Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 review: Two screens and a whole lot of speed

This tilting dual-screen gaming laptop packs liquid metal, Core i9-10980HK, and GeForce RTX 2080 Super

zephyrus 2
Gordon Mah Ung

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At a Glance

The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 is a dual-screen gaming laptop that’s learned a thing or two. It has a few predecessors, most recently the HP Omen X 2S 15 and Asus ZenBook Pro from 2019. But auxiliary screen sizes have been the limiting factor. The ZenBook Pro upped the ante with a much larger screen, for example, but it still lay flat, which made viewing angles a pain in the neck.

With the eye-catching—and blisteringly fast—ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550, Asus takes the same small-screen concept from the ZenBook Pro and uses a folding mechanism to tilt the screen up about 20 degrees as you open the lid. That tilt both increases visibility and allows for a more efficient cooling path through the laptop. Pretty slick. And pretty expensive ($3,699 from Asus.com). But being the first at your LAN party with a dual-display gaming laptop must be worth something.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best gaming laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them. 

zephyrus 8 Gordon Mah Ung

The ScreenPad Plus touchscreen tilts up about 20 degrees for easier readability and better cooling.

ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX5550 Specs

The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 is about medium-sized for a gaming laptop, with very few compromises in features. Here are the details: 

CPU: Intel 10th gen 8-core Core i9-10980HK with liquid metal thermal interface material

GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q

RAM: 32GB DDR4/3200 in dual-channel mode

Displays: 15.6-inch, UHD 4K 60Hz factory-calibrated 100 percent Adobe RGB panel with support for G-Sync and Optimus; 13.4-inch x 7.4-inch 1920x550 touch screen.

Storage: Two 1TB Samsung PM981 NVMe M.2 in RAID 0

Networking: WiFi 6, Realtek Gigabit ethernet

Size: 14.1 x 10.5 x 0.8 inches. 

Weight: Asus lists the laptop as 5.29 pounds, but our scale put it closer to 5.6 pounds, with another 2 pounds for the 240-watt power brick.

The best way to describe the fair assortment of ports is with photos. On the left you find a dedicated charging jack for the 240-watt power brick and two analog audio ports.

zephyrus left Gordon Mah Ung

The left side of the Zephyrus Duo is kinda bare

With the left side pretty bare, Asus fortunately makes good use of the back of the laptop by giving you Gigabit ethernet, USB-A, and full-size HDMI 2.0.

zephyrus back Gordon Mah Ung

Asus makes use of the back of the Zephyrus Duo to give you gigabit ethernet, USB-A and HDMI 2.0

The right side gives you two USB-A and Thunderbolt 3. We would have liked to see a card reader. The good news is the Thunderbolt 3 jack supports USB Power Delivery, so you can leave the chunky 240W brick at home and just use a USB-C charger for light-duty tasks.

zephyrus right Gordon Mah Ung

Right Type USB-A and a Thunderbolt 3 with support for USB Power Delivery.

Keyboard and trackpad

The per-key RGB keyboard is pretty typical of gaming laptops. The layout makes few compromises. As a gaming laptop, the space bar is wider on the left to accommodate those who hold their hands at extreme angles while gaming.

zephyrus keyboard Gordon Mah Ung

The trackpad is an offset variety. It takes some getting used to, but we understand because a gaming laptop should really be used with a mouse most of the time. A long tap on the upper left corner turns on a virtual ten-key feature, which could be useful for someone maybe practicing for the professional Microsoft Excel gaming scene

zephyrus webcam Gordon Mah Ung

In this spot you would normally see a webcam. 

No webcam. Really.

We have to mention the elephant in the room: no webcam. Again. This is the second ROG laptop we’ve seen without a webcam which, viewed in a Zoom video chat world, seems like the biggest head slap this side of Taipei. We suspect that when this laptop was sketched out a year or two ago, few thought anyone would care if the webcam went overboard. The shift to remote working has forced us all to care about this former afterthought.

zephyrus 7 Gordon Mah Ung

The ScreenPad Plus is like Apple’s Touch Bar, but actually useful.

Construction

We don’t typically get into the construction details weeds of a laptop, but the unique ROG Zephyrus Duo is worthy of it. For you upgraders, you can see in the image from Asus below two M.2 slots (both of which are populated in our RAID configuration) and a single SO-DIMM slot for memory. The second memory module fortunately isn’t soldered in, but it is on the other side of the motherboard, so any upgrades would require major disassembly. Those cut-outs on the bottom left and right are to make space for the tilt mechanism (more photos of that are below).

zephyrus guts Asus

If you look more closely at the picture above, you can also see the CPU, which looks a little bit like a baseball field from an airplane. The gray area that would be grass in this case is where Asus clamps a containment system to keep the advanced liquid metal thermal interface material face in place and prevent it from potentially shorting out the laptop.

If you look at the picture of the ROG Zephyrus Duo’s cooler, below, you can see the fence to contain the liquid metal.

zephyrus duo heatsink Asus

Why even take that risk over conventional thermal paste? If you think of the thermal interface material as the ketchup that mates the burger patty (CPU) with the bun (the cooler), Thermal Grizzly’s liquid metal compound is artisanal ketchup. Asus said its tests show about a 10-percent improvement in cooling over traditional thermal paste in laptops. Running cooler also means running quieter, and in our experience the ROG Zephyrus Duo is certainly quieter than most of the 10th-gen laptops we’ve seen with this much hardware, even when running hard.

Here’s a closer look at the “feet,” which are considerable bumps. That’s typically a good thing in a gaming laptop, as air flow is key to performance, but they’re also big because they’re hollow, to accommodate the hinge and tilt mechanisms.

zephyrus hump Gordon Mah Ung

The bumps in the bottom are hollow and accommodate the hinge and tilt mechanisms for the second screen.

Lest you think the tilting mechanism will break, Asus emphasizes that it’s a chunky piece of metal, which you can see below. It’s been designed to tilt the panel up to a fixed angle while letting you continue to adjust the primary display’s angle.

The secondary panel itself is built of an alloy rather than plastic to keep it rigid (the laptop’s body is a magnesium alloy). Finally, if you happen to get your mouse or power cable jammed under the second screen, Asus said it would take a considerable amount of force to break.

For kicks we put the laptop’s own power cord under one corner and attempted to close the lid. We stopped as we felt the cable’s resistance, and nothing broke or snapped. That doesn’t mean you can’t break it, but it’s not as delicate as you might think.

zephyrus duo hinge Asus

Is the second screen worth the hassle?

All this work Asus has put into the ROG Zephyrus Duo would be meaningless if it weren't worth the effort to have a second display. The primary display in our case is a 15.6-inch 60Hz 4K panel. It's factory-calibrated, G-Sync-certified, and can hit 100 percent of Adobe RGB. It's not particularly bright at a measured 300 nits. Asus offers this as a compromise for those who want to do content creation on the laptop. That's fine, but for a gaming laptop, we think the other option might be better: a 300Hz 1080p display.

The ScreenPad Plus is where the action is. If we wanted to monitor the GPU's thermals, the CPU's clock speed, or simply put a second document within eyeshot, having the second panel is, well, as great as having it on your desktop. 

The gaming experience isn't perfect, though. If you're in a game and touch the second screen to adjust something or scroll a window--or advance to the next YouTube video--Windows changes focus from the game, and you'll have to Alt-Tab to get back to the game. This is a shortcoming of Windows, not the ROG Zephyrus Duo. To prevent that from breaking your game experience, Asus added a button in the Armoury Crate application that lets you easily disable the touch experience.

Most of our multi-monitor experience is side-by-side. The bottom-and-top configuration took some getting used to. That may be our mousing habits though, as we tend to ride the bottom border of Windows like a guardrail. With the top-and-bottom experience, the cursor would just go to the second screen, and it would take us a few moments to find it again.

Asus' Armoury Crate and other touch apps first introduced with Zenbook Duo are very polished. We'd say this is likely the best multi-screen experience on a laptop today.

Keep reading for performance benchmarks.

At a Glance
  • The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 is a dual-screen laptop that gets it right. From the sturdy tilting mechanism to the strong performance, it's a great package , though it comes at a price.

    Pros

    • A tilt-out second screen!
    • Top-of-the-line performance

    Cons

    • Very expensive because of the second screen
    • Puzzling performance on low-intensity gaming
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