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Asus ZenBook Pro Duo – two is better than one

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo – two is better than one

The Asus ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 recently stayed with me for a two week review period and yes, how excited can we get about another laptop… Meh! A laptop, I hear you say… until you actually get to unboxing this beauty.

Design

The ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 is Asus’ attempt to do something very different and in my opinion they’ve delivered – with not one but two displays, a rarity in laptops. We’ll just have to see if other laptop manufacturers follow suit and notice the value of incorporating a second display.

But I fear you might misunderstand my mention of two displays and perhaps imagine a split screen – that is not the case. Let me explain: There’s the usual screen you’d work from, of course, and then the second screen sits just above your keyboard.

Screenpad Plus

The second screen is better known as the Screenpad Plus and is essentially a touch bar. The Screenpad is not limited to shortcuts and icons though, nope, the Screenpad shows entire applications – and to be honest, that could be and probably is the biggest selling point for the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo.

The design of a laptop is the design of a laptop – or so it’s been for a while now. We’ve only really seen variations from manufacturers in how thin or light their laptop is, with the occasional varied options in the size of the screen… until now.

It’s dimensions are 0.94 x 14.13 x 9.68-inches (2.4 x 35.9 x 24.6cm), so it’s not little, which is great for those of us who like a big screen. But the second screen just makes this laptop look and feel like it’s visiting from the future.

The great thing is that you can move between the top and bottom screen without any problems. The keypad does take a little getting used to because it’s not really where it’s supposed to be – it’s now lower down to make way for the second screen but that is a quick adjustment and within a few days, I had no problem with the “new” keyboard. Who says you can’t teach an old dog?

It’s also a bit weird that the trackpad is off to the right side but I suppose it has to be to make way for everything else you’re getting here. I use an external mouse anyway, so that would be my recommendation but remember to switch the track pad to “numbpad” in case you accidentally hit the trackpad while typing– there’s a little button for that at the top of the trackpad.

The Pro Duo has a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, audio jack and USB 3.1 port on the right-hand side of the laptop, and a power port, full-size HDMI and another USB 3.1 port. There are no ethernet and no microSD card slots. Okay for some of us but a pain for others who have to invest in a converter.

Usually, the ZenBooks are sleek laptops but weighing in at around 2,5kg, this might not be the laptop to schlepp around on your back from meeting to meeting all day. It’s heavy for something that’s meant to be portable.

The dual screen setup of the ZenBook Pro Duo is outstanding. With a 15.6-inch 4K OLED touchscreen providing a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, it’s everything you’d want. The colours are vibrant and the contrast is insane. With 5mm thin bezels on either side, the ZenBook Pro Duo has a very modern feel.

The Screenpad Plus is also touchscreen and on top of that the Asus Pen stylus turns the Screenpad Plus into a drawing board.

Is the Screenpad Plus a genuinely useful addition, though?

Yes, I think so, especially if you’re multi-tasking which is the name of the game, most of the time. For example, you could drag your WhatsApp or email application to the bottom screen, leave it open and this way you don’t have to come out of one thing to do another. I see major uses and benefits here for gamers, graphic designers, video editors and producers.

Performance

The Intel Core i9-9980HK makes multitasking with the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo a pleasure. I was very impressed with how well the laptop performed.

With two 4k screens and power-hungry processing, I found the battery life left a lot to be desired but I did mention earlier that I don’t think you’ll be schlepping this chunky laptop around much. Turning off the second screen, fiddling with brightness and resolution to save battery, in my opinion, defeats the purpose. I see the Zenbook Pro Duo as more of a desktop replacement than an actual laptop.

Price

Are you sitting down?
The price? A mere R55 000, give or take, depending on where you shop… Yes, R55 000.

Conclusion

As I said, the dual screen setup of the ZenBook Pro Duo is a great and exciting feature, especially in the same-same world of laptops. It really could shape the way we handle multi-tasking and what we see from other laptop manufacturers in years to come. The weight, however, for me, was tough. At home, as a desktop, I would be very, very happy with the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo.

 

Detailed Specs

Finish / ColorCelestial Blue
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro
Windows 10 Home
ProcessorIntel® Core™ i9-9980HK processor
2.4GHz octa-core with Turbo Boost (up to 5.0GHz) and 16MB cache
Intel® Core™ i7-9750H processor
2.6GHz hexa-core with Turbo Boost (up to 4.5GHz) and 12MB cache
GraphicsNVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2060
Video memory: 6GB GDDR6 VRAM
Display15.6” OLED 4K (3840 x 2160) 16:9 touchscreen
5mm-thin bezel with 89% screen-to-body ratio
178° wide-view technology
100% DCI-P3
Memory8GB / 16GB / 32GB 2666MHz DDR4
Storage256GB PCIe® x2
512GB PCIe® x2
1TB PCIe® x4
Interfaces1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 USB-C™(up to 40Gbps and DisplayPort)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A (up to 10Gbps)
1 x Standard HDMI 2.0
1 x Audio combo jack
1 x DC-in
Keyboard and ScreenPad PlusKeyboard
Full-size backlit with 1.4mm key travel
ScreenPad Plus
14” 4K (3840 x 1100) touch display
178˚ wide-view technology
TouchPad
Precision touchpad (PTP) technology supports up to four-finger smart gestures
NumberPad
Integrated LED-backlit numeric keypad on touchpad
AudioASUS SonicMaster stereo audio system with surround-sound;

smart amplifier for maximum audio performance

Array microphone with Cortana and Alexa voice-recognition support
3.5mm headphone jack
Long-travel voice coils for improved low-frequency response
Certified by Harman Kardon
CameraIR webcam with Windows Hello support
Wireless ConnectivityWi-Fi
Intel Wi-Fi 6 with Gig+ performance (802.11ax)
Bluetooth®
Bluetooth 5.0
71Wh 8-cell Rechargeable Li-Polymer Battery Pack
62Wh 8-cell Rechargeable Li-Polymer Fast Charging Battery Pack: 50% in 15 minutes
230W power adapter
Plug Type: ø6 (mm)
(Output: 19.5V DC, 11.8A, 230W)
(Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz universal)
Weight and DimensionsHeight: 2.4cm (0.94 inches)
Width: 35.9cm (14.13 inches)
Depth: 24.6cm (9.68 inches)
Weight: 2.5kg (5.51 pounds)
Included in the BoxZenBook Pro Duo (UX581)
Discrete palm rest
Detachable laptop stand
ASUS Pen

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Clare Matthes

Clare is Gadget-Gal – and she’s technically amazing.

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