In this article, we’re taking a detailed look at the 2020 ROG Zephyrus Duo GX550 from ASUS, their new top-of-the-line performance 15-inch ultraportable.
ROG laptops are among the most popular gaming and performance notebooks in their segments, and this series builds on Asus’s prior experience with the Zephyrus S ultraportable series.
The major novelty is the addition of a secondary screen, something Asus previously implemented on their Zenbook Duo notebooks, but this time the screen is angled towards the user, for better viewing angles, functionality and thermal management, as well as backed up by pretty much the most powerful hardware platform currently available in a portable form-factor.
Our configuration is one of those top-tier variants, built on an Intel Core i9-10980HK processor and Nvidia RTX 2080 Super graphics, and paired with a 4K main display with 100% AdobeRGB coverage. Asus also offers a 300 Hz FHD screen choice for this laptop, but the rich 4K panel might be the more attractive here, as the Zephyrus Duo is not primarily a gaming laptop, but rather a powerful workstation with beefy specs and two screens.
We’ve spent the last few weeks with two Zephyrus Duo GX550 samples and gathered out thoughts down below, with the positives and the quirks that you should be aware of before spending a small fortune on this computer (currently listed at between 3000 to 4000 USD between configurations).
Specs sheet as reviewed – Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550
|Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550LXS|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 3840 x 2160 px, IPS, 60 Hz, non-touch, matte, 100% AdobeRGB, Pantone validated – AU Optronics B156ZAN03.1 panel|
secondary 14-inch, 3840 x 1100 px, IPS, non-glare, touch
|Processor||Intel Comet Lake Core i9-10980HK, 8C/16T|
|Video||Intel UHD and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 8GB (80-105W Max-Q, Overclocked, GeForce 445.87) – Optimus/GSync modes|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (16 GB soldered, 1x DIMM – up to 48 GB)|
|Storage||2 TB PCIe SSD (2x 1GB Samsung PM981, in RAID0)|
|Connectivity||Wireless 6 AX, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN|
|IO||2x USB-A 3.2 gen1, 1x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, DP 1.4 and PowerDelivery 3.0, HDMI 2.0b, LAN, separated mic&earphone, Lock|
|Battery||90 Wh, 240 W brick, USB-C charging up to 100W|
|Size||360 mm or 14.17” (w) x 268 mm or 10.55 (d) x 21 mm or .82” (h)|
|Weight||5.3 lbs (2.4 kg), .78 kg (1.72 lbs) power brick and cables, US version|
|Extras||per-key RGB keyboard, 14″ ScreenPad Plus, no webcam|
Our units are early samples offered by Asus for this review, and they performed much as I would expect from the final retail models.
Retail configurations might get different amounts of memory and storage, but for the most part, you’ll get two different 2020 Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 versions:
- the Zephyrus Duo GX550LXS reviewed here, with either a Core i7-10875H or Core i9-10980HK processor and RTX 2080 Super (90W+) graphics, and either 300 Hz FHD or UHD screen;
- the Zephyrus Duo GX550LWS variant, with a Core i7-10875H processor and RTX 2070 Super (90W+) graphics, and the same screen options.
Design and exterior
As you figured out by now, the Zephyrus Duo employs the same sort of reversed design we’ve previously seen on the ZenBook Duo and Zephyrus S GX531, with a bottom positioned keyboard, a small clickpad at the right, and the top reserved for the hardware and in this case, an extra display.
The secondary screen mechanically lifts up when you open the main screen, and ends up in a fixed position, at a roughly 15 degrees incline towards the front.
There’s no way to manually adjust this angle, it’s fixed and the whole mechanism works smoothly. The materials integrated into this mechanism seem fairly sturdy, but I’d be careful not to press too heavily on this secondary screen or catch anything between it and the main chassis when closing the laptop’s main screen, such as the power cord or other cables. It’s not going to break the system, it’s not fragile by any means, but I’d still advise extra care.
As for this secondary screen’s functionality, aside from the extra benefit of having an extra screen to display content on, that inclination makes it more usable than the standard flat screen on the ZenBooks. However, it’s still not steep enough and you’ll still experience the kind of visibility and content-shifting issues you can expect when looking at a display from a sharp bottom angle. Even with an IPS panel turned all the way to its maximum brightness, the images still appear a bit washed out and darker when watched from the regular use position, and I still had to pull myself over the laptop in order to better understand what was displayed on this screen.
It also took me some time to get used to the fact that this is a touchscreen, while the main display is not, and I found myself poking at that main screen time and about.
That gap beneath the secondary screen hides intake grills. Two large capacity fans draw fresh air from the top and the bottom, and blow it out through the radiators at the back and on each side. Compared to the other Zephyrus models, Asus also added taller rubber feet at the back of this laptop, in order to further improve the airflow underneath. That’s a smart design addition.
Now that we covered this secondary display, let’s move on to the other design and build aspects that you should be aware of.
Much like the entire Zephryus lineup, this is built very well. Magnesium alloys are used for the interior and D-panel, with a matte aluminum lid-cover, and everything feels strong and excellent crafted, with almost no flex in the keyboard deck or the lid and no loose ends or joints. Furthermore, unlike the Zephyrus S15, this Zephyrus Duo is available in a dark-gray color, which does a much better job at hiding smudges and fingerprints.
At the same time, the Duo is larger, thicker, and heavier than the other 15-inch Zephyrus models, though, and that was expected with the extra screen and the larger battery inside. Still, it’s something to consider if you plan to carry this around everyday, and here’s how it looks next to the more portable Zephyrus M15.
On to the more practical sides, this laptop sits firmly anchored on a desk, thanks to some large and grippy rubber feet on the bottom. Asus also blunted the edges and corners around the keyboard, making for a comfortable daily experience.
The main screen is held in place by two hinges and they allow smooth one-hand operation. It goes back to about 145 degrees, which is fine for desk use, but somewhat limiting in more cramped spaces.
These aside, the status LEDs are still placed beneath the main display, but hidden behind the ScreenPad, so invisible with regular use. There’s also no internal camera or any biometrics, and for some reason, the power-key is brightly lit by an always-on red LED, annoying when watching a movie in the dark.
The IO includes most of the required ports, lined around the back and the edges. A card reader would have been welcomed on this sort of a laptop, and I’m not that happy with the PSU still implemented on the left edge, even if I understand the challenges of pulling the charging cables around the hot thermal module. Still, that’s something more and more OEMs are offering these days, and would have been appreciated here as well.
Keyboard and trackpad
Much like all the other laptops with this sort of down-shifted keyboard design, the Zephyrus Duo is only something you will be able to comfortably use on a spacious desk, due to the lack of an arm-rest. Asus includes a rubber arm-rest accessory for desk use, but it feels somewhat cheap and doesn’t attach to the laptop magnetically, as I would have expected, so I haven’t used much it during my type with the laptop.
Now, typing on the Zephyrus Duo feels much like typing on a low-profile desktop keyboard, and it took me some time to get used to. The implementation is mostly similar to the keyboard on the Zephyrus S15, with fairly stiff keys that require a firm and deep press to actuate properly. I expect most of you to get along with it well, although it’s not my favorite among the Zephyrus implementations, and to me not as fast or as accurate as the keyboards on the Zephyrus M15 or G14. It is quiet, though.
As a side note, with the clickpad on the left side, this lacks dedicated PgUp/PgDn/Home/End keys. However, even if that’s not physically indicated in any way, Asus added those as secondary functions for the Arrows keys, but you need to first activate that mode by pressing the key right next to the Power Button key. There is also NumPad functionally baked into the touchpad, if that’s of any use to you.
The RGB lights with per-key control are bright and evenly lit, plus no light creeps from beneath the keycaps with this implementation. However, the F1-F12 writing on the top row of keys is not backlit, making it difficult to find the right one in the dark.
The clickpad hasn’t changed from the Zephyrus S GX531. It’s small and narrow and pushed to the right side of the keyboard. Surprisingly, it feels very natural over there, although you will have to move your right hand out from the keyboard to get to it, much like with a regular computer mouse.
This is made out of glass and gets precision drivers, so it feels nice to the touch, tracks well, and handles gestures smoothly. However, it’s very narrow, and moving the cursor around requires a lot of finger gymnastics. Something you can perform with a single swipe on a regularly sized clickpad is going to require two or three swipes here, or would force you to increase the sensitivity to over-responsive levels. That aside, this still also occasionally misses light taps, but at least the implemented physical clicks are smooth and silent .
In conclusion, while this sort of a clickpad is usable once you get used to it, you’ll most likely want to hook up a proper mouse with this laptop.
Finally, I also add that there are no kinds of biometrics on the Zephyrus Duo.
The 2020 Zephyrus Duo is available with two main screen options, either a FHD 300 Hz 3ms IPS panel with 100% sRGB coverage, an ideal option for those who have gaming high on their list of priorities, or a UHD 60 Hz IPS panel with 100% AdobeRGB color coverage, the more capable choice for professionals that require a color-accurate display.
Dual Optimus/GSync modes are available for both panel options in Armoury Crate, with a restart required in between.
Our review unit gets the latter screen option, the high-resolution panel with 100% AdobeRGB color coverage, an option targeted at creators and professionals, and the same that Asus puts on the Zephyrus M15 and StudioBook W500 mobile workstation.
The 300Hz panel, on the other hand, is the same one we’ve tested on the Zephyrus S15 gaming ultraportable in this detailed article. It’s dimmer and suffers from potential light-bleeding issues, among others.
The UHD panel is sharper and bright enough for most conditions, at above 400-nits of brightness, doesn’t suffer from major light bleeding or uniformity issues, and is well suited for color-accurate work. Asus throws in a Pantone calibration out of the box, which is pretty much standard these days on higher-tier laptops, but I’d still recommend to further calibrate this yourselves.
Here’s what we got on our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO31EB (B156ZAN03.1);
- Coverage: 99.9% sRGB, 99.5% AdobeRGB, 87.2% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.30;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 414.24 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 47.78 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1569:1;
- White point: 7300 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.26 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
- Response: ~-ms GtG.
Both our test unit required further color calibration. The calibration run addresses the WhitePoint and Gamma imbalances, with a slightly 5% drop in maximum brightness. Once that’s done, the panel shows good brightness uniformity, but with some color imbalances towards the sides on both units, the kind we haven’t experienced on this exact same panel on the Zephyrus M15. I’d advise you to check for this sort of issues on your unit if you plan to use it for color-accurate work, and ask for a replacement if not within parameters.
Aside from the main display, the Zephyrus Duo also implements that secondary ScreenPad, which pretty much acts as a second display in Windows. This is half-size 21:9 UHD screen, with an IPS 3840 x 1100 px IPS panel and close to 100% sRGB color coverage. Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: BOE BOE085F ( NV126B5M-N41);
- Coverage: 94% sRGB, 68% AdobeRGB, 71% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.01;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 353.53 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 13.45 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 972:1;
- White point: 6500 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.36 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
This secondary ScreenPad is better calibrated out of the box, but there’s still room to improve the default Gamma. However, color-accuracy is not going to be as important on this side panel, which you’ll primarily use to offload apps and tasks from the main screen.
Hardware and performance
Our test models are top-specced configurations of the Asus ROG Zephyrus 15 Duo GX550, in the GX550LXS variants with an Intel Core i9-10980HK processor, 32 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, 2 TB of storage, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 2080 Super dGPU and the Intel UHD within the Intel platform.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review units are early-production models provided by Asus, with the software available as of late-June 2020 (BIOS 302, Armoury Crate 2.7.10, GeForce Game Ready 446.14 drivers). Based on our findings and experience, these performed on par with what you should expect from the retail models. We ran all our performance tests on the Discrete mode in Armory Crate, which disables and iGPU and routes the video signal straight through the Nvidia GPU.
Spec-wise, the 2020 Zephyrus Duo 15 model gets the unlocked 8Core Intel Comet Lake i9-10980HK processor, but the 8Core i7-10875H is also an option on this chassis.
As for the GPU, what we have here is an Nvidia 2080 Super in a Max-Q implementation, with 60 to 105 W TDP limits between the performance modes, the same we’ve also tested on the Zephyrus S15 ultraportable chassis.
The updated Intel platform supports 3200 MHz DDR4 memory. Our configuration gets 32 GB of RAM in dual-channel, with 16 GB soldered on the motherboard, and an extra 16 GB DIMM. This is accessible inside for upgrades, where you’ll also find two M.2 SSD slots (with RAID 0/1 support) and the WiFi chip. Our unit came with two fast Samsung PM981 SSDs in RAID0, but you might not get this sort of drives in the retails configurations, as Asus tends to put slower Intel/Kingston SSDs even in their top Zephyrus models.
Getting to the components is fairly easy, you just need to pop out the back cover, hold in place by a handful of Torx screws.
Specs aside, Asus offers four power profiles for the Zephyrus GX550:
- Silent – prioritizes lower fan-noise and reduces CPU/GPU speeds and power – GPU is limited to 60W;
- Performance – balanced profile with stock CPU/GPU settings – GPU limited to 80W;
- Turbo – High-Performance profile with increased CPU power allocation and overclocked GPU (90-105W, +100 MHz Core/+120 MHz Memory).
- Manual – Same as Turbo, but allows to manually create fan curves for the CPU and GPU based on temperature thresholds, as well as further overclock the GPU.
Turbo/Manual are only available with the laptop plugged-in and are meant for gaming and other demanding loads. Performance is a jack-of-all-trades and what I’d recommend for daily multitasking and casual gaming, while Silent is great for video and light-use on battery.
Further GPU overclocking is possible on Manual, but don’t expect much, as the chip is already considerably overclocked on the Turbo mode.
This Zephyrus Duo is not just a performance laptop, it can also handle everyday multitasking, browsing, and video, while running quietly and coolly, especially on the Silent profile. You’ll want to switch over to the Hybrid mode when using this unplugged from the wall, to maximize runtimes.
On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance in taxing 100% tasks, and we do that by running Cinebench R15 for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
On stock Turbo settings, the i9 processor stabilizes at around 80W after a few runs, which translates in frequencies of 3.6+ GHz and temperatures of 80+ C, as well as scores of ~1600 points, with fans at around 46-47 dB at head-level. High thermals are the limiting factor here.
Our unit came with XTU support and a default +15 mV applied overvolt. We were able to stably reduce the voltage to -80 mV, and we reran the test. The CPU runs at slightly higher clocks in this case, returning 5-8% higher scores, but the performance is once more limited by the high thermals.
Dropping over to the default Performance profile limits the CPU at 70+W, with quieter fans at 42-43 dB. The Silent profile further limits the processor at 45+ W and pushes the fans under 40 dB.
Our sample performed erratically on battery power, with the CPU fluctuating between 60W and 8W TDPs. Based on our experience with other Zephyrus laptops, I’d expect the CPU to be constantly limited at 35-45W in this mode on the retails units.
For comparison, the i9 we tested in the ROG Scar 15 runs at similar power limits, but lower temperatures and higher clocks.
That aside, the i7-10875H CPU that we’ve tested in the ROG Scar 17 and Zephyrus S15 runs at 70+W on Turbo, with a slight drop in performance compared to the i9 (of within 5%). Undervolting is only possible through the BIOS option on the i7 configuration, and once undervolted, the i7 ended up scoring roughly 3-5% lower than the undervolted i9 in our Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 sample, in this test.
We’ve thrown in a few other i7-10875H implementations down below, as well as some of the AMD Ryzen 4000 platforms on the Asus Zephyrus G lineup, which match the 8Core Intel i7 in performance at pretty much half the power requirements.
We then went ahead and further verified our findings with the longer Cinebench R20 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95 test. Thermals are still the limiting factor in Cinebench R20, and the TDP drops to around 77W in this longer test.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it without a problem. Luxmark 3.1 fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time. The CPU stabilizes at around 45W on the Turbo profile, with the GPU running at around 90W.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on the stock Turbo profile in Armoury Crate.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20365 (Graphics – 23553, Physics – 21922, Combined – 9599);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 5462;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9008 (Graphics – 8951, CPU – 9348);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: Read: 45189 MB/s, Read: 46533 MB/s, Latency: 75.6 ns;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 5702;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 17632;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 39.68 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 6309 (CPU mark: 19693, 3D Graphics Mark: 14214, Disk Mark: 26129);
- PCMark 10: 5538 (Essentials –9511, Productivity – 8915, Digital Content Creation – 5438);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5714, Multi-core: 32463;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1272, Multi-core: 8021;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1761 cb, CPU Single Core 200 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 4019 cb, CPU Single Core 477 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: -Pass 1 – 250.74 fps, Pass 2 – 104.28 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 35.54 s.
We also ran some tests on the Silent profile, if you’re interested in running demanding loads at low noise levels (<40 dB).
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 16044 (Graphics – 19177, Physics – 14890);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7273 (Graphics – 7402, CPU – 6621);
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 35.13 average fps;
- PCMark 10: 4861 (Essentials – 9012, Productivity – 7982, Digital Content Creation – 4334);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: -Single-Core: 972, Multi-core: 6884;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1404 cb, CPU Single Core 206 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2979 cb, CPU Single Core 468 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 32.75 s.
We’re looking at a roughly 20-30% decrease in both CPU and GPU performance, but significantly lower noise: up to 39 dB at head level, versus up to 49 dB on Turbo.
Finally, we reran some of the tests on the -80mV Undervolted Turbo profile. We haven’t encountered any crashes or stability issues on this profile.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 20842 (Graphics – 23572, Physics – 23537, Combined – 10217);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 9167 (Graphics – 9034, CPU – 10006);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4497;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 13050;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 39.45 average fps;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1269, Multi-core: 8222;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1909 cb, CPU Single Core 204 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 4348 cb, CPU Single Core 483 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 46.46 s.
Undervolting causes the CPU to run slightly cooler, which allows more headroom for the GPU, thus the small increases in GPU scores above.
As far as the GPU goes, it is already overclocked on the Turbo profile (+1oo MHz Core, +120 MHz Memory). Further overclocking might be possible, but don’t expect to gain much. Slightly undervolting the GPU in MSI Afterburner might be worth pursuing though.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, on the Turbo and Silent profiles:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 4m 20s (Silent), 3m 25s (Turbo), – (Turbo UV);
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 1m 3s (CUDA), 32s (Optix);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 13m 49s (Silent), 11m 12s (Turbo), – (Turbo UV);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 3m 10s (CUDA), 1m 47s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: 27455 – CPU Not properly Supported;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 169.37 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 143.15 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 169.78 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 18.83 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 202.46 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 57.21 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 97.3 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 21.04 (Turbo), – (Silent);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 85.68 (Turbo), – (Silent).
Now, as far as gaming goes on this laptop, we ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the default Turbo/Performance/Silent modes, on FHD (on the laptop’s display) and QHD (on external monitor) resolutions. Here’s what we got:
|Core i9-10980HK + RTX 2080 Super 90+W||FHD Turbo||FHD Turbo UV||FHD Performance||FHD Silent||QHD Turbo, external|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)||120 fps (90 fps – 1% low)||–||111 fps (88 fps – 1% low)||74 fps (62 fps – 1% low)||94 fps (65 fps – 1% low)|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON, DLSS OFF)||66 fps (51 fps – 1% low)||–||57 fps (42 fps – 1% low)||41 fps (31 fps – 1% low)||46 fps (36 fps – 1% low)|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)||121 fps (94 fps – 1% low)||116 fps (76 fps – 1% low)||108 fps (86 fps – 1% low)||94 fps (72 fps – 1% low)||91 fps (70 fps – 1% low)|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)||156 fps (112 fps – 1% low)||178 fps (118 fps – 1% low)||128 fps (90 fps – 1% low)||110 fps (74 fps – 1% low)||107 fps (81 fps – 1% low)|
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)||102 fps (75 fps – 1% low)||95 fps (66 fps – 1% low)||81 fps (60 fps – 1% low)||66 fps (49 fps – 1% low)||69 fps (54 fps – 1% low)|
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)||136 fps (70 fps – 1% low)||128 fps (65 fps – 1% low)||117 fps (69 fps – 1% low)||90 fps (53 fps – 1% low)||100 fps (59 fps – 1% low)|
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)||115 fps (77 fps – 1% low)||108 fps (68 fps – 1% low)||100 fps (54 fps – 1% low)||75 fps (56 fps – 1% low)||78 fps (55 fps – 1% low)|
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Ultra Preset)||113 fps (84 fps – 1% low)||169 fps (120 fps – 1% low)||99 fps (80 fps – 1% low)||96 fps (74 fps – 1% low)||76 fps (64 fps – 1% low)|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)||117 fps (82 fps – 1% low)||116 fps (69 fps – 1% low)||99 fps (72 fps – 1% low)||79 fps (57 fps – 1% low)||85 fps (62 fps – 1% low)|
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Witcher 3 on the stock Turbo profile.
Both the CPU and GPU run at fair temperatures for a portable laptop. The i9 CPU averages between 75 and 83 degrees in these titles, with the GPU running at around 75 C even in the titles that push it up to 105W. At the same time, the fans spin quieter than on other gaming ultraportables, at 46-47 dB at head level.
Raising the laptop’s back from the desk slightly influences these temperatures, allowing them to drop by 1-4 degrees between the tested titles. Undervolting the processor at -80 mV further positively impacts the CPU temperatures by a fair bit.
In all fairness, we have to mention that the CPU is capped at 45W in all these tested titles, so cannot run at its best, but that’s actually fine, as even at 45W this is more than powerful enough for these AAA modern titles.
If you’re after an even quieter laptop, you can switch over to the Performance mode, in which case the fans spin at around 42-44 dB at head-level. However, both the CPU and GPU are power-limited on this profile (35W for the CPU, 80W for the GPU), with a toll on performance, but also a positive impact on temperatures.
Finally, switching over to the Silent profile further quiets down the fans to sub 40 dB levels, but with an extra toll in performance and overall higher temperatures than on the Performance profile.
Gaming with the lid closed is somewhat possible on this laptop, but not recommended, as the thermal system is specifically designed or draw air from both the top and the bottom.
All in all, while other i9-10980HK implementations outscore this Zephyrus in CPU-heavy loads, this Zephyrus Duo is the best performing ultraportable we’ve tested so far in combined CPU+ GPU loads and games, and also a computer that runs within surprisingly good thermals and noise levels. At the same time, though, the exterior chassis heats up to uncomfortable levels on both on our review units, as you’ll find out in the next section.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The thermal module implemented on the 2020 ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 consists of two high-capacity fans, four radiators, and an ample array of heatpipes and thermal plates. As a novelty, Asus apply liquid-metal thermal compound on the CPU from the factory on their entire ROG 2020 lineup.
Here’s a round-up of our fan-noise measurements:
- Turbo – 46-47 dB with games (46 dB Armoury Crate), 45-46 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Performance – 42-44 dB with games, 41-42 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Silent – 39-40 dB with games, 39-40 dB with Cinebench loop test, 30-33 dB with Daily use.
And here’s what we measured in terms of chassis temperatures.
Despite the solid internal temperatures, this laptop’s metallic chassis heats-up a fair bit. We measured temperatures on the 50s in the middle of the keyboard, just under the Screenpad, but more importantly, both the WASD and arrows keys run in the mid to high 40s, which is uncomfortable with longer gaming sessions.
More annoyingly, the Performance profile returns the highest temperatures in our tests, and that’s such a pity since it’s otherwise the best balance of performance, noise, and internal temperatures.
Keep in mind we’ve ran our test in a controlled environment, with the AC set on 24 degrees C, thus this might run even hotter in a warmer environment.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Silent Profile, fans at 27-33 dB
*Gaming – Turbo – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Turbo Profile, fans at 46-47 dB
*Gaming – Performance – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Performance Profile, fans at 42-44 dB
*Gaming – Silent – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Silent Profile, fans at 39-40 dB
For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 through an Intel AX201 chip on these units, as well as Gigabit Lan. Our samples performed well, without drops or other issues.
As far as the speakers go, there’s a set of them firing through cuts on the lateral sides of the underbelly, and they’re about average. We measured maximum volumes of around 80-82 dB at head-level, so they get fairly loud and don’t distort at high volumes, but the quality isn’t amazing, so you’ll still want to hook up some proper headphones with this one.
Finally, there’s no internal camera on this laptop, but there’s a pair of microphones at the bottom of the screen. An external FHD webcam is bundled over here, but might not be included everywhere.
There’s a 90Wh battery inside this ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, so you can expect fair runtimes as long as you use the laptop on the Hybrid mode, with enables Optimus.
However, the 4K panel and especially the secondary ScreenPad take their toll, so I’d recommend deactivating the ScreenPad when looking to maximize runtimes.
Here’s what we got on our unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120-nits (50%) and the ScreenPad switched off:
- 33 W (~3- h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 15 W (~6+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 20 W (~4+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 55 W (~2- h of use) – browsing in Edge, Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
And here’s what happens when the ScreenPad is on and at 50% brightness:
- 22 W (~4+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 27 W (~3+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
These are some unexpected results. While the laptop ran fine with Youtube, it inexplicably required a lot more power for Netflix and browsing in general, and I’m pretty sure you can expect better from the retail models. Make sure to check other reviews as well.
Asus pairs the laptop with a fairly chunky 280W power-brick (for the i9/RTX 2080 configurations, or a more compact 230W for the others), which weighs .92 kilos with the included cables in this US version. USB-C charging is also possible here, and Asus also includes a 65W USB-C charger in my region, which you can use to power the laptop with casual activities.
Price and availability
The Zephyrus DUO GX550 series is available in most regions of the world as of late June 2020.
Over here in Europe we’re looking at a starting price of around 3300 EUR for the GX550LWS models with the i7 processor and RTX 2070 Super graphics, and 4000+ for the GX550LXS with the i9 processor and RTX 2080 Super graphics.
In the US, the i9 + RTX 2080 + 300 Hz 3ms screen model can be configured from $3499.
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region.
This Zephyrus Duo is an atypical and highly expensive laptop, and not the kind most will flock to buy. It’s what we call a Halo product, that showcase device that gathers the best an OEM can deliver at a given point.
Compared to Asus’s Zephyrus S15 lineup and the other RTX 2080 Super Max-Q ultraportables that we’ve tested so far, this returns better benchmarks and gaming results, while also keeping the internals at lower temperatures and running slightly quieter at full load. At the same time, though, this is larger and heavier than those ultraportables, and runs uncomfortably hot at case level. Most of the other designs use the fans to cool down the WASD and arrows regions of the keyboard, and that’s not possible here.
Furthermore, the addition of that secondary display sends the keyboard to the bottom and the clickpad to the right, to the point where this can only be a comfortable desk computer, and something that demands a connected mouse. And that’s not all. This sort of design with the lower placed keyboard also pushes the display further away from you, to the point where it feels like a smaller screen laptop.
In conclusion, while that secondary screen this laptop’s main selling point, it’s also its main culprit, spurring all these issues mentioned earlier. Even so, though, if a dual-screen laptop is a must for you, this is the one to get right now, and that’s why it earns our recommendation.
At the same time, though, if you can live with a standard powerful laptop with just a single screen and a standard format, your money are best spent elsewhere. Asus’s own ROG Scar 17 is an excellent full-size performer with even beefier specs, while the Zephyrus M15 is one of our favorite 15-inch performance ultraportables, but the Acer Predator Triton 500, the Razer Blade 15 and especially the updated 2020 Gigabyte Aero 15 should also be on your list. Check out our detailed reviews on the site, and head over to this dedicated article for more of our thoughts on the best gaming and performance laptops of the moment.
Anyway, that pretty much sums up my experience with the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo GX550LXS, but I’d love to hear your thought and feedback, so please get in touch in the comments section down below.
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