The screen invades everything. On laptops, just like mobile phones or TVs, 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 laptop with dual 4K, touch screen and OLED technology that we have been able to test these days during the Computex 2019 being held in Taiwan.
We have two versions of the ASUS dual-screen laptop, on the one hand the most premium version with i9 processor, NVIDIA RTX GPU and up to 1TB of SSD and on the other a ZenBook Duo that loses the surname 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 in addition to offering very good finishes incorporates a very effective solution to add more screen in the same body. A step beyond what we saw with the Touch Bar and an impulse to radically change the preconceived image we have of laptops.
Wi-Fi 6, Intel Core i9 and high-end features to compete in the premium sector
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo aspires to become a premium notebook, ready to fight against the best products of the rest of manufacturers. And that’s why it incorporates high-level specifications, with the latest components from Intel and NVIDIA.
Inside the ZenBook Pro Duo is an Intel Core i9 9980HK chipset along with Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics, up to 32GB of RAM and the ability to upload up to 1TB of SSD storage. They are excellent features although it is true that we miss the bet on an RTX 2070 or an RTX 2080. The answer of why in its more advanced model these graphs are not included 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 together with the RTX 2060, a combination capable of everything and that makes this laptop a good choice for the most demanding users, but without reaching the most gamer category.
The performance is very good and all applications open immediately. At least in the Pro model. In the smaller 14-inch ZenBook Duo the story is totally different as we move from high-end specifications to rather humble features.
We don’t have an HDD. We are in 2019 and the ASUS bet on the SSD is total. But above all what attracts the most attention is its connectivity. The ZenBook Pro is compatible with WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and promises speeds of up to 2.4Gbps. It’s a point that may 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 for a good experience with Alexa and Cortana, a webcam on the top frame and a dedicated key for ‘Turbo cooling’. In this respect, the body of the ZenBook Pro Duo is slightly elevated and we have not detected that it is excessively hot, although for 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 verify either and here it would be necessary to 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 230W fast charge has been added.
Design: an excellent job in finishes and quality of the keyboards and touchpad, but not so much in compaction.
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo is a high-end device and this can be seen in the finishes and materials used. As with the rest of the brand’s laptops, it uses an aluminium alloy that gives a good feel, a sober appearance and a reflective tone that moves away from the flatter silver.
This aluminium is kept on the edges and sides, but not on the inside of the device where we have more classic materials. When opening the body of the device the keyboard is slightly elevated because the screen supports it. But the main change is the ScreenPad Plus introduced. Instead of having a full-size keyboard, 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 reasons, but it is a point to improve in future generations since the edge is quite thick and breaks a bit the aesthetics. It also has an additional consequence and is that we have no bottom edge to support the hands.
What is the solution? ASUS offers us a simple base to support the arms. It is an effective, but a problem that should be taken into account for the future if secondary screens become more common in the laptop sector.
The bet for the double screen has its consequence in the weight of the device, but the finished ones are excellent and they have nothing to envy to the best laptops of the market.
Another consequence of this secondary screen is 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 from previous years.
In total 2.5 kilograms that prevents this laptop is a device to take with one hand and carry it from one side to the other. An aspect that in the 15.6-inch Pro model is perhaps not so relevant, but in the 14-inch yes, since we stay at about 1.8 kilograms that are not negligible either.
At the level of compaction the work of ASUS is good, because 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 carry 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 door we have a 3.5mm jack port for the audio and above the ventilation slot a 3.1 USB port.
Meanwhile, the left side includes an HDMI port, another USB 3.1 port and the quick charge socket. In the case of the standard ZenBook Duo, we also have a microSD slot. An addition that is not included in the Pro model.
The sound of the ZenBook Pro Duo is certified by Harman Kardon, but what we were able to prove did not attract our attention. Here is another point that will have to wait for the analysis to reach a better conclusion.
Adding a 14-inch secondary display has not prevented ASUS from adding its own numeric trackpad. Specifically this is a ‘NumberPad’, the brand name given to its combination of a traditional trackpad to act as a cursor and a numeric 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 problem of space. Some users may consider that it takes an extra step to activate the numeric trackpad, but let’s think that we also have the numbers in their usual placement. Just 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 to us, they want to offer tools for a large number of users, without penalizing excessively the experience and getting a laptop at the end more complete.
The novelty is the ScreenPad Plus, but the best is its main OLED screen.
We come to the real protagonist of the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo, the screen. We have two panels, but one of them gets all our 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 100,000:1 contrast and encompasses 100% of the DCI-P3 color space. It is also HDR-compatible and the quality is simply spectacular.
We are also in front of a touch panel, so we can touch elements and move them at will. The touch panel works properly, 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 14 inch secondary panel in 32:9 format and a resolution of 3840 x 1100 pixels. It is also tactile and at the level of sharpness 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 blacks, since where in the main we have dark tones, in the secondary the greys are clearly appreciated. Especially by comparison.
Being of the same resolution, having the two screens side by side does not cause us to reject them. However, it is true that the quality of the OLED is impressive, while the small screen clearly looks like an auxiliary panel.
This secondary screen is noticeable that it is not at the level, however the difference is not something that affects the experience of use. 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 a help. An extra to control some menus, change a song or have some text support. 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, the name given to this second screen, which is an evolution of the ScreenPad that we saw last year in its series of laptops and that this year have renewed and extended to more devices.
ASUS’ commitment to this ScreenPad is not the result of one day and little by little they are moving the majority of their catalog towards this support.
The touch of the secondary screen is good, but to improve it we also have support for stylus. We haven’t added a place to hook it magnetically and don’t think it’s really necessary, beyond the convenience of using a stylus.