Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo SE GX551 Evaluation

The ROG Zephyrus Duo SE GX551 is one of the most innovative and ambitious laptops ever: brand new Nvidia and AMD technologies are used inside, including an ampere-powered RTX 3080 laptop GPU. On the outside there is a secondary touchscreen that offers additional functions for games and creative applications.

Innovation and ambition always come at a cost, however, and the fully loaded Asus Zephyrus Duo costs a whopping $ 3,699. This makes it one of the most expensive gaming notebooks on the market and around 1,000 US dollars more expensive than most conventional devices with RTX 3080 and weaker Intel processors.

While the RTX 3080 may be the most powerful laptop GPU Nvidia has ever made – and bears the name of the Barnstorming desktop card – there are differences between the desktop and laptop versions. The mobile GPU consists of the GA104 core used by the desktop RTX 3070, while the desktop version of the RTX 3080 uses the GA102 core. This difference means that the laptop GPU may not match the desktop product as expected.

Elsewhere, the ROG Zephyrus Duo includes a processor and features beyond what most people really need for gaming. This signals the intentions of this machine for creative and power user workloads.

The second screen also signals the duo's creative intent and can also play a huge role in gaming, although it is also the root of some of the duo's shortcomings.

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The Asus Zephyrus Duo contains some of the most powerful hardware in the laptop world, but is dominated by the ScreenPad Plus, a 14-inch IPS touchscreen with a resolution of 3840 x 1100 that is located in the base of the device. It has its own hinges that allow the ScreenPad to be raised at a 13-degree angle to the user – a clever move that improves viewing angles while also helping to cool the components underneath.

The ScreenPad is managed by an app called Asus Screen Xpert that lets you adjust the brightness, snap apps between the two displays, and connect to your smartphone. Screen Xpert can also create pre-configured groups of applications that can be automatically opened on the ScreenPad or the main display. It has a dock that can be customized with shortcuts and attached to any edge of the lower control panel.

Any app can be used on the ScreenPad, making it useful for all sorts of scenarios: you can dock Spotify, Discord, Skype, or any other software to focus on your games or work, and you can use Asus Armory Crate or GPU tweak applications for monitoring and changing clock speeds while gaming.

When working in creative applications, it is useful to place timelines or controls on the ScreenPad. There's also a great little app called Asus Control Center, which has dedicated dials, sliders, buttons, and other controls for key Adobe apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, and After Effects, so content creators can easily access popular settings. The only minor annoyance is the lack of an included pen.

The ScreenPad works with dedicated gaming apps. There is a ScreenPad app for Dying Light 2 and Overwolf apps can be used on the second display. These apps act as an extension for many popular games: you can get build recommendations and dashboards for League of Legends, analytics for DOTA 2, stats trackers for Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant and Warzone as well as clients for TeamSpeak, WhatsApp and YouTube and Xsplit GameCaster. They are welcome additions to add to the overall experience, although they focus more on esports games than single player titles, so esports fans and streamers can get the most of it.

The ScreenPad is located under the main display, a 15.6-inch IPS panel with 4K resolution, a refresh rate of 120 Hz with FreeSync and a response time of 3 ms. The 4K resolution is great for work and play as it makes everything clear and offers more screen space. The panel's excellent density of 282 ppi corresponds to that of the ScreenPad, so there are no scaling problems between the two panels.

The panel's brightness of 412 cd / m2 is powerful – light enough for indoor use and appropriate for outdoor use – and the measured contrast ratio of 1,144: 1 is solid, with appropriate depth and high vibrancy. The black point of 0.36 cd / m2 could have been a bit better – it would have provided more intensity in darker areas – but it's not a big problem, and games don't suffer from it.

The color temperature of 6,740KB is good, and the control panel renders 100% of the sRGB and Adobe RGB color gamuts, so it can reproduce whatever hue you need to work and play. The only minor problem here is the Delta E of 4.33. That's not terrible, but it's more good than great.

These are good results for an IPS display, and this panel is impressive and well balanced. The contrast, brightness, and range of headroom make games look vibrant and accurate – and the refresh rate and response time mean this is a massive gaming panel.

The ScreenPad's contrast level is the same as the main display, but the color accuracy is worse. That's not a problem – better accuracy is more important on the main display. Also note that the ScreenPad looks slightly spotty due to its touchscreen layer.

Features and design

The Asus dual-display setup has a lot going for it, but not everyone will find it useful, and the ScreenPad introduces some tradeoffs. For example, the keyboard and trackpad slide toward the front of the device.

The keyboard runs to the edges and the tight confines mean it hurts the layout: the left and cursor keys are small, the enter key is simple, and there is no number pad. The buttons are pressed a little closer together than on traditional laptops, and the individual RGB LEDs are spotty and a little faint.

The keys have an average travel of 1.4 mm and their typing action is only moderate. They're fast enough for mainstream gaming and good for typing, but their action is gentle rather than snappy, and more travel would have been welcome. Compared to many other gaming laptops that have sharper movement with more travel, the GX551 is particularly unsatisfactory for fast games.

Also note that the keyboard position means that there is no palm rest on this device. Asus includes a rubber wrist rest in the box, but it is small and cannot connect to the machine. There's one more thing to keep in mind: when you push the keyboard and trackpad forward, you may have to slide the laptop further away to keep the device at a comfortable distance, which can make things on the screen look smaller.

The trackpad is located on the right side of the front of the laptop. It's not great: Too narrow for a swipe to move the cursor across the entire screen, and with a couple of buttons that are too soft. A button in the corner turns the trackpad into a lighted number pad, and that could be a better use. If you're serious about work or gaming, plug in a mouse instead.

The Asus has good connectivity, but this is another area where innovative design can sometimes be an obstacle. On a positive note, the Zephyrus Duo has three full-size USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports. One of these is on the back next to the HDMI output and Gigabit Ethernet jack, making it easier to tidy up the cables.

However, the other two USB ports and its associated Type-C port are on the front right, which can be irritating if you're right-handed and using a mouse. This USB connector supports DisplayPort and power, but not Thunderbolt.

Similarly, the socket plugs in halfway up the left side of the machine, which is hardly discreet. The connectivity is rounded off by an audio jack and a microSD card slot. There is also no webcam or fingerprint reader.

There are other areas where the duo's design impresses. The Asus machine is only 21mm thick and weighs 5.5 pounds. The build quality is fantastic – the Zephyrus Duo is consistently robust and both screens move with a calming smoothness. It looks great too, with a dark, brushed aluminum body. It's smart, subtle, and attractive. Internal access is also possible as both NVMe slots are accessible. However, only one SO-DIMM slot can be used here – 16 GB of the GX551's memory is soldered.

The speakers are great too: The GX551 has two 4W speakers and two 2W tweeters and delivers loud, clear, and balanced audio with a surprising amount of bass.

performance

The laptop version of the RTX 3080 has 6,144 CUDA cores, base and boost speeds of 1110 MHz and 1545 MHz. This card is the more powerful version with 16GB of GDDR6 memory instead of 8GB – and the memory runs at the faster 14Gbps speed instead of the 12Gbps speed used in other configurations.As expected from an ampere GPU , there are 2nd generation ray tracing cores, 3rd generation tensor cores, two FP32 pipelines, and technologies like WhisperMode 2.0 and Dynamic Boost 2.0.

A Ryzen 9 5900HX is added to the high-end GPU. It's one of the best Zen 3 laptop chips from AMD with 8 cores / 16 threads alongside base and boost speeds of 3.3 GHz and 4.6 GHz. Other important specifications are 32 GB dual-channel DDR4 with 3,200 MHz and a RAID 0 array consisting of two 1 TB Samsung PM981 SSDs. The array offers 1.84TB of formatted space and is lightning fast with market-leading read and write speeds of 6961MB / s and 5,499MB / s, ideal for fast load times and fast content creation tools. However, the dependency on RAID 0 means that the array is striped rather than mirrored, so there is no redundancy.

The specification is rounded off by dual-band 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.1 and Gigabit Ethernet. This is great, although we're a little sad not to see 2.5Gbps or 10Gbps ethernet.

The ROG Zephyrus Duo SE GX551 we tested is the most expensive version available and is fully charged. Two other models are available for sale in the US: an RTX 3070 version with 5900HX and a 1080p / 300Hz display for $ 2,899, and the cheapest model that has an RTX 3060 and Ryzen 7 5800H processor with the same 300Hz display. Hz refresh display for $ 2,199 combined.

The RTX 3080 is an impressive laptop GPU. On a positive note, most of our top titles played at smooth frame rates at 4K. In tests with our standard benchmark quality levels at 4K, the Asus delivered minimum values ​​between 35 fps and 50 fps in Borderlands 3, Far Cry New Dawn, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider – and the average values ​​were between 42 fps and 62 fps. That means you can play most of the top single player titles at playable frame rates, high quality, and 4K. It also kept the playable frame rates in Far Cry and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, providing the highest settings for those games, including ray tracing and DLSS in the latter.

The RTX 3080 laptop GPU, however, stalled in tougher 4K scenarios. You'll need to lower the quality levels in the above games if you want to always hit a smooth 60 fps average, and you'll have to make further compromises if you want to hit 120 fps to get the display's maximum refresh rate. Anecdotally, it played Horizon: Zero Dawn at 46 fps at 4K, but it could only handle Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K and Ultra settings, with the ray tracing and DLSS settings carefully matched.

1080p Ultra settings
(min / av FPS)
4K Ultra settings
(min / av FPS)
Far Cry New Dawn 64.2 / 91.1 38 / 58.1
GTA V. 81.7 / 114.5 38.6 / 54.4
Shadow of the Tomb Raider 45.4 / 82.6 41.6 / 50.4
Red Dead Redemption 2 60.2 / 85.7 36.2 / 42.3
Assassin's Creed Valhalla 50.3 / 71.1 29.1 / 39.1
Border areas 3 70.1 / 95.9 35.8 / 48.7

Unsurprisingly, the RTX 3080 delivered a quieter ride at 1440p – its averages often reached more than 60 fps without any loss of quality.

The top notch laptop GPU is also a great performance at 1080p. In Borderlands 3, the average frame rate of 96 fps squealed in front of the RTX 2080 Super and was almost 15 frames faster than the mainstream laptop chip RTX 3060, and in Red Dead Redemption 2 the average was more than 10 frames faster than that at 85 fps previous from Nvidia flagship and the RTX 3060.

There's almost nothing this GPU can't handle at 1080p. It plays the toughest single player games with frame rates over 60 fps and with minor setting changes over 100 fps. If you want to play less demanding esports games on this laptop, no problems. The only black mark came in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. At 1080p, the GX551 achieved an average of 82.6 fps. That's good for playability, but it's behind the RTX 3060 and RTX 2080 Super.

A look at the power consumption of the RTX 3080 gives an indication of what is happening. The graphics core only consumed between 60 W and 70 W during these tests, which significantly limits the performance in this game. A driver update could address the relatively low power consumption and performance of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. So it's not a big problem.

Nvidia's Ampere laptops have a lot going for them in terms of performance: Manufacturers get a huge thermal shell to play with when building Ampere laptops, as we've already seen with the RTX 3060 mobile cores. On the RTX 3080 laptop GPU, manufacturers can operate the chip with TDPs between 80 W and 150 W. In the GX551, the chip is designed for a power consumption between 115 W and 130 W, the latter value being achieved with Dynamic Boost 2.0. If you're serious about an Amp laptop, then you should dig deeper into TDPs to see what type of chip you get.

As mentioned earlier, don't expect the laptop RTX 3080 to be the same as the desktop card as there are more limitations in terms of performance and cooling. The laptop GPU averaged 48.7 fps at 4K in Borderlands 3, but the desktop card averaged 66 fps. In Red Dead Redemption 2, the laptop core hit 42.3 fps, but the desktop core was nearly thirty frames faster. Given the reduction in CUDA cores and more aggressive power balancing, this isn't a surprise, but it's worth keeping in mind.

The Ryzen 9 5900HX is a chip we've already tested extensively, and it's an absolute beast. It's the fastest mobile CPU on the market, with impressive single-thread performance and tremendous multithreading capabilities. It's a fantastic option for productivity, and consistently outperforms Intel's rival Core i9-10980HK. It should be noted, however, that the 5900HX isn't much faster than the Ryzen 7 5800H – not surprising when you consider that both chips have eight cores and differ only in minor clock rate changes.

The Ryzen 9 5900HX in the GX551 behaves a little differently than the CPU in the XMG Apex 17 that we used in our test. On paper, the chip can reach a turbo speed of 4.6 GHz, but in the tests of the GX551, the CPU peaked at around 4.2 GHz in multi-core tasks and around 4.5 GHz in single-thread tasks GHz. Due to the thermal compensation and the power consumption, the CPU can achieve a peak performance of 90 W according to Asus. However, we've never seen this go beyond 80W, and it's capped at 50W when the GPU is active.

On a positive note, the GX551 achieved a score of 5,265 in the Cinebench multi-core test – better than the 5900HX in the XMG and well above the Intel CPU. The Blender render time of three minutes and 46 seconds is faster than the XMG laptop. In the 7-Zip compression and decompression tests, the GX551 delivered speeds of 52.36 MB / s and 730.81 MB / s, respectively.The GX551's Matlab score of 1.27 is only a hair behind the XMG machine.

The GX551 achieved a negative result of 566 in the single-core Cinebench test and 10,185 points in the PCMark 10 Essentials benchmark. The Asus lasted 11.3 seconds in the Excel benchmark. The Cinebench score fell behind the XMG laptop, but it squeaks in front of the 5800H and clearly outperforms the i9-10980HK.

The caveat is that the GX551 has a better GPU and more memory than the XMG notebook we used for our 5900HX test, but patterns can be seen: In the Asus, the 5900HX proves itself in multithread benchmarks, but is in Single threads more ordinary. Thread tests.

For content creation, streaming, and tougher workloads, the 5900HX in the Asus is a clear winner, but an overkill for everyday computing. Choosing a machine with the 5800H can be a smart way to save money if you're happy with a weaker GPU.

The high-end hardware means the GX551 has to work hard to keep these components cool. Fortunately, internal temperatures are never an issue, and the Asus is never particularly loud – it's almost quiet for everyday workloads, and the noise level is around 36dB when playing mainstream games.

During tougher games and work tests, the noise level rose to 47 dB, which is no louder than other high-end gaming laptops and is quiet enough that the speakers or a headset drown it out.

There are some thermal tradeoffs, however. The metal above the keyboard got hot during gaming and workload tests, and hot air was vented from both sides of the device – that's annoying when you're using a USB mouse. The bottom of the laptop got too hot to touch during most of the gaming and work tests, although the GX551 is likely sitting on a desk. So this is not a big deal.

The Asus Armory Center app has the Windows, Silent and Turbo modes. The Windows and Silent options reduce the noise level a little at the expense of performance, while the latter, in addition to significantly more fan noise, causes a slight increase in games and applications. Neither of these options is a game changer.

Don't expect much from the 90 Wh battery, either. During modest work tests with the ScreenPad activated and the display full, the Asus lasted three hours and 18 minutes, and this result was improved by almost half an hour when the display brightness was reduced. The GX551 lasted four hours with the ScreenPad disabled.

The Asus only lasted about an hour when the gaming and GPU performance decreased on battery power. This is not a machine that is meant to take off the grid to achieve its real purpose.

For whom is that?

The ROG Zephyrus Duo GX551 is an impressive, inventive machine. It's also one of the fastest laptops out there. So, if you want spectacular speed and want the money to burn, it could be the foundation of your gaming and work setup for years to come.

The RTX 3080 laptop plays everything at 1080p and 1440p – and most single-player games play a little more comfortably at 4K. It's the best laptop graphics card you can get, but even then, the RTX 3080 won't play everything smoothly at 4K with all the bells and whistles on. Keep in mind that the RTX 3080 is not that far ahead of the previous generation RTX 2080 Super.

The CPU sits in a similar position. The Ryzen 9 5900HX is one of the fastest laptop processors money can buy. It is therefore a fantastic option for high-end creative tasks, work applications, and multitasking. Asus does a good job of managing these components from a thermal point of view, and the spec is rounded off with plenty of memory and storage. However, on this machine, the Ryzen CPU doesn't always reach its full potential, especially for single-threaded tasks – and it's not far ahead of the Ryzen 7 5800H, which is available in cheaper machines.

The main 4K display is great, with a refresh rate of 120Hz, a response time of 3ms, and overall good quality. The ScreenPad is more versatile than in the past and could prove to be a capable companion for gamers, streamers or creatives – it can blend in with many situations.

However, this second display undermines the keyboard and trackpad. Elsewhere, the high-end components lead to some unwieldy connectivity options, and the ScreenPad undoubtedly makes this machine heavier. It won't be useful to a lot of gamers and creatives, either.

More conservative buyers might feel that, despite all of the features on offer and notable specs in every area that the Zephyrus Duo triumphs, practical concerns hinder it a bit. The high-end components and the ScreenPad add to the price, and since alternative components don't lag far behind in terms of performance and other laptops without second screens, the GX551 is a more ideal option for hardcore users only.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo SE GX551 is a hideous machine that we recommend if you crave the most powerful components and want to make good use of that second screen.

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