The ASUS Zenbook Duo UX481FL is a smaller sibling of the Zenbook Pro Duo which I reviewed a few months back. They appear identical in the design elements, like the keyboard position, the touch-enabled ScreenPad Plus. It is more attractively priced at S$2198, half the price of the Zenbook Pro Duo.
Here’s an overview of their differences:
- Smaller 14-inch non-touch FHD on the Zenbook Duo vs. 15.6-inch touch 4K resolution on the Zenbook Pro Duo
- Newer 10th gen Intel processor vs. 9th gen processor with faster speed and more cache
- Less powerful discrete graphics processor
- 16GB RAM vs. 32GB RAM
- Standard touchpad vs. 2-in-1 NumberPad
- No Thunderbolt port on the Zenbook Duo
- 1.5kg vs. 2.5kg
From the specs point of view, the Zenbook Duo is impressive and a capable workhorse, though incomparable to the Zenbook Pro Duo. The display is PANTONE Validated for professional-grade colour accuracy, and a discrete graphics chip improves photo and video tasks. Take note, though, that you may need to force enable the Nvidia chip or else the slower Intel graphics chip may be used instead. The benchmark scores on the 3DMark TIme Spy is 1004 while the PCMark 10 is 4015.
The most unique feature is the ScreenPad Plus. Unlike the Zenbook Pro Duo where both displays are touch-enabled, the Zenbook Duo only comes with the ScreenPad Plus that is touch-enabled. On the Windows OS, it is recognised as an external display which you can enable or disable. The on-screen menu also lets you access the settings to adjust brightness, resolution, define shortcut app icons, etc. I find that the screen is a tad small to read content, e.g. web browser, file manager. But if your purpose is to extend the main screen to display non-essential information, then it is quite useful. For instance, you can display your Spotify app window, or YouTube music video, while you focus on the important stuff on the large screen.
The included stylus pen is a useful tool for all the drawing needs. To interact with your content with the pen, you could move the windows to the ScreenPad Plus, modify, and move back up to the main display. It is certainly more hassle than the Zenbook Pro Duo, but it’s a viable workaround.
The Zenbook Duo series is not for the usual laptop users. To make way for the ScreenPad Plus, the keyboard is moved to the lower part, so there is no room for the wrist to rest. The touchpad is moved to the lower right corner, close to the other keys. Throughout the review period, my muscle memory resulted in a lot of typing mistakes, in particular, the arrow keys navigation. That’s because they are the same size as the neighbouring keys including the touchpad left-right buttons, so without looking at them, my fingers often positioned incorrectly and hit the wrong group of keys. The laptop is also not that comfortable to use on your lap because the Ergolift hinge presses against the skin.
It is unheard of to enjoy music on laptop speakers, but the Zenbook Duo is good enough to listen to audio content. Certified by Harman-Kardon, the speakers produces impressive volume, wide sound stage, satisfying details.
The Zenbook Duo stands out from the crowded portable computing space with a relatively large second screen that is touch-enabled to offer a tablet-like hybrid experience. The extra screen space comes with benefits of displaying more content, not unlike operating in multiple external displays. But I find that the larger Zenbook Pro Duo works better in many areas where the smaller Zenbook Duo had to compromise. Having a main display with touch improves content interaction, and a larger ScreenPad Plus provides better viewing experience. Though the Zenbook Pro Duo is twice the price, the overall hardware specs and size make it a more usable package.
- Additional touch screen for creative interaction and content display
- Satisfying speaker quality for a laptop
- Keyboard position needs getting used to
- Overall size feels compromised. The Zenbook Pro Duo seems like a better size for this dual-display design.