Gaming

ASUS ROG Strix Scar II (GL704) Review: Feels smaller, performs better

Now with RTX graphics

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This is not the same laptop we reviewed before from ASUS. They do look alike and even have identical names, but this one is the bigger brother. This is the GL704 model of the ROG Strix Scar II with a 17-inch display.

It’s not every day that we get to play with 17-inch laptops, because they are simply cumbersome to bring around. They’re heavy and bulky, plus they don’t easily fit inside laptop bags. This one is different though; it’s like a 15-inch notebook thanks to its ultra-slim bezels.

Not only that, but it also has the latest discrete graphics available for laptops — the GeForce RTX series from NVIDIA.

What is it like to bring around a 17-inch gaming laptop? Here’s my review.

It’s got a high-gloss metal lid

The ROG logo still lights up, too

There are plenty of ports on the left

(L-R) Power, Ethernet, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI, 3x USB-A, 3.5mm audio 

With a few more on the right

(L-R) SD card slot, USB-C, USB-A, Kensington lock 

The back is where the heat comes out

Away from the user 

The keyboard is FPS-friendly

You won’t miss the WASD keys for sure 

There’s another ROG logo inside

To remind you that it’s a gaming laptop 

The ultra-narrow bezels are to die for

Kinda reminds me of the Dell XPS 13 

It looks very familiar

The GL704 is essentially an enlarged version of the previous 15-inch variant. Right off the bat, you can tell that this is an ROG laptop. It has the aesthetics of a gaming notebook complete with a camouflage pattern and RGB lights.

The chiclet keys which ASUS calls HyperStrike Pro are not mechanical, but they are clicky and well-spaced. Since the Scar II is designed for FPS games, it has transparent WASD keycaps. If you’re more into MOBA, you should look into the Strix Hero II.

What makes this keyboard game-friendly are the little adjustments that make a world of difference. There are gaps between the function keys for easier identification, the spacebar is slightly extended and reshaped for fewer misses, and the arrow keys are not cramped.

As for the trackpad, it has a smooth surface and it uses Windows Precision drivers. It has support for all the Windows 10 gestures and two separate buttons for left and right click. While the trackpad is a good one, ASUS also bundles the Strix Scar II with a gaming mouse.

Inside the box, you get a free ROG Impact mouse which I find responsive. The mouse has an RGB ROG logo which is customizable via ASUS Aura Sync, as well. It also has a DPI switch smack in the middle that’s handy in combat games. You’ll just have to get a nice mousepad to match the peripheral.

The overall construction of the Strix Scar II is near premium. By mixing metal and hard plastic, you get the best of both worlds. The aluminum cover lid defines the craftsmanship of the laptop, while the majority of the chassis is understandably made out of polycarbonate to help with the thermals.

Speaking of, ASUS is proud of their new HyperCool Pro thermal system which doesn’t only keep the laptop’s temperature in check, but it also expels dust particles and dirt that may get trapped inside the fans.

Specs make the difference

The main reason why you should get the GL704 is its graphics card. It’s one of the first in the market to have the latest GeForce RTX graphics from NVIDIA. The particular model I have for review sports the RTX 2060 with 6GB GDDR6, although it also comes with the more capable RTX 2070.

The full specs of the laptop include an Intel Core i7-8750H processor and 16GB DDR4 memory. For storage, it has a main 256GB PCIe SSD and secondary 1TB SSHD for the large chunk of files like your AAA games.

On the software side, there are a lot of pre-installed apps to complete the ROG experience like the ROG Armoury Crate which acts as a hub to check the laptop’s condition. There’s also GameFirst V for network optimization, ROG GameVisual for tweaking the display, Sonic Studio III for adjusting the audio, and Sonic Radar III for optimizing the surround sound effect on supported games.

There aren’t many titles out there that take advantage of ray tracing, which is the main selling point of the new RTX graphics. Good thing Battlefield V got updated to support ray tracing for improved reflections. However, Battlefield V is such an action-packed game that you might not fully notice the improvements during combat.

Here’s a comparison with ray tracing turned on and off. The game’s settings panel doesn’t allow for complete shutdown of ray tracing, so the closest to off is low. The preset graphics has to be set to low as well, which drastically changes the whole environment.

Anyhow, ray tracing is all about realistic and real-time reflections. You can see the water puddles nicely show the capabilities of RTX. Everything is shinier with ray tracing. In ultra settings, Battlefield V on the Strix Scar II averages around 55fps and spikes above 60fps when there’s not much going on in the scene.

Outside ray tracing, the Strix Scar II can easily handle other popular titles. I was able to enjoy Apex Legends on its highest-possible settings at around 110fps, while Fortnite averages 100fps

Is ray tracing worth the upgrade? That depends on where you’re coming from. Those on GTX-series graphics might not find RTX on mobile to be lucrative enough, and they can skip this for now because the previous generation’s graphics cards are still some of the best out there. Also, the number of titles supporting ray tracing won’t excite the whole gaming population.

It’s not an Ultrabook

Nobody should expect long battery life from a gaming laptop, at least for now. When playing games on the Strix Scar II, you should have it plugged in to ensure that the graphics card is not working with limited power.

When you do need to unplug and use the laptop remotely, you have three hours before the laptop puts itself to sleep and wait for its charger. Charging the Strix Scar II will take about an hour and a half using the included 230W power adapter.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The ROG Strix Scar II is ASUS’ special machine for those who are competitive in FPS gaming. It’s also a treat to AAA-title gamers thanks to its upgraded RTX graphics. It’s the smallest 17-inch gaming notebook with next-generation performance, so what more could you ask for? Aside from a better webcam placement and battery, of course.

A machine this good comes at a price. It starts at PhP 124,995 (US$ 2,400) which gives you RTX 2060 graphics. If you want to have a more powerful 17-inch gaming laptop, you could get the RTX 2070 variant for PhP 149,995 (US$ 2,885). Both variants are available in ROG SM Megamall and ROG Concept Stores in the Philippines.

A piece of advice: If you’re getting a gaming notebook and have the money for it, you should go for the high-end model because you won’t be able the upgrade the graphics chip after purchase.

SEE ALSO: The ASUS ZenBook S13 does the job while looking good

Gaming

Nintendo announces huge list of games for holidays

Titles like Kirby, Bayonetta, and a Nintendo Switch Online expansion

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The holiday season is here. Every year, the gaming industry gets a speed boost coming from annual holiday discounts, new games, and newly gifted consoles. Keeping with that trend, Nintendo has hosted a new Nintendo Direct in anticipation for the coming holiday season. Here are the biggest announcements from the event:

Nintendo 64, meet the Switch

Since the launch of the first wave of classic games, Nintendo Switch Online held the most promise for Switch owners. The subscription service offered games from decades past for free. Naturally, the growing catalog is working its way forwards, starting off with the NES and SNES generations.

In late October, the clock is moving even further. Nintendo is launching a massive booster pack, infusing the service with classic Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games. The launch lineup will include favorites like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 64, and many others. Further along, it will also add games like Pokémon Snap and Majora’s Mask.

Kirby is coming

After years of smaller games, Kirby is finally getting a major platformer release for the Switch. Kirby and the Forgotten Land takes the eponymous blob to a new post-apocalyptic world. As always, the hero can swallow different characters and enemies to claim their powers. It even features familiar characters like Link – at least according to the trailer.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land will launch sometime in Spring 2022.

More Animal Crossing

It’s a trailer of a trailer, but it’s worth mentioning. The popular island simulator Animal Crossing: New Horizons is getting a major update this November. Though the announcement was scant with details, it looks like the game is finally getting a café inside the museum. Nintendo will announce more in October.

Final Fantasy but Mario Kart

What would a famous franchise be without its own racing game spinoff? The long-running Final Fantasy franchise is getting its own racing game called Chocobo GP. Though the title features the iconic creature, the game will also have familiar characters from the series. It will launch sometime next year.

And a host of others

Aside from the main announcements, Nintendo also previewed some new titles, upcoming expansions, and remakes for the console. Headlining this crew is Bayonetta 3 which is due to come out next year.

Monster Hunter Rise, the Switch-exclusive entry to the series, is getting an expansion pack called Sunbreak is coming summertime next year.

Creators of the quirky franchise Nier are making a new spinoff to their series. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is card game coming to the Switch on October 28.

Finally, the classic Star Wars game Knights of the Old Republic is now on the Switch. It’s not a remake, too. It’s the original game, and it’s out already.

SEE ALSO: Nintendo Switch gets Bluetooth audio compatibility

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Gaming

Death Stranding Director’s Cut: Best game I don’t enjoy

Brilliant but tough to power through

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Death Stranding Director's Cut

Maybe it was already my mindset heading into this review. But I’d like to think I really gave it a chance. Despite that, every time I launched Death Stranding Director’s Cut on PS5, I felt burdened instead of excited.

That said, I don’t think this is a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. Full disclosure, due to the burdensome feeling I only managed to get to about 30-40 percent of the game. That, on top of other responsibilities for this publication.

So yeah, I think it’s a combination of things. The generally slow pace of the game, the premise of avoiding enemies you can’t see, and just the grind work of having to lug around packages — these all contributed to an experience that I cannot describe as fun.

You can say, that isn’t the point of the game. After all, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic America and you make your way around the open world wary of enemies you can’t see. But isn’t that something we’re already kind of going through. I guess I could just never wrap my head around my form of escape mirroring bleak real world situations a little too much.

Early game additions

Hard to see here, but the Support Skeleton is equipped

Death Stranding Director’s Cut goes out of its way to make sure players feel less strained. About five to seven hours into the game and you’ll gain access to two key additions: the Maser Gun and the Support Skeleton.

The Maser Gun is essentially a high-powered stun gun. It electrocutes MULEs (human enemies) you’ll encounter in deliveries. And immediately after acquiring it, you’ll also gain access to another addition in the Director’s Cut — the shooting range.

Death Stranding Director's Cut

At the shooting range, you’ll be faced with various challenges in taking down MULEs. Most importantly, you’ll be able to practice your aim while dealing with multiple MULEs.

Meanwhile, the Support Skeleton is as straightforward as it sounds. It’s equipped on your lower body to help with traversal. It’s an especially helpful tool early in the game when you don’t have access yet to vehicles and other support items.

Death Stranding Director's Cut

Oh and no more Monster Energy drink in this version

Overall good game design

Death Stranding pulls off many interesting ideas and presents them in ways that undeniably gives it the feel of a AAA (Triple-A) game. The character models and environments, as you may have seen on trailers, are brilliant and blockbuster-worthy.

In terms of gameplay, I was particularly impressed by how you can traverse every single element in the open world. Whether that’s a dirt road, grassy fields, and rocky terrain, the game doesn’t make any completely inaccessible.

Of course, sometimes you have to get creative. Crossing waterways and rock formations may require that you use ladders. You’ll also sometimes find yourself looking down on a cliff. Thankfully, you can also carry items that will let you rappel.

Social Strand System

But perhaps the most unique game mechanic is the Social Strand System. If you play online, this means you’ll gain access to ladders and other structures that other players have built. If any of these structures were particularly helpful for you, you can smash likes to show the other player your appreciation.

It’s such a creative way to include some form of community building in a single player game. It’s a fantastic idea and one I hope we see some iteration of in other games in the future.

In-game interface

If I had a bone to pick with the visual presentation, it would probably be the mail. The text is incredibly tiny, even if you choose the large option. It’s no fun having to read blocks of text and the game encourages you to read the emails as part of the story. I mean, I already read tons of emails daily. I don’t need that in games I play. I think this is another part of the game that really lowered the fun meter for me.

Other improvements

Death Stranding Director's Cut

Buddy Bot!

Death Stranding Director’s Cut also comes with plenty of the usual next-gen improvements on PS5 games. You get the usual upgrades in haptic feedback and adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller. Although, I would argue that they could’ve been utilized better especially for sensing BTs (the ghost-life figures you have to avoid) nearby.

I’ve already gushed about the visuals but playing this in 4K 60fps was really a treat for the eyes. I personally am not a fan of the graphics setting that prioritizes refresh rate. I’m always after a more cinematic feel which I think is what this game suits best. So my recommendation is to play the game prioritizing resolution.

Other in-game additions include the Cargo Catapult and Buddy Bot. Both will help you complete deliveries and quests faster. They are helpful tools that improve the pace of the game.

Should you play Death Stranding Director’s Cut?

Firing up this game felt like work after I’ve already done my work for the day. That just isn’t the experience I long for in games. But maybe, that’s just me.

I think most gamers know exactly what they want to play. But if you’re only now dipping your toes into Death Stranding Director’s Cut because you missed the first launch and you’re a Hideo Kojima fan, it’s definitely worth picking up. But my recommendation is to get the physical copy so you can flip it for cash as soon as you find that it’s not for you.

Death Stranding Director’s Cut is brilliant. However, it’s not for everybody.

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Lenovo Legion X60 Intel gaming lineup announced

Now with better performance and optimized Lenovo software

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Lenovo is once again making big waves when it comes to their Legion gaming laptops. This time around, they’re not really looking at releasing anything new. Instead, they’re more on improving or upgrading their current gear with the latest hardware possible. It all starts with their new Lenovo Legion X60 Intel gaming laptops.

Basically, the Lenovo Legion X60 Intel gaming lineup features refreshed iterations of Legion laptops. At the heart of these laptops is an 11th generation Intel H-Series processor, which promises remarkable performance. Whether you’re gaming, streaming, or simply multi-tasking, these laptops will surely bring the power for whatever purpose. Along with this, these refreshed models also sport the latest NVIDIA RTX GPUs to keep up with insane gaming workloads.

Apart from these, the refreshed models will also come with Lenovo’s dedicated hardware and software technologies for any type of gamer. From Coldfront 3.0 to an improved TrueStrike keyboard, Lenovo built these laptops for either the casual or competitive type. Note that only the following models received the refresh:

  • IdeaPad Gaming 3i (PhP 59,995)
  • Legion 5i (PhP 72,995) and 5i Pro (PhP 124,995)
  • Legion 7i (PhP 169,995)

In terms of availability, these laptops in Legion Exclusive Stores, authorized retailers, and on the Lazada Legion Flagship Store.

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