REVIEW: ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo – A Dual-Screen Workhorse, Though Clunky & Costly
Nowadays, everyone seems to be jumping on-board the dual-screen bandwagon, and rightfully, especially for content creators, as published studies have noted, the benefits of using dual screens is that it dramatically enhances productivity and multi-tasking.
Enter the new ZenBook Pro Duo, ASUS’ latest and most ambitious premium notebook offering, which features a 15.6-inch 4K UHD OLED main display and a second full width 4K ScreenPad Plus display just above the keyboard.
So, my first impressions – it looks great aesthetically with its “celestial blue” aluminium chassis and edges that have wide, mirror-finished, diamond-cut edges, which reflect its surroundings. The keyboard is quite front-loaded and cramped, due to having to make way for the second screen, but I didn’t really have any issues with it, especially considering the laptop’s lid extends out at the bottom and tilts the base upwards when raised, making for a comfortable typing experience.
Although, weighing 2.5kg and measuring 359 x 246 x 24mm, the ZenBook Pro Duo is quite bulky and heavy, and it doesn’t really lend itself to portability. Another issue I had was with the tiny touchpad in the bottom right-hand corner, which I found to be quite clunky and the tracking wasn’t smooth at all. Luckily, the touchpad can be turned into a numeric keypad, so I just kept it in this mode and used a mouse instead.
Now that all of that is out of the way, time to touch on what I’m sure you’re all asking yourself when reading this review – does the dual-screen setup really boost efficiency and productivity, or is this all just a cool looking gimmick?
Full disclosure, I am naturally a cynic, so it was safe to say that I was sceptical on what the device promised. But once I started playing around with the two displays, I realised that it is in fact more than just a gimmick, it is quite useful and, more importantly, really easy to use.
It’s great for multi-tasking and giving myself more room to work on the main display when photo or video editing as I was able to keep the primary display distraction-free by offloading everything else to the secondary display.
This setup allowed me to send down all of the editing/control panels and toolbars to the secondary screen, along with my music apps, social media or other programs (up to three apps at a time), all while keeping my main display strictly for my workspace.
ASUS’ custom widget helps with intuitively interacting between the main screen to the secondary and there’s a feature that allows me to quickly swap the entire contents of the main and secondary displays. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as seamlessly as it should and was a bit clunky at times. There were cases where everything gets misaligned on the secondary display when the laptop wakes from sleep mode.
When gaming, I was able to offload my game launcher, social media accounts, video streaming, music software and others to the second display – giving myself access and control of all of them while my gameplay remains uninterrupted on the main screen.
Unfortunately, this laptop does not really handle well with intensive sessions of gaming, or intensive sessions of anything to be honest – overheating quite dramatically after only a bit over an hour. Granted, this is marketed at creatives as opposed to gamers, but still.
Battery life isn’t that great either, considering the high performance of the laptop, and I found myself keeping the laptop plugged in to save myself the hassle of dealing with the short battery life. Unplugged, I was able to get about 2-4 hours of life, depending on the intensity of my usage.
It looks amazing, has excellent performance and delivers on its promise of being a multi-tasking workhorse. However, weak battery life and clunkiness with several features such as trackpad, stylus and the intuitive controls for the ScreenPad Plus, along with the problems with portability and its price tag stops me from scoring it higher than it really should have been. Its an great concept, and has definitely sold me on the idea of a dual-screen laptop, but it’s just not quite there yet. The future for this concept looks bright though.