Asus is doubling down on dual screens. Recently, the company dropped by the Laptop Mag offices to show off its latest innovation in the dual screen laptop space and revealed the ZenBook Pro Duo. The laptop (pricing and availability yet to be determined) sports a 15.6-inch panel with a 14-inch (diagonally) second screen nestled at the top of the keyboard deck.
Yep, you read that correctly. Instead of occupying the touchpad space like on the ZenBook Pro 15, this expanded ScreenPad sits directly above the keyboard. With the ScreenPad taking up so much real estate, the keyboard has been pushed down to the lip of the laptop while the digital touchpad has shifted to the bottom-right corner.
This setup can be a bit uncomfortable for touch typists, so Asus was kind enough to bundle an attachable wrist rest. Magnetically connected, the peripheral easily and securely attaches to the front of the Pro Duo.
As for the laptop’s exterior, there are a couple of changes. First, there’s a new color. Dubbed Celestial Blue, it’s a clear and interesting departure from the midnight blue, that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. The company is still holding onto the concentric circle pattern, but the Asus logo, which used to sit in the center, has been moved towards the right, creating a neat new look.
Similar to other laptops in its catalog, Asus has given the ZenBook Pro Duo the ErgoLift hinge, which put the keyboard on a slight angle when opened. It creates a more comfortable typing experience and allows for better airflow.
The ZenBook Pro Duo weighs 5.5 pounds and measures14.1 x 9.7 x 0.9 inches, making it larger than the Dell XPS 15 (4.2 pounds, 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.5-0.7 inches), HP Spectre x360 (4.5 pounds, 14.2 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches) and the Apple MacBook Pro (4 pounds, 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches). Consumers looking for something a bit more portable might want to consider the smaller ZenBook Duo (3.9 pounds, 12.7 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches).
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Asus’ ScreenPad technology now runs the length of the keyboard deck. So what does the company expect you to do with all that extra space? Multitask. During my demo, I managed to fit three small windows across the expanse of this spacious new screen. In one window, I opened Spotify, Calendar in another and Google Maps in the remaining space. And I still had the main 15.6-inch screen to play with.
Similar to the ZenBook Pro 15, you can swap windows between the two screens. But now you can also create a sort of mega-scroll which I discovered during a plane flight demo. In this mode, the list of available flights was shown on both panels and I scrolled to further peruse the list. The action was seamless and intuitive, which is what you want with any piece of tech.
Just like the top screen, the second display is a touch screen and also has stylus support. That’s good since Asus bundles a stylus along with the wrist rest. The pen has a nice heft and delivers a smooth writing experience. But if you’re in a pinch, feel free to use your finger like I did in the handwriting app.
Similar to the original ScreenPad, you’ll still have access to a number of apps including Spotify and Microsoft Office. However, on ScreenPad Plus, you can create group settings that allow you to map up to four apps at a time to launch when you press the corresponding number in the app launcher.
In the future, Asus plans to create more custom user interfaces to work with specific apps. It’s an evolution of the intelligent adaptive display currently in play on the ScreenPad with Microsoft Office. That means video and photo editors, as well as music producers, will soon have a second display to unleash their creativity. However, coders familiar with Corel can embrace the dual-screen goodness now, coding on one screen and resting on the other.
The one thing ScreenPad Plus can’t do is act as a touchpad, which due to its location, we think that’s the right decision.
Double your pleasure, double your fun. Both screens on the ZenBook Pro Duo are 4K resolution, but the full-sized top screen is a glossy UHD (3840 x 2160) OLED panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio while the matte ScreenPad Plus with its 32:9 aspect ratio has a 3840 x 1100 resolution. On the smaller ZenBook Duo, you have a 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) panel with a 12.5-inch ScreenPad Plus.
Colors on the Pro Duo’s top screen are rich and vibrant with deep blacks and sharp contrasts as you’d expect from an OLED screen. Although the ScreenPad Plus isn’t OLED, it still delivers nice, bright color and thanks to its wide viewing angles, there’s rarely any color distortion. Both screens have HDR (high dynamic range) technology and a 100 percent DCI-P3 color gamut, which is much wider than sRGB.Thanks to Asus’ NanoEdge design, the OLED panel is nearly bezel-less, delivering more screen to the consumer.
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Asus isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to powering this sleek, system. The Duo Pro can be outfitted with either a 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H processor or an overclockable Core i9-9980HK CPU with up to 32GB of RAM. Storage options are either a pair of 256GB PCIe SSDs (512GB) or a quad (1TB) with a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. That means that whether you’re using the system for content creation or gaming, you’re getting great performance. A dedicated light bar at the lip of the computer, signifies that the laptop has Amazon Alexa voice support and if Cortana’s more your speed, you can summon her with the 4 integrated far-field microphones.
The 14-inch Duo isn’t as stacked as it larger brother, but its still got formidable specs, including an Intel Core i7 processor with up to 16GB of RAM, either two or four PCIe SSDs and a Nvidia GeForce MX 250 GPU with 2GB of VRAM. Both systems will feature Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 for faster connectivity and IR webcams with Windows Hello support for more secure logins.
Creative professionals may have found their match with Asus’ ZenBook Pro Duo. Sporting the world’s first ScreenPad Plus, it apes any multitasking companions that Apple or the rest of the competition has. Measuring 14-inches, ScreenPad Plus unlocks a level of multitasking that yet to be seen, it even surpasses last year’s ZenBook Pro 15. And on the performance front, the Pro Duo is more than a match for current laptops and consumers who don’t necessarily want a flashy gaming laptop, can expect solid gaming thanks to the RTX 2060 GPU.
I am, however, curious about the battery life and heat situation in such a relatively slim laptop. Discrete graphics can kill a battery and add a lot of heat to a chassis and Asus didn’t say anything about a cooling solution. Either way, I’m eager to get both the ZenBook Pro Duo and the ZenBook Duo into the Laptop Mag labs for testing.