It seems 2019 is turning into the year of the dual screen. But whileare just coming around, Asus has already marched on to its second generation. Its new flagship ZenBook Pro Duo pairs a 15-inch 4K OLED display with a second full-width IPS touch screen above the keyboard, which Asus dubs “ScreenPad Plus.”
Technically, the laptop has three screens if you count the virtual number pad-slash-touchpad, but let’s not get carried away.
Asus has also updated the smaller ScreenPads in its standard ZenBook and VivoBook models with the ScreenPad 2. If you missed it, Asus first introduced the ScreenPad in last year’s; just imagine a laptop with a trackpad that doubles as a phone screen and you have a good idea of what Asus is going for.
The ScreenPad 2 featured on new VivoBook S and ZenBook computers has minimally larger panels — about half an inch along the diagonal — but consume a lot less power, don’t dim when you’re unplugged and have software that’s a little more intuitive to use.
The Zenbook Pro Duo’s ScreenPad Plus is definitely the flashier one. It has the same horizontal resolution and width as the main screen (4K) but roughly half the depth, which makes the diagonal length really long. Thus Asus refers to it as a “14-inch” screen even though it’s not what we typically think of as a 14-inch display.
And it functions just like a second attached screen would, with the ability to tile windows on it or vertically span a single window. Both screens have touch capability, so you can move windows from one to another with your finger or with the onscreen cursor. It comes loaded with Asus apps, though you can also add third party apps like Netflix, Spotify, Facebook and so on.
Impressively, you can have up to 3 windows on the second screen at once. You can also extend a window in the main screen to the secondary one, so for instance your Facebook feed will scroll down from one screen to the next. Asus touts the Duo as the ultimate machine for creatives, which means it’ll likely have support for Adobe programs and those of a similar ilk.
To accomodate for the dual screens, Asus pushed the trackpad to the right of the keyboard. This is reminiscent of itsgaming laptops, where the trackpad placement has been conspicuous to say the least.
The Pro Duo incorporates Asus’ steepest ergolift hinge to date, 7 degrees. That puts the second screen at a more useful angle than if it was just lying flat. Plus, since the the new specs go up to an Intel 9th-gen i9 processor and GeForce RTX 2060, it probably needs the extra airflow to keep cool. It does have a hotkey to switch among the various power profiles.
Asus also announced a cheaper version of the laptop, the Asus ZenBook Duo (no Pro). It has a 14-inch main display and a 12.6-inch secondary screen, both of which are a Full-HD 1,920×1,080 (versus the 4K 15.6-inch and 14-inch displays of the Pro). Rather than a RTX 2060, it comes with a less powerful GeForce MX250 GPU and maxes out at an Intel Core i7 CPU.
Though the Duos look sleek, those displays add quite a bit of weight — it’s about 5.5 pounds. Based on our brief time with the Pro Duo at Computex, the second display works well and is a dazzlingly sharp and daring attempt to meaningfully evolve the age-old laptop design. The sacrifices to achieve that include the elimination of palm rests, a slightly crammed keyboard and the trackpad being shifted to the right.
You can get used to a tight keyboard, but it may be harder to forgive an ill-placed trackpad. We’ll find out for sure when we eventually review this promising laptop. Asus says the Duo laptops will be available in Q3.