Hands-On, Laptop

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Hands-On: Do You Need Two Screens on a Laptop?

Surprisingly enough, quite a number of PC makers have experimented with two screens on a laptop; even Apple did the same (to an extent) with the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. But Asus takes things even further with this laptop right here: the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo.

Not only does it have an absolutely gorgeous 4K OLED main display, this laptop also comes with a wide 14-inch 3840 x 1100 ScreenPad Plus secondary display right above the keyboard. This may seem like a gimmick, but it could be very functional – here’s our hands-on of the ZenBook Pro Duo.

So what’s the deal with the ScreenPad Plus? Well, it’s basically an extension of the primary display. To move things to the secondary screen, all you need to do is drag it down from the main display; Windows treat it as an extended screen.

Given the wide aspect ratio of the ScreenPad Plus, you’d really want to open at least two windows on it. Just like the main OLED panel, this secondary screen is also touch-enabled, which makes it a lot more intuitive to use. The matte finish of the screen is also a nice touch, allowing my fingers to glide effortlessly on the ScreenPad Plus.

I’ve got to be honest though: I don’t really see the utility of the secondary display. At least, not after spending only a brief time with the ZenBook Pro Duo. But I do see how it can be useful to place “distractions” like Twitter and Facebook on the ScreenPad Plus, and leave the primary OLED display for whatever task at hand.

Speaking of which, the main 15.6-inch 4K OLED display is simply stunning. Thanks to the inherent characteristic of OLED panels, you get deep, true blacks, bright vibrant colours, as well as great viewing angles. Coupled with the high 4K resolution, this is a sharp, crisp, and very, very pleasant display to look at.

Plus, you don’t often see OLED screens on laptops, making the ZenBook Pro Duo rather unique in this aspect. If you want the best display quality on a laptop, this machine easily fits that description. Even the best IPS LCD screen is simply not in the same league as this incredible OLED panel.

If I have any qualm with the OLED display, it would be the refresh rate, which is only set to 60Hz. Granted, this isn’t a gaming laptop, so a high refresh rate isn’t exactly a priority.

Under the hood of the ZenBook Pro Duo is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. For the target audience of this laptop (creative professionals), this GPU is reasonably suited for the task. Of course, an Nvidia Quadro GPU would be the better option, but the RTX 2060 gives you more versatility if you want to do some gaming on the side.

Now, just because the ZenBook Pro Duo has a 4K display doesn’t mean you can game at that resolution. As capable as the RTX 2060 is, it will struggle to deliver good frame rate in 4K, especially with more demanding games. 1080p is the sweet spot for this GPU, or even 1440p in some titles.

Despite the sheer size of the ZenBook Pro Duo, its port selection is surprisingly limited. It only comes with two USB-A ports, a USB-C connection, an HDMI output, and…that’s it. It doesn’t even have an SD or microSD card slot, which is an odd omission for a laptop that’s meant to appeal to creative professionals.

Regardless, let’s move on to the keyboard of the ZenBook Pro Duo. I’m not a fan of front-loaded keyboards on laptops, and the same still applies here. Not only is it uncomfortable to type on the keyboard with the laptop on my lap, it still doesn’t feel particularly comfortable even on a desk without the included palm rest.

But as for the keyboard itself, it’s decent. There’s enough key travel for a comfortable typing experience, the keys are very tactile, and the standard layout takes little to no adjustment for me to start typing as quickly as I do on a standard full-size keyboard.

And then there’s the unconventional trackpad to the right of the keyboard, which also doubles as the numpad. For the most part, it’s an accurate trackpad with a smooth surface, though I do wish it was slightly wider for a more comfortable experience.

The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is an intriguing laptop. I’m not entirely sold on the utility of the ScreenPad Plus secondary display, but I absolutely love the main OLED screen. The whole laptop also feels very well-built and robust, though I do wish it had more ports for a laptop this size.

As interesting as the ZenBook Pro Duo is, exactly how attractive of a laptop it would be will depend on how much Asus Malaysia will price this machine for our market in relation to the hardware offered. After all, the exact specifications of the Pro Duo for the Malaysian market have not been revealed yet.

We’ll find out exactly how much the ZenBook Pro Duo will cost along with its full list of specifications once the laptop is launched locally on 14 November next week. If priced right, the Pro Duo may attract more than just creative professionals.