Asus ZenBook Duo review: foreword to the future

Asus ZenBook Duo review: foreword to the future

The past economic crisis was also the start of a major creative crisis in the IT sector. Since then, we have lost many manufacturers, and those who remained seemed content to continue things as they were. The “Post-PC” era seemed like a reality.

Fortunately, we are already seeing the light after these dark years, with more innovative products and more advanced ideas. The Asus ZenBook Duo is a good example of how the laptop has a bright future; although along the way it has to change and evolve.

I speak, of course, of the two screens. It is already evident that this is the path that the market has chosen, and we could not be more excited. Each company has its own vision of what a laptop with two screens should be, and now it is Asus who has contacted us to see what makes their proposal special.

Asus ZenBook Duo, more than just two screens

The Asus ZenBook Duo is characterized by having a second screen, but that does not mean that it has said goodbye to a traditional physical keyboard. Asus’ bet is on recognize the potential of the second screen, but also that the vast majority of users are used to a real keyboard.

This is a problem we’ve seen on other models focused only on offering two identical displays, like Lenovo’s Yoga Book C390; Writing on a screen is not a pleasant experience, especially continuously. Hence Asus has decided to compromise: the second screen takes up only half the space it could, leaving the rest to a keyboard and touchpad assembly.

It is an interesting decision as a minimum, which in theory combines the best of a traditional laptop with the advantages of a second screen. But is it adequate?

A laptop that doesn’t seem real

First impressions couldn’t be better. We are before a laptop that looks like one of those prototypes that are presented at technology fairs but that never come true; But I had the ZenBook Duo in front of me, I was able to use it, and despite that, at times I did not believe it was real.

The impact of seeing the two screens is great and you do not get to recover even if you use it daily. And this impact is multiplied by two when someone sees you using it. Be prepared to answer many questions if you use this laptop in public; It is the equivalent of going with a Lamborghini in your neighborhood, it is inevitable that people stop you with a mixture of disbelief and curiosity.

And it’s not just because of the second screen. In fact, this is not the first laptop with two screens, much less; But I know it is the first to present such a meticulously designed concept.

A second purposeful screen

The key is that the second screen has not been added as a curiosity, or as a proof of concept: it has been added for your daily use, as one more tool that will help you every time you use the laptop.

If you use a second screen on your computer, you will already know what I am talking about. If not, I have to tell you that a second screen is one of those things that you don’t miss until you use it. The mere fact of having more space to put your windows, to do two or more things at the same time, supposes an increase in productivity.

That alone would be enough, but the second screen, which Asus calls ScreenPad Plus, is something else, thanks to the functions and software developed for it. I’m not talking about “bloatware” (although you’ll also find some such annoyance “thanks” to McAfee); but to functions that take advantage of the second screen.

Taking advantage of the second screen

For example, click the frame of any window and drag, and three floating buttons appear. The first allows you to bring the window to the second screen automatically. This mode is the most conventional, and allows you to use two apps in full screen at the same time.

The interesting thing is that you are not limited to that. Asus software allows you to put three apps on the bottom screen, all three taking up the same space. If you add to that the two apps that you can put side by side on the main screen, you can have five apps in the foreground at the same time on this laptop, and use all of them at once.

The third button instead takes advantage of the second screen as an extension. This means that the app will be in full screen on the first screen, and continue on the second; for practical purposes, it’s like having a huge screen on our laptop. This mode would have been better if the Windows bar had automatically moved to the second screen; As it is, you will see the bar “splitting” the app, something strange and that makes this mode not so practical.

Apps integrated on the second screen

The second button instead sends the app you are using to the app launcher on the second screen. Indeed, the ScreenPad has its own launcher, integrated into a program that is always accessible by pressing a button.

The first option you will see in this program is the brightness control. The second is the aforementioned app launcher, which includes some special ones developed by Asus, such as Handwriting that allows you to use the touch screen to, you guessed it, write by hand. This app uses Windows handwriting recognition, and automatically enter what we write in the text box or application that we are using.

It also attracts attention Quick Keys, special keys that allow us to perform quick actions such as copying and pasting just by pressing it; The good thing is that we can create our custom combinations. Later we will talk about the keyboard, but I will tell you that it does not have numeric keypad; At least we can dedicate part of the second screen to one with an app.

Otherwise, we can add any app to this launcher, but the only thing that implies is that they will open automatically on the second screen. Asus also has its own app store adapted to this second screen.

The rest of the options accessible in this program are simpler, such as the possibility of deactivating the keyboard if we only want to use the second screen.

Bigger screen = more useful

This is not the first two-screen laptop we see in Omicrono; it’s not even Asus’s first; But his first try, the ZenBook Pro, didn’t bet enough on this concept, resulting in a small screen that didn’t really do much good.

With the ZenBook Duo, Asus has not been afraid to bet all the chips on this concept, and it shows. The second screen is much larger, at 12.6 inches, and even has the same amount of horizontal pixels as the main screen, 1920.

That not only offers us more space, and therefore more possibilities, but it is also much more natural; it looks more like an extension of the main screen than an additive thought a posteriori.

The sacrifice is of course the keyboard. It must be said that Asus has made the least bad decision, bringing the trackpad to the right to ensure that the keyboard has enough space for all the main keys; But still, writing on the ZenBook Duo is not a pleasant experience. The problem is not so much in the size of the keys, as in their position and especially, in their travel.

Does the second screen really work?

Obviously Asus has worked hard to make this second screen a useful addition; But it is not less than that it is a concept still in its infancy, with much to prove.

If you really want to take advantage of this second screen, you will have to change the way you use the laptop; The good news is that this adaptation is not as painful as it could have been.

Anyone who already uses a second screen on their computer will adapt easily, since they will be able to adapt many of their customs; after all, it’s the same, only this second screen is “below” the main one, instead of next to it.

And if you’ve never used a computer with two or more displays, the ZenBook Duo may be a good excuse to start; As soon as you get down to it, productivity increases and you start to really take advantage of your team’s multitasking capabilities.

For example, you can use the second screen to maintain a text editor to type in while reviewing information on the main screen, or vice versa. You can also have easily accessible tools in video or photo editors; Like the second touch screen, these actions are quick and easy.

… but it could be better

Instead, we can also say that the second screen is somewhat wasted in some respects. It seems that Asus has not yet thought of all the possibilities, and this laptop suffers for it.

Curiously, the biggest drawback I have is not with the second screen, but with the main one, due to the fact that do not be touch. I’m not usually a big fan of touch screen laptops, but in this case I think this technology was justified.

That one screen is tactile and the other is not confusing; For example, I can move a window with my finger, but at the same moment that it goes to the upper screen, I have to withdraw my hand and move it to the trackpad or mouse.

That is not the only difference between the two screens; the second is of poorer quality than the main one, in aspects such as viewing angles, color or brightness. Even raising the latter to the maximum, you are unable to reach the level of the main screen; this dissonance is not very pleasing to the eye.

The other big problem is not the fault of Asus, but of Windows 10, which does not remember which apps were open on the second screen. That means that if you close the laptop to take it to another site, when you open it you will have the apps open, but minimized on the main screen; you will have to move all the apps back to where they were manually.

I have also missed some more pre-installed application by default, which takes advantage of the second screen. Although this is not a gaming laptop (considering it has a GeForce MX 250), some specific option would have been fine.

The Asus ZenBook Duo is the future, now

When testing the ZenBook Duo, I have not felt as if I have tasted an appetizer of what is to come in the sector; and I have to say that I liked it.

Perhaps most importantly, despite the obvious added complexity of the second display, this notebook stands out like any other high-end model. The build quality is up to par, the design is very stylish and the performance is more than acceptable. I cannot say that my life has changed for the worse using this laptop.

But I know I can say that it has changed for the better. My mind has searched new ways of doing things, and most of the time you have found a new and better solution. Few advances in recent years can say the same.

At the same time, it continues to give the impression that we are taking the first steps with this technology; and that within a decade we will look back and think we really use that? Some of the sacrifices, like the keyboard, can cross the line for many users.

In short, the Asus ZenBook Duo is one of the most interesting laptops and pointers you can buy; and that works in its favor mostly, but also against it.

The Asus ZenBook Duo is available starting at 1,499 on sites like Amazon.

Features of the Asus ZenBook Duo

  • Main screen – 14 inches resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels.
  • Secondary display – 12.6 inches resolution 1920 x 540 pixels.
  • Processor – Intel Core i7-10510U or Core i5-10210U.
  • RAM memory – 8 or 16 GB LPDDR3.
  • Graphics card – GeForce MX 250 with 2 GB GDDR5.
  • Storage – 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB PCIe SSD.
  • Ports – 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 HDMI, 1 audio jack, 1 microSD card reader.
  • Backlit keyboard (blank only).
  • Harman Kardon sound.
  • Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, Bluetooth 5.0
  • 70 Wh battery.
  • Measurements – 1.99 x 32.3 x 22.3 cm.
  • Weight – 1.5 kg.
  • Price – 1,499.

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