG Strix Scar II and Hero II, which are successors to the popular Strix line of gaming laptops, shared the spotlight, as well. I had the privilege of going hands-on with the Scar II and was largely impressed by its aggressive design and balanced features. Missing, however, was the Hero II.
Although the Hero II is mostly identical to the Scar II, its primary difference is the audience it caters to: MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) gamers. Those who enjoy titles such as League of Legends and Dota 2 are more inclined to go for this variant over the Scar II, which is targeted more towards fans of Overwatch and Call of Duty.
Truth be told, there isn’t much to compare aside from a set of keyboard adjustments and certain specs (the Scar II can be equipped with a GTX 1070 while the Hero II settles for a GTX 1060), and if you’ve read my initial impressions of the Scar II, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from the Hero II, which is finally in my hands.
It comes with a 15.6-inch 1080p IPS display
Bezels are kept to a minimum on the sides and top
But that moves the webcam to the bottom bezel
The keyboard has good travel and RGB lighting
And the QWER keys are more prominent for MOBA games
Even the bundled mouse has its own RGB lighting
There’s additional lighting below the trackpad
And the ROG logo’s color syncs with the rest of the laptop
These are the ports on the left side
And these are found on the right
You’ll only find exhaust vents on the rear
How well does it perform?
If there’s one thing you can rely on with this machine, it’s the hardware. From the 8th-generation Core i7-8750H processor with six cores and Hyper-Threading to the full-powered GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip, the Hero II is equipped to compete.
And you shouldn’t expect anything less specs-wise, because you need all the power you can get to maximize the high-caliber 144Hz panel. The display, by the way, doesn’t come with NVIDIA’s proprietary G-Sync tech to prevent tearing and stutters at certain frame rates, so it’s all on the components to keep things running smoothly.
My setup also comes with 16GB of memory and a speedy 128GB SSD + 1TB SSHD, making this as complete as you’d expect out of a US$ 2,000 mobile rig.
It goes without saying that the Hero II can handle the latest AAA games on medium to high graphics settings, though hitting 144fps may be a struggle on some titles. Not that hovering between 80 to 100 frames per second is bad, but it’s a shame that you can’t make full use of the super-fast panel.
Here are a few benchmark numbers to give you a better idea:
- Unigine Superposition (1080p Extreme, DirectX): 2097 points, 15.69fps (Average)
- Cinebench R15: 1193 (CPU), 94.48fps (OpenGL)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider (Very High settings, DirectX 12): 64.47fps (Average)
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Ultra settings, DirectX 12): 34.9fps (Average)
Can it stay cool?
ASUS made sure to equip both Strix II laptops with sufficient cooling to prevent the mobile components from melting on your desk. Its system is called HyperCool Pro, and it includes two 12V fans with the ability to boost them using built-in software.
As for actual temperatures, the CPU would hit 81 degrees Celsius under the heaviest of loads. At the same time, the GPU goes as high as 71 degrees Celsius in the same conditions. While these are fine for air cooling standards, the fans do get a bit loud when being pushed too hard.
You can choose between Silent, Balanced, and Overboost for the fans — the third one is obviously the loudest. And even though the system’s fans are relatively quiet while the system is idle, I don’t appreciate the placement of the rightmost fan, which hits my mouse-using hand. Laptops normally position this to the left where hot air shoots away from the user.
On the bright side, using it on your lap is pleasant. At 2.4kg in weight, it’s not that heavy and doesn’t get warm enough to cause discomfort underneath.
Does it last long enough away from a wall?
This is probably the biggest fault of this Strix generation. For the thickness the Hero II brings to my lap, I would’ve expected much better battery endurance on a full charge.
Even without touching a single game and using the Hero II purely for surfing the web and watching a few videos on Netflix and YouTube, it rarely lasts over three hours. This is after bringing the laptop’s battery to 100 percent and lowering the screen’s brightness to 50 percent.
That’s disappointing by any laptop standard (unless you count the monsters we used in the past), although the Hero II obviously isn’t meant for non-gaming use on the go in the first place. Keep it plugged in and find another laptop to take on work trips — problem solved.
What else is there to know?
Battery life aside, the Hero II is a surprisingly good multimedia device because of the loud and clear stereo speakers. They’re positioned to the sides unlike the usual bottom-firing speakers, and have strong bass even though they output only 3.5 watts of power. Coupled with the thin bezels and color-accurate panel, watching movies on this laptop is a great alternative to just gaming on it.
This Strix also features multi-antenna Wi-Fi for better wireless internet connectivity. I tried this out in different locations with varying degrees of distance from routers, and I’ve been impressed with the range. The Hero II picks up signals flawlessly, so I don’t have to rely so heavily on the Ethernet port.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The Hero II wins for two reasons alone: its super-slim bezels around the fast display and well-rounded specs. I can’t get enough of the color-accurate panel and the lack of distractions around it, while the 8th-generation processor and desktop-grade graphics provide all the power needed for competitive gaming.
There are only a few drawbacks here, namely the overbearing thickness for a midrange setup and horrible webcam placement. I also wish the fans were positioned better, but at least they keep the system well cooled.
My other critique is about the way ASUS treats this Strix generation. I honestly would’ve preferred ASUS keeping the Strix II branding sans the Hero and Scar variants. MOBA gamers play FPS (first-person shooter) games too, and vice versa.
The Hero II configuration I got to review retails for around US$ 2,000, but that can easily change with some component tweaks, such as going for a slower Core i5 processor and taking in less RAM. No matter what, however, the solid physique and sleek design come along for the ride.
ASUS ROG Phone receives US pricing
Last piece of the puzzle
For the model with 128GB of storage, you’d have to shell out US$ 899. For the larger 512GB storage variant, the cost goes up to US$ 1,099. Both come with a high-end Snapdragon 845 processor and 8GB of memory.
Of course, there are accessories to go with it. First is the ROG Mobile Desktop Dock, which costs US$ 229; the ROG Phone Case retails for US$ 59; the ROG Professional Dock is valued at US$ 119; you can buy the ROG TwinView Dock for US$ 399; the ROG Gamevice Controller is at US$ 89; and lastly, the ROG WiGig Dock goes for US$ 329.
Those are a lot of accessories for one phone, but that’s what makes the ROG Phone a truly gamer-centric device.
As stated last week, the ROG Phone will hit US shores starting October 18, with other regions to follow soon after.
PlayStation’s PSN Online ID change coming soon
Full rollout coming early 2019!
You’ll soon be able to retire your DarkWarrior1214 PlayStation ID. In a blog post, Sony PlayStation said they will soon begin testing the PSN Online ID change feature as part of their preview program.
Beta testers part of the preview program will be able to change their PSN ID as much as they want. However, once the feature rolls out to everyone, only the first name change will be free. Succeeding name changes will cost US$ 9.99 for regular users.
PS Plus users will be charged a smaller fee of US$ 4.99. The online ID can be changed through the profile page on your PS4 or at the Settings menu. There’s also an option to display your old PSN ID alongside your new one so your friends can recognize you right away.
Not for all games
The feature isn’t available for all games, though. Only PS4 games published after April 1, 2018 along with other most-played titles that were published before that date will have the feature. PlayStation also warns that changing the ID might cause some issues with some games that can be fixed by reverting to the old ID. Here’s to hoping PlayStation finds a way to address those issues some time down the line.
The planned full rollout of the feature is in early 2019. What will be your new PSN Online ID?
Razer Phone 2 is a faster, more streamlined gaming smartphone
Truly flagship all around
Razer has been synonymous with gaming. Last year, they embraced the mobile gaming scene with the launch of their own smartphone simply called the Razer Phone. This paved the way for the popularity of gaming smartphones and other manufacturers, like ASUS and Honor, unveiled their own. Of course, Razer must fight back and now we have the Razer Phone 2.
At first glance, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the new Razer Phone and the old one. The Razer Phone 2 has the same size, same boxy shape, and same thick top and bottom bezels that house the front-facing speakers.
Don’t be fooled, because the Razer Phone 2 has some significant upgrades over its predecessor.
The new Razer Phone offers up to 30 percent better performance with the use of a Snapdragon 845 processor, Adreno 630 graphics processing unit, and an improved vapor chamber cooling system. It also comes with 8GB of memory and 64GB of storage.
As for imaging, it still has dual 12-megapixel rear shooters, but the main sensor is now equipped optical image stabilization. An 8-megapixel front-facing camera takes care of selfies and live-streaming duties.
With a new glass back, the Razer Phone 2 is capable of wireless charging. And to complement this new feature, there’s also a wireless charging accessory with Chroma — Razer’s popular RGB lighting system.
Speaking of Chroma, the Razer Phone 2 also has it. The rear triple-headed snake logo lights up in 16.8 million colors. Let’s also not forget about the added water and dust resistance with an IP67 rating.
The rest of the great specs is carried over from the predecessor including the 5.7-inch IGZO display with 120Hz refresh rate and touch sampling, and the 4000mAh battery with Qualcomm QuickCharge 4+ support.
The Razer Phone 2 is priced at US$ 799 and it’ll be available in Mirror Black and soon in Satin Black. Pre-orders start on October 11 on Razer’s website.
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