Asus ZenBook Duo overview: two displays, too many compromises

Asus ZenBook Duo overview: two displays, too many compromises

There is one — and simplest one — motive to snatch the Asus ZenBook Duo. Whenever you happen to’ve seen a image, you understand what that motive is: there are two displays.

Particularly, there’s the principle screen, a 14-plod 1080p matte screen. There’s additionally one other screen, a 12.6-plod IPS panel called the ScreenPad 2.0, built into the stay half of the lower deck. Each and each are contact-enabled, and each and each improve Asus’ active stylus. It’s kind of laborious to present what this looks like; you’ll get it while you scrutinize it.

The $1,499 ZenBook Duo isn’t rather the most attention-grabbing laptop like this — final year’s ZenBook Pro Duo (of which right here’s a pared-down, transportable version) affords the 2-screen setup in a $2,500 workstation produce, and some associated ideas, a lot like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, are slated for originate later this year. For the 2nd, though, the ZenBook Duo is the most attention-grabbing laptop for many customers who desire more than one screen.

Correct fabricate obvious you truly desire the additional screen because the exchange-offs you could fabricate are vital.

Unlike the MacBook Pro’s Contact Bar, or previous ZenBooks like the Pro 15 that have experimented with touchscreen trackpads, the ScreenPad has a range of obtrusive exhaust conditions, and so they work moreover to they may be able to need to.

Asus Zenbook Duo

A fold-beneath hinge lifts the ScreenPad a minute bit off the ground.

I mostly saved distractions like Slack, Twitter, and Spotify on the bottom screen so they were out of my formulation while I did my major work on the stay, however I additionally occasionally saved notes or numerous records down there for reference. You will with out protest message a chum while searching at Netflix, edit video with the timeline on the bottom, or plug a YouTube tutorial on the bottom while working a recreation up high. I’m obvious you will want the power to scrutinize your accept as true with makes exhaust of for this; it’s like having a tiny, built-in video show. Tag, though, that the ScreenPad is diminutive and has a extremely narrow aspect ratio, making it simplest suited to working streams in the background or stealing a take a look at out at Twitter right here and there; reading broad or doing any exact work on it’s miles moderately dinky.

In Asus’ Launcher menu, which you launch by tapping the left aspect of the ScreenPad, you will want the power to access a handful of nifty aspects that steal help of the Duo’s produce component (moreover to regulate the ScreenPad’s brightness and lock and unlock the keyboard). There are a couple apps, at the side of Fleet Key (where you will want the power to access shortcuts to instructions like cleave, reproduction, and paste), Quantity Key (which pulls up a virtual numpad), and Handwriting (where you will want the power to scribble with the stylus and the text will present up wherever your cursor is — it’s rather staunch). You will create “job teams” of up to five apps or tabs (two on the principle screen and three on the ScreenPad), which you will want the power to then launch up later with a single click. And you is seemingly to have the power so as to add whatever apps you could the Launcher’s major menu, so it may possibly well possibly possibly possibly well feature as a secondary dock.

Asus Zenbook Duo left-aspect ports.

The ZenBook Duo lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port, which is annoying at this mark point.

Transferring apps from one screen to the loads of is as straightforward as tantalizing them to an external video show. Nonetheless there are some well-organized tricks, too. Everytime you click and lumber a window, a diminutive menu pops up with alternate ideas to send it to the reverse screen, pin it to the Launcher, or prolong it to snatch each and each displays. There’s additionally a handy button above the touchpad that correct now swaps the contents of your high and bottom screen and robotically resizes them to suit.

Presumably the most attention-grabbing ScreenPad characteristic I stopped up the exhaust of ceaselessly used to be job teams — I made a neighborhood of “work” tabs to launch in the morning and a neighborhood of “leisure” tabs to launch at evening. Nonetheless everything else did work as advertised. The predominant takeaway right here is that Asus has done the work. The ScreenPad isn’t a gimmick; it’s precious.

That acknowledged, there are complications.

Asus Zenbook Duo lid

Asus calls the color “celestial blue.”

For one, the keyboard deck is an unhappy spot for a screen. You desire to crane your head downward to read one thing else on the ScreenPad — the serve of my neck used to be sore after a fleshy day of the exhaust of the Duo.

Then, there are exchange-offs you could fabricate to enact this produce component. For one, I never realized how fantastic wrist rests are except I needed to make exhaust of this laptop, which doesn’t have any. I felt like a T. rex the exhaust of this on my sofa, with my hands crunched in opposition to my belly. There’s additionally the ErgoLift hinge which props the ScreenPad off the ground at an angle. I don’t in most cases have a spot apart preserving fold-beneath hinges on my lap, however this one may possibly be very tantalizing. It used to be so unhappy that while I worked on the sofa, I stopped up preserving the Duo between my knees. You essentially need to stay with the exhaust of this laptop on a table or desk, no longer your exact lap.

And then there’s the touchpad which, thanks to the ScreenPad, has been filled into the bottom correct kind nook of the keyboard deck. It’s ineffective. It’s too diminutive (2.1 x 2.7 inches) to realistically exhaust for precision gestures or to scroll with out rapid hitting the chassis. (Furthermore, correct kind success while you’re left-handed). I don’t like to make exhaust of third-birthday party peripherals in my overview job, however if I’d correct kind purchased the Duo, I’d have correct now plugged in a mouse and never looked serve. I stopped up the exhaust of Asus’ stylus (which is cushy and rather responsive) for quite lots of my day-to-day work and nearly all of my scrolling. I ponder if it’s even value having a touchpad on this blueprint; I severely cannot imagine anyone the exhaust of this one ceaselessly.

Asus Zenbook Duo keyboard and touchpad.

I enact like the typing experience of the keyboard, even supposing it’s very laborious to make exhaust of on my lap.

In phrases of fashioned “laptop stuff,” the Duo is a edifying computer, however there’s nothing that will blow you out of the water — all some other time, the ScreenPad is the motive to snatch it.

I’ve the most attention-grabbing currently readily available configuration, which is $1,499 and springs with Intel’s quad-core Core i7-10510U processor, 16GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU. The machine used to be correct kind most attention-grabbing for my day-to-day load of Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming, Slack, YouTube, and numerous responsibilities. The midrange Comet Lake CPU isn’t the most attention-grabbing exchange for encoding movies or numerous tense ingenious responsibilities, however — most energy customers will seemingly be greater suited to the ZenBook Pro Duo, which comes with an eight-core Core i9-9980HK and a more extremely effective graphics card. The Duo’s battery lifestyles used to be surprisingly correct kind, given that it has to juice two displays. I acquired correct kind over 10 hours of net having a take a look at out on the Battery Saver profile with each and each panels at medium brightness. And the machine saved itself decently cool all the draw in which by attempting out (correct kind the bottom acquired occasionally toasty). The followers simplest fired up all the draw in which by gaming, and you would have the power to flip on a Restful profile in Asus’ regulate center if they anxiety you.

Ports get a passing grade: there’s a USB 3.1 Form-A port, a microSD card slot, and an audio jack on the appropriate kind, moreover to an HDMI, one other USB 3.1 Form-A, an have an effect on port, and a USB-C. No Thunderbolt 3, though, which is a obtrusive omission on a $1,499 laptop, ScreenPad or no ScreenPad.

In a roundabout draw, the Duo is draw from a gaming machine. As GPUs creep, the MX250 is shut to the bottom of the barrel. Constructed-in graphics on many original processors (at the side of Intel’s Iris Plus that comes with the Ice Lake era, and the original Vega graphics in the AMD’s Ryzen 4000 cell series) originate comparably — so buying laptops with underpowered graphics playing cards is making less and fewer sense.

Asus Zenbook Duo correct kind-aspect ports

The ZenBook Duo has a microSD card slot, as an exchange of a fleshy-dimension option.

That used to be reflected in my attempting out. The Duo simplest managed an moderate of 26fps on Civilization VI’s perfect settings. (I acquired 40fps bumping it all the draw in which down to medium). Those are greater body rates than that you can get with integrated graphics, however they’re undoubtedly nothing to write down dwelling about. The MX250 sounds like a minute of a half measure to me — both you would like a GPU or you don’t. Whenever you happen to don’t desire a GPU, you then don’t want an MX250; while you enact desire a GPU, I doubt you’ll be satisfied with these results.

The ScreenPad is handy for gaming, in particular while you could retain a reference records launch or speed a YouTube video while you play. Tag, though, that will need to you click on the bottom screen you’re truly tabbing out of the game — audio stops, and you could click serve in to resume taking part in — so the exhaust of the ScreenPad for operations like Discord chats or stay-tweeting is a minute of a distress.

Whenever you happen to’d like to recreation on two displays, that you can need to await Asus’ ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, a gaming-explicit Duo that’s imagined to attain out later this year and may possibly well possibly be configured with up to an RTX 2080 Enormous. Asus says it’s working with builders to create special interfaces and controls suited to the twin-screen setup.

The reality is: I will’t scrutinize myself buying this computer. The dinky touchpad, the tantalizing hinge, and the scarcity of wrist rests correct kind made it too unhappy to make exhaust of. And the MX250’s incremental enchancment over integrated graphics isn’t sufficient to tip the scales in its make a choice.

The trackpad is diminutive, awkwardly placed, and proper kind annoying to make exhaust of.

Nonetheless while you’re having a take a look at out specifically for a two-screen blueprint, this one works. It’s more than a celebration trick; it’s precious and there are cool stuff you will want the power to enact. Nonetheless I think the produce component is greater suited to a workstation (like the ZenBook Pro Duo) which is seemingly to spend most of its lifestyles at a desk with peripherals plugged in. I’m no longer obvious if there’s a formulation to fabricate a Duo that’s additionally correct kind at being a portable laptop. If there is, Asus hasn’t rather stumbled on it.