The screen invades everything. In laptops, as happens with mobiles or televisions, the bigger the better. But logically, manufacturers are limited by the size of the device itself. What to do in this case? Reinvent yourself This is what ASUS has done with its new ZenBook Pro Duo, an innovative notebook with dual 4K screen, touch, and OLED technology that we have been able to test these days during the Computex 2019 that is being held in Taiwan.
We have two versions of the ASUS dual-screen laptop, on the one hand, the more premium version with i9 processor, NVIDIA RTX GPU and up to 1TB of SSD and on the other a ZenBook Duo that loses the last name Pro and also reduces in size and features.
Here we leave you with our first impressions of the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, a laptop that besides offering very good finishes incorporates a very effective solution to add more screen in the same body. One step beyond what we saw with the Touch Bar and an impulse to radically change the preconceived image we have of laptops.
WiFi 6, Intel Core i9 and high-end features to compete in the most premium sector
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo aims to become a premium laptop, prepared to fight against the best products from other manufacturers. And that’s why it incorporates high-level specifications, with the latest Intel and NVIDIA components.
Inside the ZenBook Pro Duo is an Intel Core i9 9980HK chipset with an Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card, up to 32GB of RAM and the ability to upload up to 1TB of SSD storage. They are excellent characteristics although it is true that we miss the bet for an RTX 2070 or an RTX 2080. The answer as to why in its most advanced model are not included these graphs we would find it in that we are not before a gaming device of the series ‘Republic of Gamers’ (ROG).
The performance of the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is excellent thanks to the use of an Intel Core i9 processor next to the RTX 2060, a combination capable of everything and that makes this laptop a good choice for the most demanding users, although without reaching the category more gamer.
The performance is very good and all the applications open immediately. At least in the Pro model. In the ZenBook Duo smaller than 14 inches the story is totally different since we went from high-end specifications to a rather humble characteristic.
We do not have an HDD disc. We are in 2019 and the bet of ASUS for the SSD is total. But above all what catches the attention is its connectivity. The ZenBook Pro is compatible with WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and promises speeds of up to 2.4Gbps. It is a point that can now go unnoticed, but when it reaches the market there will be more devices with WiFi 6 and having a laptop ready for these connections will be a growing demand.
ASUS adds 4 microphones to have a good experience with Alexa and Cortana, a webcam in the upper frame and a dedicated key for ‘Turbo cooling’. In this aspect, the ZenBook Pro Duo body is slightly elevated and we have not detected that it gets too hot, although at this point it will be necessary to test it in depth with more demanding applications.
The battery is another point that logically we have not been able to check and here we should be careful. We have a 15.6-inch screen with 4K resolution plus another secondary screen of the same resolution, no doubt high consumption components. For this, we have a 71Wh battery, although a fast charge of 230W has been added.
Design: excellent work in finishes and quality of keyboards and touchpad, but not so much in compaction
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is a high-end device and it shows in the finishes and materials used. As in the rest of the brand’s laptops, it is committed to an aluminum alloy that gives a good touch, a sober look and a tone with reflections that moves away from the flatter silver.
This aluminum is kept at the edges and sides, but not inside the device where we have more classic materials. When opening the body of the device the keyboard is slightly raised since the screen acts as a support. But the main change we have for the ScreenPad Plus introduced. Instead of having a keyboard at all sizes, we have a thinner and more stylized keyboard, located towards the bottom and with the trackpad in the lower right corner.
Between the screen and the keyboard, there is a border with the ASUS ZenBook logo. We understand that it will be for construction issues, but it is a point to improve in future generations since the edge is quite thick and breaks a bit of aesthetics. It also has an additional consequence and that is that we do not have a lower edge to support our hands.
What is the solution? ASUS offers us a simple base to support the arms. It is effective, but a problem that should be taken into account for the future in case the secondary screens begin to be more common in the notebook sector.
The commitment to the double screen has its consequence in the weight of the device, but the finishes are excellent and have nothing to envy to the best laptops in the market.
Another consequence of this secondary screen is found in the weight. ASUS has always been a brand with very thin and compact laptops and yet we have had the feeling that this ZenBook Pro Duo weighs more than its equivalents of previous years.
In total 2.5 kilograms that prevent this laptop is a device to catch with one hand and take it from one side to another. An aspect that in the Pro model of 15.6 inches maybe is not so relevant, but in the 14-inch yes, since we are in about 1.8 kilograms that are not negligible either.
At the level of compaction, the work of ASUS is good, since, for example, the OLED screen has a ratio of 89% and the upper frames are very small. But the final sensation is there, it is not a device to take it up and down.
On the right side, we have a USB port type C that also acts as Thunderbolt 3.0, a technology to transmit data up to 40Gbps. Right next to us we have a 3.5mm jack for audio and a USB 3.1 port above the ventilation slot.
Meanwhile, the left side includes an HDMI port, another USB 3.1 port, and the fast charge jack. In the case of the standard ZenBook Duo, we also have a microSD slot. An addition that in the Pro model has not been included.
The sound of the ZenBook Pro Duo is certified by Harman Kardon, but what we could try did not call our attention special. Here is another point that will have to wait for the analysis to reach a better conclusion.
Adding a secondary screen of 14 inches has not prevented ASUS from adding its own numeric trackpad. Specifically, it is a ‘NumberPad’, a name that the brand gives its combination between a traditional trackpad to act as a cursor and a numerical trackpad illuminated with LEDs.
The touch of these numbers is not the same as that of the keyboard, but again we are faced with an ingenious solution to a space problem. Some users may consider that there is an extra step to activate the numeric trackpad, but we think that we also have the numbers in their usual placement. Simply for those who prefer to have it has been added. In the end, both the NumberPad and the ScreenPad represent the message that ASUS wants to transmit, they want to offer tools for a large number of users, without penalizing the experience excessively and getting a more complete laptop.
The novelty is the ScreenPad Plus, but the best is its main OLED screen
We arrived at the authentic protagonist of the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, the screen. We have two panels, but one of them gets our full attention. We have a 15.6-inch OLED panel with a 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels . Probably supplied by Samsung, the screen has a 100,000: 1 contrast and encompasses 100% of the DCI-P3 color space. It is also compatible with HDR and the quality is simply spectacular.
In addition, we are before a touch panel, so we can touch items and move them at will. The tactile works correctly, although it is true that we do not have the highest sensitivity. All our compliments go to image quality, with vivid colors, excellent contrast and a good level of brightness.
For the secondary screen, we have an IPS panel with the same 4K resolution. However, there are some differences. We have a secondary panel of 14 inches in 32: 9 format and a resolution of 3840 x 1100 pixels. It is also tactile and at the level of clarity we are in the same category, however, the image quality and the brightness emitted between one and the other is not the same. Above all it is something that is noticeable in the blacks, since wherein the main one we have dark tones, in the secondary one the gray ones are clearly appreciated. Especially by comparison.
Being of the same resolution, having the two screens side by side does not reject us. However, it is true that the quality of OLED is impressive, while the small screen is clearly like an auxiliary panel.
This secondary screen shows that it is not level, however, the difference is not something that affects the user experience. That is to say, everything is seen with less quality in the secondary, but the idea is that our eyes are normally on the main one and the secondary one is simply an aid. An extra to control some menus, change a song or have some supporting text. In cases where the image quality is relevant, the 15.6-inch OLED screen will be the place where we will have to retransmit the content. And fortunately, this one is outstanding.
The operation of the secondary screen is simple, although transferring content from one place to another is not as intuitive as it should be. To help us with this task we have a dedicated application for the ScreenPad Plus, a name that receives this second screen and that is still an evolution of the ScreenPad that we saw last year in its series of laptops and that this year has been renewed and extended to more devices.
ASUS’s commitment to this ScreenPad is not the result of a day and little by little they are moving most of their catalog towards this support.
The tactile of the secondary screen is good, although to improve it we also have support for a stylus . No place has been added to attach it magnetically and we do not believe it is really necessary, beyond the convenience of using a stylus.
Multitasking takes on a new level
The power of the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo comes directly from our use of the ScreenPad Plus. We had the opportunity to try it for a few hours and although our first sensation was that it was an unnecessary addition, the truth is that little by little we started sending more applications and feeling comfortable with it.
Having tested the Apple TouchBar, in this case, the solution goes several steps further. Not only is it direct access or additional menus, but it is also the possibility of having entire applications. Maybe not to watch videos or read, but to have a supporting text, a calculator, an excel or any help. To give you an idea; the use that we can give the ScreenPad Plus would be equivalent to a small connected external monitor.
The main tool to control this secondary screen is the dedicated ASUS application. From it, which will access sliding from the left, we have a series of shortcuts, access to Windows multitasking, additional settings and a screen to save specific configurations and display them on the secondary screen quickly.
The initial configuration is not exactly the most intuitive and comfortable, although after using it for a while it begins to understand how it works and we know the various tricks and mechanisms.
The incorporation of the ScreenPad Plus has not seemed to harm the laptop experience and yet we have used it more than we could think. One of those additions that you get used to could end up becoming a help.
Up to 3 applications can fit in the ScreenPad Plus and its size can be adapted. Also, note that it is compatible with all Windows applications. In the end what we have is a resizing of the window, as we would normally.
From the ScreenPad settings, we can modify the brightness of this, change the wallpaper and activate the menu that allows us to pass applications from one to another. Although really being the two touch screens, it is easy to drag an application from one screen to another. The tactile sensitivity is improvable, but the gesture is simple.
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo incorporates specialized applications for a chat and office automation. They are inside the dedicated application and they will be useful to have the list of friends when we speak or for example, the text editing tools when we are in Office.
ASUS has also announced that developers will be able to adapt their applications to the ScreenPad. As always this is the true battlefield, but we would not be surprised if other brands join this trend and then we see more applications take advantage of the double screen in all its glory.
In addition to this combination of the double screen in which the second can act as a mirror or additional screen, ASUS has also planned to expand the possibilities of working with the developers. This is really where we can have a real improvement in multitasking, although it depends on your alliance with third parties to get it.
At the moment they have announced that Corel Draw will be compatible with the ScreenPad Plus. What does it mean? Basically, instead of dividing the screen, Corel Draw will be able to show the main image on the OLED screen while the controls remain in the secondary one. We have not had the opportunity to try it in the first person, but it has been announced during the presentation.
During the test, we were able to use the ScreenPad to play the piano, to have an open PDF while we were writing, to be able to control Spotify while reading a web page or to have the calendar open while we were looking for how to organize an agenda. It is not difficult to imagine situations where this secondary screen is useful to us and when it comes to controlling it, we are offered a solid enough experience so that its presence is not problematic.
We would have liked that the quality of the secondary screen was slightly higher and that the tactile sensitivity to move from one to another was superior, but in general, this ScreenPad is an interesting addition that can differentiate this ZenBook Pro Duo from other high-end laptops. With the only exception of this increase in weight that may be enough to throw back some users.