Asus Mothership review: Kudos to the bold attempt
We reviewed one of Asus’ most unique Mothership gaming desktop that comes with a new form factor and a detachable keyboard. The product costs over $5200 but is it worth it? Read on.
Key specs: Intel 9th-gen Core i9 processor, 64GB RAM, 17.3-inch touchscreen FHD screen with 144Hz refresh rate support, Windows 10.
Price: $5,200 (around ₹4 lacs)
Asus ROG has its own fanbase when it comes to gaming PCs, laptop, accessories and even smartphones now. With flashing rainbow LEDs, Black and Red colour accents, and everything in between, the ROG products have always stood out in terms of looks and performance, placing rivals in a rather tough position in the gaming industry. But it doesn't often happen that you come across a gaming product so unique that even the firm puts 'Mothership' in its name. We are talking about the Asus ROG Mothership, which sounds as serious as it is in performing. It's not a laptop, but more of a portable gaming PC if you call it.
The Mothership has not reached the Indian shelves yet and there's no clear date as to when it will. However, we did get our hands on one recently. The model we have been reviewing since the past couple of weeks is the one with 64GB RAM, Intel 9th-gen Core i9 model with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2040 GPU and 17.3-inch FHD IPS panel with 144Hz refresh rate support. This should be enough to make it sound like a 'Mothership' of all ROG laptops so it's natural you have to pay a good sum for it - over $5,200, which is roughly ₹3.7 Lacs.
Design and display
With the Mothership's outlandish yet good looking form factor, the idea here is to give gamers the required mobility that they want. So, Asus gave them a massive and a thick screen, which also houses all the innards and an inbuilt stand (with LED lights underneath). Along with a detachable multicolour backlit keyboard, the device takes nearly the same space as some heavy-weight ROG laptops but has a form factor that is different and slightly difficult to handle for gamers. It is clearly something you don't see every day sitting at the desk of a gamer but then it's a typical Asus machine in terms of looks if you are familiar with its ROG laptop designs.
To begin, the detachable keyboard acts as a screen cover as well. You open it up like a laptop except that the keyboard comes out once you pull it further. All the ports are on the sides of the display chassis while at the front (below the screen) you get a multi-coloured designed pattern that also hides the front-firing speakers. Although the idea is to hide them, one can still see the speakers in there. A bummer here is that the entire area with LEDs gets covered once you attach the keyboard. It slightly changes the audio clarity though. A good amount of bezels are there on all the four sides of the display as well but that is just one of the few compromises that has to be made. And this shouldn't bother a lot to gamers.
However, opening the ROG Mothership is a rather cumbersome process. You just can't open it like your regular ROG laptop. First of all, the entire setup is heavy at around 4kgs. You have to open the keyboard, then hold the display part upright to open the inbuilt stand at the back and then gently lower it down to get it positioned. Together with the keyboard, the entire Mothership weighs almost 4.5Kgs if not more. If you are buying this, be ready for this.
What all ports does the Asus ROG Mothership include? Quite a few. You get a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C / Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4, 3xUSB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type A / USB charger, HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo jack, 3.5mm microphone jack, RJ-45 jack, SD card reader and a Kensington lock. That covers almost everything that a gamer needs to attach external screens and other accessories. There's a type-C port o the hinge of the keyboard too.
As for the display, the unit that we received came with a 17.3-inch FHD (1080x1920 pixels) resolution IPS panel. The plus point here is not how large the screen size is but its support for 144Hz. If you have a title that supports 144Hz gameplay, you're in for a treat. Add the 3ms response, 100% sRGB colour range and the G-Sync goodness to it and the visuals go from impressive to 'amazing'. And like how it should be in gaming laptops and desktops, this too has a non-reflective screen.
There is also a 4K resolution IPS panel variant too but since it misses out on 144Hz support and is way more expensive, we'll recommend you to stick with the FHD version. That said, we did find the screen not as bright as we wanted to at the highest brightness levels. And it would've been appreciated if the 'Mothership', which is one of the flagship gaming machines Asus has to show, came with an OLED panel. That's because at the time of its global launch back in May 2019, there were already plenty of laptops and PC makers that were out with OLED machines. Nonetheless, now that Asus too has a fairly good lineup of ROG laptops with OLED screens, maybe the 'Mothership 2' will get it. That's quite a long shot.
On the software side, the ROG GameVisual does bring minor changes to the brightness and colour based on the Racing, FPS, Scenery and other profiles. But that might not be much of a help.
You can expect a top-notch performance from the Asus Mothership at the least considering it is powered by 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, which is complemented by Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU (that boosts up to 1880Mhz) with 8GB GDDR6 VRAM and a complete overkill 64GB DDR4 RAM. We are calling it as an overkill because at any given point in time we didn't see the system using more than 20GB, leaving the rest unused. The usage included everything from 30 odd tabs across Microsoft Edge and Chrome, a couple of Microsoft Office apps, Asus apps and Assassin's Creed Odyssey, which is in itself a heavy title. However, it was way too easy to skip between apps, tabs and games.
Although 9th-gen Core i9 is not the latest at today's date, it was one of the most powerful ones back in May 2019. Considering that, we ran Geekbench and PC Mark 10 tests on this and got some really impressive results.
The unit we received achieved a Geekbench score of 1286 for single core and an impressive 8126 for multi-core performance. That's definitely a great number, specially for the multi-core performance. PC Mark 10 test gave us a rather good overall score of 5335 with the 'Essentials' receiving the highest average score of 9112, Productivity and Digital Content Creation scores were also good at 8034 and 5630.
That said, if you are expecting the machine to be a quite one, you will be highly disappointed. Although the Mothership is fairly mum, it shows how noisy it can get once you start a heavy game or an application that requires good amount of CPU and GPU power. In our case, we could hear the machine's fan throttling at full speed (Silent, Balanced and Turbo) while long sessions of Assassin's Creed Odyssey, even from a couple of feet away from the screen. And yes, the device heats up. Fortunately, since the keyboard is detachable and is a separate component that attaches with the main machine, you won't get to feel the heat in any way.
A lot of credit for heat dissipation goes to the form factor as well. Usually in laptops most air intake is from under the chassis, which hardly leaves a space to breathe. Since Mothership's back is exposed and the device's chassis itself stands tall, it gives a lot of space for inflow and outflow of the air. All this comes over and above eight heat pipes and anti-dust self-cleaning fans that are placed on either side at the back. Asus has gone a step ahead this time and has included liquid metal compound instead of the thermal paste, which is claimed to bring down the CPU temperature by up to 13-degrees.
Audio gets a special mention here because we did find the 4-watt quad front speakers impressive. A minor issue here is that the speakers are right below the screen, an area that gets blocked when the keyboard is attached above it. We often found the audio experience better with the keyboard detached. You can however, tweak the audio using the Sonic Studio III software based on gaming, watching movies, listening music and more. Separately it is possible to customise the levels of Bass, Treble, Voice clarity, Reverb and more, something many gamers will find nifty.
As for the battery backup, anyone with a knowledge of gaming devices, can guess that a powerful machine such as the Asus Mothership won't have an impressive battery performance.
Mothership is a bold attempt by Asus. The form factor is something you don't see often but gamers should find it as a refreshing change. Although it gives the required portability, unlike gaming laptops, it also gives you a certain sense of reliability of a desktop. Yes, at over $5,200, which is roughly ₹3.7 Lacs the Mothership by no means is 'pocket friendly' but for a device in a gaming market, it is not the costliest one either.
With a powerful processor, detachable keyboard and the traditional 'Asus' look, the Mothership does fill most of the checkboxes. However, the only factor that may hold back a gamer is the rather dim screen. If it is something you are ok with and if you want a brand-new form factor to play with, Mothership is what you need.