Asus ZenBook Duo UX481 looks like a futuristic laptop, mainly due to a second screen on the base,
just above the keyboard and trackpad. With ZenBook Duo, the company caters
to a different set of users who demand performance without compromising their creative aspects.
This type of form factor has never been seen before on a laptop,
Asus therefore tries to provide a balance between style and productivity.
ScreenPad Plus, as Asus calls it, is basically the highly-charged Touch Bar
if you are familiar with Apple’s MacBook Pro range.
The same concept has been adopted with a full second screen that can be used to display applications,
scribble something or just listen to music while working.
It’s smaller but still packed with the latest tech and the key feature,
that full-width additional display panel above the keyboard. Even on an Ultrabook,
it’s possible to have more, and I honestly feel like this is something everyone could and should get behind.
ASUS Zenbook Duo Design
As with all revolutionary designs, the Asus ZenBook Duo presents a solution to a problem you never knew you had, to wit, a dual-screen laptop.
If you’re someone like me, who spends his days mucking about with multiple PCs
and bemoans that fact that he’s currently limited by his 27-inch, 2K 144 Hz display,
the ZenBook Duo is a very intriguing proposition.
From the average Joe, this dual-screen device will elicit only one response: Why?
What is the ZenBook Duo ?
The ZenBook Duo is the first dual-screen laptop in India.
Powering the device is a ’10th Gen’ Intel Comet Lake CPU (Intel Core i7-10510U)
called ScreenPad Plus, is a touchscreen unit that supports stylus input.
The primary display doesn’t support this.
You enough USB type-A and type-C ports so you can’t complain about connectivity.
Additionally, the device supports Windows Hello via face unlock.
ASUS Zenbook Duo Ultrabook
The dual-screen Duo is quite a thick laptop, I initially found the design a bit silly,
The ScreenPad Plus is placed below the main display, taking up the top half of the base of the laptop.
This pushes the keyboard down and leaves no room for a traditional trackpad.
Drawing a page from its Zephyrus line, Asus has instead placed the trackpad beside the keyboard,
where it pulls double-duty as a pointing device and a touch-sensitive NumPad.
Since the keyboard has been pushed down, you do lose the palm rest,
which means that the laptop can be rather uncomfortable to use on an aircraft or in a cab.
I mean, does anyone really need two screens on a laptop of all things?
A few days with the device was enough to change my mind, however.
On any given day, my work involves juggling between a dozen different apps (Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram, Mail, Chrome, Word, Excel, Photoshop, FCPX/Premiere Pro,etc.),
some of which are permanently open.
Chrome alone has 18 pinned tabs and even while writing, I have to monitor Analytics and search trends.
This is a lot of juggling and is the reason I prefer working on multiple, high-resolution displays. If I’m working on a laptop,
The ZenBook Duo was the first laptop I’ve used that felt freeing.
This means that you can comfortably drag and drop windows back and forth between the two displays.
Asus further streamlines this process by including shortcuts that allow you
to quickly move apps, group apps for use on the second display, and allowing you to align apps in patterns.
At the press of a button, you could have, say Chrome and Photoshop open on your primary display
while WhatsApp, Slack, and Spotify populate the secondary one.
The problem here is Windows, which never remembers the placement of apps or even the display of choice.
If you do something as normal as locking and unlocking the device,
all your carefully arranged apps jump from the secondary display to the primary one.
Moving them back is an additional step,
Another complaint I have is that the secondary display’s viewing angles aren’t that great.
The display looks washed out unless you’re looking directly at it,
and that doesn’t help when you’re responding to chat messages are attempting to read something.
Given that it’s powered by an Intel Comet Lake CPU,
and that it has enough RAM and SSD storage, the laptop feels fast and snappy.
its performance and features are very similar to Intel’s 8th Gen CPUs.
If you want true 10th Gen CPUs, you need to be looking for Intel Ice Lake CPUs with Iris Plus graphics.
The primary display is about average in terms of brightness and contrast ratio,
but the secondary display has half the color accuracy. As mentioned earlier, viewing angles are also a problem.
I love the idea of Asus ZENBOOK DUO and I’m excited for the future it represents.
But I don’t think that the future is here yet. There are situations where a dual-screen ZenBook will shine,
but I don’t think you can take that decision without first trying the laptop yourself and understanding its quirks.
To top it off, it’s not even Asus’ fault. The included software for managing the second display is better than nothing,
but till the day Microsoft releases a version of Windows
that natively supports dual-screen displays, it’s going to be a janky experience.