I love ASUS. Not because I see them as a faultless company with a range of products that can do no wrong (although the ASUS Zenfone 8 was my favourite phone of last year and I’m anticipating its successor), but because they’re always up to something interesting, even if it’s not that revolutionary or useful. Such is the case with the ASUS ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo.
This is ASUS’ high-performance laptop of 2022, packed with specs to make a framerate-loving gamer drool. It’s the flagship system of the ROG fleet, though I’d best describe it as a concept laptop.
Why? It has two screens built-in.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo
WHAT IS IT?
The tremendously powerful flagship laptop from Republic of Gamers (ROG), the ASUS gaming division.
$4,699 (3070Ti), $5,999 (3080Ti)
Terrific gameplay with a brilliant keyboard and RGB layout. An interesting second display.
Extremely high price tag. Layout and second screen might annoy some users.
State of the art
ASUS has been doing multiscreen laptop technology for a while. In fact, we reviewed an ASUS integrated mousepad screen laptop in April, and even before this year, the “Duo” subtitle on ASUS laptops has indicated a second, elevated screen.
This is the second time the ROG Zephyrus line has produced a Duo computer, after the Zephyrus Duo 15 from 2021. While I never had a tinker with that laptop, I did get to play with a fairly close competitor to the Zephyrus Duo 16 recently, the Alienware M15 R7. You’ll see comparisons throughout the article.
Internally, the Zephyrus Duo 16 is powerful without a doubt. The model I reviewed features an RTX 3080Ti GPU (though an RTX 3070Ti model is available), an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU (8 cores, 16 threads at 3.30Ghz), 32GB DDR5 RAM and a 1TB NVMe hard drive. The screen is a 2K display (2560 x 1600) and features a 165hz refresh rate.
The secondary display is a touchscreen (the primary display isn’t), with 2560 x 734 dimensions and a 60hz refresh rate. You won’t be playing games on it, but this screen is designed to be an auxiliary display, featuring information from secondary apps as you’re using the main screen for your game or program. The secondary display folds upward as you open the laptop up.
Personally, I’m not a giant fan of the aesthetics of this device. It’s very gamer-y. If that’s your thing I wish you happiness, however, I’ve never been a big fan of ROG’s extra-ness. Unfortunately, the ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo hasn’t swayed me
This is an ultra-powerful laptop, one of the highest spec ones out there, developed to be extra in every way possible, even ways that it has invented for itself. Let’s put it to the test.
To kick things off, here’s how the ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo handled the Forza Horizon 5 benchmark.
70 FPS on extreme settings is a pretty welcome score, however, I will note that it did come in about 10 FPS below the Alienware M15 R7’s score.
I’ll also note that brightness wasn’t as great as I would have hoped. It was much darker than I would have liked. Additionally, while the fans made a noticeable noise, it wasn’t a level of noise that annoyed me.
Later tests revealed similar results. In Overwatch, the Zephyrus 16 Duo achieved 140 FPS on the highest settings and 150 FPS in Call of Duty: Vanguard. While Overwatch appeared to be 20 frames lower on the ROG, the laptop scored 5 frames above the Alienware test in COD. I don’t believe this is a big deal. It’s not a massive frame difference between both devices, however, we’re not done yet.
The laptop did well on our Chrome tab test, achieving 45 open YouTube tabs before becoming unable to play a video. Tabs 38 through to 44 took a while before their YouTube videos began to play, whereas YouTube encountered an error at tab 45. Again, slightly below the Alienware.
Moving over to Cinebench tests, the laptop scored third place (1,510 points) on the single-core test, while scoring fifth place (13,395 points) on the multi-core test. Yet again, below the Alienware.
Unfortunately though, despite these being satisfying results all-around, the ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo actually failed our battery test. Streaming the entirety of Avengers: Endgame on battery power with all settings enabled, the laptop went down to 64 per cent in the first hour, 24 per cent in the second and, by the time I checked in at the end of the third hour, the laptop had shut itself down at a critical power level (5 per cent when I turned it back on). There was still about 25 minutes of the movie to go.
This is the first laptop I’ve reviewed that has failed this test and it’s likely because of the additional screen. I’m confident that the laptop would do much better were the second screen to be disabled (you can do this with the flick of a button).
This might not be a problem to most users. After all, to get the most performance out of a gaming laptop, the device needs to be plugged into power. Though I will say that a failure in this previous test is worrying, were you to rely on battery power throughout an entire day.
I love what the ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo is trying to do here with its keyboard layout and its second screen. At the moment, laptops have lots of dead space, where there’s an unfortunate amount of periphery space around the keyboard where nothing happens. Brands like Dell, Windows (with the Surface range) and Apple have made this periphery space look elegant rather than uninteresting, however, it’s still unused space.
I love the layout of the ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo. tucking the mousepad into the bottom right of the corner is a terrific use of space and actually worked out quite well for me ergonomically, as I used it to work on over two days. The mousepad actually doubles as a Numpad at the click of a button, switching over to Numpad buttons that you can type with. I found this particularly cool.
The RGB is fairly reserved, but deep in what you can do with it. Each individual key is macroable and using ROG’s proprietary “Armory Crate” technology, you can add live wallpapers that change the keyboard colours accordingly (including wallpapers for the additional screen). The customisation here and the support from ROG with this customisation is, in my opinion, second to none. It’s very pretty.
Around the periphery of the device, there’s no space going to waste. It’s either part of the keyboard or the additional screen. Which, without any more delay, let’s dive into.
This screen feels to me like a natural evolution from Apple’s MacBook Pro Touch Bar.
The additional screen on the Zephyrus 16 Duo is much more realised than its contemporaries, though it does little to justify its existence. It adds weight, processing necessity and power consumption at the cost of… Well, an entire additional display.
This isn’t something people have been asking for, nor been wanting, from a laptop, especially in the gaming market where users typically have additional, external screens as a part of their setups. However, it retains an “all-in-one” aspect that outpaces other laptops. The laptop also comes with a plastic stand that lets you sit the machine on an angle.
This is a dubious thing. Working throughout the day, it was useful being able to look down and see my Slack messages, or put stuff together in Canva. I can definitely see the utility in the device for a multitasker, but I’m not sure if it presents an argument for its existence over an additional, external screen.
I’m glad that ASUS is keeping the “Duo” tagline going. Someone, somewhere out there is getting a decent amount of use out of this screen, but I think it’s a very small amount of users.
Send word to the republic
The ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo is a brilliant flagship device, separating itself from the competition in a very unique way. Another screen means another place to put bright, flashy colours. Those colours are matched by high performance, some of the best performance you’ll get from a gaming laptop, however it’s at the cost of battery power.
Physically, the device looks like a prop in the background of a sci-fi, something Rodney McKay might pull out in Stargate.
But the ideal market for this laptop is small. Something to keep in mind with this laptop is that you will end up paying more than $1,000 extra for this unremovable extra screen than the (slightly) more powerful Alienware laptop it’s directly competing with. With that in mind, I don’t think you should get this laptop if you were after serious performance on its own.
This is a laptop for creators and multitaskers, ones that demand a close-by touchscreen. For that, it’s an incredibly niche laptop, but one that I’m sure is welcome to some users.
As I said at the start, It’s always nice to see ASUS messing around with something different. I don’t think the average laptop user wants this, nor the average laptop gamer.
But you’re not going to get “average” with a division like Republic of Gamers.
Where can I buy the ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo?
The ROG Zephyrus 16 Duo is available from today in two configurations.