The Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo SE GX551 is a mouthful, but behind that name lurks one of the most powerful and innovative gaming laptops that (lots of) money can buy. The GX551 deploys a brand-new Nvidia RTX 3000-series graphics chip and an eight-core AMD Zen 3 processor – alongside a second screen that promises to shake up gaming and creative workloads.

You’ll have to shell out £3,499 for this machine, though, and the Duo’s unique design introduces as many compromises as it does advantages – so can the GX551 prove its worth as the ultimate gaming laptop?

Who’s it for?

ROG stands for Republic of Gamers and Zephyrus is Asus’ high-end sub-brand, so it’s clear that the GX551 is primarily designed for those who want the best experience possible. A huge proportion of gaming laptops are also used for content-creation too, including streaming and video production, so Asus reckons that the GX551 can sate both gamers and creative types. That’s why this machine has high-end graphics and processing hardware – rather than just one or the other – and that’s why the firm has worked so hard to cram the second screen inside this laptop.

Screening calls

The second display is called the ScreenPad, and it’s a 14in touchscreen with a resolution of 3,840 x 1,100. It occupies half of the laptop’s base, and opening the machine engages hinges that push the ScreenPad upwards. This is smart: the angle makes it easier for users, and lifting the screen delivers better component cooling.

The ScreenPad is managed by an app called Screen Xpert. It snaps software around the second screen and groups apps together, and it’s also got a handy, customisable shortcut dock. Any software can be used with the ScreenPad – gamers can use it for chat apps or browsers, while content creators can deploy timelines, controls, or secondary software to the ScreenPad. The ScreenPad has applets full of optimised touch controls for Adobe apps like Photoshop, Lightroom and Premiere Pro.

For gaming, the ScreenPad uses a system called Overwolf, which enables extensions that serve up stats, tracking and tools for popular games. Most of the titles supported are esports games and adjacent services, like Fortnite, League of Legends, TeamSpeak and Xsplit Gamecaster, which is a shame for people who want to play single-player titles, but they’re useful if you’re invested in supported titles.

The main display is a 15.6in IPS panel with a 4K resolution, and it has a 120Hz refresh rate with AMD FreeSync, a 3ms response time and Pantone validation. It’s a formidable specification, and the panel offers brilliant quality: its measured contrast of 1,144:1 is well-balanced, colour depth and accuracy levels are impressive, and the display renders 100% of the sRGB and Adobe RGB gamuts. For gaming, the refresh rate and response time deliver smooth, fast-paced gameplay, and the colour accuracy and gamut coverage ensure ample quality for work.

If you’re an esports fan and you want more screen speed, then Asus produces a £2,499 version of the GX551 with a 1080p, 300Hz display and an RTX 3070 graphics core.

Under the hood

Let’s nerd out for a second. The RTX 3080 is Nvidia’s latest and most powerful laptop GPU, with 6,144 Ampere-powered CUDA cores. The beefier version has been used here, with 16GB of dedicated memory, and the GX551 pairs that mighty graphics core with an eight-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, 32GB of memory and a pair of 1TB Samsung SSDs arranged in a RAID 0 configuration. So what does all that spec mean for gamers?

The Nvidia GPU is a beast. At the laptop’s native resolution of 4K it played top-tier games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Horizon Zero Dawn, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Borderlands 3 with frame rates that easily sat beyond 30fps and often beyond 45fps – and that’s with games at their top graphics settings and with ray-tracing and DLSS. If you want to get beyond 60fps for a smoother experience at 4K then some minor settings modification will do the trick in loads of big games.

It’s a barnstormer at 1080p, too. In the toughest games at their highest settings it easily blasted beyond 60fps and got beyond 100fps in loads of less-demanding titles. Lots of single-player games will easily run at the speeds required to saturate that 120Hz display if you’re willing to compromise on the resolution, and the Asus won’t be troubled by any esports titles.

There are graphical caveats. The RTX 3080 doesn’t play every game smoothly at 4K with graphical settings ramped up – it did struggle in bleeding-edge games like CyberPunk 2077. Dropping settings does solve the issue, but it proves that Nvidia’s latest laptop GPU isn’t flawless. You also won’t get many modern games running at 4K and 120Hz without serious quality reductions. Also bear in mind that esports fans just don’t need an RTX 3080. In fact, the GX551’s cheaper RTX 3070-based machine is better for esports because of its higher refresh rate.

The AMD processor is tremendous. The Zen 3 architecture is brilliant, with Geekbench single- and multi-core scores of 1,461 and 8,629. The single-threaded result squeaks ahead of anything you’ll find in an Intel laptop, and its multi-threaded result has a bigger lead. The AMD part will handle anything, from photo- and video-editing to streaming and multi-tasking. It’ll be overkill for some users, but it’s the best laptop chip for tough workloads.

The two SSDs combine to deliver incredible speed, too, which is a boon for games and work: loading times, file saves and file writes are all incredibly quick, and the machine boots quickly.

With great power comes great heat, though, and this is an area where the GX551 works hard. Positively, internal temperatures are decent, and performance remains good, with lashings of power consistently available despite some minor and expected CPU throttling. If you’re running mainstream games and workloads the fan noise isn’t bad – it’s certainly present and you’ll need speakers or a headset, but it’s no worse than any other high-end machine. If you really push the components then the GX551 is louder, but it’s never unbearable.

The underside of the machine becomes too hot to touch, which is not an issue if you keep this machine at your desk. The metal around the keyboard is hot too, though, and vents on each side eject hot air, which is irritating if you’re using a USB mouse.

Unsurprisingly, the GX551 doesn’t have great longevity. If you dial down the screen brightness and disable the ScreenPad then you’ll eke four hours of work from this machine, but if you’re using both displays and pushing the components then it’ll last between two and a half and three and a half hours. When gaming the Asus lasted for around an hour, and graphics performance is reduced on battery power too – this is a laptop that shouldn’t ever play games away from the mains, which is normal for this kind of laptop.

Design

The GX551 looks the part, with a body made from brushed aluminium, and it has impressive build quality and movement – the hinges are smooth, and the body is robust.

The Asus weighs 2.5kg and is 21mm thick, so it’s the kind of hefty machine that’ll stay at home or be carted around in a backpack. Considering the screens and components, though, those dimensions are impressive – not much bigger than conventional 15.6in gaming machines.
It’s got three USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and a Type-C connection that supports DisplayPort and power delivery, and it has an HDMI output, audio jack and a microSD card slot. On the inside, connectivity comes from dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Gigabit Ethernet.

Connectivity isn’t all rosy, though. The power jack plugs in half-way down the left-hand side, and the half-way down the right-hand side you’ll find three USB connections. These ports make way for cooling vents, and cables could interfere with your hand if you’re using an external mouse. Also bear in mind that the GX551 doesn’t have a webcam, and there’s no full-size SD slot or Thunderbolt support. Faster Ethernet would have been welcome, too.

The speakers are better. The Asus has two 4W speakers and two 2W tweeters, and they serve up bright, well-balanced, and dense audio with decent bass. For gaming, media, and music they’re good.

Typecast

The keyboard is another area where the GX551’s bold design has an unwelcome impact. The keyboard is installed at the front of the base, so you’ve got no wrist-rest, no numberpad and cramped arrow keys.
It’s a disappointing experience. The buttons have a mediocre 1.4mm of travel and their typing action is fast, but soft – gamers prefer crisper keys. The lack of a wrist-rest makes the keyboard uncomfortable, and Asus’ included rubber wrist-rest is too small. For casual and mainstream gaming and work, the Asus’ keyboard is manageable, but conventional laptops have better typing actions and more space.

The trackpad suffers, too. It’s very narrow and the buttons are soft – anyone who’s serious about gaming or working on this machine should plug in a USB rodent.

Should I buy it?

The ultimate gaming laptop? Well, the RTX 3080 is the fastest laptop GPU available right now and the AMD processor is one of the best mobile chips on the market – and the memory, storage, screen quality and speakers are all superb. The Asus Duo SE GX551 will play virtually any game at 4K or 1080p, and the CPU will scythe through video-editing, content creation and streaming.

The ScreenPad adds another dimension to this machine, too. Depending on the games you play and the creative apps you use it could prove invaluable.

That second screen causes issues, though. It hinders the keyboard and trackpad, makes this machine heavier, contributes to poorer battery life and raises the price dramatically.

The GX551 sets out to become the ultimate gaming laptop, and it succeeds in terms of performance – and if you’re going to use the ScreenPad then this machine could underpin your gaming and working life for years. The divisive second screen and the high price do mean that the Asus will miss the mark for many people, though – and that it’ll remain an impressive, niche option rather than a dominant force.

The Asus ROG Zephryus Duo SE GX551 (with RTX 3080) is available for £3,499 via Ebuyer, Scan and Overclockers.

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