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Last Updated : Dec 12, 2019 04:02 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Asus ROG Mothership review: Power meets innovation in a premium gaming laptop that’s everything but portable

As impressive as it is, the ROG Mothership simply isn’t functional as a gaming laptop.

Gaming laptops have undergone several transformations over the years. While gaming laptops of the past have taken on big bulk form factors, modern gaming laptops balance the scales between power and portability.

In fact, we can narrow premium gaming laptop designs down into three categories – sleek and stylish (Asus Zephyrus / Razer Blade), take no prisoners behemoths (MSI GT76 / Dell Alienware Area 51m), and the gaming-centric powerhouses (MSI GP75 Leopard and HP Omen X 2S) that aren’t sleek but not too big and heavy at the same time.

But what we are speaking about at this moment is something different altogether. The Asus ROG Mothership isn’t like any gaming laptop you’ve seen before. Although you can call it a behemoth, its design defies the traditional norms of what a gaming laptop should look like but more on that later.

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The ROG Mothership packs a powerful 8-core CPU, the best-in-class GPU, faster storage, an impressive display, and more. So, without further delays, let’s dive into the beast that is the ROG Mothership.

Design Defies Expectation

No matter the crowd, the Mothership is bound to stand out. The Dell Alienware Area 51m was touted as a desktop replacement rather than a laptop because of the complete lack of portability and the challenge face while using it on the lap. Well, the Mothership follows the same no apologetic approach as the Area 51m, but using it on your lap goes from being a challenge to impossible. Using the Mothership without a table is simply not possible.

When closed, the Mothership’s footprint is wide at 16.1 x 12.6 x 1.2 inches, and the laptop weighs about 4.7 kgs (10.5 pounds), and that’s without the two charging bricks. Unlike traditional laptops, all the components on the Mothership sit behind the screen. Those components make the back of the laptop pretty thick, which is why the screen is supported by a stand that requires a solid and flat surface to support the display.

Asus_Design

It’s safe to say that the keyboard on the Mothership isn’t like anything you have seen on traditional gaming laptops. Like Microsoft’s Surface Pro, the keyboard on the Mothership is detachable. When it is magnetically attached to the screen, the keyboard sits on a 10-degree incline, which makes it comfortable to type on without a wrist rest.

When detached, the keyboard can be stretched out over a surface or folded and used on your lap. It connects wirelessly through 2.4GHz Wi-Fi or via a USB Type-C cable. Folding the keyboard is extremely convenient as you can place the laptop on a table and operate it from a distance. It comes in handy when you want to connect the laptop to a TV and use it from the couch.

The keyboard itself is excellent for gaming and typing. The keys are well spaced out and bigger than traditional laptop keys. The actuation point of on the keys is pretty good, giving you a nice tactile bump. Since Asus sent us an engineering sample, the keyboard was a little glitchy. Although I’d give the title to the best gaming laptop keyboard to the Dell Alienware Area-51m, the Mothership isn’t that far behind.

Asus_Keyboard

A trackpad replaces the Numpad on the right of the keyboard. The trackpad features two clickable buttons that feel really nice. The trackpad can also be deactivated and replaced by a digital Numpad. With a click of a button, red backlit pad lights cover the trackpad. This isn’t the best trackpad, but since Asus includes a gaming mouse with the ROG Mothership, the only time you’ll find yourself using the touchpad is when you’re on a couch watching a movie need to quickly access an email or file.

Ports Galore

Because all of the components are housed in the display, all the ports on the machine are also located on either side of that screen, and there are a lot of them. On the right, you get a USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, which doubles as a DisplayPort 1.4 input.

Asus_Ports

Additionally, there’s an SD card reader and two jacks for the two power adapters. Most importantly, and this took us a bit of time to find, the power button is located on the top right side of the Mothership. Three USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a headphone jack, a microphone jack and a Gigabit Ethernet, all sit on the left of the device. There are so many ports on the Mothership, and it almost seems like a desktop, almost.

Display Done Right

There are two display options on the ROG Mothership, both coming in at 17.3 inches. However, you can get the Mothership with a 4K UHD IPS panel with a 60Hz refresh rate or a 1080p IPS panel with a 144Hz refresh rate. The 4K display option seems to be aimed at content creators, while the 1080p screen looks ideal for gaming.

The Mothership Asus sent us was equipped with a 17.3-inch 1080p screen with a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. Moreover, the display also featured Nvidia G-Sync support. Furthermore, the screen on the Mothership averages at 286 nits, which is still slightly brighter than the Dell Alienware Area-51m, but falls short of the category average. The Mothership’s screen also reproduces 102-percent of the sRGB gamut, above the 100-percent average.

Because of the higher 144Hz refresh rate, the monitor is capable of replicating high frame rates put out by the graphics card. The panel on the Mothership delivers warm, realistic colours and does an excellent job of not oversaturating the picture. If you’re wondering, why not go for a 244Hz display; well, that’s simple.

Asus_Display

When the ROG Mothership made its first debut at CES 2019, 240Hz gaming laptop screens were still in the making. Asus only launched the Strix Scar III in May 2019 as the first gaming laptop with a 240 Hz display. So, at the time of making, the 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and G-Sync support were as good as it got on a gaming laptop. Moreover, the difference in going from 144Hz to 240Hz is not a big jump as compared to 60Hz to 144Hz.

If there’s one complaint here, it has to be the lack of a decent webcam. The 1080p webcam on the Mothership isn’t the best, despite the screen’s fairly thick bezels, the webcam isn’t the best. Now, a poor webcam is expected on most gaming laptops, but the Mothership isn’t most gaming laptops, and Asus should be doing better here.
Pros Cons
Excellent CPU and GPU performanceVery Expensive
Great Cooling SolutionSub-par webcam
Comfortable KeyboardNot Functional as a Laptop
Innovative Concept
Powerful Speakers

The King of Performance

The Asus ROG Mothership is impressive. What the Mothership lacks in portability it more than makes up for in raw power. On the inside, the laptop packs an eight-core Intel Core i9-9800HK processor paired with 64GB of RAM and four 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 configuration. Moreover, the Mothership also packs an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card; there no Max-Q here.

The powerful CPU and GPU combination will guarantee every game is playable on maximum settings. We tested the Mothership with AAA and popular multiplayer titles. Before we get into the results, it’s worth noting that going above 144 fps won’t really make much of a difference as the 144Hz screen will no longer be able to keep up with the video card at that point.

The AAA games we tested included Star Wards Jedi: Fallen Order and Far Cry 5, the former delivering between 95 fps on average, while the latter peaked at 143 fps and averaged out at 123 fps. The other two games tested included Anthem and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which yielded 80 fps and 122 fps on average. While Shadow of the Tomb Raider managed to hit 140 fps at times, Anthem failed to cross 100 with frame rates dropping to 65 during intense combat. All the AAA games tested were on their highest settings.

Asus_performance

The multiplayer games included Apex Legends, PUBG, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch. The Mothership doesn’t fail to deliver on the multiplayer front, with each one of the above-mentioned titles surpassing 144 fps on their highest possible settings. Battlefield V, which comes closer to a AAA title, was also tested in multiplayer, delivering frames rates anywhere between 111 and 143 fps on Ultra settings. On Battlefield V, you’ll also hit 60fps on ultra-settings with real-time ray tracing turned on.

All games on the Mothership were tested on Turbo mode, which puts the fans in overdrive. While performance mode will offer a minimal drop in frame rates, it does keep the fans a little quitter at the cost of anywhere between 5 to 15 fps, depending on the game you’re playing.

Beyond gaming, the Mothership is a pretty capable machine, racking up a  34,793 score in Geekbench 4.1’s synthetic overall performance test. We also ran the Cinebench R20 benchmark, in which the Mothership earned a single-core score of 503 and a multicore score of 4,809 on turbo settings.

Cooling is a key factor in any gaming laptop, especially one with such powerful components. That being said, cooling on the ROG Mothership doesn’t disappoint. Asus has incorporated two fans with eight heat pipes that cover the CPU and GPU, as well as four thick heatsinks and large ventilation holes around the perimeter. Additionally, it also uses Thermal Grizzly Liquid Metal as opposed to the regular thermal paste. Liquid metal is supposed to keep the CPU up to 35-percent cooler.

Anthem

In addition to the advanced cooling system, the unique placement form factor helps further improve airflow. Placing components on the back of the system, instead of the bottom allows for better airflow and helps keep the system cool during taxing activities. Moreover, since the vents are located on the top four corners of the machine, hot air doesn’t reach your house hand. And since there’s nothing under the keyboard, you don’t have to worry about areas of your keyboard getting a bit warm.

Our advice when using the Mothership, don’t have second thoughts about overclocking both the CPU and GPU. Thermal throttling on this machine is simply out of the question. Whether it’s gaming or productivity, the Mothership is undoubtedly going to get the job done with minimal effort.

This machine is way ahead of the competition, only rivaled by the MSI GT76 Titan and Dell Alienware Area 51-m, both of which use desktop-grade Intel Core i9-9900K CPUs. In terms of overall performance, only the Area 51-m and GT76 Titan can go head-to-head with the Mothership.

A for Audio Quality

When it comes to gaming on any laptop, we’d recommend using headphones or external speakers. However, sound on the Mothership isn’t half bad; to be honest, it is actually pretty good. The Mothership packs four 4-watt speakers aimed directly at your face. The audio quality here is far better than the sound on most gaming laptops.

Asus_Speaker

The fans can get pretty loud on turbo but cannot drown out the audio on account of the powerful speakers. What’s more, audio quality is further improved when you detach the keyboard.

Battery Exceeds Expectations

Despite its 91Whr battery capacity, the ROG Mothership will not get you through even half a workday. But that’s not something out of the ordinary for a gaming laptop of this caliber. We got little under four and a half hours of battery life on a full charge in our web browsing test, while multitasking between Microsoft Office apps and Chrome delivered under 3hrs and 30mins of use time.

Asus_Battery

During our battery test, screen brightness was reduced to 50-percent, and Nvidia Optimus was enabled switching from the RTX 2080 to Intel’s integrated graphics. Additionally, RGB lighting on the laptop was turned off, while the keyboard was detached. For a laptop, this powerful, battery life is expected to be poor. But the ROG Mothership exceeded expectations, doing much better than the category average. If you aren’t undertaking intensive tasks, there’s also no need for both chargers; one will suffice.

Verdict

The Asus ROG Mothership is exactly what you’d expect in an over-the-top gaming behemoth like this. There’s absolutely no compromise here, Asus delivers on all fronts.

Performance exceeds expectations, primarily because of that improved cooling system and new form factor. The screen is arguably one of the best in the business, while the design doesn’t apologise for what it is, a gaming behemoth.

But beyond performance and display, there are other things that Asus certainly hasn’t skimped on, like the audio quality and the overall keyboard experience. When we first got the Mothership, we expected battery life to be sub-par at best, considering the hardware. But that isn’t the case at all; the Mothership exceeded all expectations and fares much better than the competition.

Asus_ROG

The ROG Mothership is perfect in almost every year except one, "it doesn’t really qualify as a laptop". We see the Mothership as more of an all-in-one desktop replacement than a gaming laptop. And for many, it will be much cheaper to build a powerful desktop than to buy a Mothership. However, the ROG Mothership is aimed at a niche audience for whom having everything in one portable unit would outweigh the cost.

The Asus ROG Mothership isn’t available in for sale in India, but the model we tested costs $5,499 (Approx. Rs 3,92,100) in the US. So, it is safe to assume that the Mothership doesn’t come cheap. It is more expensive than any other gaming laptop, including the Dell Alienware Area 51-m. However, the Asus ROG Mothership isn’t your average powerhouse gaming laptop; it isn’t even your average desktop replacement (Like the GT76 Titan and Area 51-m); it is something else altogether.

The one thing to keep in mind with a gaming laptop like this is that it is a first-generation product, which will likely mean that there’s a cost of innovation that will be offset to the consumer. You only need look to the Asus ProArt Studiobook One, which not only draws inspiration from the Mothership’s form factor but is more powerful and much more portable, weighing little under 3kg.

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First Published on Dec 12, 2019 03:20 pm
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