ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 review: Apparently 2 screens can have some limits
Quick verdict: A surprisingly portable gaming laptop that turns up the heat (literally) and dares to ask whether 2 screens are better than 1 if the second screen is a weird shape.
- 2 screens allow you to multitask while playing a game
- Really nice keyboard and touchpad layout
- Ridiculously powerful
- Display looks incredible when viewed from the right angle
- IPS screen only looks good at specific angles in certain lighting conditions
- No built-in webcam
- Very, very expensive, especially for the top configuration
- Second screen is fiddly to use, supported by few games, and phones exist
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 is one of those laptop lines designed for an extremely specific kind of gamer. And that's wonderful. It's solving problems that not many people have, but those who do will appreciate it immensely. It's like a regular extremely powerful gaming laptop, but with an extra thin touch screen under the regular screen for Discord, guides, Twitch chat or an abilities menu.
This particular iteration of the ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo line is pretty new. While there are plenty of super-powerful (and expensive) gaming laptops out there, the second screen makes this model unique.
At $5,599, this model is well above most people's budgets, yet still isn't at the top of this range. The model I reviewed has a 120Hz screen, but the range goes up to 300Hz – for a price. This is certainly a laptop for people with specific needs for whom money is not an object. Most gamers would be better served by the marginally more powerful (and yet cheaper) Alienware Area 51 M17 R2.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 review: Design
I actually really like the way this laptop looks. It's gamery in that it has the mandatory RGB keyboard, but it would actually also be a great machine for business. You could put your Slack and emails on the little screen and then use the big screen for spreadsheets or other work-related programs. The body of the laptop is a fairly non-descript black, blending into any office environment. Sure, it would absolutely be overkill to use for non-CPU intensive work, but if you're dropping used-car money on a laptop, you're going to want it to be versatile.
The single drawback is that this thing is truly massive. At 2.48kg, it's not as heavy as the gaming laptops of old, but a physio would yell at you if you carried it in a shoulder bag instead of an ergonomic backpack. Physically, it's 36 x 26.8 x 2.09cm, making it imposing but not unreasonable.
The display is 4K with a 120Hz refresh rate. If you look at it head on, the colours look incredible and accurate. However, because of the anti-glare, if you get it at the wrong angle it looks cheap and terrible. Having said that, though, it's a worthy trade on a sunny day. The portability means that you're not always going to be able to control where you play, so anti-glare is a must have. The refresh rate is lower than the 300Hz offered on other models, but 120Hz with 4K seems like a better deal than 300Hz with 1080p, given most games are aiming for 60fps anyway.
While the second screen is a great idea, I found actually using it to be very fiddly. I'm sure over time it would become more natural to use, especially if you bought this laptop with a plan for what you'd use it for. But there were very few circumstances where I used it without thinking "it would be easier and better to just use my phone for this".
I did really like the layout of the keyboard and touchpad. Usually on laptops you have that big touchpad in the centre which is ergonomic for no-one. Obviously, this would suck for left-handed people, though most gamers will be using an external gaming mouse most of the time. But when paired with a wrist rest, the layout made perfect, useful sense for right-handed couch gaming without a mouse for stuff like Magic: The Gathering Arena.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 review: Performance
With an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX 8 core processor, 32GB of RAM and a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, this thing is a beast. There are only 2 laptops we've tested that outperformed the ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 on the challenging 3D Mark Time Spy benchmark, and even then it was pretty close.
At that price, you would expect it to be incredible, but it's nice to see that it actually lives up to that expectation. There was no game I could throw at it where I wasn't blown away. Every time I went to play something, I got so easily lost in it that I often forgot to think about how the laptop was performing and had to be reminded, which is exactly what you want: The hardware got out of the way and let me fall into another world. That's the key to a good laptop.
The only problem is that with great performance comes great heat, and this is a laptop in name only. Even on a cold Melbourne night, it got way too hot. I almost worried about the resin on my table melting.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 review: Battery
Gaming laptops are famous for their terrible battery lives. All that power means something's gotta give, and the ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 has kept that tradition alive with truly pathetic benchmarking scores: 53 minutes of untethered gaming is not going to satisfy many people, nor is 315 minutes of video. That's not even enough for a medium-haul flight.
Playing a game without the power brick plugged in brought back memories of running to go to the bathroom during the ad break of a TV show on free to air TV – almost higher stakes drama than the show you were trying to watch. It's a laptop I felt I could never comfortably use without plugging it in because it just wasn't worth the stress.
Even Wingspan, perhaps the lowest-stress game for a laptop, was too much, with the laptop frequently running out of juice before we could finish the final round. I will protest until the end of my days that I would have won those games, but truly, who could say?
It could get through a full day of word processing work no problem, which is a very low bar to limp over. However, my work involves watching hours upon hours of news footage and grabbing clips, and it's been a long time since I've had to plug in a laptop midway through the work day – but Zephyrus Duo couldn't handle it. Of course, it made everything look great and it all processed quickly, but when doing creative work on a laptop, the battery life is half the battle.
The Chiclet keyboard was wonderfully responsive and a dream to play with. I did very much hate how often I accidentally turned the touchpad into a numpad when playing Wingspan, but I'm sure over months of use not hitting that bit by accident would become muscle memory, making it purely a short-term issue on a long-term product.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you're right-handed and know exactly what you'd use a second, short-yet-wide screen for.
- Don't buy it if you're just looking for a standard gaming laptop and don't have cash to burn.
I really like this laptop, it's powerful and good at all it tries to do. But while overkill is certainly the point of a gaming laptop, you can get a laptop with similar overkill power specs for $1,000 less and just use your phone as the second screen. As much as I love the novelty of it, unless you're extremely dedicated to games that would benefit from that second, oddly-shaped screen, you're probably better of saving the extra cash.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 review: Pricing and availability
How we tested
I used this laptop for a month doing benchmarks, directly comparing it to other gaming laptops I had around, and playing an unhealthy amount of games (including Age of Empires IV, Forza Horizon 5, Magic: The Gathering Arena, Wingspan and Halo).
I was lent this laptop by ASUS PR.