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Lori Grunin/CNET

Asus’ creative-oriented ZenBook Pro Duo wowed me back in September 2019 and I like the gaming version even more; the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 pulls out almost all the stops for performance in a way the ZenBook doesn’t, plus tweaks the design in a few ways that make it a lot more usable and flexible. But you’ll have to pull all the stops out of your budget for it as well — the base configuration with a Core i7 and 300MHz screen is $3,000 — which is not something most people are looking to do right now. 

If you work in a cramped space where you can’t fit a second screen or want an ancillary screen for monitoring Discord, Slack or other frequently checked app, the the Zephyrus’ secondary ScreenPad Plus touchscreen display comes in very handy. And it improves on the ZenBook Duo’s by tilting an extra 13 degrees beyond the gentle slope of its feet, which makes it easier on your neck and provides extra ventilation for the laptop — which still can run pretty hot. Plus, the main display tilts back quite far. 

Our test system came equipped with the 4K screen. Unlike the ZenBook’s, this one is a matte IPS panel rather than an OLED touchscreen, but like most of Asus’ laptops these days, it’s still Pantone calibrated. The default profiles, which you select via Asus’ Armoury Crate game-control center software are all optimized for gaming, but with some easy tweaks to brightness and color temperature you can tune it to absolutely nail accuracy for AdobeRGB (it covers 100% of the gamut). 

The tradeoff between IPS and OLED is contrast and color gamut: The Zephyrus’ has respectable contrast at about 1440:1, but the blacks can’t compete with OLED’s and OLED covers the P3 gamut rather than the Zephyrus’ 91%. But I’m not in love with OLED for working in Adobe RGB and touchscreens aren’t as useful in 15-inch laptops as they are for 2-in-1s, plus the touchscreen layer can cause some color shift. 

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The 13 degree angle of the secondary screen goes a long way toward making it more comfortable than the ZenBook’s. I’d like it to be even more tilted, though.


Lori Grunin/CNET

If you’re primarily a shooting, driving or fighting gamer, you’d probably want to opt for the 300Hz 1080p display option, anyway. Much as I love the 4K, it’s limited to 60Hz.  

And speaking of G-Sync, the Zephyrus uses the power-saving Optimus Max-Q architecture, but not the Advanced Optimus version that Nvidia rolled out earlier this year. In practice that means you still have to reboot to switch the display from running on the integrated GPU bus (which only uses the discrete GPU for processing) to running on the discrete GPU, which is necessary to enable G-Sync.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550

Price as reviewed $3,699.99
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 3,840 x 2,160 IPS main display, 14-inch 3,840 x 1,100 ScreenPad Plus touchscreen  
PC CPU Intel Core i9-10980HK
PC Memory 32GB 3,200MHz DDR4
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q
Storage 2TB SSD (RAID 0)
Ports 1 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, 3 x USB-A, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 1 x headphone, 1 x mic
Networking Intel AX201 WiFi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0, Intel I210 Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Microsoft Windows Home (1909)
Weight 5.3 lbs/2.4 kg

If you’re only using the laptop as a desktop replacement, there’s no reason not to leave it running on the discrete GPU and a lot of reasons in favor of it. For instance, in my testing it gained an extra 20fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider over Turbo mode with Optimus enabled, simply because the GPU took over some of the work the CPU was doing. That’s a pretty extreme case, but there’s little performance downside. 

Despite using the unlocked version of the processor, you can’t overclock it. The Armoury Crate software does let you change the fan speeds and overclock the GPU, though.

The Zephyrus also has a bigger complement of connections and they’re arrayed differently than on the ZenBook. The power connector is still in an awkward spot near the front of the left side, but the laptop has three USB-A ports (compared to two), as well as dedicated HDMI and Ethernet connections on the back. I’d still like at least another USB-C connection for an external SSD (so that it wouldn’t need to go through the Thunderbolt dock), but it’ll do.

Not everything is great, though. It has no webcam, which can be useful if say, you can’t buy one when you need it. You’re probably also going to want to connect an external mouse and keyboard to it. The lack of palm rests in front of the keyboard is still an issue — it comes with a wrist rest like the ZenBook, but it’s uncomfortably rubbery and has already begun to feel oddly sticky (like some cables or bins that have been lying around for years). 

The keys themselves require a very firm touch to ensure that a keypress registers and the spacebar tends to register extra presses. The location of the touchpad on the right side isn’t a problem, but it’s too small; I frequently hit the edges while trying to move across the screen.

I do like the keyboard lighting, though. Among other things, it can be set to indicate CPU utilization or CPU temperature.

The Asus Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 may yet turn out to be one of my favorite laptops of 2020. By the time I’ve finished testing we’ll see if that sticks or if familiarity breeds contempt. Stay tuned.

source: cnet.com

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