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Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: Double display dreamboat

Alun Taylor
26 Aug 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
4,499
inc VAT

Asus has refined and improved the Zephyrus Duo design making this a real step forward from the Duo 15

Pros 
Profoundly innovative
Excellent displays
Surprisingly compact
Cons 
Rather expensive
Keyboard layout is unusual
Poor battery life
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Some laptop manufacturers seem determined to reinvent the wheel with odd designs and esoteric features nobody asked for. Generally, these don’t work and fade from memory. Do you recall the Lenovo ThinkPad 700ds with its slide-out second screen? The Asus Taichi with a screen on both sides of the lid? Or the Acer Iconia 6120 with a touchscreen where the keyboard should have been?

No, of course you don’t, because they were all weird ideas doomed to failure. The Asus’ ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 was an exception because, although a bit strange, the press liked it and customers bought into the idea. Now, there’s a new, improved model called the Zephyrus Duo 16.

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Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: What you need to know

The main difference between the Zephyrus Duo 15 and 16 is, surprise surprise, the size of the main screen. Out goes the 15's 15.6in 16:9 panel to be replaced by a 16in 16:10 affair. Despite the larger screen the Duo 16 is actually fractionally smaller than the Duo 15 and only 100g heavier. The mechanism behind the innovative second-screen has also been modified in a significant way.

Internally, the new Duo 16 also gets the latest Nvidia mobile graphics – up to a GeForce RTX 3080Ti GPU – and the latest 6000-series AMD CPUs, including the  eight-core AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX, which is unlocked if you fancy a bit of cheeky overclocking. All this trickery doesn't come cheap but then Duo laptops were never intended to be affordable.

READ NEXT: Our selection of the top gaming laptops available

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: Price and competition

Configuration tested: AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080Ti GPU, 32GB RAM, 16GB vRAM, 4TB SSD, 16in 3,840 x 2,160 IPS non-touchscreen, 14in 3,840 by 1,110 IPS touchscreen. Price: £4,499


This being Asus it’s not an easy thing to say exactly which models are available in which territory and for how much. You can choose from an AMD Ryzen 7 or Ryzen 9 CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3060, 3070Ti or 3080Ti GPU. You can also pick from either a 1,920 x 1,080 a 2,560 x 1,600 (both 165Hz) or a hybrid 4K 120Hz / 2K 240Hz screen.

The cheapest model on sale in the UK is based on an AMD Ryzen 7 6800H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU for £2,699. The all-the-bells-and-whistles model, which comes with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU, an RTX 3080 Ti GPU and the hybrid resolution screen will set you back £4,499.

Given that no other laptop on the market has a trick two-screen mechanism, there aren’t any like-for-like rivals. However, there are plenty of high-end laptops around that are aimed at both the serious gamer and the serious creator, just like the Zephyrus Duo 16.

One obvious choice is the latest Razer Blade 17. It may have only one screen but it’s large at 17.3in and sharp, too, at 3,840 x 2,160. The Blade 17 is also beautifully made, very powerful and its sound system is excellent. The Blade 17 range starts at £2,899 but the top end 4K model is the same price as the 4K Duo 16; £4,499.

Two of the Duo’s Asus stablemates are worth a look, too, both built around Intel’s new Alder Lake Core i7 processor. The ROG Strix Scar 15 is a thoroughbred gamer with all the bells and whistles and can be specified with Intel’s monster Core i9-12900H chip for under £4,000, while the ROG Zephyrus M16 is a little less adolescent in design and has a more creator-friendly 16in 16:10 display. For £2,599 the M16 is very good value.

The latest Dell XPS 17 may not have the absolute graphics horsepower of the Duo 16 but its Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU is still potent enough for most creative tasks and you can specify a 4K monitor and only pay £2,400 for the privilege.

Finally, Apple’s 16in MacBook Pro deserves a look by dint of its lovely display, stellar battery life and all-around desirability. At £3,299 for the fully-loaded model, it looks almost cheap compared to the Duo 16 but it lacks the gaming credibility of the Windows machines listed above.

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Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: Design, build quality and key features

As you'd have every right to expect of a laptop costing £4,500 the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 is very well made. The body and lid are made from metal and the whole assembly is very solid.

The various hinges that hold the lid and elevate the ScreenPad subsidiary display have a firm but fluid motion that suggests long-term survivability. The whole thing weighs 2.5kg and measures 355 x 266 x 20.5mm (WDH) with the lid closed, so it's hardly what most people would call light or small (the 280W charging brick is pretty chunky, too). However, considering the new, larger 16in screen and trick two-display design Asus has done a good job keeping the heft on a par with the 15.6in Asus ROG Strix Scar 15.

At first glance, the basic design looks the same as the Duo 15 but, on closer inspection, you’ll see that something fundamental has changed. Open the Duo 16 up and the smaller screen now flips up by 13 degrees and moves back away from the keyboard. On the Duo 15 it simply tilted up from the rear.

This means the top edge of the smaller screen now fully covers the lower bezel of the main display and is much closer to the bottom of the main display. The impression of looking at one big screen, albeit with a kink at the bottom, is enhanced and the revised action is both more mechanically satisfying and more visually cohesive.

The gap that now opens up between the bottom of the ScreenPad and the keyboard deck has been filled with a transparent panel that lets you see inside the body at some illuminated but, sadly, mock internal components.

The question is, are the two screens a feature worth having and paying for? I would say yes. Immediate uses I had for it included running Armoury Crate and Spotify on the ScreenPad so I could adjust system settings and change my tunes while gaming. I also found it handy for hosting various Photoshop toolbox windows while editing photographs so no part of the image I was working on was obscured. Granted, these are all things you can do with any two-display setup but being able to do them on a laptop without an external second monitor is a convenience I’d happily pay more for.

As far as the rest of the design goes, there’s plenty to like. Connectivity is good with four USB ports provided, all 3.2 Gen 2; one USB-A and one Type-C are on the left; there’s another USB-A socket at the back alongside an 2.5GbE port and HDMI 2.1 connector and the last USB-C port is on the right edge. Both USB-C ports support DisplayPort 1.4 video-out but neither are Thunderbolt spec, which is not all that surprising given the AMD chipset.

The only bit I don't like is the position of the power input jack. This sits a third of the way back on the left side behind the two USB ports, the 3.5mm audio jack and microSD card slot, meaning the thick power cable is forever getting in the way. It was in the same location on the Duo 15 and really should have been relocated to the rear this time.

Wireless duties are handled by a Mediatek MT7922 WiFi 6E card, which also supports Bluetooth 5.2, while wired comms are managed by a Realtek RTL8125 2.5GbE Ethernet controller.

Removing the bottom panel of the Duo 16 isn’t the easiest job in the world thanks to a screw hidden under a rubber bung and some pesky clips but, once inside, you can access the two SODIMM RAM mounts and the two M.2 2280 SSD slots. My test machine came with two 16GB DDR5-4800MHz RAM modules installed and a brace of 2TB Samsung SSDs and I can’t see many folks wanting to upgrade from that level of spec but, if you buy a lesser model, it’s good to know you can beef things up down the line.

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Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam

Mechanically, the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16’s keyboard is good. A chiclet design, the keys have a decent amount of travel (1.7mm according to Asus) and a clean, positive action.

Importantly for energetic gaming, the keyboard deck doesn't deflect when put under pressure. And, naturally, there’s a three-stage RGB backlight, controlled via Asus’ usual Armoury Crate control panel, which has its very own launch key. You can choose from lots of different lighting effects but there's no per-key lighting, which at these sorts of prices, is a bit of a disappointment.

The biggest drawback of the Duo design is that there’s no wristrest – the keyboard deck ends abruptly below the space bar. Asus has sought to ameliorate this by supplying a thick rubber rest that, when butted up against the body of the Duo 16 gives you something to rest your hands on. It works but it’s a rather clumsy fix in my view and the rough finish of the rubber bar is a magnet for dust and grime. I ended up wiping mine clean with almost fetishistic regularity.

As with previous Duo laptops, the unusually sized (58 x 96mm) portrait touchpad is positioned to the right of the keyboard but the physical buttons have now been removed in favour of making it a larger, one-piece affair. It’s still a little on the small side, and the position really takes some getting used to but it’s an inevitable compromise caused by the basic design of this laptop. If the touchpad was below the keyboard the whole assembly would be unusably massive.

Either way, you may prefer to use the matte finish ScreenPad instead, which can double as a giant touchpad and also supports Microsoft Pen Protocol styluses if you want to make full use of the handwriting recognition facility or get arty. Asus doesn’t say if the ScreenPad has an oleophobic coating but given the lack of greasy fingerprints after prolonged use, I’d say it does.

The 720p webcam is nothing out of the ordinary and it lacks a privacy shutter but it does support Windows Hello IR facial recognition.

READ NEXT: The best gaming headsets you can buy

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: Display and audio

As the name suggests the Duo 16 comes with a 16in main screen as well as a 14in secondary display. Both are IPS but the main panel isn’t touch sensitive. The main screen does have a trick up its sleeve, though: you can swap between 3,840 x 2,400 120Hz and 1,920 x 1,080 240Hz, the former ideal for creative work, the latter better for gaming, although you have to reboot to change from one to the other. The Duo 16 also has a MUX switch, so be aware that you can spend quite a lot of time rebooting to optimise the display performance.

The main panel is bright, maxing out at 448cd/m2, and pin-sharp in 4K mode with a pixel density of 283ppi. There’s plenty of colour, too, with 104% of the DCI-P3 gamut accounted for and it’s reasonably accurate with an average Delta E colour variance of 1.8 against the DCI-P3 colour space.

The 363dpi ScreenPad doesn’t let the team down either with a maximum brightness of 355cd/m2 and 102.5% of the sRGB colour space accounted for. If you find text a bit small on the Screenpad you can adjust the resolution down to either 2,560 x 734 or 1,920 x 550.  Make no mistake, the Duo 16’s displays are a fantastic double act.

The manner in which the two displays work together is, on the whole, pretty seamless the only occasional foible being that you occaionally need to push or pull the cursor quite deliberately to get it to skip from one panel to the other. In general movement, it sometimes feels as if Windows forgets to move the pointer from one screen to the other.

As for the Dolby Atmos sound system that’s good, too, although it suffers from the fact that there’s no room for external speaker grilles. It’s not overly loud as a result, measuring a mere 83dB on average from a pink noise source 1m away and peaking at 86dB during music playback. However, it is a nicely balanced setup with a decent amount of depth and bass. Whether you’re playing music, watching a movie or gaming I can’t see anyone having issues with the Duo 16’s audio system.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: Performance and battery life

The review system I’m testing is built around an 8-core AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX CPU. It’s a powerful processor but not as potent as the Intel 12th gen 14-core competition – the Core i7-12700H, for instance.

This is deftly exposed by our 4K multimedia benchmark in which it scored 373, a full 100 points fewer than the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 and 45 points shy of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15, two of the Duo 16’s Core i7 stablemates. Of course, 373 is not a bad score but Intel has leapfrogged AMD with its new Alder Lake chips.

The real strength of the Duo 16 lies in its 150W TGP Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti GPU, which goes like the clappers and returns impressive game and creative results, especially when the screen is running in Full HD 240Hz mode.

Across the board, the Duo 16’s gaming performance impressed, hitting 74fps in our Hitman 2 test (highest detail settings), 141fps in Wolfenstein: Youngblood (fps) and 112fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the two last with video detail setting set at the highest, with Ray Tracing on and DLSS off.

I also ran the three standard Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition pre-set benchmarks (Extreme, Ultra and High) in which the Duo 16 achieved frames rates of 56fps, 84fps and 104fps at 1080p and 21fps, 32fps and 41fps at 4K. 

The Duo also performed well in SPECview’s workstation tests, chewing through the 3dsmax test at 139fps and recording equally impressive scores in the SolidWorks (271fps) and Medical (40fps) tests.

Incidentally, all tests were conducted in the laptop’s Turbo mode, which runs the CPU and GPU fans full tilt and boosts the GPU to its maximum clock speed. I experienced no major overheating issues even when gaming during a heatwave, which probably has something to do with the two air vents beneath the ScreenPad display.

With that extra screen, powerful CPU and GPU, battery life on the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 was never going to be good but even disabling the power hungry components didn’t help much. Indeed, its 90Wh battery lasted a mere 5hrs 33mins in our video playback test, with the main screen set to a brightness of 170cd/m2, the ScreenPad off, flight mode on, graphics in hybrid mode and the display set to 1,920 x 1,080 and 240Hz. Given the nature of the beast, that’s pretty much what I was expecting.

Storage performance is, perhaps, this system’s most impressive aspect. Its two 2TB PCIe 4 SSDs are combined in a RAID 0 array and, by gum, they are fast with sequential read and write speeds of 9,161MB/sec and 7,228MB/sec; shunting large files around and launching demanding games and applications happens in the blink of an eye.

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Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 review: Verdict

Is the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 16’s dual-screen setup a gimmick? Absolutely not. Maximising its useability does take a little while but, even after a few days with it, I could clearly see the benefits, especially as the design hasn’t resulted in too many compromises.

The lack of any hand rest space below the keyboard is a bind if you regularly use your laptop away from a desk but, used on a desk, the layout is really little different from using a regular desktop keyboard.

Moreover, the quality of those two displays, especially the trick 2K 240Hz, 4K 120Hz hybrid main screen, makes this machine an easy recommendation. The big issue is that very high price.

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