This gaming laptop has two screens, but are they actually useful? This is the ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15, a powerful machine with some unique features, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about it in this detailed review. I’m testing the highest specced configuration here, but the Duo 15 is available with some different specs.
What makes the Duo 15 unique is that it has two screens, now ASUS have done this before on the ZenBook Pro Duo, but this time the bottom screen automatically tilts up by 13 degrees when you open the laptop, giving you a better viewing angle. The main panel up top is a 15.6” 1080p 300Hz panel with G-Sync, so good gaming panel specs, but no touch screen. The screen below, which they call screenpad plus, is a 14.1” touch screen. We’re given the option to swap between Optimus or discrete GPU only through software, and this requires a reboot to complete, no advanced optimus here.
The second screen is just seen by Windows as another display below the first one, just like dual monitors. This means you can simply drag whatever windows you like to the second screen.
The installed Screen Xpert software further aids this by offering shortcuts which appear when you start moving a window. These allow you to quickly move a window to the opposite screen, pin an app to the screenpad shortcuts to easily open later, or make the app go full screen over both screens. Otherwise there’s an arrow icon you can press to bring up all the screenpad options. From in here, you can set program shortcuts, change brightness, swap windows between the two screens, show the apps currently on the bottom screen, and optionally disable the keyboard which may be useful for resting your palm on the keyboard to draw.
Game support will vary, by default running a game in full screen mode won’t let you easily move the mouse into the second screen so you’ll need to use something else like borderless mode, otherwise clicking out of the window will be similar to an alt tab. Basically like I mentioned in the ZenBook Pro Duo review, if the game doesn’t let you have separate Windows then it might look weird just setting it to use both screens. Somes games like dying light 2 will apparently have support for it, but I don’t have that currently, otherwise your best bet is to use the second screen for other apps like chat.
Other workloads like streaming would also see a benefit as you can just see more things at once with a game taking up the main display. Outside of gaming, for things like video editing software you can arrange it quite nicely.
The resolution of the screenpad is quite high, however by default it runs lower so that it properly aligns with the top screen in Windows, but this would be less of an issue if you got the 4K screen option. I’ve tested the screens with the Spyder 5, and for the main panel got 98% of sRGB, 76% of AdobeRGB and DCI-P3, and 70% of NTSC.
The results for the screenpad were actually a little better in terms of colour gamut. The main panel got to 282 nits at 100% brightness, so not quite the 300 or so I’d like to see but not too far off meanwhile the bottom screen was brighter. The optional 4K screen apparently has 100% of AdobeRGB, so could be worth considering for creators.
The main panel has overdrive enabled by default, and I measured a 3.8ms grey-to-grey response time and it’s one of the better results when we look at how it compares against other laptops. ASUS do give us the option of disabling overdrive, which removes overshoot and undershoot, though this boosts the response time up to 7.2ms. Not that I expect anyone to do serious gaming on the smaller second screen, but we’re looking at a 19ms response time there. Now I did see some strange behaviour with overdrive enabled in optimus mode, many of the transitions were the same as having overdrive diabled. Basically it seemed like overdrive was only randomly working. I think this is a bug which will hopefully be fixed, but using overdrive mode with optimus disabled worked fine, and this is how you’d want to play for best performance anyway.
When looking for backlight bleed in this worst case it looked a bit patchy, but I never noticed this during normal use, though it will vary between panels. That’s a lot of information on the screens, let’s check out the rest. The lid has a clean metal finish with mirrored ROG logo. The interior is also metal around the keyboard, and overall the build quality feels quite decent, no sharp corners or edges anywhere. The weight is listed at 2.4kg, though mine was 2.5kg. With the 240 watt power brick and cables for charging included we’re looking at almost 3.3kg or 7.2lb.
The Duo 15 isn’t too big for a 15 inch gaming laptop, especially considering the specs that it’s packing inside. We’re looking at 9mm screen bezels on the sides, though the bottom chin is larger. There was some screen flex when intentionally pushing it, but it seemed minor and was never noticeable during normal use.
The screenpad was quite sturdy, I tried pushing down harder than you ever normally would and it was quite solid towards the edges, just a little flex in the center, which makes sense as the metal poles holding it up are out towards the edges. No problems opening it up with one finger, it did feel more back heavy but stable on my lap.
Like some other recent laptops from ASUS, there’s no camera built in. Although there’s no camera, it does still have microphones. In order to have the second screen, the keyboard is right down the front of the machine. ASUS have done this with other Zephyrus laptops in the past, and I think it’s fine so long as you have the desk space as you need to put the machine back a bit further to type normally, though doing so does mean the screen is a bit further away too.
It comes with an optional wrist rest as well. If you use it on your lap, it can feel a bit awkward unless you push it further back, otherwise you end up needing to hold your arms too far back to type.
The chiclet keyboard has per key RGB backlighting which unfortunately does not illuminate everything, the function keys are only partially lit which I did find annoying at times. There are three levels of key brightness which can either be adjusted with the function and arrow keys, or through the included Aura Creator software. I didn’t have any issues typing with it, it’s got 1.4mm of key travel.
Due to the keyboard placement, the precision touchpad has been crammed over to the right. You can hold the top left corner to active numpad mode, but unfortunately unlike other laptops from ASUS, in this mode you’re not able to use it as a touchpad until you disable it. As it doesn’t physically press down, there are instead two left and right click buttons underneath, and after some use you do get used to it, but I’d definitely stick to a mouse where possible.
The buttons above the touchpad from left to right are shortcuts to open the ASUS Armour crate software to manage the system, a button to turn the bottom screen on or off, a button to turn the arrow keys into page up/down/home/end keys, and the power button. Fingerprints show up on the lid but aren’t super obvious, however they were a little hard to clean with a microfiber cloth. Inside we only really see them on the touchscreen, but that was easy to clean.
On the left from the back there’s an air exhaust vent, then closer to the front the power input, and 3.5mm mic and headphone jacks. I didn’t have an issue with the power cable being closer to the front, it didn’t block any I/O or vents. On the right from the front we’ve got two USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port with DisplayPort 1.4 and Thunderbolt 3 support, followed by another air exhaust. The back has more air exhausts towards the corners, then from left to right, gigabit ethernet facing the preferred way, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port, and HDMI 2.0b output. The front is clean and just has a groove for getting your finger into.
I confirmed that both the HDMI and Type-C DisplayPort outputs were connected directly to the Nvidia graphics, which makes sense given we can disable Optimus anyway. Underneath there are some air intake vents above the fans towards the back. I also noticed that the rear feet were a bit taller when compared to others, so that should help airflow.
Getting inside was easy, you remove 14 TR5 screws of same length, then there’s a single phillips head screw down the front right which does not remove and props the base panel up. Inside we’ve got the battery down the bottom and two M.2 slots next to that, WiFi 6 is soldered and cannot be upgraded. There’s 16gb of memory soldered to the motherboard too, but as long as you have a stick installed in the single slot like I have here, it will run in dual channel. You can install a 32gb stick for a total of 48gb. Interestingly this is the first Intel 10th gen laptop I’ve tested that runs the memory at DDR4-3200 speed.
The two four watt speakers are found towards the front to the left and right. They sounded ok with a little bass, nothing impressive, but they sounded way louder to me in person than what I was measuring at maximum, and the latencymon results were looking good.
The Duo 15 is powered by a 90Wh battery. When you unplug, the screen fill briefly go black while it automatically changes the refresh rate from 300Hz down to 60Hz, which will help improve battery life. I’ve tested with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled and RGB lighting off. I’ve tested a few different configurations, with and without optimus, and with and without the second screen. As you’d expect, the battery drains quicker with both screens in use, or far quicker without optimus.
Here’s how it stacks up when compared to other laptops and I’m comparing with both screens on as that’s likely how people buying this machine will probably use it. The Duo 15 also supports Type-C charging, so you can use a smaller power source or battery when travelling instead of the larger and heavier 240 watt brick, just don’t expect full performance in resource heavy workloads.
Let’s check out thermals next. The Armoury Crate software lets you select between different performance modes, which from lowest to highest are silent, performance and turbo. There’s also manual mode which is required if you want to set the fans to maximum speed, and it also applies a GPU overclock too. Any time I’ve tested in manual mode, I’m using full fan speed. As my model has an unlocked HK processor, undervolting is possible.
Thermals were tested with a 21 degree Celsius ambient room temperature. Idle results down the bottom were ok. Worst case stress tests were done with the Aida64 CPU stress test with CPU only checked and the Heaven benchmark at the same time, while gaming was done with Watch Dogs 2. The temperatures were actually very good given the specs at stock and remained under 90 degrees. I only saw thermal throttling on the CPU at 95 degrees if we manually modify the power limit to get some extra performance, so these worst case results don’t represent out of the box behaviour, consider them more inline with an enthusiast modification.
Looking at the clock speeds though we get quite a nice boost to processor performance by raising that power limit, so you’ve got the choice of running hotter for more performance, or running a bit slower to maintain a cooler machine. It’s good to have options as it will always be a trade off between temperatures and performance.
The decent temperatures are clearly a result of the 45 watt power limit to the processor when under combined CPU plus GPU load, but again we can boost that. The GPU runs at 90 watts in these combined workloads, but in a GPU heavy test with the CPU idle it can boost up to 100 watts thanks to dynamic boost, more on that later.
If we look at CPU only performance with the GPU idle though the 45 watt cap only exists in the weakest silent mode, it would double in turbo mode which is great to see as too many laptops cap this lower. This results in a 4GHz speed being hit in this stress test over all 8 cores and as expected more power does equal more heat. Here’s how the Duo 15 performs in Cinebench so some pretty decent results owing to the higher power limits in turbo and manual modes.
When we look at how it compares against other laptops although it is the best score I’ve seen from a 10980HK so far, it’s worth noting the far cheaper Eluktronics RP-15 with Ryzen 7 4800H is beating it in multicore. External temperatures don’t get hot, just a bit warm towards the back of the keyboard.
The screen doesn’t really heat up as it’s elevated above the heat generating components, plus cool air is pulled in behind it.
The fans were just audible at idle, though it did get quite loud at max settings, but at least there are options with some level of user control in manual mode. Silent and performance modes were on the quieter sides while still allowing for decent performance in games, however in silent mode I did find the bottom of the machine would get fairly hot as a result of the quieter fan speeds, so you’ll definitely want to use it on a desk if you plan on using this option.
Let’s also take a look at how the Duo 15 compares with other laptops in games. I’ve tested with manual mode and optimus disabled for best results.
In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the Zephyrus highlighted in red. It’s giving one of the best results I’ve seen in this game, only coming in behind the much higher wattage 2080 Super Max-P in the MSI GE75, though the difference isn’t too major in a practical sense, and the 1% low was actually better with the Duo 15.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. This time the Duo 15 was performing the best out of this selection of laptops, it would only get beaten by much thicker machines with the 9900K, so another good result.
In Shadow of the Tomb Raider the Duo 15 is again doing much better compared to other laptops. It’s interesting that it’s beating the higher wattage 150 watt 2080 Super in the GE75 just below it, though the Duo 15 does have faster memory and the option of disabling optimus.
If you’re after more gaming benchmarks check out review where I’ve tested 21 games on ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15.
By default, the Duo 15 has Nvidia’s Max-Q Dynamic Boost enabled, which boosts the power limit of the 2080 Super graphics higher when the CPU isn’t as active, allowing for increased performance in GPU heavy workloads, such as gaming.
All testing in this reveiw has been done with this enabled, but here’s what we’re looking at in a game with it on in the purple bars, and off in the red bars. At most setting levels it seems to be having a positive effect, but let me know if you want to see a big game comparison between these modes.
Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike, Timespy and Port Royal from 3DMark. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export video at 4K, and the Duo 15 with these specs was one of the fastest I’ve tested. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark which also accounts for things like live playback rather than just export times, and again the Duo 15 was one of the better options. In Adobe Photoshop now the Duo 15 is on top, scoring the best in this test out of all machines tested. As a test that prefers CPU performance, it makes sense as the i9 is able to run with a 90 watt PL1 in CPU only workloads, which is higher than others I’ve tested at stock.
It was scoring nicely in the Puget Systems DaVinci Resolve test too. I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads. I’ve used the OpenVR benchmark to test the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, and due to the high GPU power we’re again seeing one of the better results definitely no problems running VR here.
I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the storage, and the 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD was performing quite well. In the US we’re looking at $3000 USD for the lower specced model with i7 and 2070 graphics, or $3600 for the specs I’ve tested here, granted this one seems to have a 4K screen instead. Here in Australia we’re looking at around $6000 AUD for the same specs I’ve tested here, or $5200 AUD for the lower specced model, so definitely quite an expensive gaming laptop.
Buy ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 on BestBuy
Alright with all of that in mind, let’s conclude by summarising the good and bad aspects of the ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 gaming laptop to help you decide if it’s worth it. There’s no doubt that the Duo 15 has a unique design, while ASUS have done dual screened laptops in the past I believe this is the first one that raises the bottom screen, and as a result this custom design definitely has a price premium attached.
You could likely save money on a cheaper laptop and just connect an external screen which is worth a couple hundred dollars, though that would take more space and is an extra part to take with you. I think it really comes down to how much you’ll benefit by having the second screen as part of the same machine. I also want to see more game support to be able to use both screens well in games themselves, yeah it’s still cool to show other things like chat or OBS while playing, but to have more games natively support it would be a huge step forward for this soft of form factor.
I believe ASUS are working with game developers to make this happen in some titles, so we’ll have to wait and see. Second screen aside, at stock the machine doesn’t run hot and the performance is excellent, though there are a few trade offs. These included soldered WiFi, 16gb of soldered memory, no camera, and the keyboard and touchpad placement.
It’s definitely an interesting design, but yeah it just depends how much you’ll benefit from the addition of the second touchscreen and how important those other aspects are to you, and of course how much you’re willing to spend, because this thing is not cheap. Let me know what you thought about the ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 gaming laptop down in the comments.