Jun 09, 2021 Written by:Eric Born

Hands-on: The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE makes on-the-go gaming and streaming a snap

Articles: Hands On
Article Tags: Hands On

After a busy week of working at home, I needed to get away from my desk. I closed my ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, grabbed its power adapter and my ROG Keris Wireless gaming mouse, and set up shop in my downstairs studio. My Saturday night gaming group was all set to tackle Valheim’s third boss together. We’d brewed a supply of poison resistance mead, cooked a full selection of stat-boosting food, and braved countless sunken crypts to collect the scrap iron we needed to forge powerful weapons.

My plans were almost thwarted but for a crucial assist from the Duo 15 SE. One member of our squad called off at the last minute. They insisted that I stream the encounter on Twitch and save the recording so that he wouldn’t miss out. With almost any other laptop, I'd have had to trudge back upstairs and connect an external monitor to make enough screen space for my stream setup. But the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE isn’t like other laptops. Its ROG ScreenPad Plus second display gave me all the real estate I needed to game, chat, and stream all at the same time.

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Playing a game at a fluid frame rate, sharing a high-quality stream, and recording the action all at once requires a potent PC. Even under that workload, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE didn’t miss a beat for me. Its NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 enjoys a 115W power envelope that can expand to 130W under Dynamic Boost. The eight-core, 16-thread AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, the highest-end processor currently available from AMD, can muscle through several processing-intensive activities at the same time. Those powerful components, along with the ROG ScreenPad Plus, make this laptop the ideal machine for any kind of multitasking on the go.

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The rising ROG ScreenPad Plus also provides a unique opportunity to get cooling air to the high-performance components inside. This Active Aerodynamic System Plus design, alongside our new Arc Flow fans and liquid metal thermal compound on the CPU, is strikingly effective at dissipating heat from the laptop. Even as I pushed the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE to the limits with the latest games, its skin stayed cool under my fingers, its performance stayed consistently high, and it didn't distract me with excessive fan noise.

The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE offers unbridled performance and unequaled multitasking capabilities to nomadic gamers who regularly stream or play online co-op. Read on for a closer look at its all-around prowess.

ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE
Model Availability (US)
GX551QS-XS99
120Hz UHD
Ryzen 9 5900HX
GeForce RTX 3080
ASUS
Adorama
Amazon
Best Buy
EXcaliberPC
Micro Center
Mobile Advance
Staples
GX551QS-XS98
300Hz FHD
Ryzen 9 5900HX
GeForce RTX 3080
ASUS
Newegg
GX551QR-XS98
300Hz FHD
Ryzen 9 5900HX
GeForce RTX 3070
ASUS
Newegg
B&H
Micro Center
Staples
XoticPC
GX551QM-ES76
300Hz FHD
Ryzen 7 5800H
GeForce RTX 3060
ASUS
Amazon
 

AMD and Ampere unleashed

The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE deftly handles every game I play, and I’ve been feeding it a steady diet of hot new releases. Outriders, The Medium, Resident Evil Village—I’ve been playing nothing but the latest titles at the highest graphics settings, and this machine lets me experience each one fluidly.

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 makes it all possible. Thanks to advanced cooling, this GPU runs up to 1660MHz at 115W. When CPU usage is light, it can take advantage of another 15W through Dynamic Boost—a higher power envelope than similarly slim laptops can match. That's a recipe for impressive gaming performance, and the numbers back it up.

Outriders

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If you’ve been following ROG Plays on Twitch, you'll know that we had a blast with Square Enix’s co-op shooter Outriders. With its fast-paced action, haunting sci-fi landscapes, and satisfying loot, this game has kept me coming back for more.

outriders

Combat can be hectic in Outriders, especially with two teammates at my side and swarms of mutants charging in for the kill. Thanks to NVIDIA DLSS technology, enabled by the Tensor cores in the GeForce RTX 3070, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE renders this game quickly enough to keep me on top of every moment of combat. A 136.4 FPS average in this game let me track enemies with uncanny accuracy and time my Altered powers with lethal precision.

The Medium

It only took a few months for 2021 to establish itself as a banner year for horror gaming. I kicked off the new year with The Medium, a tense, slow-burning thriller that follows a clairvoyant young woman as she explores a ruined resort and discovers the horrifying origins of her supernatural powers. Lavish ray-traced lighting effects make the game breathtakingly immersive.

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The Medium’s photorealistic shadows and reflections are startlingly effective at ratcheting up the tension. I was spellbound as I watched Marianne’s shadow crawl across the walls as she explored the sinister resort setting. Throughout The Medium, there are also moments when my character inhabits both the real world and the spiritual world at the same time, and the game renders each of these settings at once, ratcheting up the load on the GPU. 

The GeForce RTX 3070 GPU was built to power The Medium's ray-tracing tech and split-scene rendering fluidly, thanks to specialized RT cores that shoulder the computational grunt work of realistically tracing rays of light. This game also supports NVIDIA’s AI-powered DLSS 2.0 upscaling tech. This remarkable process greatly increases my frame rate without noticeably affecting image quality. As you can see, I enjoyed an average of about 90 FPS while exploring everything The Medium has to offer. 

As these graphs of performance in Outriders and The Medium show, frame rates vary naturally over time due to changes in the complexity of the scene being rendered. Even in those demanding sequences, I enjoyed smooth, fluid visuals thanks to the 300Hz display's Adaptive-Sync support. This tech synchronizes the refresh rate of the display with the frame rate so that I never have to deal with ugly screen tearing, even in the odd moments where a tough scene drops frame rates below 60 FPS.

Resident Evil Village

village-ssImage source: Gamesplanet

As a devoted fan of Resident Evil 4, I eagerly dove into Resident Evil Village, which takes fans of the series back to the rural European setting that defined its franchise-changing predecessor. Capcom has learned more than a few tricks about graphics in the years since RE4, and Village is a bloody spectacular feast for the eyes. The opulent halls of Castle Dimitrescu glitter with wealth and extravagance, and with ray tracing enabled, light and shadow fall realistically on golden candelabra, menacing suits of armor, and polished floors.

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With the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, I chose the Max preset, turned up the ray tracing settings, and enjoyed a 74 FPS average—no tweaks necessary. I jumped when I first saw my character’s photorealistic shadow on the wall in front of me. Village doesn’t just use the latest graphics technologies to make the game detailed and grimly beautiful. It uses them with finesse to dial up the tension. The Zephyrus Duo 15 SE wasn't fazed by the challenges that Village threw at its hardware. I wish my heart was as resistant to skipping a few beats every time I came across a new scare

The ROG ScreenPad Plus provides a competitive edge

Sometimes I’m in the mood for a lavishly rendered AAA adventure. Other times, I want to challenge other players in glorious online combat. The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE sets me up for success no matter what I’m in the mood for.

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The ROG ScreenPad Plus gives me the competitive edge to climb the ladder in esports games like League of Legends. Whenever I play a new champion, I always do my research to learn the best builds and strategies. The ScreenPad Plus gives me a convenient location to read through that info, all while keeping the game front and center. This layout helps make sure that I never miss the start of a match while I’m researching and strategizing.

The ScreenPad Plus helps me during the game, too. Overwolf apps for League of Legends and other popular games provide tactical information, vital stats, and build guides that I can quickly access during the game. The Zephyrus Duo 15 SE lets me interact with those apps without covering up my game window, and I get to enjoy that multi-monitor convenience in one device.

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The fast primary display also opens a path to the winner’s circle. It refreshes at an astonishing 300Hz, so the on-screen action is always fluid and supremely responsive. Since the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE can run games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at 300 FPS or even higher, that refresh rate isn’t merely academic. The panel’s low 3ms response time complements the fast refresh rate by making sure that each pixel can transition to a new color with minimal blur. Mere milliseconds separate winners and losers in this game, and the Duo’s screen is always as fast as the action.

A clear picture of the action is important, but clear communication makes all the difference in a squad-based game. The Zephyrus Duo’s Two-Way AI Noise Cancelation tech intelligently removes background noise from my microphone and the chatter of my squadmates. It uses CPU resources rather than GPU processing to cut the chatter, so I don’t have to sacrifice FPS for clear, distraction-free audio. As I played, all I heard was the game and the voices of my teammates directing each other toward our common goal.

The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE takes my show on the road

I often want to share my gameplay with the world. Sometimes it’s for my weekly gaming group. Sometimes it’s for a Jackbox Party Pack marathon with my friends across the country. Other times, I’ll find an exciting new indie game that I just have to share, and there are always folks on Twitch browsing around for a new experience and a fresh perspective.

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More than any other laptop I’ve used, the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE makes streaming easy and intuitive. The ROG ScreenPad Plus gives me a convenient place to put my streaming and chat software. It's positioned perfectly so that I can keep an eye on those elements without losing my immersion in the game. Since the ScreenPad Plus is a touchscreen, I can even make quick adjustments with a tap of my finger instead of alt-tabbing back and forth.

The flexible second screen is one part of the equation for streaming success. The Zephyrus Duo’s powerful components are the second. Empowered by the substantial AAS Plus cooling system, this laptop’s AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 make an ideal combination for streaming from a portable device.

ghostrunner-ssImage source: Gamesplanet

My audience has especially enjoyed my hacking and slashing through the fast-paced 3D platformer Ghostrunner of late. The lethal, death-defying acrobatics of this title give me an adrenaline rush like no other. It’s also a tightly optimized game that will run at dizzyingly high frame rates if you’ve got the hardware to keep up.

ghostrunner

The Zephyrus Duo 15 SE definitely has what it takes to make this game shine. Playing at an average of 199.2 FPS is a real treat on a 300Hz monitor with Adaptive-Sync. Dodging lethal projectiles is a challenge, but it’s one that I can handily tackle thanks to this system's fluid, responsive performance. But could the Duo 15 SE run the game, stream my exploits to Twitch, and save high-quality archival footage, all at the same time?

I wanted to make the best use of each processing resource in the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, so I used the RTX 3070’s Ampere NVENC for the stream and the Ryzen 9 5900HX's considerable multithreaded power for producing the local recording. I set the RTX 3070's NVENC at the maximum quality setting in OBS using a 6000 Kbps bit rate. The resulting 1920x1080 stream was impeccably smooth and virtually indistinguishable from one generated by the popular x264 software encoder, which relies on the CPU.

I didn’t let the Ryzen 9 5900HX’s eight cores sit idle, though. Those were tasked with recording my gameplay locally. Since I was concerned with quality above all for my local recording, I used a constant rate factor (CRF) instead of a constant bitrate. I set OBS to use x264 at a CRF of 20 to produce 1080p 60FPS footage. The resulting video was clear of any visible blocking or artifacting—exactly the kind of pristine recording that any enthusiast would want as a starting point for a YouTube clip. Even with these demanding settings, I had plenty of safety margin left on the CPU for overlays, effects, and other programs running mid-stream.

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With Ghostrunner running and OBS Studio streaming and recording, the Zephyrus Duo’s resources were certainly put to the test. A quick look at the Task Manager in Windows shows just how much these activities put the underlying hardware to work. All 16 CPU threads were engaged, but they weren't maxed out.

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Inside the game, I was hard-pressed to notice all the heavy lifting being done in the background. All by itself, Ghostrunner ran at an average of 199.2 FPS, and with OBS Studio sharing and saving my gameplay, it ran at an average of 170.3 FPS. That's a small price to pay for the convenience of running an entire streaming-and-recording setup from one slim gaming notebook. 

The Zephyrus Duo 15 SE has another trick up its sleeve that’s a game-changer when it comes time for video editing. After cutting my gameplay footage and prepping it for YouTube in my favorite editing software, I had a lengthy video to export. When the GPU is active, the Ryzen 9 5900HX has a generous 50W of power available to it. But when the GPU is less fully occupied—as it is when I’m running an export in DaVinci Resolve—the CPU can dynamically draw up to 90W, nearly double the thermal envelope typical for a laptop processor. That power boost let me export my video faster so I could get back to gaming.

Powerful cooling for power users

The Zephyrus Duo’s CPU and GPU proved more than capable of delivering a high-quality gaming, streaming, and recording experience. Maintaining that level of performance for a full stream requires a robust cooling system. Components throttle down to stay within their rated temperature range if they get too hot, and if that happens, I might see jerks and stutters in my game and stream. Whether for gaming, streaming, or both at once, consistent performance is essential.

lid-logo

Thanks to its AAS Plus design, Arc Flow fans, and liquid metal CPU thermal compound, the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE’s cooling system is more than equal to the task of keeping the GeForce RTX 3070 and Ryzen 9 5900HX operating at their full potential. Throughout a 20-minute period of gaming, streaming, and recording, I logged CPU and GPU clock rates and load figures to see whether I was getting the consistent performance I demanded.

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The comprehensive cooling design of the Zephyrus Duo 15 SE allows for remarkably consistent CPU clocks even under this intense load. Clock rates hover above 3500MHz for the most part, even with all eight cores and 16 threads working. A lesser cooling system might have resulted in thermal throttling and drops in performance that would have spoiled my computing experience.

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The Duo 15 SE really gives the GeForce RTX 3070 the opportunity to show what it’s made of, too. The task of rendering the game and encoding the stream kept the RTX 3070’s hands full. The GPU is specced to run at up to 1645MHz at 115W with ROG Boost, yet it actually averaged 1714MHz in this test, and hit a peak clock rate of 1920MHz. The laptop’s AAS Plus cooling system allows the RTX 3070 to give me everything it’s got and more, even when the Duo 15 SE is firing on all cylinders.

  GX551QS-XS99 GX551QS-XS98
CPU Ryzen 9 5900HX
Display 120Hz/3ms UHD 100% Adobe RGB
60Hz 3840x1100 ROG ScreenPad Plus
300Hz/3ms FHD 100% sRGB
60Hz 1920x550 ROG ScreenPad Plus
GPU GeForce RTX 3080
Memory 32GB DDR4
Storage 1TB + 1TB SSD 
RAID 0
1TB SSD
I/O 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
3x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
1x audio combo jack
1x HDMI 2.0b
1x RJ45
1x MicroSD card reader
Battery 90Wh
MSRP $3,699.99 (U.S.) $3,499.99 (U.S.)
U.S. ASUS
Adorama
Amazon
Best Buy
EXcaliberPC
Micro Center
Mobile Advance
Staples
ASUS
Newegg
  GX551QR-XS98 GX551QM-ES76
CPU Ryzen 9 5900HX Ryzen 7 5800H
Display 300Hz/3ms FHD 100% sRGB
60Hz 1920x550 ROG ScreenPad Plus
GPU GeForce RTX 3070 GeForce RTX 3060
Memory 32GB DDR4 16GB DDR4
Storage 1TB SSD
I/O 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
3x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
1x audio combo jack
1x HDMI 2.0b
1x RJ45
1x MicroSD card reader
Battery 90Wh
MSRP $2,899.99 $2,199.99
U.S. ASUS
Newegg
B&H
Micro Center
Staples
XoticPC
ASUS
Amazon

The dream machine for gamers and streamers


The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE’s innovative design makes it a standout for streamers who need a portable device to run their shows, or for all the gamers who run communication apps, browser windows, or music services alongside their games. The ROG ScreenPad Plus is a second screen that's always at hand, making any kind of multitasking easier and more intuitive.

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The rising design of the ScreenPad Plus does more. It opens up massive intake vents for the AAS Plus cooling system. The AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 GPU get all the cooling air and electrical power they need to deliver smooth, fluid gaming experiences, and I got to enjoy comfortable keyboard temperatures and quiet operation in a thin device.

The ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE’s unique combination of multitasking flexibility, effortless power, and easy portability make it an easy choice for gamers who want a laptop that does more. Grab one for yourself to find out how its innovative design can open up new possibilities for everything you do.

Articles: Hands On
Article Tags: Hands On
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