Keyboard, touchpad and display
The Asus ROG Strix Scar II and Hero II feature a largely identical keyboard. It is a more or less full-size keyboard, including a numpad, cursor keys and a few separate media keys for volume control and microphone mute ('gaming hotkeys' in Asus jargon - only the most right key is indeed only for calling up the ROG Center software). Asus has positioned the arrow keys to be in a traditional layout, without, for example, making the up/down arrow keys half the size. The keys have 1.8 mm travel and are according to the manufacturer provided with a '0.25 mm deep keycap curve' - which is in any case too subtle to notice, so don't expect the same feeling you get on the better Lenovo keyboards.
This does not mean that the keyboard is disappointing, on the contrary. The scissor/dome-switches should be able to withstand 20 million keypresses according to Asus and have clear feedback. Because there is a numpad on it, the keys are quite close to each other, which can take some getting used to. On the Scar II the WASD buttons are transparent, on the Hero II the QWER buttons are the transparent ones. That is the only visible distinction in the postioning: as said, the Scar is for FPS gamers, the Hero is for MOBA gamers.
Also noteworthy: the spacebar has a small bulge on the left side, so that it is easier to reach with the left thumb. Actually, the only thing we miss is a key (combination) to deactivate the Windows keys, it is and remains a gaming notebook. This may be possible with the software that is included, but it was not yet available on our test models.
The keys are equipped with lighting, available in all colours of the rainbow thanks to RGB LEDs, but in four zones: it is not possible to give each key its own colour, for that you have to look at (even) higher priced gaming notebooks. You can set the lights to three brightness levels, or simply turn them off. No separate software is required.
The touchpad is fairly large (12 cm diagonal) and has a super-smooth finish, with a clearly noticeable transition to the rest of the surface around the keyboard. It is Microsoft Precision certified and features two excellent physical buttons with clear feedback: although larger is always nicer, there is actually nothing to complain about here. Many gamers will just use an external mouse and Asus has been smart enough to reserve the key combination Fn+F10 to turn off the touchpad.
Both notebooks feature a 15.6 inch Full HD (1920x1080 pixels) display, so they have a pixel density of 141 ppi - as far as we're concerned it works fine without image scaling, but if you're a bit further away 125% software scaling may not be a bad idea. In both our test versions there was a 144 Hz IPS panel with a claimed response time of 3 ms, the Hero II is as mentioned above also available with a simpler 60 Hz IPS screen.
Asus is marketing the 144 Hz refresh rate hard and all manufacturers of gaming notebooks are going to do that, but in fact it isn't very exciting. The difference between 120 and 144 Hz is hardly noticeable in practice, and notebooks have finally reached the level that office monitors have been offering for years. The trick is to show this frequency without the screen consuming much more power - and we'll look into that in the relevant benchmarks.
Test results display
The test results of the Strix II and Hero II displays are in no way disappointing. They're among the best in the range of 15.6-inch gaming notebooks we've compared to in terms of brightness, excellent contrast and top-quality color reproduction. The deviation for both color and grey is just above three, but only a little bit. They are clearly superior to all the other panels of the competition.
- Max. brightness
- Black value
- DeltaE colour
- DeltaE grey
Response times display
Beautiful contrast and colour rendering are fun, but what about response times. Anyone following our notebook reviews will know that gaming notebooks almost always fall short in this respect. The 17-inch Scar we discussed at the beginning of this year was one of the first to actually show decent response times. Manufacturers generally fail because overdrive does not seem to be used.
It's completely different with the ROG Strix Scar II and Hero II (in our version with 144 Hz screen in any case): Asus promises grey-to-grey response times of 3 ms and, surprisingly, they are achieved. White and black goes marginally slower, but we find this less important and, in any case, the speed is more than sufficient to achieve the promised refresh rate without ghosting. In addition, we measure an acceptable amount of overshoot, between 19 and 21 percent. At these response times, that's quite doable, so you don't have to worry about serious overshoot artifacts.