Technical / Asus ZenBook Pro Duo first impressions: The dual-screen laptop we’ve been waiting for

The Indian Express : May 28, 2019, 12:33 PM

Laptop design hasn’t changed over the years. Sure, laptops have got thinner and screens have increased in size, but they continue to have the same form factor since the first commercial laptop hit the market. That may change with Asus’ ZenBook Pro Duo.

This laptop is different from others because it features two displays. Yes, you heard that right! The ZenBook Pro Duo offers a 15.6-inch primary panel and a 14-inch second screen that sits at the top of the keyboard. That’s the only way Asus think is the solution to increase the available screen real estate of a laptop.

I tried Asus’ ambitious ZenBook Pro Duo dual-screen laptop to see what the hype was all about. Here’s what I found.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo first impressions: Dual screen magic

Let’s be clear, the ZenBook Pro Duo is not a successor to the company’s previous-generation laptop. It’s a brand new vision to create a laptop that belongs to the future. And it all starts with the display. Like I said, the ZenBook Pro Duo has two displays: a 15.6-inch 4K UHD OLED (3,840 x 2,160-pixel) touchscreen panel and 14-inch 4K UHD second screen.

The primary 4K OLED display is impressive. It offers super slim bezels and boasts a 100,000:1 contrast ratio, 100 per cent coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, and HDR support. I found the display to be bright and vivid. However, I found the panel to be extremely reflective.

That 14-inch secondary display (diagonally) — Asus is calling it the ScreenPad Plus — is nestled above the keyboard deck. This is exactly what Apple tried to do with MacBook Pro’s TouchBar, but Asus takes the experience to a whole new level. Think the ScreenPad Plus as a secondary display.

You can drag and drop any window to the secondary display; it can display up to three apps at once or it can be used as an extension to the primary display. You can also use the two screens as one continuous larger display. Think of apps like Google Maps that could take advantage of a dual-screen.

There are a number of use cases for the secondary display. For example, gamers can play games on the main screen and use the secondary display to chat with players in real time. Video editors can edit videos on the top screen and use the ScreenPad Plus to watch previews.

Similar to the TouchBar on the MacBook Pro, Asus wants developers to create specific apps for the ScreenPad Plus. Right now, there’s a handful of supported apps, but the company is in talks with developers such as Corel to optimise the display to offer dedicated shortcuts and function buttons in specific apps. Since the secondary display is touch-enabled, it works well with a stylus. Asus bundles a stylus along with the wrist rest.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo first impressions: Design

The ZenBook Pro Duo feels like a premium laptop. The design reminds me of Asus’ Zephryus slimline gaming laptops. Like its previous laptops, you will still find the ErgoLift hinge that lifts the keyboard up to provide a more comfortable typing position. It’s a decent looking laptop with the Asus’ signature concentric circles and spun-metal finish  — but it is pretty big. The notebook itself weighs 2.5kg and measures 24mm, which is considerably heavier than the new MacBook Pro.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo first impressions: Keyboard

I really liked the presence of a physical keyboard on a notebook like this, which is targeted at creatives, designers and professionals. You will find the keyboard at the bottom of the deck with the touchpad, to the right, which doubles as a touch-sensitive number pad. In my brief hands-on, there seems to be a good amount of travel, and we found typing on it generally comfortable.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo first impressions: Specs and ports

From the specs point of view, the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is an extremely capable machine. You get a choice to opt for a 9th-gen Intel Core i9 or i7 H-series CPU, up to 32GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage, and an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU. Suffice to say, this is a machine made for professionals like video editors, graphic designers, illustrators, etc. The support for Wi-Fi 6 is also there, plus an IR webcam with Windows Hello for secure login.

On the left of the laptop, you will find a power input, HDMI output, and a USB Type-A slot, while on the right is another USB Type-A slot, a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB Type-C slot with 40Gbits/sec Thunderbolt 3. It’s a good selection of ports.

Since the displays on the ZenBook Pro Duo are 4K, and both support touch capabilities, though it remains to be seen how long the battery life lasts on a single charge.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo first impressions: Early impressions

When I first saw the ZenBook Pro Duo, I wanted to take it home. There’s something unique about the ZenBook Pro Duo that makes it different from other notebooks. Previous dual-screen notebooks were gimmicky and unpractical, but the ZenBook Pro Duo appears to be reasonably practical. Based on our first impressions of the ZenBook Pro Duo, Asus’ dual-screen notebook is the one we’re most excited about. Now we just hope the company brings its most ambitious laptop to India.