Asus ZenBook Duo overview: two screens, too many compromises

There might maybe be one — and easiest one — reason to purchase the Asus ZenBook Duo. When you’ve considered a image, you realize what that reason is: there are two screens.

Namely, there’s the principle level to, a 14-depart 1080p matte show camouflage camouflage. There’s additionally one other level to, a 12.6-depart IPS panel called the ScreenPad 2.0, built into the high 1/2 of the lower deck. Both are touch-enabled, and each give a enhance to Asus’ active stylus. It’s kind of laborious to relate what this appears esteem; you’ll web it as soon as you take into memoir it.

The $1,499 ZenBook Duo isn’t barely the ideal computer esteem this — final twelve months’s ZenBook Reputable Duo (of which here’s a pared-down, moveable version) provides the two-show camouflage camouflage setup in a $2,500 workstation model, and some identical ideas, such as Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, are slated for liberate later this twelve months. For the 2d, although, the ZenBook Duo is the ideal computer for most customers preferring a couple of level to.

Honest get definite that you just in actuality prefer the extra show camouflage camouflage on memoir of the alternate-offs it’s miles a must prefer to get are major.

Not like the MacBook Reputable’s Contact Bar, or previous ZenBooks esteem the Reputable 15 that have experimented with touchscreen trackpads, the ScreenPad has a necessity of glaring employ conditions, and they also work as well to they must clean.

Asus Zenbook Duo

A fold-under hinge lifts the ScreenPad barely off the bottom.

I mostly saved distractions esteem Slack, Twitter, and Spotify on the bottom show camouflage camouflage so they had been out of my potential whereas I did my vital work on the high, but I additionally in most cases saved notes or totally different data down there for reference. Which that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably with out complications message a buddy whereas searching at Netflix, edit video with the timeline on the bottom, or circulate a YouTube tutorial on the bottom whereas running a sport up high. I’m definite that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably presumably take into memoir your maintain uses for this; it’s esteem having a puny, built-in show screen. Designate, although, that the ScreenPad is tiny and has a extremely slim side ratio, making it finest noble to running streams within the background or stealing a glance at Twitter here and there; discovering out intensive or doing any proper work on it’s well-behaved miniature.

In Asus’ Launcher menu, which you open by tapping the left side of the ScreenPad, that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably presumably web entry to a handful of nifty facets that steal income of the Duo’s model component (as well to regulate the ScreenPad’s brightness and lock and unlock the keyboard). There are a couple apps, in conjunction with Rapidly Key (where that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably presumably web entry to shortcuts to instructions esteem reduce, copy, and paste), Number Key (which attracts up a virtual numpad), and Handwriting (where that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably presumably scribble with the stylus and the textual impart material will level to up wherever your cursor is — it’s barely factual). Which that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably originate “assignment groups” of up to 5 apps or tabs (two on the principle show camouflage camouflage and three on the ScreenPad), which that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably presumably then open up later with a single click on. And you will add regardless of apps you need to the Launcher’s vital menu, so it will probably probably maybe feature as a secondary dock.

Asus Zenbook Duo left-side ports.

The ZenBook Duo lacks a Thunderbolt 3 port, which is exasperating at this worth level.

Transferring apps from one show camouflage camouflage to the totally different is as easy as inspiring them to an exterior show screen. But there are some natty ideas, too. When you click on and creep a window, a tiny menu pops up with ideas to send it to the opposite level to, pin it to the Launcher, or prolong it to make a selection each screens. There’s additionally a at hand button above the touchpad that true now swaps the contents of your high and bottom show camouflage camouflage and mechanically resizes them to check.

The finest ScreenPad characteristic I stopped up using incessantly was as soon as assignment groups — I made a team of “work” tabs to open within the morning and a team of “leisure” tabs to open at night. But every thing else did work as marketed. The vital takeaway here is that Asus has achieved the work. The ScreenPad isn’t a gimmick; it’s helpful.

That said, there are complications.

Asus Zenbook Duo lid

Asus calls the coloration “celestial blue.”

For one, the keyboard deck is an uncomfortable attach for a show camouflage camouflage. It is top to crane your head downward to read the relaxation on the ScreenPad — the again of my neck was as soon as sore after a plump day of using the Duo.

Then, there are alternate-offs it’s miles a must prefer to get to attain this model component. For one, I now not at all realized how fine wrist rests are till I needed to employ this computer, which doesn’t have any. I felt esteem a T. rex using this on my couch, with my palms crunched in opposition to my belly. There’s additionally the ErgoLift hinge which props the ScreenPad off the bottom at an angle. I don’t in most cases have a challenge preserving fold-under hinges on my lap, but this one is barely inspiring. It was as soon as so uncomfortable that whereas I worked on the couch, I stopped up preserving the Duo between my knees. You in actuality want to follow using this computer on a desk or desk, now not your proper lap.

And then there’s the touchpad which, thanks to the ScreenPad, has been crammed into the bottom factual nook of the keyboard deck. It’s pointless. It’s too tiny (2.1 x 2.7 inches) to realistically employ for precision gestures or to scroll with out like a flash hitting the chassis. (Additionally, factual well-behaved fortune whenever you happen to’re left-handed). I don’t draw shut to employ 1/3-occasion peripherals in my overview direction of, but if I’d honest bought the Duo, I’d have true now plugged in a mouse and never at all looked again. I stopped up using Asus’ stylus (which is at ease and barely responsive) for vital of my day-to-day work and nearly all of my scrolling. I ponder if it’s even worth having a touchpad on this machine; I severely can’t imagine anyone using this one incessantly.

Asus Zenbook Duo keyboard and touchpad.

I attain esteem the typing expertise of the keyboard, even supposing it’s very laborious to employ on my lap.

Through usual “computer stuff,” the Duo is a splendid computer, but there’s nothing that will blow you out of the water — as soon as more, the ScreenPad is the reason to purchase it.

I’ve the ideal at demonstrate available configuration, which is $1,499 and comes with Intel’s quad-core Core i7-10510U processor, 16GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU. The intention was as soon as honest at ease for my day-to-day load of Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming, Slack, YouTube, and totally different initiatives. The midrange Comet Lake CPU isn’t the ideal different for encoding movies or totally different annoying ingenious initiatives, then as soon as more — most energy customers will be better noble to the ZenBook Reputable Duo, which comes with an eight-core Core i9-9980HK and a more extremely efficient graphics card. The Duo’s battery life was as soon as surprisingly factual, given that it has to juice two screens. I received honest over 10 hours of web browsing on the Battery Saver profile with each panels at medium brightness. And the machine saved itself decently cool at some level of testing (honest the bottom received infrequently toasty). The followers easiest fired up true via gaming, and also that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably presumably flip on a Silent profile in Asus’ regulate heart if they trouble you.

Ports web a passing grade: there’s a USB 3.1 Form-A port, a microSD card slot, and an audio jack on the factual, as well to an HDMI, one other USB 3.1 Form-A, an impact port, and a USB-C. No Thunderbolt 3, although, which is a glaring omission on a $1,499 computer, ScreenPad or no ScreenPad.

In the end, the Duo is removed from a gaming machine. As GPUs hotfoot, the MX250 is shut to the bottom of the barrel. Constructed-in graphics on many popular processors (in conjunction with Intel’s Iris Plus that incorporates the Ice Lake generation, and the contemporary Vega graphics within the AMD’s Ryzen 4000 cell sequence) make comparably — so making an are attempting to acquire laptops with underpowered graphics cards is making less and no more sense.

Asus Zenbook Duo factual-side ports

The ZenBook Duo has a microSD card slot, rather then a plump-dimension option.

That was as soon as reflected in my testing. The Duo easiest managed an realistic of 26fps on Civilization VI’s highest settings. (I received 40fps bumping it true down to medium). Those are better frame charges than that it’s likely you’ll maybe web with integrated graphics, but they’re absolutely nothing to write home about. The MX250 feels esteem pretty of a 1/2 measure to me — either you want a GPU otherwise you don’t. When you don’t prefer a GPU, you then don’t need an MX250; whenever you happen to attain prefer a GPU, I doubt you’ll be fully happy with these results.

The ScreenPad is at hand for gaming, specifically whenever you happen to would draw shut to protect a reference manual open or bustle a YouTube video whereas you play. Designate, although, that whenever you click on on the bottom level to you’re truly tabbing out of the sport — audio stops, and it’s miles a must prefer to click on again in to resume taking part in — so using the ScreenPad for operations esteem Discord chats or dwell-tweeting is fairly of a wretchedness.

In relate for you to sport on two screens, that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably prefer to reduction for Asus’ ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, a gaming-snarl Duo that’s speculated to return out later this twelve months and might maybe perhaps maybe even be configured with up to an RTX 2080 Gigantic. Asus says it’s working with developers to originate particular interfaces and controls noble to the dual-show camouflage camouflage setup.

In truth: I will’t take into memoir myself making an are attempting to acquire this computer. The miniature touchpad, the inspiring hinge, and the shortcoming of wrist rests honest made it too uncomfortable to employ. And the MX250’s incremental improve over integrated graphics isn’t ample to tip the scales in its prefer.

The trackpad is tiny, awkwardly placed, and honest traumatic to employ.

But whenever you happen to’re taking a peep specifically for a two-show camouflage camouflage machine, this one works. It’s more than a occasion trick; it’s helpful and there are cool things that it’s likely you’ll maybe presumably presumably attain. But I focus on the shape component is better noble to a workstation (esteem the ZenBook Reputable Duo) which is more seemingly to employ most of its life at a desk with peripherals plugged in. I’m now not definite if there’s a mode to get a Duo that’s additionally factual at being a moveable computer. If there might maybe be, Asus hasn’t barely stumbled on it.