Last year we saw a number of companies testing the market with laptops with a double screen configuration, but no-one has gone as far as Asus with their ScreenPads, and now also their Duo machines. However, the two Duos that were initially introduced were for editing pictures and videos, and we're much more interested in seeing how the set-up performs from a gaming perspective. To that end, Asus has taken the underlying principals that defined the first Duo and put a gaming-oriented spin on things. Here is Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo.
First of all the price is not exactly a bargain. The 300Hz version costs £3000, and the 4K version is £4,145. Yikes. Nowadays you wouldn't buy 60Hz 4K if you could help it, but still - it's not cheap, that's for sure.
The design is anonymous expect from a central ROG logo, but it's not at all as heavy as you would think. In fact, it "only" weighs 2.4 kg, which is as much as the new Dell XPS 17. Sure, there is some extra cooling when opened, but the bottom has a significantly smaller intake of air than I expected. The hinges for the secondary screen are pretty solid, and the chassis of the computer seems robust.
You probably already know that this machine is called "Duo" because there is both a central, traditional panel, but this is accompanied by a secondary display on top of the keyboard. The real crowd-puller is a 13-degree slope on this additional screen - it is probably fine if you are over 2.2 metres, but it would have been great with a sharper angle on it. However, it comes with great functionality, and because of the fact that it has touch it provides you with a lot of options if you want to use it without moving the mouse. Additionally, there is a range of games like Fortnite, Dying Light 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends that already have full support, which lets you move some features down on the other screen. Despite the fact that it is 3840x110 pixels it did not really steal any resources from the main screen during our tests. Technically it's a 14.1" screen, although not a very high one.
Surprisingly enough, you quickly get used to having the extra screen, especially with a smaller laptop as it is wonderful to have some additional screen space, in particular if you have to check your mail, watch Gamereactor Live, or just have some notes ready. However, the price for this additional and very fine touch screen is rather high.
The 4K edition comes with an IPS panel, 100% Adobe RGB coverage, and yes, the colours are really nice because they are Pantone calibrated. If you want to play - after all, it is just a 15.6" edition - then there is 1080p, 300Hz with 3ms response time. Reasonable for a laptop, but personally I would probably connect it to an external screen instead, if possible. The 300Hz edition, however, still has 100% sRGB coverage and an "IPS level Panel". That does not match exactly with the specifications, because there it explicitly states that it's a Pantone calibrated IPS-panel. And yes, there is also G-Sync included in the price.
But what comes beside the additional screen?
Well, instead of thermal paste, liquid metal has been deployed, along with a 10th generation i9 10980HK and an RTX 2080 Super, as well as a 90Wh battery. However, what Asus' marketing forgets to mention is that it's a Max-Q card and therefore not a real RTX 2080 Super. Our test example was equipped with 32GB Samsung DDR4 3200Mhz RAM and 2TB NVMe in Raid-0. And, naturally, WIFI 6.
Moreover, the loudspeakers deserve praise. They are some of the best I have ever listened to. It never beats real loudspeakers or a pair of good headphones, but they are without a doubt significantly better than virtually everything else I've tested before. We are not really told what they consist of, besides that they are on 2x4 watt, and that the DAC is from ESS, so it is a chip from the Sabre series that almost every other high-end laptop makes use of.
The keyboard comes with a nice wrist support made of rubber - other companies need to copy that. The Chiclet keyboard is not exactly made for gaming, although there is full RGB lighting on each and every key, and a short 1.4mm trip between each of them. By the way, it emits various funny effects when in slumber mode. Points for that.
Unfortunately, the power cable sits on the side, and the connectors are placed on the opposite side and on the rear end. There is one USB-C 3.2 with Thunderbolt and two USB-A 3.2. The HDMI-input is a 2.0b-type, and then there is Ethernet, microphone and headphone input. The charger is an ordinary converter, and recharging is supported through the USB-C cable. Furthermore, the mousepad, as well as the additional screen, can be turned off via dedicated keys.
The cooling is their classic Active Aerodynamic System, but this time the additional air intake is located behind the extra screen instead of opening the whole bottom plate. It seems a bit odd since they are placed pretty far inside the system, and therefore pretty close to the back end of the screen. If they had moved them closer to the main screen they could have absorbed the air and possibly avoided pneumatic air resistance, but perhaps they do not absorb enough air to make it a problem.
And then again, because on Turbo setting, the system makes a lot of noise, 45 dB when on full power, and despite the fact that the CPU is 33 degrees on idle it reaches 97 degrees when on full power. That is a lot more than what AAS-cooled Asus computers normally reach. The GPU handles it better, 29 degrees on idle, and 75 degrees at its peak.
The battery time is around 3 hours and 15 minutes. It is probably possible to fiddle a bit with this, but two screens and such powerful hardware simply demands a lot of power.
Armoury Crate is the software that controls it all, and it's pretty neat, does what it needs to do, and is very gaming-oriented. All tests have been done on "turbo".
Time Spy Extreme: 4235
Time Spy: 9221
Port Royal: 5518
Fire Strike Ultra: 5583
Fire Strike Extreme: 10620
Fire Strike: 20427
Total War: Warhammer II
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Assassins Creed: Odessey
Ultra: 35fps - and then we sorta gave up.
The Division 2
Even with a really expensive laptop, 4K/60fps is still a long way off, but everything else looks really good. Like other 10th generation i9-based computers we have tested, we experienced serious problems with the cooling, and it will probably be a while before that problem is solved for this generation. And it is pretty expensive for 4K, really - content creation or not, the extra price for the screen will be too high for many of us, and that is a shame because the additional screen area is really something you miss when you return to an ordinary laptop afterwards.
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