Gaming

Ultimate Productivity – Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Laptop Review

Ultimate Productivity – Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Laptop Review

The ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo is the latest flagship laptop produced by ASUS this year. It features premium specs and the laptop’s most-notable feature, the ScreenPad Plus. If you were looking for more screen real-estate, but didn’t want to log around a 17-inch laptop, the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo is a two-screen laptop featuring both a 15.6-inch OLED display as well as a 14-inch UHD display. Gaming grade graphics, solid processor and memory options, and ASUS Pen compatibility looks to lock this laptop down as the ultimate productivity solution.

We got to use the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo for a solid 60 days, and it is now time to share our thoughts. Let’s dive into the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo.

ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo Product Specs

Operating System Windows 10 Pro
Processor Option 1: Intel® Core™ i9-9980HK processor
2.4GHz octa-core with Turbo Boost (up to 5.0GHz) and 16MB cache
Option 2: Intel® Core™ i7-9750H processor
2.6GHz hexa-core with Turbo Boost (up to 4.5GHz) and 12MB cache
Graphics NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2060
Video memory: 6GB GDDR6 VRAM
Display (main) 15.6” OLED 4K (3840 x 2160) 16:9 touchscreen
5mm-thin bezel with 89% screen-to-body ratio
178° wide-view technology, 100% DCI-P3
Display (2nd) ScreenPad Plus
14” 4K UHD (3840 x 1100) touch display
178° wide-view technology
Audio ASUS SonicMaster stereo audio system with surround-sound; smart amplifier for maximum audio
Memory 2 Options: 16GB / 32GB 2666MHz DDR4
Storage 1TB PCIe® x4
Dimensions Height: 2.4cm (0.94 inches)
Width: 35.9cm (14.13 inches)
Depth: 24.6cm (9.68 inches)
Weight: 2.5kg (5.51 pounds)
Battery and Power 230W power adapter
Plug Type: ø6 (mm)
Output: 19.5V DC, 11.8A, 230W)
(Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz universal)
Interfaces 1 x Thunderbolt™ 3 USB-C™, 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, 3.5mm headphone jack, IR Camera, Array Microphone, Intel Wi-Fi 6 with Gig+ performance (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0
Included Zenbook Pro Duo (UX581), Discrete palm rest
ASUS Pen

Product specs taken from ASUS Tech Specs page: https://www.ASUS.com/us/Laptops/ZenBook-Pro-Duo-UX581GV/Tech-Specs/

Build and Feel

At a glance, the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo is a solid and attractive piece of machinery. It sports an all-aluminum frame with a Celestial Blue color scheme. The body of the Zenbook Pro Duo was designed to tout military-grade toughness by meeting the MIL-STD 810G military standard for durability.

When opened, the fold on the rear raises the keyboard, giving it an ergonomic tilt, or ErgoLift, as designated by ASUS. The laptop features a full-sized backlit keyboard with 1.4mm of key travel, and the latest version of the ASUS NumberPad. The ASUS NumberPad is a space-saving innovation that doubles as both a trackpad for mouse input and an illuminated touch numpad.

The displays on the Zenbook Pro Duo are no laughing matter. The main display is a 4K UHD NanoEdge OLED HDR display. It sports a max resolution of 3840 x 2160, displays 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, and is PANTONE® Validated for color accuracy. The ScreenPad Plus is no slouch either, displaying at 4K UHD with a resolution of 3840 x 1100. Both screens are touch displays with 178° wide-view technology. The Zenbook Pro Duo’s multimedia features are rounded out in the audio department by the ASUS SonicMaster stereo audio system. The laptop’s sound is a product of the collaboration between the ASUS Golden Ear team and Harman Kardon.

Going deeper into the laptop’s internals, the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo houses some serious horsepower. The display is powered by gaming-grade graphics, courtesy of the NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2060 video card. The Zenbook Pro Duo can feature up to a 9th Generation Intel® Core™ i9 eight-core processor, up to 1TB of PCIe SSD storage, and up to 32GB of DDR4 2666MHz RAM.

On the right side of the laptop, you have a Thunderbolt™ 3 USB-C, an audio jack, and one of two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports. On the left, you have the DC power port, an HDMI port, and the other USB 3.1 port.

The ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo is a powerhouse machine with a specs that are ready to handle a wide variety of high-level tasks, either at home or on the go. A DCI-P3 supported color accurate display backed by gaming grade graphics makes the Zenbook Pro Duo a solid solution for graphic designers. Having dual touch displays and stylus support only solidifies that use case. It is even ready to handle the PC games of today, which I will get into later.

If you’re looking for productivity, you have it in processing power, screen space, and an even an optional NumPad for data crunching. As far as builds go, the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo both looks stunning and is comfortable to use. The keyboard is snappy and responsive, making typing a delight. Using this laptop on the last four reviews I posted, I did not skip a beat in my article postings. I had a comfortable keyboard where words simply flowed out, as well as plenty of screen space to keep all of my information and notes in front of me at all times. Whenever I had a mouse at the ready, I instinctively activated the touch NumPad, just so I could have that full QWERTY keyboard experience when I was simply spewing out words as I am now.

With as much horsepower as the Zenbook Pro Duo is packing, the laptop does have some heft to it. I wasn’t too fazed by it, since carrying heavy backpacks is the norm for me. But if you are the type that brings your office with you wherever you go, take into consideration the lugging around of a 5.5 lb laptop. However, when you are stationary and you open up the Zenbook Pro Duo, you’ll see that there is simply no waste of space. The bezels around the screens, keyboard and trackpad are very thin and conservative.

If you are the type that prefers palm rests, the laptop comes with one right out of the box. Strangely enough, spending the close-to-60 days that I did with the laptop, I found myself working comfortably enough without it.

Features and the ScreenPad Plus

The ScreenPad Plus is the premier feature of the Zenbook Pro Duo, giving you not only more screen space, but more input and application management options. Where the main display is glossy, the ScreenPad Plus features a matte texture, which feels somewhat nicer to write on with the ASUS Pen than on the main display.

Starting with the basics, the ScreenPad Plus gives you some quality of life options, like brightness adjustments and the temporary disabling of the keyboard.

For screen space management, App Switcher functionality lets you quickly and neatly drop down open windows from the main display to one-third, one-half, or even the entire ScreenPad Plus display. Task Swap lets you swap all of the open applications between the screens, for whenever you have to refocus your efforts. View Max lets you open an application up fully across both displays.

For application handling, you can save task bar space by docking your favorite apps in the ScreenPad Plus launcher, instead of pining them next to the Windows button. You can also customize app groups that launch multiple apps from a single tap. App Navigator acts the way Alt-Tab works, where you can peak at all of your open apps on the ScreenPad Plus, allowing you to quickly swap to the task you want to work on.

For input options, you can pull up an on-screen NumPad on the ScreenPad Plus, should you want to continue to use the trackpad for mouse-usage. Handwriting allows you to handwrite your text inputs on the ScreenPad Plus. As you write, auto-complete suggestions appear along the top, allowing you to confirm your writings and input it directly as typed-text.

ScreenPad Plus was a laptop feature that I never knew that I wanted. People who opt for large or multiple monitors with their PC setups will feel right at home here. It’s not just some stand-alone niche screen. It has all of the standard Windows options that you would expect from extended displays. Outside of the obvious work-related benefits, it is just a simple and effective addition to PC quality of life.

Working in a public area and want to keep a personal chat window at a covert level? Dim the ScreenPad Plus and put all of your extra personal stuff on a lower screen that you can block with your body. Need to do some light work but still want to watch your favorite streaming content? Drop it down to a corner and leisurely grind away. I personally like the intuitive ways that ScreenPad Plus tries to organize your windows in halves or thirds automatically as you drop windows down there. Want to handle your window sizing yourself? Just disable the feature and have at it. The ScreenPad Plus is here to help, not get in your way.

In terms of app-launching, I didn’t find myself using the app management features too heavily, but they were definitely a nice-to-have. Plan to connect to the office remotely? Program a button to launch Outlook, a VPN client, and the office’s softphone app all at once. About to game? Set a button to launch Steam, Discord, and the gaming peripheral software suite that you use. The on-screen NumPad and Handwriting options were pretty niche, where I found no real reason to use them. They each worked fine. They just simply didn’t jump out at me as go-to input options when I had both the keyboard and the somewhat handier and more accessible ASUS NumberPad.

ScreenPad Plus was definitely an utter joy to have and use, but it did have its hitch. Whenever your displays turn off, whether it be due to inactivity or just simply closing the lid, any windows you had arranged on ScreenPad Plus are shifted back up on the main screen when you return. This is because ScreenPad Plus takes just about two seconds longer than the main display to turn on. Almost immediately when you turn on the displays, Windows sees the only the first display and dumps all of your windows there, right before ScreenPad Plus finishes its boot up.

Of course, this was just a mild annoyance since nothing is stopping you from simply rearranging your windows in the way you had it. However, it was the one hiccup in an otherwise seamless dual monitor setup for a laptop.

Performance and Final Thoughts

Starting off with taxing the hardware, I booted up Destiny 2 via Steam and had Discord open on the ScreenPad Plus. At mid-to-high display settings, Destiny 2 ran very smoothly. The main display, backed by the NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2060, presented vivid and colorful visuals, which displayed beautifully and without stutter.

I personally loved being able to leave my Steam friends list open next to Discord on the bottom screen. That way, I was able to run Destiny 2 in full screen on the main display, while keeping an eye on incoming messages on the ScreenPad Plus.

This was a solid gaming setup that allowed me to be aware of chat without having to rely on distracting popup notifications.

As smooth and lag-less as the game and background applications ran, the Zenbook Pro Duo did start to heat up fairly quickly, causing the fans to rev up as fast and as loud as they could. There was also a good amount of heat exhausting from the sides, which didn’t bother me considering that I was using a USB-connected mechanical keyboard. This setup kept my mouse hand away from the exhaust. However, if you’re looking to do some light to mid-level gaming on the go, know that the Zenbook Pro Duo may blow some heat at your hands depending on your setup. The most important knowledge gained from this experience is that the Zenbook Pro Duo is damn powerful, and ready for your more rigorous processing tasks.

Next up, we tried some light creative tasks. I handed the Zenbook Pro Duo over to Royal Flush’s GamerGal for some quick sketches and touch-ups.

Using the ASUS Pen for sketches took some getting used to, as there was noticeable and somewhat distracting input lag. Being able to disable the keyboard and trackpad was helpful here to avoid accidental inputs while leaning in to draw.

Overall, sketching was passable on the Zenbook Pro Duo. However, the stylus’ input lag led us feeling that it was more suitable with mid-project touch-ups than starting one off from scratch. Of course, this isn’t even an issue if you use a mouse.

Day to day content creation from beginning to end felt right at home with the Zenbook Pro Duo. Having all of the screen real-estate that I did allowed me to have plenty of info in front me as I wrote. With everything in front of me, I seldom had to Alt-Tab between windows. I just hopped from task to task, without delay.

Since I’m more of the write-upload-and-post type of writer/reviewer than a vlogger, I only seemed to drain the battery at a reasonable pace. My RFMag tasks were simple: writing, photo editing, and uploading. After about two hours and a half of work, with both screens at mid-level brightness, I only brought the battery down to the midway point.

Even if the stylus’ response time was a bit touch-and-go, that didn’t mean that the Zenbook Pro Duo wasn’t up to any task we threw at it. It is indeed a powerhouse PC that seems perfect for practically any profession or pass-time. I would happily suggest this as a gift for a college student, even if they haven’t chosen their major yet. Coders and developers would love the screen space and processing power. Content creators would have the horsepower they need to tackle graphically-intensive tasks. This laptop has what you need to bring your productivity through the roof. It is even a solid PC for play as much as it is for work, thanks to up-with-the-times processor and RAM options, as well as a solid laptop graphics card.

Looking for a PC that can be your everything for work and play? Definitely check out the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo for yourself here.

† As usual, there are no affiliate links contained within this post. We were provided a ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo loaner review unit for review purposes and were not compensated for this review.