Asus ZenBook Duo review: two monitors, too many compromises

There may be one — and handiest one — motive to remove the Asus ZenBook Duo. If you’ve viewed a listing, what that motive is: there are two monitors.

Specifically, there’s the fundamental tell, a 14-dart 1080p matte show conceal. There’s also one other tell, a 12.6-dart IPS panel known as the ScreenPad, constructed into the live 1/2 of the decrease deck. Both are touch-enabled, and both toughen Asus’ active stylus. It’s form of laborious to tell what this looks to be cherish; you’ll receive it when you survey it.

The $1,499 ZenBook Duo isn’t reasonably the absolute most sensible notebook computer cherish this — final 300 and sixty five days’s ZenBook Legit Duo (of which it is a pared-down, portable model) presents the 2-show conceal setup in a $2,500 workstation originate, and a few identical ideas, reminiscent of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, are slated for originate later this 300 and sixty five days. For the second, though, the ZenBook Duo is basically the most wonderful notebook computer for rather a lot of users who desire larger than one tell.

Correct make certain you with out a doubt need the additional show conceal since the alternate-offs you desire to manufacture are fundamental.

Unlike the MacBook Legit’s Contact Bar, or outdated ZenBooks cherish the Legit 15 which own experimented with touchscreen trackpads, the ScreenPad has a collection of evident employ cases, and so they work apart from to they would per chance moreover silent.

Asus Zenbook Duo

A fold-under hinge lifts the ScreenPad a chunk of off the ground.

I mostly kept distractions cherish Slack, Twitter, and Spotify on the bottom show conceal so they were out of my attain while I did my essential work on the live, however I also usually kept notes or other records down there for reference. You would with out sigh message a chum while watching Netflix, edit video with the timeline on the bottom, or movement a YouTube tutorial on the bottom while running a game up high. I’m clear you’re going to survey your compile makes employ of for this; it’s cherish having a small, constructed-in notice. Uncover, though, that the ScreenPad is microscopic and has a extraordinarily narrow aspect ratio, making it simplest marvelous to running streams in the background or stealing a stare upon Twitter here and there; reading broad or doing any real work on it is rather little.

In Asus’ Launcher menu, which you originate by tapping the left facet of the ScreenPad, you’re going to receive entry to a handful of nifty facets that prefer profit of the Duo’s originate part (apart from to alter the ScreenPad’s brightness and lock and unlock the keyboard). There are a pair apps, at the side of Swiftly Key (where you’re going to receive entry to shortcuts to commands cherish decrease, copy, and paste), Number Key (which draws up a digital numpad), and Handwriting (where you’re going to scribble with the stylus and the textual yell material will tell up wherever your cursor is — it’s reasonably appropriate). You would receive “job groups” of up to 5 apps or tabs (two on the fundamental show conceal and three on the ScreenPad), which you’re going to then originate up later with a single click. And also you’re going to add whatever apps you desire to the Launcher’s essential menu, so it have to characteristic as a secondary dock.

Asus Zenbook Duo left-facet ports.

The ZenBook Duo lacks a Thunderbolt three port, which is irritating at this mark point.

Transferring apps from one show conceal to the opposite is as easy as transferring them to an external notice. But there are some shipshape tricks, too. At any time if you click and trip a window, a microscopic menu pops up with alternate ideas to send it to the reverse tell, pin it to the Launcher, or lengthen it to prefer both monitors. There’s also a helpful button above the touchpad that straight swaps the contents of your high and bottom show conceal and automatically resizes them to compare.

The handiest ScreenPad characteristic I accomplished up the utilization of usually used to be job groups — I made a team of “work” tabs to originate in the morning and a team of “leisure” tabs to originate at night. But all the pieces else did work as marketed. The principle takeaway here is that Asus has accomplished the work. The ScreenPad isn’t a gimmick; it’s essential.

That acknowledged, there are issues.

Asus Zenbook Duo lid

Asus calls the coloration “celestial blue.”

For one, the keyboard deck is an sorrowful utter for a show conceal. It be essential to crane your head downward to read anything else on the ScreenPad — the motivate of my neck used to be sore after a plump day of the utilization of the Duo.

Then, there are alternate-offs you desire to manufacture to attain this originate part. For one, I never realized how fine wrist rests are till I needed to make employ of this notebook computer, which doesn’t own any. I felt cherish a T. rex the utilization of this on my sofa, with my hands crunched in opposition to my belly. There’s also the ErgoLift hinge which props the ScreenPad off the ground at an perspective. I don’t in general own a downside keeping fold-under hinges on my lap, however this one is rather enthralling. It used to be so sorrowful that while I worked on the sofa, I accomplished up keeping the Duo between my knees. You in actuality desire to follow the utilization of this notebook computer on a table or desk, no longer your real lap.

And then there’s the touchpad which, consequently of the ScreenPad, has been filled into the bottom true nook of the keyboard deck. It’s unnecessary. It’s too microscopic (2.1 x 2.7 inches) to realistically employ for precision gestures or to scroll with out quickly hitting the chassis. (Also, safe success if you’re left-handed). I don’t cherish to make employ of third-birthday party peripherals in my review course of, however if I’d true bought the Duo, I would own straight plugged in a mouse and never regarded motivate. I accomplished up the utilization of Asus’ stylus (which is soft and reasonably responsive) for rather a lot of my each day work and in the case of all of my scrolling. I ponder if it’s even worth having a touchpad on this tool; I severely can’t imagine anybody the utilization of this one usually.

Asus Zenbook Duo keyboard and touchpad.

I attain cherish the typing skills of the keyboard, though it’s very laborious to make employ of on my lap.

By attain of current “notebook computer stuff,” the Duo is a capable computer, however there’s nothing that may blow you out of the water — all but again, the ScreenPad is the motive to remove it.

I in actuality own the absolute most sensible currently readily accessible configuration, which is $1,499 and comes with Intel’s quad-core Core i7-10510U processor, 16GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU. The system used to be true wonderful for my each day load of Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming, Slack, YouTube, and other tasks. The midrange Comet Lake CPU isn’t basically the most wonderful different for encoding movies or other worrying artistic tasks, then all but again — most energy users will doubtless be greater marvelous to the ZenBook Legit Duo, which comes with an eight-core Core i9-9980HK and a extra indispensable graphics card. The Duo’s battery lifestyles used to be surprisingly safe, given that it has to juice two monitors. I received true over 10 hours of net hunting on the Battery Saver profile with both panels at medium brightness. And the machine kept itself decently cool at some stage in attempting out (true the bottom received every so steadily toasty). The fans handiest fired up at some stage in gaming, and you’re going to switch on a Peaceful profile in Asus’ alter center in the occasion that they anguish you.

Ports receive a passing grade: there’s a USB three.1 Form-A port, a microSD card slot, and an audio jack on the true, apart from to an HDMI, one other USB three.1 Form-A, an influence port, and a USB-C. No Thunderbolt three, though, which is a evident omission on a $1,499 notebook computer, ScreenPad or no ScreenPad.

Within the end, the Duo is removed from a gaming machine. As GPUs drag, the MX250 is stop to the bottom of the barrel. Integrated graphics on many unusual processors (at the side of Intel’s Iris Plus that comes with the Ice Lake technology, and the contemporary Vega graphics in the AMD’s Ryzen 4000 mobile collection) create comparably — so shopping laptops with underpowered graphics playing cards is making less and never more sense.

Asus Zenbook Duo true-facet ports

The ZenBook Duo has a microSD card slot, as a change of a plump-dimension chance.

That used to be reflected in my attempting out. The Duo handiest managed an moderate of 26fps on Civilization VI’s absolute most sensible settings. (I received 40fps bumping it all of the plot in which down to medium). These are greater physique charges than you’re going to moreover receive with integrated graphics, however they’re indisputably nothing to put in writing dwelling about. The MX250 feels cherish a dinky little bit of a 1/2 measure to me — both you desire a GPU or you don’t. If you don’t desire a GPU, then you for sure don’t need an MX250; if you attain desire a GPU, I doubt you’ll be at liberty with these results.

The ScreenPad is helpful for gaming, particularly in command so that you can defend a reference records originate or stride a YouTube video while you play. Uncover, though, that if you click on the bottom tell you’re basically tabbing out of the sport — audio stops, and you desire to click motivate in to resume taking half in — so the utilization of the ScreenPad for operations cherish Discord chats or live-tweeting is a dinky little bit of a ache.

If you’re going to cherish to game on two monitors, it is commended to motivate for Asus’ ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, a gaming-explicit Duo that’s alleged to arrive out later this 300 and sixty five days and may per chance moreover moreover be configured with up to an RTX 2080 Mammoth. Asus says it’s working with builders to receive special interfaces and controls marvelous to the dual-show conceal setup.

The truth is: I will be capable of’t survey myself shopping this computer. The little touchpad, the enthralling hinge, and the lack of wrist rests true made it too sorrowful to make employ of. And the MX250’s incremental enchancment over integrated graphics isn’t adequate to tip the scales in its prefer.

The trackpad is microscopic, awkwardly positioned, and true irritating to make employ of.

But if you’re looking particularly for a two-show conceal tool, this one works. It’s larger than a celebration trick; it’s essential and there are cool stuff you’re going to attain. But I judge the originate part is fitter marvelous to a workstation (cherish the ZenBook Legit Duo) which is prone to spend most of its lifestyles at a desk with peripherals plugged in. I’m no longer clear if there’s a attain to manufacture a Duo that’s also safe at being a conveyable notebook computer. If there may be, Asus hasn’t reasonably found it.