Home Technology Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

There are quite a lot of issues I can inform you concerning the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, however you probably don’t care about any of them. You — like practically anybody else who appears on the ZenBook Pro Duo — are probably right here for one factor: the completely wild-looking second display that provides the laptop computer its title.

It’s not the primary two-screen laptop computer by any means: corporations (together with Asus) have been making an attempt to determine a approach to graft a second show onto our computer systems for years. But Asus’ implementation right here is completely different in that it’s shockingly helpful.

Before I discuss what it’s like to make use of the ZenBook Pro Duo’s twin screens, let me first dive into what they’re. I examined the top-tier mannequin, a $2,999 machine with the crème de la crème specs to match: Intel’s greatest Core i9-9980HK laptop computer processor, 32GB of two,666MHz DDR4 RAM, an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU, and a beautiful 4K OLED panel for the primary show.

The design is much like Asus’ authentic ROG Zephyrus gaming laptop computer: there’s a front-loaded keyboard and an successfully ineffective trackpad, and a large expanse above it. But as an alternative of losing that area on a flowery ROG emblem, Asus has stuffed it with a second 14-inch, 32:9 facet, IPS “ScreenPad Plus” show.

There have been quite a lot of comparisons drawn between the ScreenPad Plus and Apple’s controversial Touch Bar since each are secondary laptop computer shows nestled above the keyboard. While you should use the ScreenPad Plus as an outsized management bar, that’s not the actual objective of it. It’s extra akin to Asus’ first, touchpad-replacing ScreenPad {hardware} the place the aim is to supply a full-fledged secondary laptop computer display — solely this time, it’s not only a cute gimmick.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

I’ll admit, I used to be skeptical after I first began utilizing the ZenBook Pro Duo. Compared to the colourful most important show, the thinner ScreenPad panel appears painfully small and dull-colored, and it was not possible to think about getting any actual work finished with it. But as I used it extra, I found that getting “real” work finished isn’t the purpose. The level is to dump all the opposite distractions onto it, like Slack, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Spotify, or Gmail, leaving your complete expanse of that 15.6-inch OLED panel for unfettered productiveness.

When the whole lot works proper, transferring issues right down to the ScreenPad Plus is so simple as dragging a window right down to an exterior show (with the distinction, in fact, being that the show isn’t actually “external” right here). Asus additionally has some customized software program that may supply a drag-and-drop scorching spot whenever you’re transferring a window round to mechanically ship it to the decrease show. Lastly, there are bodily {hardware} buttons that enable for rapidly swapping your complete contents of the higher and decrease screens or to disable the ScreenPad Plus solely.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

My traditional setup when working with the ZenBook Pro Duo was to have my prime show absolutely engaged with no matter process I used to be doing (like, say, scripting this assessment), with Slack, Twitter, and iTunes home windows open on the ScreenPad. That means, they’re out of the way in which sufficient that I might focus, however they’re proper there for fast glances to verify I wasn’t lacking something essential.

It’s nice for leisure, too: I might put a full-screen Netflix or YouTube video up on the primary panel, whereas nonetheless with the ability to browse social media, chat with associates, and even search for the title of that actor I couldn’t bear in mind with out messing up the stream.

Due to the awkward facet ratio of the ScreenPad Plus, utilizing it for a number of apps at a time is virtually important. Having three home windows open tended to be my most well-liked answer, with two at an absolute minimal. Put a single window down there and maximize it, and it appears form of ridiculous, it doesn’t matter what content material it’s. The draw back is that in case you are splitting your show into three, you’ll additionally have to shrink the font right down to get any usable quantities of textual content.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

It’s not excellent by any means. I bumped into points the place the ScreenPad would simply plain not activate when waking the laptop computer, and the software program that Asus makes use of to handle apps and home windows isn’t fairly there but. I had frequent points the place home windows would lose their set widths or fail to snap to their places or Asus’ launch simply refused to shut.

I’m additionally not bought on the ergonomics of the ScreenPad. Even with the additional few levels that the display hinge (which lifts your complete again of the bottom of the laptop computer off a desk) offers, it’s simply plain tough to learn the frustratingly flat show, particularly in case your workplace has quite a lot of overhead lighting. I usually discovered myself craning my neck and higher physique over the laptop computer simply to learn a Slack message, which in all probability isn’t one of the best factor for my posture.

I’m unsure what a very good answer is right here: increase the angle even greater, and the keyboard turns into not possible to make use of, even with an included palm relaxation. Maybe one thing like Intel’s wild dual-hinge Honeycomb Glacier idea is the reply. But thus far, no firm has made a manufacturing laptop computer like that but. Still, it’s an intriguing means to make use of a laptop computer, one which I hope different corporations will proceed to discover going ahead.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

Of course, the ZenBook Pro Duo isn’t only a pair of fancy screens; it’s additionally a high-end laptop computer. Unfortunately, take away the gimmick of the second show, and the remainder of the pc isn’t that spectacular.

From a uncooked energy perspective, the ZenBook Pro Duo ought to have processing room to spare for all however essentially the most intensive of energy customers and players. The i9 chipset and 32GB of RAM had been greater than sufficient for any day-to-day duties, and outdoors of professional-level CAD rendering or video enhancing, it’s unlikely you’ll have too many points.

But that energy comes at a giant price — particularly, battery life and basic portability. The ZenBook Pro Duo made it simply over two and a half hours unplugged below the brunt of my regular, Chrome- and Twitter-heavy workload at full brightness. (Trust me, it’s virtually a criminal offense to not push this 4K show all the way in which up.) Users with extra demanding workloads, like video or photograph enhancing, will probably discover that point lower even shorter.

Despite the “laptop” title, the raised-up design, general dimension, and front-loaded keyboard make the ZenBook Pro Duo plain uncomfortable to make use of in your lap for something past a couple of minutes. And the 6.4-pound weight implies that you received’t be dashing to sling it right into a bag, both. It’s very a lot a pc within the “portable desktop” class somewhat than a really cell system.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

I haven’t disguised for my dislike of front-mounted keyboards, and the ZenBook Pro Duo continues that pattern. Like its brethren, it’s painful to sort on with out utilizing the bundled palm relaxation, and the minuscule trackpad (whereas fortunately utilizing Windows Precision drivers) is greatest changed as quickly as potential by an actual mouse.

The port choice can also be surprisingly anemic for such a giant (and costly) machine: simply two USB-A ports, a USB-C Thunderbolt three port, an HDMI port, and mixed headphone / mic port. There are not any SD card slots to talk of, which looks like an odd oversight on a pc this costly that’s so targeted on artistic work. And given the sheer dimension of the ZenBook Pro Duo, it appears like Asus might have discovered area for extra I/O choices.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

Then once more, possibly Asus couldn’t match any extra ports, given how a lot area on the perimeters of the laptop computer is taken up by vents for the large quantity of warmth it pushes out. Asus is utilizing all its tips right here: tons of venting, a particular turbo mode for pushing the followers to the utmost, and even a design that lifts up the bottom of the laptop computer through the use of the underside of the show to prop it as much as let extra airflow in.

But for all that, the ZenBook Pro Duo nonetheless runs scorching. Between the top-tier processor, beefy graphics card, and, in fact, the sheer quantity of pixels it has to push between the 2 continuously working shows, there’s all the time loads occurring. A phrase of recommendation: maintain chilly cans out of the road of fireside, lest you uncover that your refreshing seltzer has turned uncomfortably scorching.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

While it’s not designed primarily as a gaming machine, the ZenBook Pro Duo does examine a lot of the bins with its beefy processor and plentiful quantities of RAM. The largest bottlenecks listed below are the RTX 2060 GPU and the 4K show. While you technically can recreation at 4K on the ZenBook Pro Duo, body charges take a giant hit until you’re keen to show graphics right down to medium. 1080p gaming fares higher, but when gaming is your focus, you’ll be higher off investing in a full-fledged gaming PC with a extra highly effective GPU and extra gaming-appropriate excessive refresh price show.

The greater situation with gaming has extra to do with how Windows handles full-screen video games by default, which has the unlucky aspect impact of neutralizing the ScreenPad Plus. I went into this considering that gaming may very well be the killer app for the second show — think about with the ability to put up a YouTube information for a stage whilst you play, maintain your pals’ Discord open and accessible, and even the last word all-in-one moveable streaming machine.

Unfortunately, most PC video games aren’t designed to work like that. You can run them full-screen and maintain issues working within the background on the second show, however should you click on or faucet on them, the sport will reduce away. Presumably, it is a solvable situation (I managed to cheat my means round by working video games in “windowed” mode at a full-screen dimension), and as talked about earlier than, streaming video does this completely already. It’s simply one other place the place Asus’ software program feels prefer it’s not fairly there but.

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review: two-screen dream

As a whole bundle, I’m nonetheless unsure the ZenBook Pro Duo is an efficient pc. Between the $2,499 beginning value and the obtrusive points with ergonomics and practicality, it’s a troublesome promote as something aside from a really cool thought.

But the ZenBook Pro Duo did promote me on the thought of a second show on a laptop computer, even when it doesn’t fairly handle the execution simply but. It’s a first-generation product of a radical new means to make use of a pc — so in fact Asus doesn’t have the entire items solved simply but. Presumably, the following technology of the ZenBook Pro Duo will enhance, as will different dual-display laptops with completely different display sizes and kind elements over time. There is a good laptop computer buried throughout the uncooked clay of the ZenBook Pro Duo. Hopefully, Asus (or one other firm) will take the effort and time to seek out it.

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