From the Asus Taichi 21 to the ZenBook Pro 15, Asus is the master of dual-screen notebooks. But the company has surpassed itself with the ZenBook Pro Duo. The $2,999 laptop works on all cylinders with an OLED 4K touch screen and a 4K secondary touch panel that extends the full length of the chassis, creating a multi-tasking monster. Productivity? Check. Content creation? I agree. Gaming? Why the hell not? This is our Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Review.
So, how is Asus doing with all this? Serious specifications. Once you’ve found time to stop staring and touching the screens, think of the overclockable Core i9 CPU, Nvidia RTX graphics, and fast SSD. But there are a few down points to consider: a short battery life, a soft keyboard, and a thick profile. But mobile professionals, content creators, and even gamers should consider buying the ZenBook Pro Duo.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Review – Design
Asus continues to deliver designs that are timeless, innovative, and undeniably Asus. Constructed of sturdy aluminum, the Celestial Blue is seductive, like a deep blue pool with secrets hidden just beneath the surface for those who dare to take the plunge. The shiny Asus logo to the right of the center is the epicenter of the motif of Asus’ beloved concentric circle.
As soon as you open the lid, the company’s ErgoLift hinge unfolds, gently raising the keyboard to an angle of 4.5 degrees for a more comfortable typing and viewing experience. The full-size keyboard is located in the space usually reserved for wrist rest, with the touchpad and number pad in the lower right corner. On the lower front lip of the laptop computer, you will see the Alexa light bar, which indicates that the PDA is processing your request. Asus finishes the look by placing its holes in chamfered and shiny edges.
At the top of the deck, you will find the Asus ScreenPad: a second massive screen that extends till the end of the deck. It is a visually stunning element that, combined with the 4K OLED screen above, creates a captivating scene. However, despite the matt panel, the ScreenPad Plus is an actual fingerprint magnet.
For such a thick boy, the Duo is quite thin on the ports. On the right side, you have a USB Type-A 3.1 Gen 2, Thunderbolt 3 port, and an audio jack. On the left, you have one more USB port type A, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, and a DC-in port.
Keyboard and TouchPad
The Duo’s Chiclet style keyboard is springy, with just enough feedback to avoid touching the bottom. However, the travel was a little soft, as several of my colleagues have pointed out. And the absence of wrist rests makes hitting with the system on your knees a challenging experience to handle. Tapping on a flat surface is better, especially with the removable wrist rest. Still, I wish Asus had thought about adding a magnetic wrist rest similar to the one the company offers in the ROG Mothership hybrid.
The ScreenPad Plus that occupies all this precious space means that the 2.4 x 3.4-inch touchpad was pushed unceremoniously into the lower right corner of the tray. It took me some time to get used to the installation, but once acclimatized, I would navigate the stations and make multitouch gestures as quickly as if the touchpad was in its usual position.
I like the fact that the touchpad duplicates the number pad. Press and hold the icon in the upper right corner to activate the number pad and reactivate it to deactivate it. I also appreciate that Asus has added a brightness button in the top left corner in case you use the laptop in a particularly dark room.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Review – Display and ScreenPad
OLED and 4K – a match made in the visual sky. The Duo’s glossy 15.6-inch Ultra-HD, 3840 x 2160 large touch display delivers lush shades with sharp details. Watching an awkward scene between actresses Sasheer Zamata and DeWanda Wise during the Weekend trailer, the crimson blouse of the latter drew my eye, like the bright red vine tomatoes and golden chrysanthemums. The details were sharp enough for me to see the different hair curl patterns of both ladies and the subtle creases in their blouses.
The same scene in the matte ScreenPad was not nearly as vivid. And, because of the 3840 x 1100 screen resolution, the video did not run along the length of the screen, leaving about 3 centimeters of black space on both sides. The details were still pretty sharp, as I could see all the creases in actress Kim Whitley’s olive shirt. Though it’s not OLED, I appreciate the matt finish of the ScreenPad because it doesn’t lead to serious reflections.
I was fascinated by the technically colored, postapocalyptic wasteland of Far Cry New Dawn. The game was already incredibly lively, but on Duo’s OLED panel, it looked pink and purple, almost fluorescent. While I was making a white wolf who was trying to make me a meal, I could see the individual hair flapping in the sunlight.
Unfortunately, most games don’t play well with the ScreenPad Plus, so you can’t play on the second screen. But I’m not sure that most gamers would want to play on a smaller screen unless it’s a smartphone or Nintendo Switch after all. But please manage tertiary features like game menus and inventory down there.
When we tested the Duo’s OLED display, it produced an astounding 203.4% of the sRGB range, which is much more vibrant than the category average of the 130% premium laptop and 114% of the MacBook Pro. However, the Duo couldn’t stop the XPS 15 or the Spectre, which were 239% and 258%, respectively.
The ScreenPad managed to score 107.8%, which is not too bad. The Duo’s OLED panel had an average brightness of 322 nits, while the ScreenPad reached 289 nits. Neither of the scores managed to match the category average of 343 nits. The Apple MacBook Pro and the HP Spectre outperformed both screens by 403 and 483 nits, respectively. But nothing could hold a candle to 626 nits from the Dell XPS 15.
Asus’ ScreenPad Plus builds on the ScreenPad that was widely used on the ZenBook Pro 15 last year. Firstly, at 14.1 inches, it is much larger than the 4.8 x 2.6 inches ScreenPad. Secondly, it is equipped with a 4K (3480 x 1100) panel that offers sharper details and more vibrant colors. But the ScreenPad Plus is located at the top of the keyboard and offers much more functionality than its predecessor.
The fun starts as soon as you tap the small arrow icon on the left side of the panel, which shows a small menu and navigation bar. Like its predecessor, the ScreenPad Plus works as an app launcher. Out of the box, it also features MyAsus and Spotify, along with tools such as the Number key, the handwriting mode, and the Shortcut key, which give you quick access to Windows shortcuts such as cutting, pasting, and copying via large buttons. You also can create your keyboard shortcuts by recording keystrokes.
Every time I wanted to add a new app to the launcher, I just dragged it from the top screen down to the launcher. To remove apps, press the edit icon and close the unwanted software. Task Group became one of my favorite utilities. This allowed me to create custom app groups that I could start with one click of a button. It will enable you to group up to five apps (two main screens, three ScreenPad plus). I grouped Google Chrome, Slack, Discord, Spotify, and Twitter, with Chrome and Slack on the main display; and Spotify, Twitter, and Discord on the ScreenPad. And if I ever wanted to switch between the screens, I just pressed the Task Swap button to flip my windows.
Before working in a spreadsheet, I enabled ViewMax, which allows me to extend everything I view down to the ScreenPad. This gave me a lot more property, which was handy when I was scrolling through all the data. But two screens are certainly better than one – especially if I can click three different windows in one. Although it wasn’t as good as my huge monitor, I took advantage of the fact that I could see everything at once. I just had to maneuver a lot more between the windows than when I’m in the office.
Both displays on the Duo are touchable, but instead of having them moistened with ugly fingerprints, Asus has bundled a pen. The Asus Pen is made of slate gray aluminum and has a substantial feel that is no different from a fountain pen. And with a decent 1,024 pressure levels, it does a pretty good job of imitating the writing experience. Just because of the angle I prefer to write on the ScreenPad Plus, where writing went smoother. Asus estimates that the pen on an AAAA battery will last up to 10 hours.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Review – Audio
A place where Asus needs to improve is the audio. The side-mounted Harman/Kardon speaker hardly filled our small lab. It was so bad that the conversation of my colleagues sometimes overshadowed the speakers. When I listened to the Lizzo’s “Good As Hell,” her persuasive alto was in the front center, but the instruments – especially the piano – sounded slightly distorted. And although I could hear the cymbals and drums, the latter had no real effect. I wish Asus had included some audio software to boost the speakers. But as they are, you’ll want to invest in a few noise-canceling headphones.
Graphics and Gaming
Although Asus invoices the Duo as a content creation/productivity machine, with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB VRAM, the notebook is capable of playing several games or VR titles. On the rise of the Tomb Raider test, the Duo carved 42 fps at 1080p, beating the 27-fps premium laptop average. The Duo corresponded to the category average of 49fps during the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark. When I started Grand Theft Auto V, the Duo reached 67fps, exceeding the 38fps average.
For Metro: Exodus, we registered a score of 42 fps, which corresponds to the average. We also did the Hitman test, in which the Duo scored 81 fps, beating the 62 fps average. The system even managed to do a small 4K at 32 fps on Hitman, which is just above our 30 fps playability average. Thanks to the powerful RTX graphics, the Duo scored 10.7 on the SteamVR Performance Test, which achieved the 4.7 category average. If you don’t do any video editing, gaming, or other graphics-intensive tasks, the Duo switches to the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Review – Performance
Do you want power? You have power. The Duo has an overclockable 2.4GHz Intel Core i9-9980HK processor with 32GB of RAM. It’s more than capable of handling huge spreadsheets, video transcoding, and video editing. So I wasn’t surprised to see an episode of Cannon Busters on Netflix, with 25 additional Chrome tabs with Twitch, YouTube, and TweetDeck without any delay.
The ZenBok Pro Duo scored 26,524 on Geekbench 4.3, an overall performance test. It easily beat the average of 15,321 categories and the HP Spectre’s (Core i7-8565U CPU) 17,115. The laptop was one of the best of the 15,321 categories. However, with their 9980HK processors, the XPS 15 (28,165) and Apple MacBook Pro (31,012) outperformed the competition.
The Duo’s 1TB PCIe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in just 6 seconds, registering a transfer rate of 848.2 MBps. That was more than enough to beat the category average of 564.1-MBps, the Dell XPS 15’s (1TB PCIe SSD) 508 MBps, and the HP Spectre’s (1TB SSD) 424 MBps. The Apple MacBook and its 4TB PCIe SSD, however, have a ridiculous 2,610.8 MBps up and running.
As beautiful as 4K OLED panels are, as beautiful they are, they can do a number on the battery life of a laptop. The Duo gets the double sound here because it also has an energy-consuming discrete GPU and a second 4K panel. The Duo only lasted 3 hours and 41 minutes on our Battery Test. Our test consists of continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi with the top screen at 150 nits brightness and with the ScreenPad on.
The laptop only took a few minutes longer with the screen off (3:54). Both times of the Duos are far below the average of the 8:10 premium laptop. The Spectre lasted 7:46 hours. The 4K OLED iteration of the Dell XPS 15 was drained at 8:07, while the 4K model continued 8:48. The Apple MacBook Pro lasted the longest, with a time of 10:21 hours.
Like most laptops with high-end specifications crammed into a relatively small space, the Duo has to counteract cooling. On the one hand, you have the ErgoLift design, which uses a slightly elevated position not only to enhance the typing experience but also to enable better airflow. There is also the Cool-Air Express system, which uses four heat pipes, divided by the CPU and GPU, with the fifth running along the length of the chassis. Both fans have 71 blades for better airflow, and there is generous ventilation.
Asus’ great cooling gambit has mostly paid for itself. I spent 15 minutes storming an outpost in New Dawn. Then I measured the touchpad, the middle of the keyboard and the bottom of the notebook, and registered temperatures of 89, 91, and 106 F, respectively. The hottest part of the laptop was the hottest part of the laptop’s vents, which blew a toasty 126 degrees, well above our 95-degree comfort limit.
Still, because the vents are mounted on the side, none of that hot air comes into contact with your more sensitive parts. Once the system was cooled off, we ran a lighter version of the test, which consisted of a 15-minute YouTube video. When we remeasured, the touchpad and the center of the keyboard recorded 87 and 88 degrees, respectively, while the mount hit 95 degrees. In case the laptop gets too hot, you can press the Turbo button to increase the fan speed.
Price and Configuration Options
I multitasked like crazy with our $2,999 model of the ZenBook Pro Duo. It has an overclockable 2.4GHz Intel’s Core i9-9980HK processor with 32GB RAM, a 1TB PCIe SSD, an Intel’s UHD Graphics 630 GPU, and an Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB VRAM. The $2,499 base model features a 2.6GHz Intel’s Core i7-9750H CPU with 16GB RAM.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Review – Conclusion
Second displays on laptops are not a new concept: Asus had an extensive library of double screens at the beginning of 2000. At the moment, however, it is the only company to show off the company’s high-flown drive. The $2,999 Asus ZenBook Pro Duo not only gives you a stunning 4K OLED touch display but also provides you a full-length 4K touch display underneath.
It’s lush, indulgent, and surprisingly handy once you’ve mastered it. The ability to quickly access keyboard shortcuts, launch multiple programs at once, and still have plenty of screen property is a great blessing.
But there are a few drawbacks that you must consider. As stunning as OLED and 4K panels are, as decorative as they are, they can do a number on battery life, especially if you throw high-powered specifications into the mix. Also, typing on the ZenBook Pro Duo without a palm rest can quickly become uncomfortable. I would also like to have the possibility to adjust the height of the second display. And I wish the ZenBook Pro Duo was lighter, but that’s the price you pay for two screens.
For the money, you can buy the $2,649 Dell XPS 15, which has a brighter, more vibrant screen, better overall performance, and a long battery life. But, its GTX 1650 GPU is no match for the RTX 2060 GPU of the Duo RTX 2060 GPU. And you lose it on that beautiful second screen. Overall, ZenBook Pro Duo is a severe contender for creative and mobile professionals looking for a worthy alternative to Apple.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo offers a Core i9 processor, Nvidia graphics and two 4K screens for multitasking.
- Two beautiful 4K touch displays
- Great overall and gaming performance
- Dual-screen functionality easy to use
- Speedy SSD
- Stays cool when gaming
- Chunky and heavy
- Short battery life
- Weak audio