Asus always likes to use its hometown trade show of Computex, which also happens to be the world’s biggest computer hardware event, to show off a wide and occasionally wild lineup of new products. And it’s really outdone itself this time — the headline announcement is one of the most decadent laptops ever created.
The ZenBook Pro Duo has not one, but two 4K screens. (At least if you’re counting horizontal pixels.) There’s a 15-inch 16:9 OLED panel where you’d normally find the display on a laptop, then a 32:9 IPS “ScreenPad Plus” screen directly above the keyboard that’s the same width and half the height. It’s as if Asus looked at the MacBook Pro Touch Bar and thought “what if that, but with 32 times as many pixels?”
Unlike the Touch Bar, though, the ScreenPad Plus doesn’t take anything away from the ZenBook Pro Duo, except presumably battery life. Asus still included a full-sized keyboard with a function row, including an escape key, and the trackpad is located directly to the right. The design is very reminiscent of Asus’ Zephryus slimline gaming laptops — you even still get the light-up etching that lets you use the trackpad as a numpad. HP tried something similar recently, too, though its second screen was far smaller.
Asus has built some software for the ScreenPad Plus that makes it more of a secondary control panel, but you can also use it as a full-on monitor, or even two if you want to split it into two smaller 16:9 1080p windows. You can also set it to work as an extension of the main screen, so websites rise up from above your keyboard as you scroll down, which is pretty unnerving. Or you could use it to watch Lawrence of Arabia while you jam on Excel spreadsheets.
Both screens look good, but different
The ZenBook Pro Duo has up to an eight-core Intel Core i9 processor with an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU. There are four far-field microphones designed for use with Alexa and Cortana, and there’s an Echo-style blue light at the bottom edge that activates with voice commands. It has a Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB-A ports, a headphone jack, and a full-sized HDMI port.
Performance seemed fine in my brief time using the ZenBook Pro Duo, without any hiccups or hitches even when running an intensive video editing software demo. It’s a fairly hefty laptop at 2.5kg (about 5.5lbs), but that’s to be expected given the gaming laptop-class internals. I would also expect its battery life to fall somewhere close to that particular category of products, though we’ll have to wait and see about that.
While both of the screens looked good, I will say they looked different. Part of that is because of the searing intensity of the primary OLED panel, but the ScreenPad Plus is also coated with a matte finish, and usually looks less bright because of how you naturally view it at an off angle.
Asus is also making a cheaper and smaller 14-inch model called the ZenBook Duo. The design and concept is basically the same, but both screens are full HD rather than 4K, there’s no Core i9 option, and the discrete GPU has been heavily downgraded to an MX250.
Asus hasn’t announced pricing or availability for the ZenBook Pro Duo or the ZenBook Duo, but they’re expected to land in the third quarter of this year.