Looks like the future is already here. Notebooks of tomorrow are available today. The latest from ASUS, the ZenBook Duo, a dual-screen laptop, is now in its second iteration and it is looking really good. A compact yet powerful machine packed to the brim with features.
At first glance, one cannot help but notice the design. From the brushed metal finish of the exterior (ASUS calls it spun metal finish) to the delicate incline for both ergonomics and cooling. The laptop screams premium, and the specifications seem to match as well. Our review unit came with an 11th Gen i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Quite the powerhouse.
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Weighing in at just a little over 1½ kilos it is a sleek and light machine. The 14-inch LED backlit Full HD screen somehow also seems to look bigger than it is. Of course, having the ScreenPad+ just under it helps give that impression, but also the fact that the bezels are not very big so you really tend do get more screen. It is bright and vibrant and the colours are very accurate and look quite good. Did I mention the screen is also a touchscreen?
The keyboard is something that I personally did not like. It was just that much smaller to mess with years of muscle memory for typing and having the touchpad on the right just led me to a host of unwanted touches and inaccurate typing. It is a chiclet keyboard so the overall key feel itself was very good and with some learning and training one might get used to it. It is also a backlit keyboard. For now, I just avoided using it as much as I could and used the touchscreens instead.
For connectivity, the ZenBook comes with Wi-Fi 6 giving you the advantage of high-speeds and bandwidth for any of your requirements. Also, in terms of ports, the laptop comes with plenty of ports. A full HDMI port, two USB C Thunderbolt 4 ports with display and power delivery, one USB 32 port, a 3.5mm headphone/microphone port and a micro SD card reader. Enough options to satisfy most users.
The built-in webcam was also full HD and also supported Windows Hello. Logging into the machine was a breeze and while I did try with and without glasses which worked very well, I did not attempt with a mask on!
The highlight, of course, was the second screen now called ScreenPad+. Just tilted ever so lightly at approximately a 7° angle making it the perfect viewing angle to glance down at and yet not have it interfere. I am a big time multi-screen person. I could potentially use as many screens as my laptop or desktop would allow and still be wanting more. For me I had a few specific use cases which I wanted to test out and the ZenBook Duo did not disappoint.
For starters, let’s just take a normal multi-tasking routine. I like working on multiple things at the same time, or if I am not working on all of them, at least to be able to quickly glance and see what is going on. This is mostly to monitor servers while I am browsing or reading mail. I also like having music playing while working; so a window with my music app/service is always around and open. On a typical machine with a single screen, I normally handle this by using a host of virtual spaces/desktops. With the ZenBook Duo, this was easily achieved on ScreenPad+. Not only was I able to get the apps that I wanted to glance at on the second screen in place perfectly, but one could also set up an app group to launch them all in the sequence and layout that one requires. Very handy indeed.
The other big requirement that I have from a second screen is for photo-editing and review. The ability to make adjustments and tweaks to a photo and see the results in a preview window is just great. With ScreenPad+ that actually went a step further, since it is possible to customise the ScreenPad+ to a control panel for an application like Adobe Lightroom, I had all the controls and slides on ScreenPad+ and the main photo fullscreen on the main screen and a much better preview of what was happening with no distraction from tools and menus.
The ZenBook Duo also comes with a stylus, though I have two complaints on that front. Firstly, the stylus is magnetic and its flat edge sticks really well to a magnetic surface but sadly the ZenBook Duo has neither a dock for it nor a flat surface to which it could stick. It did stick rather firmly to my iPad, amusingly enough.
The other is lack of support for the stylus in apps and the ability to use the dual screen like a graphic tablet. Granted this is a specific use case but it would be great to see more than the Windows Ink support or a special ASUS app that would just allow one to use the stylus more effectively. It does the usual in apps like OneNote etc but not much more than a mouse-pointer replacement.
If you are wondering what all of these fancy features, two screens and all the bells and whistles does to battery-life, then you need not worry. While ASUS claims 17 hours battery-life we got 11-14 hours with no issues at all and considering we are all sitting at home, being able to reach out and charge was not much of an issue at all.
Overall, the ZenBook Duo is a good performance machine and with the extra screen it would be a boon for creators. While it may not be able to handle heavy loads of video editing and rendering it would certainly allow for a lot of creativity and content capture.
Pros: Sleek, stylish and light; Dual-screen is a productivity enhancer
Cons: Dual-screen needs more apps to be supported; Stylus needs a dedicated app and dock