Computex is a great time for PC hardware companies to show off, not just upcoming products, but their technical prowess too. ASUS decided to show off in both categories with its new ZenBook Pro Duo, a dual display laptop that’s close to the conceptual all-display laptop shown the previous year.
The Pro Duo and the lower-end Duo, have two displays. One is the traditional display you interact with in the lid, while a second display is fitted across the top half of where the keyboard is. It doesn’t take up the entire base specifically so that a standard keyboard can be fitted, and is considerably larger than Apple’s Touchbar in the MacBook Pros.
The second display may be somewhat gimmicky, but the entire laptop is built with a lot of advanced features that ASUS has rolled out in its other laptops. The original ScreenPad was fitted to a number of previous generation ZenBooks and was used as a miniature touch panel for quick links to applications, macros, and other utilities. ASUS decided to expand on this more with the ZenBook Duos.
First of all, the main display of the ZenBook Pro Duo, is a gorgeous 15.6-inch OLED display, not an IPS panel. It has amazing contrast and capable of supporting the full DCI-P3 color profile. The non Pro Duo still makes use of a high quality IPS screen, but at 14-inches instead
What would normally be wasted space on most laptops as either a palm rest or as an air intake, has been transformed into a fully functional touchscreen display, with a width that matches the main display and resolution. With the Pro Duo, it’s a 14-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 3840×1100, effectively half the height of 4K, but keeping the width. This would be a major bonus for video editors on the go. Having a full-screen preview of the edited video, but access to all your toolbars and references on the bottom display.
What makes this second display so interesting is that it’s completely native to the operating system; it’s a dedicated second display, and can be used as such. No half-backed software needed to get limited functionality out of it. Its form-factor, being a wide but short display, does cause some issues, but this is no different for any multi-monitor setup. ASUS does have some software that helps with snapping and regions, though.
A really interesting feature that we’ve liked from the moment we saw it, was when ASUS introduced its numpad trackpad hybrid. Under normal use, the trackpad serves as a normal mouse input, with multi-gesture control. At the push of a button it switches to a numpad with backlight overlay. No longer do you need to pick between a squashed keyboard layout with a numpad, or a full width keyboard and no numpad. The trackpad is smaller in width as a result, but still tracks well, and a suitable backup if you can’t use a dedicated mouse. Combine both features of the numpad and extra display, it really does have a futuristic feel about it.
However, the dual display and numpad trackpad are just part of the deal, there’s a real powerhouse hidden underneath. The top-end ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 can be fitted with an 8 core 16 thread i9-9980HK CPU, 32GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, likely with a Max-Q design. The plain Duo UX481 uses slight less powerful (and cheaper) i7-8565U which is a 4 core 8 thread 1.8GHz CPU, and a mobile NVIDIA MX250 GPU. Both laptops can be equipped with up to 1TB of M.2 storage. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 are also standard.
Connectivity options also differ as well. The Duo has extra USB ports; 3.1 Gen 2 Type A and Type C, and a Gen 1 Type A port, but the Pro Duo forgoes two of the USB ports in favor of a Thunderbolt 3 port, allowing the use of external docks and displays.
Currently, there is no price listed, but there’s a very good chance these will not be cheap. Not only will they be difficult to assemble, the odd-sized display panels will certainly incur a healthy manufacture cost. They are expected to release Q3 this years, so a few months away. A lot of interesting tech, but it will come down to how people will make use of that second display.