ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review — an addictively powerful machine

Vyncent Chan
34 Min Read
ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review — an addictively powerful machine
  • Appearance - 8.9/10
    8.9/10
  • Efficiency - 8.3/10
    8.3/10
  • Features - 9/10
    9/10
  • Materials - 9/10
    9/10
  • Performance - 9/10
    9/10
  • Portability - 7.7/10
    7.7/10
  • User Experience - 8.8/10
    8.8/10
  • Value - 7.4/10
    7.4/10

Summary

ASUS refreshed the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE with the latest hardware and it is an absolute beast!

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

+ Impressive bundle of accessories!
+ Sleek design looks even better in black
+ Next-gen performance with the Ryzen 9 5900HX and GeForce RTX 3080 combo
+ Good cooling performance
+ Stunning 4K120 display is perfect for both gamers and content creators
+ Great audio with quad-speaker setup!
+ ScreenPad Plus is nice to expand the usable screen area
+ Armoury Crate now allows content creators to calibrate the display
+ A huge upgrade at the same price as its predecessor

Cons

– NumberPad doesn’t work as a trackpad once enabled
– No biometrics security for quicker logins
– Eye-wateringly pricey

ASUS’ groundbreaking ScreenPad Plus technology is a nice bit of innovation that ASUS brought to the laptop scene with the launch of the ASUS ZenBook Duo series, allowing content creators alike to enjoy more viewing area to work with in the laptop form factor. The Republic of Gamers team then took the technology and implemented it in the ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, which was introduced last year to bring the additional screen space to gamers too.

asus rog zephyrus duo 15 se vs ROG Zephyrus Duo

asus rog zephyrus duo 15 se vs ROG Zephyrus Duo

Today, we will be taking a look at the ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, which doesn’t seen much changes coming from its predecessor on the exterior, but it sports the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 under the hood for a serious upgrade in performance on both CPU and GPU fronts. Without further ado, let’s check it out.

Unboxing

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-1

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-1

As the flagship of ROG’s 2021 lineup, the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE comes in an absolutely huge box, with an excessive amount of included accessories and items.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-2

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-2

As customary for ASUS recently, the charger and laptop come in separate boxes. But the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE gets extra treatment with a bundled ROG Delta headphone and the ROG Ranger BP2701 backpack to let you carry it around in style, when you can finally go out of your home. We won’t be testing the headphone, as we have already discussed the ROG Delta here.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-3

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-3

The charger’s packaging houses two chargers, one offering up to 100W over USB-PD for easier portability, and the other delivering the full 280W necessary for the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE to fully stretch its legs. There’s also a ROG Chakram Core along with its accessories. The ROG Chakram Core appears to replace the ROG Gladius II that ROG used to bundle with their higher-end gaming laptops. So yeah, when you get the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, you will get both a gaming mouse and a great pair of gaming headphones, so you don’t need to go out and buy them separately anymore.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-4

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-4

Aside from protecting the contents within, the charger box also serves as a laptop stand to raise the laptop up for a more ergonomic user experience. Pretty interesting design decision from ASUS here. Probably because there’s no ErgoLift here, so ASUS decided that this was the best way to provide a comfortable tilt for the laptop?

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-6

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-6

ASUS is still bundling Dying Light 2, so it is featured on the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE’s box. Dying Light 2 is supposed to support the ScreenPad Plus for an optimized dual-screen gaming experience, but its launch has been delayed for a long time now. The packaging itself sports a nice contrasting diagonal slash that you will have to lift up to reveal the laptop. ROG made sure to put a little plastic tab so you know where to pull when you are done appreciating the design of the packaging.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-5

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-5

The box opens up and reveals the laptop, before lifting it up at an angle to showcase it. The laptop itself is protected in a plastic wrapper, which is quite disappointing as a reusable fabric sleeve would have been nice to protect the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE when you want to carry it around.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-7

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-7

And here are the contents of the package. There’s your usual documentation in a nice paper envelope that sports a heavy dose of ROG Cybertext, as well as the laptop itself and its accompanying palm rest. There’s a redeemable code for Dying Light 2, so you can claim it, when the game finally launches.

Appearance

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-8

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-8

If you have seen the sleek design of the first ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, you might find that this machine looks a little different. Instead of the dark gray finish, we now have a black finish with a dotted design that ROG dubs Dot Insight on the magnesium-aluminide lid. The shift to a darker finish while adding the dots for some contrast definitely amps up the appeal of the machine, although I am pretty sure some would still prefer the more understated design of the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE’s predecessor.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-21

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-21

The underside of the machine is kept largely the same. There are vents that allow the fans to draw fresh air easily. The rubber feet are really tall on this machine, presumably to provide more clearance for air intake. The bottom cover is made of plastic, and also sports a popup screw on the lower right corner that pops open the bottom cover to eliminate the need for pry tools. Curiously enough, it is a Phillips screw, while the rest of the screws have Torx heads.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-9

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-9

Once open, you can see that the keyboard is moved down to the lower edge to accommodate the ScreenPad Plus. The secondary screen tilts up, similar to its predecessor. There’s still a substantial gap between the main display and the secondary display, unlike the ASUS ZenBook Duo 14 which pretty much eliminated the gap. Also, ASUS made sure to have the AMD Ryzen and NVIDIA GeForce RTX stickers right under the display so you will not miss them. Speaking of which, here are the specifications of the machine.

ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Specifications

CPU AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, 8C/16T @ 3.3GHz (up to 4.5GHz boost), 45W+ TDP, 7nm
RAM 32GB DDR4 3200MHz (1 x 16GB SO-DIMM + 16GB on-board), dual-channel
GPU AMD Radeon Graphics, 8 CU @ 2100MHz
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 16GB GDDR6, ROG Boost up to 1645MHz (115W TGP / 130W with Dynamic Boost 2.0)
Storage 2TB Samsung PM981a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD, RAID 0
Software Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
GeForce Game Ready Driver v461.40
Armoury Crate
MyASUS
Microsoft Office Home & Business 2019
McAfee Personal Security
Dolby Access
Connectivity Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 (WiFi 6, up to 2.4Gbps)
Bluetooth 5.1
Realtek RTL8111H Gigabit LAN
1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) Type-C
3 x USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps)
1 x microSD card reader
Display Primary
15.6″ 4K (3840 x 2160) AUO B156ZAN05.1, 120Hz refresh rate, 100% Adobe RGB, Pantone Validated, FreeSync
ScreenPad Plus
14.1″ 4K (*3840 x 1100) BOE BOE085F IPS display, 60Hz refresh rate, touch-sensitive
1 x HDMI 2.0b
Audio 2 x 2W speakers (upward facing)
2 x 4W speakers (underside)
1 x 3.5mm combo jack
Power 280W power adapter
100W USB-PD adapter
90WHr 4-cell Li-ion battery
Dimensions 360 × 268 x 20.9 mm
Weight 2.48kg

Performance

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review — an addictively powerful machine 3

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review — an addictively powerful machine 3

The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is packed with the highest end hardware ASUS can get their hands on, with the unlocked AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, 32GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, two 1TB Samsung PM981a SSDs in RAID 0 and a huge 90WHr battery, all crammed into this machine. All that heavyweight hardware in it actually makes the 2.48kg weight of the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE seem almost feather-light. Well, almost.

We will be using the Turbo fan profile to test the machine. Let’s start with the performance data.

Storage

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review CrystalDiskMark

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review CrystalDiskMark

The Samsung PM981a SSDs are already quite fast for PCIe 3.0 drives in their own right, and having them in a RAID 0 configuration just means that you will be looking at really ridiculous speeds. There’s 2TB of that speedy storage here, so I don’t think anyone will be needing a storage upgrade on the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE anytime soon.

Synthetic

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review Cinebench R20

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review Cinebench R20

ASUS claims that the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX runs at up to 4.5GHz, but you could regularly see it boost up to 4.591GHz. In Cinebench R20, the multi-core tests see it start at around 4.4GHz before gradually dropping to 4.32GHz at the end of the multi-core segment. Meanwhile the single-core section of the benchmark sees it hovering at around 4.54~4.56GHz. It definitely blows the last-gen ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 out of the water.

It is interesting why ASUS decided to underclock the Ryzen 9 5900HX though, given that the Active Aerodynamic System Plus (AAS Plus) cooling in the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE should probably the best cooling solution they have to offer, but more on that later.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review Superposition

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review Superposition

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU here is also really powerful, capable of drawing up to 130W thanks to Dynamic Boost. Depending on the application, the GPU in the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE can draw anywhere between 115W to 130W. As you can see, that’s sufficient to handily beat any gaming laptop, and even desktops we have reviewed previously in Superposition. The only laptop to come ahead of the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is the ProArt StudioBook One, and that’s a laptop with a 200W Quadro RTX 6000 GPU and costs more than a Perodua Myvi.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 3DMark Time Spy

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 3DMark Time Spy

3DMark Time Spy also reveals a similar scenario, which probably comes as no surprise as the combination of the Ryzen 9 5900HX and the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU was fast enough to best the likes of a desktop GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER system.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 3DMark Port Royal

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 3DMark Port Royal

The architectural advantage of the Ampere GPU makes for an even wider gap between the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE and its predecessor, as the GPU doles out great performance in the raytracing benchmark, 3DMark Port Royal. Once again, the only machine that can best the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is the ASUS ProArt StudioBook One that costs more than 2X the price of the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review PCMark performance

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review PCMark performance

It performs very well in PCMark as well, with chart topping scores across all categories except for the Essentials category. I guess the CPU here doesn’t like to do menial tasks? But jokes aside, this is one beastly machine that can tackle anything you can throw at it. But benchmark numbers can only say so much. Let’s take a look at gaming.

Gaming

As this is the first time we have tested the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, we will be testing three resolutions. 1080p, 1440p and also 4K. Of course, the display on the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is a 4K panel, but you won’t exactly notice a drop in visual fidelity even if you run the games at 1080p due to the size of the panel. But hey, let’s see how it will do at 1440p too, as NVIDIA does market the GeForce RTX 3080 laptops claiming that they are capable of 100+ FPS Ultra 1440p.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 1080p Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 1080p Gaming

Starting off at 1080p, we see pretty much every game running at above 60FPS, with the exceptions being Watch Dogs Legions and Cyberpunk 2077 with DXR enabled. Enabling DLSS provides a nice boost to performance and even visual fidelity, which means that there’s no reason to disable it at all if the game you are playing supports DLSS 2.0.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 1440p Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 1440p Gaming

At 1440p we see things look a bit more dire. However due to the adaptive refresh rate of the display in the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE here, I actually found Cyberpunk 2077 to be pretty playable even at 26FPS average.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 4K Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review 4K Gaming

The native resolution of the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is slightly beyond what the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU is capable of handling. Here we see most games dipping down below the 60FPS threshold. Still, as mentioned earlier, the adaptive refresh rate makes for pretty playable frame rates even at the lower frame rates, as long as it is above 24FPS, due to the presence of the low framerate compensation (LFC) feature in AMD FreeSync.

Overall, this is a laptop that doles out enough performance to match or even best last-gen desktops, as evident in the synthetic benchmarks portion. 4K gaming on laptops is maybe still a generation out, but if you just play esports titles, you can get up to 119FPS in Rainbow Six Siege at 4K, which will take full advantage of the 120Hz panel here.

Cooling

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-22

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-22

We will only be testing the Turbo fan profile, which allow the fans to spool up quite audibly when gaming. The fans in the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE can spin at up to 6400RPM when set to run at their maximum RPM manually, which will be an audible 57dBA about 50cm away from the laptop. The Turbo fan profile sees the fan running at up to 4800RPM, which is a lot more silent at 51dBA. The performance difference between the two fan profiles is largely negligible, at least in Cinebench R20, so we won’t be testing the performance in both fan profiles.

To evaluate the cooling system, we will be using the stress test in Realbench to provide somewhat a worst case scenario to the system as it will stress both the CPU and GPU.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review realbench cooling

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review realbench cooling

With a workload maxing out both the CPU and GPU, we see the Ryzen 9 5900HX draw on average of 52W to run at an average of 3.83GHz throughout the 15-minute Realbench stress test. Despite the high power draw that goes up to 74W during the initial boost, the CPU only hitting 94.6°C at its peak, a testament to ASUS’ innovation in cooling as well as the liquid metal TIM used to improve the CPU cooling.

Meanwhile the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU runs at an average of 1557MHz, pulling 113W on average. Temperatures are very well managed with the GPU peaking at 79°C, and averaging 77°C. Overall, the cooling performance is very good despite the relatively thin profile of the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU clocks thermals power

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU clocks thermals power

We have also previously tested a best-case scenario for the GPU in Superposition, where the CPU is very lightly loaded. Here we can see that the GPU can pull up to 130W, while also running cool at below 77°C.

Battery life

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review PCMark battery life

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review PCMark battery life

Battery life is really great for all the performance we see here, and it can even deliver a whole 101 minutes longer battery life than its predecessor, while touting the same 90WHr battery. It can’t outlast the ROG Zephyrus G14 though, but the ROG Zephyrus G14 does have a significantly weaker GPU and also a more efficient 35W TDP processor.

User Experience

Display and Audio

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-17

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Review-17

With two displays, the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE easily outclasses most of its peers in the gaming laptop scene. The fact that both displays offer 4K visuals is also extremely impressive, and just as if that isn’t enough, the main display now runs at up to 120Hz, a huge step up from the 60Hz limit that was one of the few imperfections marring the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE’s predecessor. It doesn’t lose anything in terms of gamut coverage or accuracy either, so the display here really is the perfect display for this beast.

In fact I think that this is a far better display than the esports-focused FHD 300Hz display that you can also configure the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE with, considering how the ROG Zephyrus series was always meant to straddle the line between content creator and gaming machines. If your main focus is esports gaming, I do believe that the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE isn’t the laptop for you.