Last year’s ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 from Asus was one of the more interesting laptops of 2020. At first glance, it looked like your usual high-end laptop: new mobile-tuned technology, a slick screen, and a stylish chassis. ? There was a second screen, a screen that opened new doors to the productivity that a laptop could be capable of in these intensive times, while also offering plenty of creative wiggle room.
The GX550 model, a pricey piece of hardware but a fantastic one delivered on multiple fronts, was a fascinating example of future technology becoming reality. Fast forward a year and there must be some demand for a dual-screen setup as Asus has rolled out a new line of laptops with more updated hardware. On the one hand, it still has an eye-watering price tag that only CEOs wouldn’t mind, but on the other, it carries a limited edition Rolex, at least slightly less expensive now!
The same procedure as last year
Let’s face it, not much has changed in appearance with the GX551, opting for a more iterative update instead. It’s still a handsome package, one with brushed aluminum and a form factor that makes it sit very nicely in a bag with its slim figure, multiple ports and dual display. Measuring 0.82 by 14.2 by 10.6 inches and weighing 2.4 kg, it is comfortably sized to take anywhere at home or on a trip without worrying about spine is rearranged in several places.
On the left you have a headphone jack and a microSD card slot, while the right side of the notebook has two USB 3.1 Type-A ports and one USB-C port. Building on last year’s trend, most of the heavy-duty ports are now located on the back of the device. At the back you have another USB 3.1 Type-A port, an Ethernet port and an HDMI output. What you’ll find here again is a webcam, but on the bright side, I’m happy to report that the upgraded front-firing speakers are a huge improvement on last year’s tinny audio output. I am talking about Sony area about laptop audio here!
The cosmetic differences here are mainly focused on a new lid, an all-black finish, and the second screen still does a wonderfully elegant angled pop when you open the laptop. It’s worth noting that because this screen takes up quite a bit of laptop space, the GX551’s layout still lacks a palm rest. Likewise, the keyboard and trackpad layout has remained the same, an admittedly claustrophobic but inevitable accumulation of keys and gestures.
Of course, this is all secondary to the laptop’s main event, the 3840 x 1100 seconds screen. I still believe it is a fantastic luxury to have, but one you can live without. What the second screen represents is a new avenue for creativity, and if you’re willing to put some time and effort into making the most of it, you’d be surprised how much you can do with it.
That added luxury features like a second screen, and in my own tests I’ve used it for a lot of tasks. A special Tweetdeck to keep my news feed within a more optimal position of my eyesight, command prompts for various programs, and at the very least a handy toolbar to show me how far along my current game downloads were.
Undisputedly fascinating and aimed at creatives, I’ve seen streamers and artists use last year’s model to streamline their workflow and output. If you have both the money and the imagination, there is no limit to what you can use this extra display for. It’s still pin-sharp, vibrant and dazzlingly bright with its high-quality production, which makes it a reasonable justification for the GX551’s price tag.
From the inside and the outside
There are now three Asus models for the GX551 on the market, but for this review we sent the mid-range laptop with the following specifications:
- AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor 3.3 GHz (16M cache, up to 4.6 GHz) with integrated Radeon graphics
- 32 GB RAM
- 1 TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 Performance RAID0 SSD
- 1920x1080p, 60Hz screen
And that’s a solid collection of hardware out there. 1080p at 60Hz is still more than capable of delivering an excellent visual experience even in an age of absurd 300Hz displays, and if you really need a faster monitor you can grab the GX551 with a 4K 120 Hz monitor. Other options add heavier hardware to the frame, with a marked increase in the price tag that goes with it. Keep in mind that with the current global parts shortage, if you go for a model with Nvidia’s RTX 30 series laptop GPUs, the cost can easily be pushed up to a staggering R100,000.
I’m not going to get too involved in testing here as this is a review that focuses more than anything else on an iterative update to a laptop idea, but to play games and just relax? This particular mid-range model easily coped with the task. With a maximum 1080p display and integrated Radeon graphics, I had to make some caveats in the graphics department about my usual range of games, as I chose first-party titles from the Microsoft library through Game Pass.
Gears 5, Gears Tactics, Far Cry 5, and Dirt 4 were all handled well enough on high settings, while getting creative with high-bit-rate video edits wasn’t out of the question. There’s tons of grunt under the hood of this device, once you start cranking its engine and discover where it draws a line. If you’re looking for more GPU grunt, Evetech currently has an Nvidia 3070 GPU-equipped model of this laptop that retails for R60,000.
I’ve got the power
Oh yes, the battery! Obviously, with a second screen, the battery won’t be an all-day workhorse when Eskom strikes. That said, cutting out a few options and adopting an airplane mode mindset will still look like a lot of activity, and in my own testing with various media, types, and an actual deadline test when a substation came to me near his breakers saw trip, I have an easy three hours off the GX551. More than fair.
While last year’s debut was an exciting taste of something new in an otherwise stagnant market, this year’s Zephyrus offering is more of a refinement of what came before it. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as it means that the latest generation of dual-screen laptops has managed to get rid of the teething troubles of the original.
A few of the other inevitable layout issues are still there, but this 2021 edition from the Zephyrus brand is taking to the streets with more swagger than ever before and a more defined direction to engage creative people with its new hardware and exciting potential.
Last updated: April 12, 2021