ASUS is one of the leading laptop manufacturers and they celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. Among the latest ZenBook models launched, one stands out. The ZenBook Pro Duo (UX581GV-H2001T) is a portable workstation with two touchscreen displays, with room for a keyboard and a touchpad. It retails at S$4998 and ASUS Singapore sent over a review unit for me to experience it.
The ZenBook Pro Duo is a heavyweight laptop at 2.5kg with a 15.6-inch OLED 4K 16:9 touchscreen that supports wide colour gamut with 100% DCI-P3 coverage and HDR. The secondary display is a 14-inch 3840 x 1100 UHD touchscreen positioned between the main display and the keyboard. The package also comes with a stylus. I have to say, it takes a while getting used to, because it offers a different interaction experience.
First of all, the keyboard orientation is positioned further downwards, leaving no room for wrist rest. This is why ASUS included a palm rest extension that you can position below the keyboard area. Secondly, the touchpad located to the right of the keyboard, instead of the bottom, for other laptops. With that, the user would have to move the right hand over a greater distance than before. After a while, I disabled the touchpad and used an external mouse instead. Finally, the second display which ASUS calls “ScreenPad Plus” is located on a flat plane instead of elevated, and the native resolution results in smaller fonts, which would not be ideal for reading. Changing the resolution would cause display flow issue between the two screens.
But having more screen estate is better than none, and the usefulness of the second screen all depends on the use cases. For instance, a flat-lay screen is excellent for drawing, or it can extend the primary display to show thumbnails of photos, or even a virtual piano keyboard for desktop audio workstation (DAW). It is also possible to expand the window to show continuous content over two screens.
In order to improve usability, ASUS has some convenient settings to manage the ScreenPad Plus. The launcher lets you pull out a menu to run apps quickly on the ScreenPad. When you drag any window, an action menu appears to assist you in organising the window. There are also shortcut keys to swap the windows between the two screens. To allow user to draw on the screens without accidentally pressing the key, there are also function keys to disable keyboard and touchpad quickly.
Running on 9th generation Intel Core i9-9980HK 2.4GHz and generous 32GB RAM, the ZenBook Pro Duo is a portable workhorse that runs everything you throw at it smoothly. The PCMark score stands at 4994, which is close to the benchmark of a gaming desktop PC. But having gotten used to laptops that run for over 10 hours on battery, the ZenBook Pro Duo’s battery capacity cannot sustain the energy demands for more than 4 hours when using it for content processing. To add to the hefty weight, the AC adapter is one of the largest around.
Still, the ZenBook Pro Duo is worth it if you value the performance and relative portability. The Harman-Kardon certified stereo speaker is quite a treat too, with wide sound stage, clear treble and relatable kick-bass. Midrange is weak resulting in a lack of overall warmth, but it also means audio is crispy and impressionable.
ASUS is redefining laptop designs with innovative solutions. The ZenBook Pro Duo is a refreshing concept by providing a sizable second screen while retaining a physical keyboard. It is not designed for the mass market, but it offers tremendous value to users who prefer to type on a real keyboard, draw or doodle with a stylus on a flatbed display, and to achieve improved productivity with multi-window convenience.
The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo retails at S$4998.