The previous generation Zephyrus Duo 15 was an absolute banger. We got to play with it during Computex 2019 in Taiwan and it even garnered a respectful nod from MacBook nerds back in office. The 2020 refresh is pretty much the same machine with a few adjustments. All in good faith, but how you take that is up to you.
Because you see, the ErgoLift hinge from Asus has been slapped on to all their laptops. Top to bottom. Almost every capable machine from the Taiwanese brand comes with the ErgoLift hinge which uses the screen lid to lift the front half of the laptop slightly. It’s for better airflow for the machine, and to some, a respite from flat keyboards. That has now been booted, starting with the Duo 15 at hand. We’re looking at a rather mechanised way to lift the ScreenPad Plus. You know, touch bar on steroids? The only laptop with sensible dual screens for work and multitasking.
We spent a good month with this machine and it’s easily our favourite laptop this year. Want to know more? We can’t wait to tell you too!
What can we say about the design that hasn’t already been mentioned? The Zephyrus Duo is a thoroughbred ROG machine. The angular design and single line running diagonally on the lid? Check. Even its keyboard is very recognisable. Yet, when you open the laptop, the second screen peeps out to greet you like no other laptop does. Aesthetically it’s a safer choice, unlike the G14 that we reviewed a month ago. But the Duo 15 isn’t flashing its sparks for the take-it-anywhere geeks. A sophisticated machine like this demands a rightful place on your desk, only to be packed when absolutely necessary. It’s 2.4kgs too, so you better work out in the lockdown if you wish to carry this around.
The Screen Pad Plus now lifts up and greets your peepers without you having to crane over for a look. It’s a hinge mechanism that lifts as you open the screen and sits back down when it's time to pack up. Space under is what might raise your eyebrows. It will definitely collect dust. More so now because Asus got greedy and placed two air-sucking grills underneath it. So it not only lifts for your comfort, but also allows air to pass through and into the machine for better cooling? Does it work? Absolutely.
If you fling a Cheetos between the slab of happiness and its air-hungry vents, the thing won’t shut and it will remind you that you should treat it better. What person douses nearly three lakhs on a gaming machine and then flings a Cheetos on it? You sir. Don’t do it. Not advisable and certainly not something the Duo 15 could handle. If you trap your cables or something then that’s perfectly fine. It definitely isn’t as punishing. The lid won’t shut and you’ll be reminded of your negligence. Trust us, we tried it.
Usually, all laptops have one screen per review but since we’re not talking about some machine that goes folding for convenience, we’ll make exceptions here. We’ll tell you all about the Asus ROG and its dual-screen capabilities. It ties in a lot to its performance so pay close attention.
The first and the main screen is FullHD with 300Hz refresh rate and that’s a lot of refreshing for a 15.6in but with the RTX 2070 Super running the game, it’s pretty solid at reaching those frames for competitive shooters. It’s got 3ms response time and G-Sync. We won’t advise picking this up for competitive shooters but if you’re a streamer there’s no better machine that kills two birds with one stone. You can have your game up top and the streaming party down below. The colour on this screen is Pantone Validated with 100% sRGB for designers.
The lower screen is a 14.1in touchscreen at 3840x1100 resolution. It acts as a separate screen on Windows. So you’re basically cramming a dual monitor setup into a single laptop chassis. And Asus was generous enough to sprinkle some life into this thing with the Screen Xpert software. Rather than relying on Windows and its ever-updating-but-always-breaking software updates. This really opens a new way of interacting with the laptop. You can drag and drop apps and even set profiles which can launch your desired work/game applications quickly. It even remembers where you placed them and arranges them exactly the way you want in a single click. I had two presets and it made getting into work/gaming after booting up a lot faster and easier.
The colour accuracy and contrast are not uniform though. Both the screens have different colour temperatures. The lower one is definitely a bit towards the warmer end. This could make the designing and colour work a bit tricky. Especially if one is looking to sketch on the lower screen using a digital pen.
The 15.6in display is a bit on the cooler side in comparison and it’s not the sharpest screen we’ve seen. The MacBook display still offers better colour and contrast. The G14 had a somewhat similar screen too. Albeit, if stringent colour correction isn’t what you’re going for then it's good enough.
The ScreenPad Plus opens a whole new way of working for video editors and professional gamers/streamers. We had the video timeline from Premiere Pro on the lower display which left a lot of breathing room on the main screen for other things. It’s something I really, really loved. And coming from the MacBook Pro, I can say with certainty that I enjoyed editing videos and multitasking on the Zephyrus Duo 15 more than any other laptop I’ve tested so far. It makes you fall in love with your work.
Games open with urgency. Spending less time on loading screens and jumping into games with speed is something we were expecting from this machine. The Intel i7 chip and RTX 2070 Super have performance numbers under their belt already but that 32GBs of RAM is an absolute belter. It makes sure that your dual-screen duties are carried with equal urgency and apps are never left begging for more juice.
Valorant runs at a cool 200+ FPS on the highest settings. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 hits a cool 40+ FPS on the highest settings as well. All that and it barely breaks a sweat. We even had Discord and other gaming software running in the background. But gaming is just what the ROG can do naturally, the real meat of the performance comes from its multitasking duties. Adobe Premiere Pro, InDesign and Photoshop can all run simultaneously. Swinging from one task to another is just easy. Google Chrome, iTunes and other chitty-chatty apps during work also swing into smooth gear without draining the battery too hard.
It’s still a power-hungry laptop. We got about two to three hours of work time squeezed from here and spoiler-alert, you’ll be tethered to the plug point. The 240W power adapter comes with a 16A plug which, by Indian standards, is the socket that’s required for your air conditioner. So we had to either wrestle with our Air Con socket or switch the cable to a 10A plug. Which by the way doesn’t hinder the performance of the laptop. We asked Asus ROG about this and they confirmed it.
You can even charge the laptop with a 65W Type-C charger but the battery percentage won’t increase or decrease. It will stay at a fixed number while you work. It’s just for travelling purposes and to make sure your work on-the-go doesn’t end up into a treasure hunt for a 16A socket.
Keyboard and software
Asus pushed the keyboard down to allow room for another display. It’s what we’ve seen before and like last time it's fine. You get a rubberised wrist rest like before but it’s not magnetic. It’s heavy and grippy enough to not move easily but when Valorant clutches get frenetic, this thing might slip a bit. Key travel and the matte finish on the keycaps is great too. Asus does the gaming keyboard on laptops better than any other brand I’ve seen so far and the Duo 15 is no exception in that case.
The touchpad is also pushed towards the right. It’s better ignored in my opinion and when you boot up the system, make sure to attach the Gladius II mouse before you go muting Cortana.
Asus’ Armoury Crate has come a long way in the last four years. It’s seen some bold aesthetic choices where they tried to make the thing look less like a 90s video game box art. It still retains the ROG charm. Lots of red and black, angular sliders and a bit of graphics thrown in as well. The main thing is that now they’ve used logos and icons across the software to help you find what you’re looking for and toggle it quickly. It works and I was able to understand it quickly. There’s not much of a learning curve and you can know everything about your machine at a single glance. We only wish it had the option to stream your games to your other non-windows devices like HP’s Omen Command Center lets you. Maybe next time?
All of the ROG peripherals that you get in the box sit nicely in one section and don’t require multiple apps and software. Everything is here in terms of software and even hardware.
In the box
On the surface, the price might seem a bit steep but it’s not just a laptop that you’re buying. This thing comes in a fat box, filled with all the necessary peripherals.
In the unit we tested you get a bag, mouse (Gladius II), a ROG gaming headset and a ROG Eye Clip Camera. The bag is nice and has plenty of space to put all of these things inside. The Gladius II mouse is something I have been personally using for a couple of years and it only stopped after two years of extensive gaming. Not the very best but enough to ergonomically get you through the day. The headsets too were a bit underwhelming for my taste. I have been using the JBL Quantum 600 for about two months now and they’re absolutely amazing for gaming. The ROG headsets sound simple and offer no extra value for bragging rights. They’re heavy and sound a bit mushy.
The webcam on the other hand is fantastic. It’s clean and comes with a mounting screw as well. We can see a lot of streamers using this to start off. Although, you might need adapters to start your journey…
Adapters you say?
On a gaming laptop that costs a limb and two?
Yes, that’s right.
We’re not kidding. This is the only chink in Duo 15’s armour. It’s not the thin selection of ports to be honest, it’s the placement of them. On the left side, where the port party takes place, ROG has given us only the power port and Audio in/out. On the right side, you get your USBs and other ports. Even Type-C, which can be used for adapters, is on the right side. The backside gets an ethernet port, an HDMI and a regular USB. We honestly wished the Type-C was at the back. Gaming on this will require you to push the cables in a straight line and away from the mouse pad. When we asked ROG about their love for left-hand people, they said the laptop is meant to be connected to a separate monitor and used as a desktop replacement. Which is very weird because this thing has two screens! One that lifts up all fancy. Why would you want to use another screen and even then, there should’ve been a better arrangement of ports here. Better yet, I will trade any of those products that come in the box for a port adapter.
Other than the odd port placement, the Zephyrus Duo 15 is a solid piece of machine. One that is made for video editors, DJs, and everyone who wants a dual monitor setup. This workhorse has the specs sorted out, shelled in modern and bold design too.
We really love this laptop. It’s the one machine we’d never want to send back to Asus had it not been for a professional work environment.
The Duo 15’s price is a bit troublesome. Reaching for a hefty amount of cash from your wallet is going to be a decision you might have to take with careful consideration but once you pick it up, there’s going to be a happy smile on your face every time you open the lid.
The Duo 15 is an exciting laptop and its premium build quality and rad design are going to make everyone else envious of you. The performance is up to match ROG standards as well. Oh, and it doesn’t heat up as much. A wee-bit loud but nothing like you wouldn’t expect from a gaming laptop firing on all cylinders. It’s whisper-quiet during Chrome and Netflix duties too.