We can say that this laptop gaming impresses. When we took it out of its box, several members of the editorial staff came to observe the beast. The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 isn’t the first dual-screen laptop, but it’s the first that can run AAA games and bring power to content creators.
Released in April 2020, our review of the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 (GX550) is arriving late. Meanwhile, Asus ROG has already unveiled a new, more powerful model . We were nevertheless won over by this ingenious dual-screen design, it really had to be tested. It’s done.
Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 (GX550) Specifications
Here are the important features of the model we tested.
- Processor: Intel Core i9-10980HK (Octo-Core 2.4 GHz / 5.3 GHz Turbo – 16 Threads – Cache 16 MB)
- RAM: 32 GB DDR4 memory (16 GB integrated + 1x 16 GB)
- Main screen: 15.6 ″ with Ultra HD definition (3840 x 2160 pixels) non-touch
- Secondary display: ROG ScreenPad Plus 14.1 ″ (3840 x 1100 pixels) touch screen
- Storage: Two 1TB M.2 PCIe SSDs in RAID 0
- Graphics chip: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER (Max-Q) with 8 GB of dedicated memory
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi AX + Bluetooth 5.1
- Connections: 2 USB 3.0 ports + 1 USB 3.1 port + 1 Thunderbolt 3 port (USB 3.1 Type C)
- Audio: 2 speakers 4 Watts with Smart AMP technology
- Keyboard with backlit keys (RGB key by key) + NumberPad
- Windows 10 Home 64 bits
The tested unit was loaned to us by Intel
Innovative Dual Screen Design: Is It Really Useful?
A laptop with two screens is not a first. Asus already has two dual screen laptops in the form of the ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 and the smaller ZenBook Duo UX482 . This ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 is nevertheless the first PC with two screens focused on gaming and creativity.
The main display measures 15.6 inches diagonally and you can choose between two options: a high-resolution 4K IPS display (60 Hz) or an ultra-fast Full HD IPS display (300 Hz) [19459023 ]. We tested the one with the 4K display, it covers 100% of the Adobe RGB color space and is Pantone certified. Obviously, this screen is for creative professionals. For gamers, don’t hesitate for a second: opt for the blazing-fast 300Hz Full HD display that supports G-Sync with a 3ms response time.
Let’s move on to this famous second screen located above the keyboard. Named the ROG ScreenPad Plus , this IPS LCD screen measures 14.1 inches with a definition of 3840 x 1100 pixels and a refresh rate of 60 Hz. It is identical to the one found on the ZenBook Duo UX581 . The advantage of such a definition is the ease of use with the main screen in 4K: you can drag windows from the main screen to the second screen without any weird resizing issues.
This is really where the second screen will be most useful, given that Windows 10 really thinks of it as an extended display.
Note that this ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 is not just a variation of the ZenBook Pro UX581. It has a new hinge design for the second screen, a more efficient cooling system, and a slimmer and lighter design. It is “only” 20.9mm thick and weighs 2.4kg, which is impressive considering the material it contains.
One of the most common criticisms of the ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 and ZenBook Duo UX481 is that the second display was not tilted at a sufficiently large angle. To remedy this, the ROG ScreenPad Plus has a hinge that lifts the screen to a greater angle when the laptop is opened.
The whole hinge looks really solid, Asus used an alloy for the structure of the second screen in order to avoid breaking the whole if ever, for example, you blocked a mouse cable (I almost did).
Personally, I have used this small screen as an external display to improve my productivity. You can display up to three windows side by side, but the most comfortable is to display two. The set is tactile with stylus support, so it’s very easy to interact with. You can use the ScreenPad with your distractions – Slack, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, etc. – to keep them accessible, but out of the way. You can keep the documents for reference at the bottom while you work at the top. You can take notes at the bottom while streaming a lecture on the top screen.
Asus has a few handy features to help keep everything organized. In the Launcher menu, on the left side of the ScreenPad, you can quickly access a number of apps, including Number Key (a virtual number pad), Handwriting (where you can doodle on the ScreenPad), and Quick Key (where you can press various commands like cut, copy and paste). You can also swap a window from one screen to another very quickly, it’s really well designed.
I had the opportunity to show this screen to creatives who are used to handling Adobe programs all day long. Whether using Lightroom or Premiere Pro, this software works very well for this dual monitor use. You can put commands from Lightroom or simply the “Projects” panel or the timeline window ( timeline ) of Premiere Pro. This screen also works well with other software designed to work on multiple screens such as music composition software. In my daily life, this screen has been used to take notes, watch a YouTube video or even view Slack conversions.
In-game, you can display Discord or Asus’s Armory Crate application which can display lots of performance indicators. Personally, I loved using Civilization VI on it, I could use the second screen when my opponents were still thinking about what to do on their turn.
Regarding the connectors, you have a single USB-C port supporting Thunderbolt 3 (DP 1.4, Power Delivery 3.0), another USB-A port also supporting USB 3.2 Gen 2 and two USB-A ports that support USB 3.2 Gen 1. There is also an HDMI 2.0b port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and separate 3.5mm audio jacks for headphones and microphone.
We obviously opened the hull to assess the modularity offered by this design. We found two 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs. The assembly is RAID 0. As a reminder, RAID 0 increases performance and allows higher read and write throughput. In addition, the capacity of all disks in the array is also cumulative. These 2 SSDs of 1 TB in RAID 0 are therefore seen as a single storage of 2 TB by the operating system. You can easily change them, just like the 16 GB RAM (DDR4) in dual channel mode. It is not soldered on, however the second RAM slot is on the other side of the motherboard which involves very tedious disassembly.
As for the keyboard, it is a fairly classic chiclet type keyboard with good sized keys. Only the space key has an atypical shape. The whole is RGB, the LEDs are unique per key … you will be able to create very original patterns using the software provided by Asus. There is also a small touchpad to its right that can display a highlighted touchscreen numeric keypad.
Impressive performances… for 2020
On paper, the Zephyrus Duo 15 is a beast. It is powered by 10th Generation Comet Lake H series processors. These are the most powerful Intel mobile processors in February 2021 pending future announcements from the American founder. With 8 cores, this CPU should not be compared with the low-power mobile processors found on ultraportables. Rather, it should be compared with CPUs designed for stationary machines, such as the Core i7-10700K.
Obviously, the comparison is not that simple, because the Intel Core i9-10980HK mobile processor suffers from all the ailments that affect a CPU installed in a laptop PC chassis: heat, noise, battery life and throttle . The design of the chassis – and more particularly the design of the cooling system – is therefore essential to guarantee good performance over time.
In this regard, Asus therefore uses a heat sink that uses a liquid metal compound designed by Thermal Grizzly instead of ordinary thermal paste. This would improve heat transfer to allow the processor to maintain higher clock speeds for longer. Anecdote: this is the type of thermally conductive material found in PS5 .
In addition, the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 features what Asus calls the Active Aerodynamic System Plus. When the secondary display is lifted, 28.5mm fans allow the notebook to draw cooler air directly at the components to cool them. Same observation under the machine, two fans extract the hot air. In fact, the laptop is a little raised to facilitate extraction.
It’s not just the CPU that gets hot. There is also the dedicated graphics chip NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) . This is an older generation chip, as RTX 3000 laptops are already available. Still, it’s one of the most powerful dedicated graphics chips of 2020. At two centimeters thick in total, it’s understandable why Asus chose the Max-Q design.
Even if it operates at a lower frequency and consumption than the mobile versions and the desktop version, it remains based on the same TU104 chip as the mobile and desktop versions as its counterparts. You will also have access to features like Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and Ray Tracing (RT), it would have been a shame not to take advantage of these two functions which provide performance and great visual effects.
Very correct in Full HD
We took it through several tests, including 3DMark – Time Spy, to assess its performance and especially to compare it with other alternatives. According to our tests, this RTX 2080 Super Max-Q has the performance of an RTX 2060 ( Desktop ) or a Radeon 5700 XT ( Desktop ). When compared to the new RTX 3000 solutions, performance barely reaches what a mobile RTX 3060 offers.
This is where the bat hurts: the new generation of RTX 3000 mobile is a very important generation leap. We therefore end up with the graphics performance of a laptop PC between 1500 euros and 2000 euros. Obviously, we must put into perspective: the CPU, RAM, storage, chassis, cooling system … you will have better quality components on the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15. However, the GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q chip has badly aged, it should be interested only if you can benefit from a significant discount.
On today’s popular games, you won’t have much difficulty hitting the average 60 fps, except in some more demanding games. All of this testing was done with ray tracing disabled, count about 20% less fps with the option enabled.
On the other hand, as soon as you activate the 4K definition in the game, the performance drops by half … which is sufficient for games like Fortnite or Overwatch, it becomes much too fair for more greedy AAA games where you fall below 30 fps.
As you may have noticed, the 4K @ 60Hz version will be comfortable for editing and creative software, however you will need to play your games in 1080p or 1440p definition. On the Full HD @ 300 Hz model, you will have difficulty enjoying the 300 Hz offered by the screen in most games.
So let’s talk about this screen. We tested the 4K @ 60Hz model, an Nvidia G-Sync compatible non-touch IPS LCD panel. The display is X-Rite Pantone certified, which guarantees very natural color representation. Contrast, viewing angle, response time … the screen is nothing out of the ordinary, but it doesn’t suffer from any flaws.