Asus introduced Computex to a new ZenBook with two screens. We were able to handle the 14 and 15 inch versions of the machine.
Asus's flagship announcement at Computex 2019 is the ZenBook Pro Duo, a computer with a large second screen above the keyboard and touchpad for the first time.
A beautiful OLED screen
Let's start with a few words on the sublime OLED screen that equips the 15-inch model named ZenBook Pro Duo. Maxime spoke recently after seeing a slab of this type on a PC Razer and I can now confirm his impressions: we do not want to go back.
This is a 4K OLED panel that offers infinite contrast and HDR compatibility sublimating all video formats. It remains to know what will be its life, this is the main defect of this technology is sensitive to marking over time. The taskbar of Windows could for example be marked on the slab, even when it is no longer displayed (a video in full screen for example) since its positioning is often static.
The screen remains remarkable and we can not wait: this type of display is becoming more and more rapid across all machine ranges, with the necessary software adaptations to soften the marking.
So this second screen?
Now let's go to the second screen, common to all models of ZenBook Duo since the machine takes its name from this special feature.
During our quick handling, we were able to discover the different modes imagined by Asus. The brand uses the same ideas as for its ScreenPad. Thus the second screen can first be used to display applications designed or optimized for this configuration, for example a piano, or the shortcuts of a heavy application like Photoshop or Affinity Photo.
This touch surface also handles the stylus marketed by Asus, which can allow retouching or some notes, even if we imagine poorly lift the stylus to this area for long periods of time.
This screen can also service of second display under Windows. This way, you can display secondary applications that you do not want to use on the main screen. This is the most convincing use of this novelty in my opinion: we can for example place a live video, or a tutorial, without losing the display space on the main screen.
To write this article with this machine, I would have imagined to drag the window of the file explorer with the photos made for the occasion, to add them very easily to the article being written on the main screen .
Last possible mode: extend a window on the entire display offered by the machine with both screens. For example Twitter, or FrAndroid's homepage will show more articles or tweets.
A confusing keyboard and touchpad
To successfully place this large screen, Asus has been forced to place the keyboard on the bottom edge of the machine, and move the touchpad to his right, left-handed people who are not used to handling a touchpad with the right hand will appreciate. For a right-handed person like me, this new location is a little surprising, but I guess we should be able to get used to it.
This also means that the keyboard is by default devoid of an area where to put the wrists. I write by default, because Asus still offers in the box of the 15-inch model, an optional palm rest to stall in front of the PC.
For the rest, with the short time I spent on the keyboard, I found the rather nice typing, worthy of a high-end PC. Note that the touchpad is actually a NumPad developed by Asus, so it can turn into keypad at leisure.
To refine the machine a little more, the 14-inch version includes physical buttons under the touchpad, which simplifies its integration with the chassis.
Halfway between Asus and ROG
Let's go back to the overall design of the machine which is a bit special. To develop this high-end computer, Asus seems to have received help from ROG teams as the design borrows certain aesthetic codes from the gamer brand.
If on the hood, we have something quite sober and in line with ZenBook, it is less on the edges and under the machine with sharp angles, and a particularly visible ventilation.
Let's finish with a word about connectivity. Asus believes that the market is not yet ready for the total transition to the USB Type-C and thus integrates only one modern Thunderbolt 3 socket, with 2 USB Type-A (the historical format), a HDMI port and the power port.
The 14-inch version swaps the Thunderbolt 3 (which becomes a simple USB Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2), against a microSD slot.
Price and availability
The ZenBook Duo UX481, the 14-inch version, will be available from August and from 1499 euros.
It will be necessary to wait until the end of August to put the hands on the version 15 inches, the ZenBook Pro Duo UX581 which will be marketed starting from 2999 euros.
We emerge from this session of handling by being rather convinced by this new machine. On paper, Asus seems to have correctly worked on the design of his new ZenBook to think of several use cases, whether for players or creative for example. We obviously have doubts about the support of this second screen for the development of specific applications, apart from the few Asus partners like Overwolf, but the native management of the screen by Windows already allows us to imagine uses rather practical everyday.
Of course, it will now be necessary to wait for a complete test to know what will be the impact of this screen on the autonomy of the machine, but also on its performance. Will the touchpad placement and keyboard size also be a problem? Here are some more questions to answer with the test.
NB: Our journalist Cassim Ketfi is in Taiwan to cover Computex 2019 as a whole, but he is there as part of a press trip organized by Asus.