After three months of radio silence from ASUS HQ, the Zephyrus Duo 16 has released with no fanfare or announcement. With little more than a notification from Amazon yesterday updating the delivery estimate, I’m here now typing on an odd keyboard with two screens in front of me. And I love it.
The Zephyrus Duo series has been something I’ve been interested in since its conception, but it’s only with this most recent revision I’ve been in such a financial position where I could afford to spend such an exorbitant amount. The concept is simple: you get a second screen that sits under the main display right above the keyboard. It’s been proven already with the Duo 15 and 15 SE last year, with this most recent release tweaking a few minor design aspects, fitting a larger 16:10 main display into the same laptop body, and updating the internals to keep up with modern times. With my budget, I managed to stretch to the most basic UK model, coming with a 1080p primary and secondary display, a Ryzen 7 6800H, and a 3070 Ti Laptop GPU. Though you can expect a full review with benchmarks and deeper thoughts in a week or two, I wanted to get something out sooner than later with some early impressions with there being so little about this really interesting laptop out there at the moment.
By far the most striking aspect of this system is its overall design. It’s one of those devices that’ll make people look twice, and for good reason. Below the 1920x1200 primary display sits a surprisingly large 1920x550 touch panel angled upwards. The Duo 16 has a mechanism for the secondary display to elevate as you open the shell, and it works really nicely. The transition is smooth and knowing the laptop handles all that itself is great. I have no doubt that if I had to wedge something under the second display myself to put it at an angle, I’d end up closing the lid on it and breaking it. I don’t think I could handle that much responsibility.
I was a little dubious of the 1920x550 resolution, unsure as to whether it would be enough to accommodate the kind of apps I’d want to be putting there. From the small bit of playing around I’ve done, I do think I was worried for nothing. As a bit of a boring person, I really appreciate having Outlook and Telegram open and visible at all times. On my desktop I have a monitor dedicated to this, and it’s great to be able to have that on a laptop without it taking space away from the main display. As I use the laptop more I’m sure I’ll find other things to throw down there, with me being excited for streaming in particular.
Both displays have a matte finish, but the secondary one in particular is odd. The main display is fantastic and exactly what I’ve come to expect from ASUS based on other things I’ve had in my possession. The second display has a kind of grainy layer on top of it. It’s difficult to properly describe and does look fine at an angle, but looking at it straight on it’s really quite noticeable. I would guess it has something to do with it being a touch screen, but that really is just a stab in the dark.
I wasn’t expecting to get on with the pushed-down keyboard, but typing this post out right now it really isn’t an issue, even when used on my lap. You do need to push it a little further away from you than you usually would a laptop to find a comfortable typing position, but once you’re used to it it’ll just feel like any other laptop keyboard. On the desk it’s a similar story. To get a comfortable grip on the keyboard there, you’ll likely have it a bit further back on the desk. This is good in forcing you to have a bit of a better viewing angle on the secondary display and limits you hunching over to look at it, if only a little.
The keyboard itself is a relatively standard affair outside of its positioning. It’s all lit up quite nicely, which fits in with the gamer aesthetic you’d expect from the ROG brand. There is a notable omission of a print screen button though, unless I really am just blind. What’ll take the most getting used to for newcomers is the trackpad positioning. With its usual space now occupied by the keyboard, ASUS have had to put it to the right. I quite like this, but I can see it being a barrier to entry for left-handed mouse users. If you think you’ll mostly be using at a desk, which I do think is the case, you can change the trackpad into a touch numpad and use a separate mouse. This is definitely the best setup, but I like what they chose to do with the limited space.
As for the gaming performance, I’ve only played around a little. Elden Ring runs like a dream, achieving a solid 60fps on high settings. Monster Hunter Rise was also hitting a solid 100+fps on high settings, which is great to see with the main display going to 165 Hz if your games can push it that far. I’ll be putting it more thoroughly through its paces in the coming days and weeks, but if there’s anything you want to see in particular in terms of benchmarking or game tests, let me know and I’ll try my best to accommodate. I’m particularly interested to see how far I can push the 6800H and 3070 Ti Laptop combo in terms of high-end emulation, so you can look forward to that at least.
For £2700 at the time of writing, and unlikely to go down in price, the Zephyrus Duo 16 is something that I am loving so far. As with most of the things I cover lately, it’s a complete luxury that doesn’t necessarily offer the best value if you’re wanting bang for buck, but has its USP and absolutely nails that. So far I’m happy with the purchase, but time will tell whether that happiness remains.
Are you interested in creative laptops like this, or do you prefer a more standard design at a more affordable price point? I’m interested to know!