Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review: Outstanding, complex and costly

Asus ROG first introduced its premium gaming laptop - the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, in January this year during the CES 2021. Since then, the laptop has made its way to India and now promises a host of features in a never-seen-before format. Here is a look at what makes the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE and if it is worth your money or not.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review: Outstanding, complex and costly
Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review: Outstanding, complex and costly

What I love about the bigwigs of the gaming industry is their constant endeavour to set their products apart from the regular offerings in the market. You buy a gaming smartphone, and it is sure to look and feel way different from the iPhones and other Android mainstream devices. Gaming mouse, headsets, PCs and even laptops are custom-built to have a marquee, something a gamer can both use and boast of.

Often such a marquee is seen in the form of new aesthetics. Throw in the best available specifications, a little branding and lots of lights, and you will have an ace gaming product at your hands. Though sometimes, all this is not enough, and an OEM goes overboard to set a new industry standard with their product. Need an example? How about a gaming laptop with a tilted secondary display?

That is what Asus' gaming division - Republic of Gamers or ROG has come up with recently. The unique gaming laptop is called the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE. It comes equipped with nearly everything you would need for your gaming pleasures, including a top-of-the-line processor, graphics, display and memory. However, what will grab your attention from all this is a bright and massive secondary touch display on the device that rises every time you unfold the laptop.

It is a unique proposition offered to users by ROG. It is not your regular display bar that shows a few extra notifications. Instead, it is a dedicated extra screen space that is meant to enhance your workflow. We have seen something like this on the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo before. What makes it special on the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is the use of the extra display area to empower some serious gaming enhancements.

By these "enhancements," I mean a dedicated panel to keep track of your in-game advancements. Game developers have taken note of this too. For instance, Dying Light 2, a AAA game by Techland shows inventory space, maps and more on the secondary screen of the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE. I am sure I do not need to explain how that would be a massive help in your regular gaming bouts.

Of course, the extra display, which is a rather large one, occupies the confined space within the frame of a laptop. This means that Asus ROG had to very meticulously place various components of the device to ensure an overall smooth experience for the users. As can be understood, the extra display also comes at a cost. Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, with its unique display, starts retailing at Rs 2,79,990.

The price point makes it clear that Asus ROG is not for everyone and is meant to offer only the most premium experience available for gaming. But with all its bells and whistles, does it justify its hefty price tag? We try to answer after a couple of weeks with the gaming laptop.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review: Simply stunning, right out of the box

Our review comprised the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE and the complete set of accessories - a gaming mouse, headphones with mic, webcam, palm rest, and even a bag. The complete set retails for Rs 2,99,990.

Focusing on the laptop, for now, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is nowhere near your average work-oriented laptop. Instead, it is a big and heavy device that you can judge from one look to be not as portable as you would like a laptop to be.

For good reasons, though, which are clear once you open up the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE. But before that, you might admire its unique texture and the all-black finish, which gives you confidence that the device will not reflect any smudges like many other laptops. The matte finish helps with that, while the refined hairline slash brings the much-needed element of elegance to the machine.

Majority of the back panel sports a clean, black finish with a ROG logo on one side. The segment divided by the hairline slash features a dotted matrix finish in the same colour. At the very bottom are the words "Republic of Gamers" embossed. All in all, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is a big and pleasing laptop to look at.

It is only once you unfold it that the reality of the large Screenpad Plus - the secondary display, hits you. Again, a huge display at the front greets you with around half the size of another display just below it. Interestingly, this one tilts towards you for a total of two reasons which we will get to later.

Below that is a rather crowded arrangement of the keyboard and the trackpad. The whole amalgamation has one glaring problem, and I seriously don't know how Asus could have overlooked it. Unlike a central trackpad like we see on most other laptops, this one has it placed to the extreme right. While the right-handed users will have little to no problem, I have no clue how left-handed users are supposed to operate the trackpad.

Another big issue is the extreme low placement of the keyboard on the laptop. As every good thing has its price, the secondary display on the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE comes at the cost of retail space on the laptop. Hence, the keyboard has been shifted to the bottom, and the trackpad has been shrunk to one side. The result - you do not have any palm rest while typing or using the keyboard in general.

Of course, Asus has thought of these issues, and there are remedies.

For instance, if an external mouse is used, even left-handed users should not have any trouble operating it. Also, there is a large and rather heavy palm rest that Asus has created just for this laptop. There is, however, no solution to the overall large form factor of the device, and you will have to be happy that you are getting the best gaming capabilities with the weight.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review: Power-packed performance

As can be expected from a gaming laptop of its calibre, the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE performs more than well on every aspect of a PC. Doing so, it also enables a very smooth experience throughout, though there are bugs that can probably be fixed.

The laptop, for instance, wasn't able to run Asphalt 9 due to an unknown issue. The screen blacked out every time, and only the audio of the game was heard when we tried it out. Yet another annoying issue is a very common bug found in PCs - the brightness of the display does not adjust follow your settings through the function keys. You see the brightness bar slide up and down, but there is no change in the screen's luminosity.

Other than the common, largely ignorable issues, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is an absolute powerhouse of a laptop. For those looking at a gaming device, this one runs without any lags whatsoever, promising a very smooth experience even while you are playing demanding games. Other than Asphalt 9, we tried out Modern Combat 5, Forza Horizon 4, CS: GO, and a couple of small Microsoft app store games on the laptop. All of them (apart from Asphalt 9, of course) ran very smoothly, and it was an absolute pleasure dominating the games against other players.

Several factors enable this superiority while gaming. For one, the display is crystal clear with vivid colours and a sharp contrast to distinguish even the darkest of settings within a game. Then there is enough firepower on the laptop to run practically any game, along with other apps in the background, with much ease.

To delve into the depth, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE comes with a Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB GDDR6 RAM and 2TB of SSD storage on the top-end variant that we reviewed. The large display spans across a massive 15.6-inches of space and comes with a 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution and a mind-boggling 300Hz refresh rate. The highlight is a 14-inch Screenpad Plus that sports the same resolution as the main display with a 60Hz refresh rate and touch support.

This power-packed combination of elements is a dream come true for any gamer. Asus knows this and equips the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE with several performance monitoring tools that flaunt the system's performance at all stages. One such is the AMD Radeon Software, while another is the NVIDIA control panel. Then there is the ROG Armoury Crate that lets you further tweak your system and accessories. In short, you will have a gala time setting up your Zephyrus Duo 15 SE as per your whims and fancies.

The laptop also comes with ample connectivity options placed on its left, right and even the back. On the left are a power connector, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. The right-side houses two USB 3.1 Type-A ports and one USB-C port. Finally, at the back are another USB 3.1 Type-A port, an Ethernet jack and an HDMI output, completing the set of extensive connectivity options on the device.

Audio is taken care of by quad speakers with Dolby Atmos surround sound, Smart Amp, and Hi-Res Audio. The output is loud and crystal clear for gaming in most environments, so you might not necessarily invest in headphones. There is also two-way AI and noise cancellation for clear audio recording during work and play. Unfortunately, the laptop surprisingly misses out on a webcam.

The Zephyrus Duo 15 SE comes with a 90Wh battery that will last you between four to five hours of general use. But start gaming, and this would drop down to about less than four hours and even further. It is thus, handy to keep the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE charger with you at all times, though it is a pretty massive charger will take some effort to be your constant companion.

When the premium ROG laptop is all plugged in and connected with the accessories, the arrangement of the ports makes it a little difficult to adjust the plethora of wires emerging from them. It is thus recommended to use a cable organiser along with the device if you are looking to jack it up with accessories.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review: The ScreenPad Plus equation

Focusing a bit on the laptop's highlight, the ScreenPad Plus is simply a tremendous addition by ROG. The secondary display is pretty big to be dismissed off as a gimmick. Asus clearly meant to boost the productivity of the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE with the ScreenPad Plus, and we can say that it certainly managed to do so.

First of all, the secondary display is extremely pleasing to look at, and since it is on a gaming laptop, Asus has decked it with a ROG-inspired background that is sure to make anyone go "whoa!" as soon as it fires up. In addition, there are neat, small icons placed on one side, which can, of course, be positioned differently, and there is an overall clarity in the display that not even many primary displays offer.

The clarity and usability are further enhanced by the fact that the display is slightly raised and tilted towards you the whole time. So even if you maintain a distance between you and the laptop while operating it, you will not have to bend towards it every time to use the ScreenPad Plus. Another reason for the tilt is that Asus has positioned the laptop's cooling system in a way that lets the hot air out from under the display, thus away from you and the laptop. Asus says that the larger opening elevates airflow by up to 30 per cent.

The laptop still warms up, though, especially during heavy gaming and use. Though well within acceptable standards for a gaming laptop with such performance prowess.

The ScreenPad Plus is also equipped with a series of tools and apps that have been optimised for its use, as well as for easy integration with the main display. Some of these handle app placements between the two screens, while others help modify the display brightness and more. There is even Asus software in the mix for controlling several aspects of the laptop like keyboard backlighting and the cooling system. A handwriting mode also enables you to write whatever you want on the ScreenPad Plus.

As for its main purpose, the ScreenPad Plus will enable you to run a secondary task simultaneously with your primary job at hand. You can use this for any two tasks that you can think of - running chat windows alongside a game, streaming audio while working, taking notes while watching a video and so on. I did not try out the Adobe Premiere Pro on the Zephyrus Duo 15 but imagine using the timeline in the secondary display while you edit the video on the main screen above. Easy to say, it is every video editor's dream come true.

One issue you might face with the ScreenPad Plus is the size difference in the apps and their icons as they are switched between the main and the secondary displays. The apps and the cursor suddenly shrink in size when brought to the ScreenPad Plus, and you will likely take time to get the hang of it for seamless use.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE review: Verdict

The possibilities are endless with ROG's premium gaming product. The Zephyrus Duo 15 SE can run the most demanding of games and tasks with ease, it is equipped with the best of both hardware and software for seamless operations, and it is sports aesthetics that are nowhere to be seen among the competition. All in all, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is one gaming laptop you will drool over and for all the right reasons.

There are, of course, some shortcomings, though these are largely ignorable. What can't be ignored is the mammoth price tag on the laptop of Rs 3 lakh. It then becomes hard to justify such an amount of money simply for the device's peak performance. You then consider the worth of the secondary display on the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE and treat it as a luxury rather than a necessity. For those who do not mind spending all that money - go for the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE. Others can probably get equal specs at a much lower price point if they give up on the temptation of the ScreenPad Plus.