There is only one reason to buy the Asus ZenBook Duo. When you've seen an image, you know what that reason is: there are two screens.
In particular, there is the primary display, a 14-inch 1080p matt screen. There is also another display, a 12.6-inch IPS panel called ScreenPad 2.0, which is built into the top half of the lower deck. Both are touch-capable and support the active pen from Asus. It is difficult to explain what it looks like. You will get it as soon as you see it.
- Useful additional screen
- 10 hours of battery life
- Pen support
- Sharp folding hinge
- Chunky touchpad
- No flash 3
- A weak GPU is not worth it
The $ 1,499 ZenBook Duo isn't quite the only laptop of its kind. Last year's ZenBook Pro Duo (which is a reduced, portable version) offers a two-screen setup in the form of a workstation for $ 2,500. Dollars and some similar concepts, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, are slated to be released later this year. At the moment, however, the ZenBook Duo is the best laptop for most users who want more than one display.
Just make sure you really want the extra screen as the compromises you have to make are significant.
Unlike the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar or previous ZenBooks like the Pro 15, which experimented with touchscreen trackpads, the ScreenPad has a number of obvious use cases that work properly.
A folding hinge lifts the ScreenPad slightly off the floor.
I mostly displayed distractions like Slack, Twitter, and Spotify on the bottom screen so they wouldn't get in my way while doing my main work above, but sometimes I kept notes or other information down there for reference. You can easily send a friend a message while watching Netflix, edit videos using the timeline below, or stream a YouTube tutorial below while playing a game above. I am sure you can see your own uses for it. It's like having a built-in miniature monitor. However, keep in mind that the ScreenPad is small and has a very narrow aspect ratio, so it is best suited to running streams in the background or taking a look at Twitter here and there. Reading in depth or actually working on it is pretty tight.
It's like having a built-in miniature monitor
In the Asus Launcher menu, which you open by tapping the left side of the ScreenPad, you can access a handful of useful functions that take advantage of the duo's form factor (as well as adjust the brightness of the ScreenPad and lock and unlock the keyboard). There are some apps, including the Quick Key (which gives you access to shortcuts to commands such as cut, copy, and paste), the numeric key (which calls up a virtual number pad), and handwriting (which you use with the stylus and Scribble text) will appear wherever your cursor is – it's pretty accurate). You can create “task groups” with up to five apps or tabs (two on the main screen and three on the ScreenPad), which you can open later with a single click. You can also add any apps to the launcher's main menu so that it can act as a secondary dock.
The ZenBook Duo lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port, which is frustrating at this price.
Moving apps from one screen to another is as easy as moving them to an external monitor. But there are also some nice tricks. When you click and drag a window, a small menu appears with options that you can use to send it to the opposite display, pin it to the launcher, or expand it to cover both screens. There's also a handy button above the touchpad that lets you instantly swap the contents of your top and bottom screens and automatically resize them.
The only ScreenPad feature I used frequently was task groups. I have created a group of work registers to be opened in the morning and a group of leisure registers to be opened at night. But everything else worked as advertised. The most important thing is that Asus has done the job. The ScreenPad is not a gimmick. it's useful.
That means there are problems.
The ScreenPad is not a gimmick. it's useful
Asus calls the color "sky blue".
For one thing, the keyboard deck is an uncomfortable place for a screen. You need to put your head down to read something on the ScreenPad – my neck was sore after a full day with the duo.
Then you have to compromise to achieve this form factor. For one thing, I never noticed how beautiful wrist rests are until I had to use this laptop that doesn't have one. I felt like a T. rex using this on my couch and pressing my arms against my stomach. There is also the ErgoLift hinge that is used to lift the ScreenPad at an angle from the floor. I usually have no problem holding hinges on my lap, but it's pretty sharp. It was so uncomfortable that while I was working on the couch, I was holding the duo between my knees. You really want to use this laptop on a table or desk, not on your actual lap.
And then there's the touchpad, which was packed into the lower right corner of the keyboard deck thanks to the ScreenPad. It is pointless. It's too small (2.1 x 2.7 inches) to realistically use for precise gestures or to scroll without hitting the case quickly. (Also good luck if you are left-handed). I don't want to use third-party peripherals in my review process, but if I had just bought the duo, I would have connected a mouse immediately and never looked back. In the end, I used the Asus pen (which is fluid and very responsive) for much of my daily work and almost all of the scrolling. I wonder if it's even worth having a touchpad on this device. I cannot imagine anyone using it regularly.
I like the typing experience of the keyboard, although it is very difficult to use on my lap.
When it comes to standard laptops, the duo is a powerful computer, but nothing will blow you out of the water – again, the ScreenPad is the reason to buy it.
I have the only configuration currently available that costs $ 1,499 and comes with the Intel Quad-Core Core i7-10510U processor, 16 GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU. The system was fine for my daily load of Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming, Slack, YouTube and other tasks. However, the mid-range Comet Lake CPU is not the best choice for encoding videos or other demanding creative tasks. Most power users are better suited for the ZenBook Pro Duo, which is equipped with a Core i9-9980HK with eight cores and a more powerful graphics card. The duo's battery life was surprisingly good as two screens had to be juiced. I browsed the Battery Saver profile with both panels at medium brightness for a little over 10 hours on the Internet. And the machine kept decently cool during the test (only the floor was occasionally roasted). Fans only fired while playing, and you can activate a silent profile in the Asus Control Center if they bother you.
The duo is far from a slot machine
The connections receive a passed grade: On the right side there is a USB 3.1 type A connection, a microSD card slot and an audio socket as well as an HDMI, another USB 3.1 type A connection, a power connection and a USB-C. No Thunderbolt 3, which is a blatant omission on a laptop, a ScreenPad, or no ScreenPad for $ 1,499.
After all, the duo is far from a slot machine. For GPUs, the MX250 is close to the bottom of the barrel. Integrated graphics on many modern processors (including Iris Plus from Intel, which comes with the Ice Lake generation, and the new Vega graphics in the Ryzen 4000 mobile series from AMD) have comparable performance. Therefore, buying laptops with graphics cards with low performance is becoming less and less sensible.
The ZenBook Duo has a microSD card slot instead of a full size option.
That was reflected in my tests. The duo only managed an average of 26 fps at the highest settings in Civilization VI. (I have 40fps, which is medium). These are better frame rates than with integrated graphics, but there is certainly nothing to write home about. The MX250 feels like half a thing to me – either you want a GPU or you don't. If you don't want a GPU, you don't need an MX250. If you want a GPU, I doubt that you are happy with these results.
The ScreenPad is useful for games, especially if you want to keep a reference guide open or want to watch a YouTube video during playback. However, keep in mind that clicking the bottom display essentially exits the game – audio will stop and you will need to click again to continue playing. So use the ScreenPad a bit painfully for operations like Discord chats or live tweeting.
At 3.3 pounds, the ZenBook Duo is more portable than the ZenBook Pro Duo, which has a similar dual-screen setup.
The clear second screen is located directly above the function line on the keyboard.
If you want to play on two screens, you should wait for Asus & # 39; ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, a game-specific duo that is slated to come out later this year and can be configured with up to one RTX 2080 Super. According to Asus, the company is working with developers to create special interfaces and controls that are suitable for two-screen setup.
The truth is: I can't imagine buying this computer. The cramped touchpad, the sharp hinge and the lack of palm rests made the use just too uncomfortable. And the gradual improvement of the MX250 over integrated graphics is not enough to tip the scales in its favor.
The trackpad is small, awkwardly placed and only frustrating to use.
However, if you're specifically looking for a two-screen device, it works. It's more than a party trick. It is useful and there are cool things you can do. However, I think the form factor is more appropriate for a workstation (like the ZenBook Pro Duo) that will likely spend most of its life at a desk with peripheral attached. I'm not sure if there is a way to make a duo out of it as a portable laptop. If so, Asus didn't quite find it.