Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 review: dual-screen gaming in your lap
“The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo Pro 15 offers two-screen PC games like no other laptop.”
Intuitive secondary screen
Beautiful 4K screen
Relatively thin and light
Bad battery life
You have never seen a gaming laptop like the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15.
Of course there are other dual screen laptops like the HP Omen X 2S or the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo. The Zephyrus Duo 15 surpasses them all with its flip-up secondary screen, which is integrated directly into the housing.
The starting price of $ 3,700 will put off anyone who is not committed to the idea of having a built-in second screen on their gaming laptop. But for those who are ready to do the dive, the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 may be the most interesting gaming laptop ever made.
The secondary screen of this laptop, which Asus calls ScreenPad Plus, is located under the primary screen and is automatically tilted up when the lid is opened. The frame of the screen looks a bit thin, but I was impressed with how stiff it was. Behind it is a back plate made of magnesium alloy for support. Everything is built into a hinge that enables seamless and stable opening.
The idea of a tiltable secondary screen seems exaggerated – and maybe also. However, the inclination of the ScreenPad Plus has one purpose. The secondary screens of other laptops are all flat on the keyboard deck, which is not a good viewing angle. This is particularly noticeable when you have lights over you.
The Zephyrus Duo 15 solves the problem by supporting the screen in a more natural viewing angle. No more bending or angling. The angle that Asus has reached is not perfect, but much better on a flat surface. However, this angle cannot be adjusted, which is a shame.
While playing, you can easily slide a guide down or create an order, reducing the need to remove the Alt Tab key from a game.
This increased usability may sound slight, but it has inspired me to want to use the second screen more and more. Asus offers a number of proprietary applications and functions for the ScreenPad Plus. There is a handwriting app, a calculator and of course the Armory Crate settings app. Armory Crate is useful for monitoring your system, changing performance modes, and changing lighting settings.
However, the most useful feature of the ScreenPad Plus is a second screen. If you work from home and don’t have access to an external monitor, the ScreenPad Plus will ingeniously replace it. It is great to shutdown Spotify or YouTube while using the primary screen to write or edit photos. While playing, you can easily slide a guide down or create an order, reducing the need to remove the Alt Tab key from a game.
Windows 10 already has excellent snap-in functions and lights up on the ScreenPad Plus. With a 20 cm diagonal, the ScreenPad Plus feels big enough to do these types of tasks with ease. The touchscreen function helps and only requires a short swipe to where your hands rest on the keyboard. The possibilities feel endless.
This does not mean that the ScreenPad Plus is a perfect implementation. It’s still a little strange to see your cursor shrink, and there’s a slight shade of green on the second screen. I also wish that the distance between the screens was slightly smaller to create a more uniform field of view.
From a software perspective, there are still a few missed options. Windows is simply not well set up to support a second touchscreen. When you play a game, touching the ScreenPad Plus freezes your controls or pauses the game. This is a limitation of Windows, but it stands in the way of the full potential of this design.
The angle of the ScreenPad Plus has a second advantage. According to Asus, there is also a performance gain. Other Zephyrus laptops have a ventilation opening that rises from below and supports the laptop at an angle. The angle of the ScreenPad Plus offers the same advantages for cooling. The fans are located under the gap in the screen and promote airflow and thermal throughout the system, while the bottom of the laptop stays flat.
This is important because some very hot components need to stay cool. The Zephyrus Duo 15 is available in two configurations – and both are extremely high quality. The model I checked is the 4K configuration that was created for content creation. The other is a game-oriented device with a 1080p 300Hz screen. Both cost $ 3,700 and only offer premium specs. You get an Intel Core i9-10980HK processor, an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, 32 GB RAM and 2 TB solid-state storage.
The processor gives you 8 cores and 16 threads to work with, resulting in powerful processor performance. This is also from the latest 10th generation Intel product line, which contains slightly faster boost clock speeds than the previous generation. The Zephyrus Duo 15 impresses in Cinebench R20 and Geekbench 5 with record values for a laptop. The Asus ZenBook Duo Pro was another powerful Core i9 laptop with a second screen last year. The Zephyrus Duo 15 outperforms both single-core and multi-core performance. Against the Zephyrus G14, an AMD Ryzen 4000 laptop with the same number of cores and threads, it also gains in single-core performance.
It has a trusted screen where professional color corrections and edits can be done.
I encoded a 4K handbrake video clip in H.265 to test the processor. It wasn’t as consistent as I hoped. The first runs were incredibly fast and only lasted one minute and 38 seconds. From there, the runs slowed down 33% and stayed there for the next few tries. That’s a solid speed for this processor, although some less expensive laptops like the Dell G5 SE can keep up.
However, the Zephyrus Duo 15 has a powerful CPU and GPU. To see how the system balances a high workload, I rendered a two-minute 4K clip in ProRes 422 in Premiere. I was particularly interested in these results because Nvidia Dynamic Boost, a new feature supported by the Zephyrus Duo 15, is managed by a unique thermal system. The power supply can be shared between the GPU and the CPU. In other words, if an application or game can use more of the GPU, it can even run over 100 watts.
The Zephyrus Duo 15 completed the task in 7 minutes and 44 seconds. This is slightly faster than the Dell G5 SE and offers a huge head start on the 9th generation Razer Blade that I tested in 2019. However, it can’t beat other Core i9 options like the Dell XPS 15 or the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo. The ZenBook Pro Duo’s thicker casing seems to do more for its video rendering capabilities than Nvidia’s Dynamic Boost for the Zephyrus Duo, which is disappointing.
Since my computer was the model for creating 4K content, these tests are critical. The 4K screen is beautiful in itself – a color-calibrated panel with precise colors, 96% AdobeRGB and a contrast ratio of 1,040: 1. The maximum brightness is 381 nits, although the matte surface of the display reduces reflections to a minimum. All of this ensures a trustworthy screen on which professional color corrections and edits can be performed.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 offers fantastic gaming performance. If smooth frame rates are your top priority, the 1080p 300Hz model is clearly the model you want. Thanks to the Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q and G-Sync panel, even the 4K option I tested is a functional gaming laptop.
Because the 4K panel is locked at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, much of the 1080p is wasted, so 4K resolution is a solid option in some games. Civilization VI is a good example. The Zephyrus Duo 15 averaged 70 FPS (frames per second) at 4K with settings at Ultra. The same was true for Battlefield V, where it achieved an average of 56 FPS for Medium in 4K. Sure, the over 90 FPS at 1080p are better, but if you’re not connected to an external gaming monitor, those extra 40 FPS won’t help.
G-Sync was a big help with gaming and made up for the lower refresh rate of the 4K display.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was the exception. The Zephyrus Duo 15 mastered this difficult game with 1080p Ultra High with an average of 59 FPS quite well. At 4K, however, it was choppy.
Other gaming laptops that use the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q are slightly faster than the Acer Predator Triton 500. While the Zephyrus Duo 15 isn’t the fastest gaming notebook I’ve tested, I was happy with how It balances warmth, size and performance.
G-Sync has been a great help throughout to compensate for the display’s lower refresh rate. Remember that G-Sync is not enabled on the laptop by default. You need to go into the armory and restart the system to turn it on.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 is a large laptop. Although Asus only had a 15-inch screen, it took up a lot of space to push in the ScreenPad Plus without crushing the keyboard. The result is a massive bottom bezel under the primary screen. It is absolutely huge and supports the screen higher than a normal 15-inch laptop.
Elsewhere, the Zephyrus Duo 15 does its best to stay in shape. It’s only 0.78 inches thick and weighs only 5.3 pounds. The whole system uses a magnesium alloy to keep things light. Asus is right that the use of aluminum would have resulted in a heavy laptop, although the magnesium alloy leaves the slightest bend in the lid.
This is not the right laptop to take to a coffee shop.
This is not my favorite keyboard in the world. This second screen pushes the keyboard and touchpad to the bottom of the keyboard deck. This is not the first time Asus has tried this design. Even the Zephyrus S used this design. There are disadvantages, such as the lack of wrist-rest. This makes using the Zephyrus Duo 15 on your lap pretty uncomfortable. It can be exhausting even on a flat surface and requires a lot of extra space on a table. This isn’t the right laptop to take to a coffee shop, but few gaming laptops fit that bill. However, Asus has a palm rest in the box, which is a nice addition.
The key drop feels a bit flat at 1.4 mm, although this is comparable to laptops like the Dell XPS 15 or the Razer Blade. The fast typing takes getting used to when I come from the Dell XPS 15, although I typed quickly after a few hours. The keyboard is equipped with RGB lighting per key, which can be fully adjusted in the settings of the armory.
The Zephyrus Duo 15 uses the same key layout as other Asus gaming laptops like the Zephyrus S. There are some special features, e.g. B. the print screen key between the Alt and Ctrl keys. The function bar (and above the touchpad) gives you quick access to helpful shortcuts such as deactivating the ScreenPad Plus or switching it off completely.
The thin touchpad is to the right of the keyboard, which will always be an afterthought in these designs. Tracking responds even though the size isn’t ideal, especially if you’re left-handed.
Asus still does not have an integrated webcam for its gaming laptops. This makes the Zephyrus Duo 15 unsuitable for the home life that many of us are currently living. That’s a shame for a laptop that can act as both a work machine and a gaming laptop. The laptop also lacks Windows Hello login support, either in the form of a fingerprint reader or an IR camera. Other high-end gaming laptops like the Razer Blade have taken this up in recent years.
The port selection is fantastic and offers a solid mix of gaming must-haves and future security. On the sides of the case there are two USB-A ports, a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, a headphone jack, a microphone input and your barrel-shaped power plug. Thanks to the Thunderbolt 3 connector, you don’t have to constantly lug around the power adapter to keep the laptop charged during occasional use. For full performance, you should of course use the cylinder plug.
On the back, Asus adds HDMI 2.0, an Ethernet socket and an additional USB-A port. The location of these rear ports is convenient and ensures a cleaner desk configuration when fully docked.
The battery life of the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 is not a highlight. I assumed that this was based on the 4K screen alone. Throw in a second screen and a powerful GPU – and you can’t expect much.
The Zephyrus Duo 15 is a G-Sync laptop that blocks GPU usage on the Nvidia card and usually leads to terrible battery life. Asus offers the option to switch to Nvidia Optimus mode, which allows the system to automatically switch between graphics. That didn’t seem to help – at least not enough.
Without the secondary screen on, the laptop only lasted about two hours. With the screen on, this was reduced to just one hour. Yikes. According to Asus, there were some issues with turning on the Nvidia GPU when it wasn’t. During local video playback or surfing in Google Chrome, the system occasionally taxed the graphics card.
That would explain the bad battery life, but it’s not a good excuse. Regardless of whether Dynamic Boost or Optimus is the culprit, I expected at least a few more hours from the Zephyrus Duo 15. Despite a large 90 watt hour battery, you should leave this battery connected most of the time.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 is based on a great idea. I like it when experimental designs like this leave the prototyping stage. The second screen is great, but the Zephyrus Duo 15 is more than just a one-trick pony – it offers both the performance and usability of its second screen. However, $ 3,700 is a high price. That’s $ 400 more than a comparable Razer Blade, which was already one of the most expensive gaming laptops you could buy.
This is not the final form of Asus’ vision for second-screen computing, but it is the best there has been.
Are there alternatives?
If you are only interested in the second screen, Asus offers the ZenBook Duo. It’s not a gaming laptop, but it does offer a similar second screen – except without the raised angle.
Apart from that, no other laptop can reproduce the functions of the Zephyrus Duo 15 on the second screen. There are many gaming laptops that offer excellent performance at a much cheaper price.
How long it will take?
The Zephyrus Duo 15 is robust and well built. The gap created by the ScreenPad Plus is worrying. It is not difficult to imagine that things get stuck inside, whether they are small objects or just dust.
Should you buy it
Yes. Not everyone is willing to pay the bill for the second screen bonus, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most interesting gaming laptops ever made.