Microsoft is continuously pushing for a future with dual-screen devices. However, in 2019 Asus began to test its own two-screen laptops and, currently, the company leads in the dual-screen innovation. The Asus ZenBook Duo’s two screens and four cores promise amazing functionality. But does this laptop really do what it promises? Let’s find out.
- Useful secondary screen with features
- Solid productivity performance
- Good battery life
- Attractive design
- Keyboard and touchpad are too cramped
- A bit chunky chassis
The ZenBook Duo is the Asus’ latest product to bring this dual-screen technology to the crowd. This laptop is more portable and affordable alternative to the ZenBook Pro Duo and uses a 14-inch 1080p display and a quad-core processor. The machine sells at $1,500 at the moment but does it really stands for its price and how functional is it with the second screen? This is what we will discuss in the next few paragraphs.
Clearly, the second 12.6-inch IPS panel that is as broad as the main display and about a third as large, is the most outstanding feature of the ZenBook Duo. The ScreenPad 2.0 (as it is called) reacts to touch and pen and allows you to drag apps and process them just like you could on any external display.
It offers a convenience when you have to open a second multi-task window or keep tabs open to double-check different facts and figures. Of course, Asus provides many other features that make the ScreenPad even more useful. For instance, to support the entry of data, you can load a virtual numpad, and use the Launcher to access various applications directly on the ScreenPad. You can also extend your main display on the ScreenPad and have access to more information, though a bit oddly angled.
The ScreenPad supports the Asus active pen with the same reactivity and precision as the main monitor. It is a great functionality because you can tap or ink on both screens, moving effortlessly from one to the other in the flow of your work. There is even a handwriting application that is pretty precise at reading scribbles.
All in all, the ScreenPad is impressive. It is an extraordinary feature , and much more useful than, say, MacBook Pro Apple’s Touch Bar. Due to the extra screen size, the ScreenPad really adds up to the ZenBook Duo functionality and can be very useful for anyone who likes to keep its navigation buttons or external applications handy while doing some other work on the main screen. In our view, the ScreenPad is of huge help if you’re a professional or someone who constantly needs to multitask.
In terms of design, in this model, Asus has made a refinement of the ZenBook style that is recognizable. On the lid, you’ll see the usual ZenBook concentric swirls, which is probably the most popular characteristic of Asus design. The swirls here are not centered but rather asymmetrical, which is a noticeable change. A fresh Celestial Blue color offers a touch of beauty, too. Overall, the ZenBook Duo is an elegant laptop that offers a fine balance between modern and conservative look.
With a USB-C 3.1 port, two USB-A 3.1 ports (one Gen 1 and one Gen 2), a full-size HDMI port, and a microSD card reader, the connectivity of this laptop is okay. Asus has, unfortunately, missed Thunderbolt 3 support in this model, just as it has with other recent ZenBooks. Frankly, a $1,500 laptop can’t be forgiven for that. Thunderbolt 3 offers the best connectivity, including the ability to connect to an external GPU, which would be a blessing for artistic people who could be interested in the ZenBook Duo.
TouchPad and Keyboard
As functional the second screen is, it comes with a compromise on the keyboard and the touchpad. In order to accommodate the screen, the designers have visibly adjusted the size of the keyboard, which, despite having a firm mechanism of the keys and lots of travel, seems too small for comfortable typing in our view. The keys are small, and the layout of the keyboard is tight, making it a challenge. There is also no wrist wrest space, which leaves the palms just to hover. For regular use, this can be rather inconvenient.
To compensate, Asus has an ErgoLift that lifts the laptop at an angle which can partially solve the wrist rest issue and helps to maximize ventilation for greater performance. On the other hand, when placed on your lap or on a desk, it makes the laptop thicker.
The touchpad is sensitive but small and is placed on the right side of the keyboard. It also lacks a wrist rest space and, sadly, it is not placed conveniently for left-handed use. Carrying along an additional mouse and keyboard can be a solution but it is a compromise.
ZenBook Duo supports Windows 10 Hello paswordless login through an infrared camera. This is convenient tough some people prefer having the fingerprint reader as an optional login feature.
The 14-inch Full HD main display of Asus ZenBook Duo still remains important, despite the extra functionality that the ScreenPad 2.0 provides. Unfortunately, Asus has compromised on the main display quality and has come up with a mediocre option. The color range isn’t wide at just 70% of AdobeRGB and 94% of sRGB. The color accuracy is reasonable at an average DeltaE of 1.45 (under 1.0 is considered excellent). However, the main display hits only 251nits (well below the preferable 300 nits), and the contrast is low at 730:1 (we usually seek 1000:1 or more in laptops).
In general, the display quality isn’t suitable for professional picture or video work. Still, it is good for productivity work or watching videos.
The ZenBook Duo uses a quad-core Comet Lake Core i7-10510U CPU which is adequate for productivity tasks but not especially suitable for demanding tasks and heavy apps. Overall, the laptop works fast in comparison with other 14-inch laptops, but does not suit more powerful creative platforms.
As far as graphic performance is concerned, the ZenBook Duo is well behind the ZenBook Pro Duo model. The latter is a fast and powerful tool supporting Creative apps with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 2060 graphic card. The ZenBook Duo is restricted to the MX250 Nvidia GeForce. This is still faster than built-in Intel graphics, but it won’t make a huge difference when it comes to video rendering or other graphic demanding tasks such as gaming. The uses of ZenBook Duo will have it challenged when it comes to games, especially more demanding titles.
In the United States, the ZenBook Duo comes in just one configuration. It includes 16GB of RAM and 1 TB SSD storage space, which is enough for the vast majority of users who intend to use the machine for productivity tasks.
Battery life and portability
Portability seems to also have been compromised for the winning ScreenPad. The ZenBook Duo is 0,78 inches thick which is quite chunky. Thanks to its fairly thin screen bezels it is not too wide and deep, but at 3.3 pounds it is rather heavy to carry on. Many 14-inch laptops are much smaller than this.
Nevertheless, the life of the battery is good. With a ScreenPad on, the ZenBook Duo can run for a remarkably long period of time, considering that its 70 watt-hours battery powers two displays. It lasts for nearly 9 hours in web browsing mode. The laptop can run videos for almost 12 hours which is another good score. And the Asus lasts for about 5 hours in a rigorous Basemark test.
At a price of $1,500, the ZenBook Duo is more costly than other laptops of the same class. The compromise on the display quality, the much chunkier design and the lack of Tunderbolt 3, in our view, also don’t make it stand for its price.
The ultimate winner of this laptop is its ScreenPad 2.0 which goes beyond simply being cool and fun to use. It offers great functionality that can be much appreciated by serious multi-taskers, even tough it comes with a compromise on the keyboard and touchpad size.