DUAL-screen laptops are now well out of the prototype stage and into regular production.
A few weeks ago I reviewed the HP Omen X2S dual-screen gaming laptop, and now I’m turning my attention to something that caught my eye at IFA in Berlin earlier this year – the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo UX581.
Featuring not one but two 4K screens, the unit got a lot of attention on the showfloor and I was very pleased when the chance to get some hands-on time with it back in Australia came up.
Aesthetically the unit is quite pleasing, finished in what Asus call “Celestial Blue” and it measures 35.9cm wide, 24.6cm deep and 2.4cm high.
Weighing 2.5kg, it’s a touch heavier than is ideal for a constantly being carried laptop, but it’s still very portable and the design isn’t bulky or unwieldy either.
Under the bonnet, it’s running either an i9-9980HK or an i7-9750H, with a 6GB Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card, a 1TB SSD and either 16 or 32GB of RAM depending on which version you get.
The main screen is a 15.6” Pantone-validated 4K OLED touchscreen display, while the second screen is a 14” 4K touchscreen affair.
It might seem like a bit of a gimmick, but I found was the second screen was legitimately useful – I was able to use it to have windows open for managing and moving files, for running Spotify and Discord, having Word documents open. Even more usefully, it is a touch screen, and the accompanying stylus allows you to use it as a writing surface, which has a lot of practical applications across tasks.
As a gaming system, its performance was good but not great – despite having an RTX 2060 in it, it struggled to run Control on the same high graphical settings as my desktop (which also has an RTX 2060 in it), but it ran Metro: Exodus without problems and I didn’t have any issues with as The Outer Worlds or Untitled Goose Game either.
While it has USB 3 and HDMI ports, surprisingly, the ZenBook Pro Duo doesn’t appear to have an SD card reader, which is a curious omission given it’s aimed at creative types who will presumably want to be plugging camera memory cards into the unit to work with the images on them.
The keyboard was comfortable to use – some might consider it a bit cramped, but I didn’t have any trouble with it – and the touchpad-slash-numpad being on the bottom right of the keyboard either wasn’t a hassle for me either. It’s not an ideal setup for gaming but chances are you’d be using a USB or Bluetooth mouse for that anyway.
The battery life is a bit average too, especially with both screens going – I found about two and a half hours was about the maximum, even when just streaming video – but most of the work I could see myself doing with the Zenbook Pro Duo would likely be taking place in proximity to a power point anyway.
Under full gaming load the unit was blowing out a lot of hot air, but I didn’t experience any discomfort on my lap or notice any excessive heat in the main underside area of the laptop – although there was a lot heat being expelled through the cooling vents, which is what they’re designed to do.
Overall, I was genuinely impressed with the Zenbook Pro Duo and its versatility – if I had the money, this would be very high on my list of “jack of all trades” laptops.
Sure, it’s not a specialist gaming rig, but given its usefulness for all aspects of what I’m likely to be doing, it’d be a welcome addition to my backpack for writing stories, surfing the web, gaming, doing graphic design or photo editing.
While its price is very high – the retail price for the i9 version with 32GB RAM is $4,999 – it has a lot to offer and is well worth looking into further if you need performance across a range of applications in a package that’s still light and portable enough to take with you on your travels too.
It’s clear that dual-screen laptops are the direction the industry is heading in, and if the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo is anything to go by, it’s off to a good start.